NHL Rumor Mill – April 18, 2019

More fallout from the Penguins’ first-round elimination and the latest Nazem Kadri speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

PENGUINS POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES

THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi wonders if Phil Kessel’s played his final game for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He cites multiple sources claiming the Penguins explored trading the right winger last summer, indicating Kessel was “agreeable” to playing for the Arizona Coyotes. He has a good relationship with Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who was an assistant coach with the Penguins during their championships in 2016 and 2017. 

Rossi also cited a Penguins source claiming Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the club’s only untouchables and it’s very unlikely they’ll part ways with winger Jake Guentzel and goaltender Matt Murray. 

Should the Pittsburgh Penguins consider trading Kris Letang this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Joe Starkey believes significant changes could be coming for the Penguins this summer. He believes they must find a way to move plodding defenseman Jack Johnson, who’s got four years remaining on his contract. Starkey also suggests they consider moving veterans like Kessel, defenseman Kris Letang and forward Patric Hornqvist. He points out the Penguins won a Cup without Letang when he was sidelined for the entire 2017 playoffs. 

Jason Mackey considers Kessel, defenseman Olli Maatta, center Matt Cullen, and left wing Garrett Wilson as the most likely to be on the move this summer. Hornqvist, Nick Bjugstad, and Erik Gudbranson fall into the “potentially on the move” category. Letang’s playoff performance raises questions but his injury history makes a trade difficult. He doubts the Penguins can find a taker for Johnson. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Kevin Gorman considers Letang part of the Penguins untouchables with Crosby and Malkin and doesn’t believe the veteran blueliner should be made the scapegoat for the club’s early playoff exit. He suggests Justin Schultz could be a prime trade candidate because he has only a year remaining on his contract, though he acknowledged Maatta, Johnson or Gudbranson could be shopped in a cost-cutting deal.

While Kessel’s production makes him a valuable trade commodity, Gorman also believes his offense helps the Penguins. He doesn’t think Kessel should be dealt just for the sake of doing so. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $79 million invested in 18 players for 2019-20, the Penguins have little choice but to shed salary this summer if they intend on getting younger and faster for next season. If Kessel is willing to accept a trade to the Coyotes, who have depth in promising and affordable young talent, they should seriously consider it. They’ll miss his offense in the short term but it’ll be worth it if he fetches a return that helps the Penguins now and in the future. 

Letang’s injury history, age (31) and his annual average value ($7.25 million through 2021-22) could be a tough sell. Those factors also apply to Hornqvist, who’s carrying a $5.3 million annual cap hit through 2022-23. Johnson carries an affordable cap hit ($3.25 million) but I doubt the Penguins can find any takers for him at this stage in his career.

If it appears Schultz could be too expensive to re-sign, perhaps he’ll be shopped this summer. He has a 10-team no-trade list. Maatta appears a more likely trade candidate as it seems head coach Mike Sullivan lacks confidence in him.

Cullen is 42 and will likely retire. Having acquired Bjugstad in February, I don’t think GM Jim Rutherford intends to move him. Gudbranson’s physical play could ensure he gets another season in Pittsburgh. 

LATEST KADRI SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently reported questions about Nazem Kadri’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs were being asked before his series-long suspension for cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk. With the Leafs facing a salary-cap crunch this summer and with Mitch Marner to receive a significant raise, LeBrun said the possibility of moving Kadri as a cost-cutting measure was a possibility before his recent act of recklessness.

Kadri’s second playoff suspension in as many years could force Leafs management to ask themselves if they can trust having him in the lineup beyond this season. He has three years remaining on his contract with an affordable $4.5-million cap hit and a 10-team no-trade list.

LeBrun believes there would be a market for a two-way center like Kadri with a cap-friendly contract. While his suspension history might scare off some GMs, others could consider the edge he brings to his game to be a valuable component. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: If the Leafs can win their current series with the Bruins without Kadri in the lineup, Matt Larkin suggests they consider trading him this summer for a defenseman. He notes the Leafs still need a “right-shot, two-way, top-four presence”, suggesting they’d have to send salary out to bring in a “Brett Pesce-type” blueliner. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have over $75 million invested in 19 players for 2019-20. Forwards Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson are restricted free agents while defensemen Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey are unrestricted free agents.

Assuming the salary cap reaches $83 million as projected and all-but-retired winger Nathan Horton ($5.3 million) is placed on long-term injury reserve at the start of next season, the Leafs will only have around $13 million to re-sign those forwards and re-sign or replace those blueliners. The cost of re-signing Marner alone could exceed $10 million. 

The Leafs have no choice but to shed salary. Kadri’s latest antics could grease the skids for his departure this summer, especially if the Leafs play well without him. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 18, 2019

Avalanche push Flames to the brink of elimination, Bruins and Stars tie their respective series, Selke Trophy finalists revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche pushed the Calgary Flames to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4 of their opening-round series. Mikko Rantanen scored the tying and winning goals for the Avalanche, who hold a commanding 3-1 series lead. Game 5 goes Friday in Calgary. 

Mikko Rantanen’s two goals lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of their opening-round series (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames took a 2-0 lead into their third but sloppy defensive play killed them. You can’t pin this loss on goaltender Mike Smith, who faced over 50 shots (52) for the second straight game. Smith faced the onslaught well but his teammates let him down.

The Flames leading scorers – Johnny Gaudreau (one point), Sean Monahan (two points) and Matthew Tkachuk (three points) – have been disappointing thus far. If they don’t start finding the back of the net soon, the Flames will be golfing after Friday. 

David Pastrnak scored twice and Brad Marchand had a three-point night as the Boston Bruins held off the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 to square their opening-round series at two games apiece. Auston Matthews scored twice for the Leafs, who made it interesting in the third period with two goals to narrow the score to 5-4 before Joakim Nordstrom’s empty netter in the dying seconds. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy shook up his forward lines a bit in this one, shifting Pastrnak down to the second line for a while with David Krejci and moving Danton Heinen to the top line. The Bruins also put on a master class of how to play smart defensive hockey when an opponent pulls their goalie for an extra attacker late in the game. They didn’t panic by icing the puck or make “Hail Mary” attempts to score an empty netter, but smartly chipped the puck along the boards and into the neutral zone or skated it past center whenever they could and dumped it into the Leafs zone. 

A four-goal first period powered the Dallas Stars to a 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators to tie their series at two games apiece. Stars goalie Ben Bishop kicked out 34 shots, Roope Hintz tallied his first two playoff goals of his career and John Klingberg collected three assists. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a strong bounce-back effort by Bishop, who struggled a bit in Game 3 by giving up a couple of soft goals. He was outstanding in this contest. Credit also the Stars’ offensive pressure as they chased Predators starter Pekka Rinne after he gave up four goals on eight shots.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly, and Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone are the finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which honors the NHL’s top defensive forward. 

 SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t say I disagree with those choices. I’m happy to see Stone finally getting recognition for his two-way play. 

O’Reilly is also among the 31 nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player “who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” Other nominees include Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, Edmonton Oilers winger Leon Draisaitl, Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

SPORTSNET: The Florida Panthers declined captain Aleksander Barkov’s invitation to play for Finland at the upcoming IIHF World Championships citing a need for Barkov to recover from the effects of a long NHL season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Odd to see a team decline a player’s invitation to participate in the Worlds. Barkov played for Finland in previous tournaments. It’s understandable if he needs to recuperate from injuries that he played through this season but usually it’s the player who declines the invite. 

NBC SPORTS: The Washington Capitals will shake up their forward lines for Game 4 of their series tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. “T.J. Oshie moves up to the top line to play with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom while Tom Wilson drops to the second line to play with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana.”

The San Jose Sharks are sticking with struggling starting goalie Martin Jones in Game 5 tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has no confidence in backup Aaron Dell. 

NEW YORK POST: Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello isn’t troubled by the league’s decision that his club will play the remainder of their playoff games at Barclays Center. He dismissed the notion that the change of venue from Nassau Coliseum will adversely affect his club’s performance. The Islanders are awaiting the winner of the Capitals-Hurricanes series. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes forward Brad Richardson is the inaugural winner of the Shane Doan Good Guy Award, voted on and present by the Arizona chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. 

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild hired Chris O’Hearn as their new director of hockey operations. 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 17, 2019

What next for the Penguins and Lightning after getting swept from the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

PENGUINS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters speculate the Pittsburgh Penguins could shop a defenseman or two, suggesting this could be Olli Maatta’s last season in Pittsburgh. They could try to move aging agitator Patric Hornqvist but the 32-year-old has a $5.3-million annual average value through 2022-23 (with a full no-trade clause through 2021). They also suggest the trade rumors that swirled around winger Phil Kessel over the last two years could ramp up again. With the Penguins core aging, they recommend the club restock for the future. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey expects the Penguins could attempt a rebuild on the fly by moving some high-salaried players to free up salary cap space while attempting to get younger. He believes general manager Jim Rutherford will listen to offers for Kessel. It’s conceivable they could move on from Maatta and they’ll have to figure out what to do with Hornqvist. 

Will the Pittsburgh Penguins entertain trade offers for Phil Kessel this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

Mackey reported Kessel expects there will be roster changes this summer but doesn’t know if he’ll be part of them. Rutherford entertained offers for the veteran winger last summer but felt no urgency to move him then. Trading Kessel would be strictly a business move, as he’s beloved by his teammates and Penguins fans. 

THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe also expects Kessel’s name to resurface in the rumor mill. He doesn’t know if the Penguins will trade him but believes he’s the most likely to go if they decide to trade a prominent forward. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel still has an eight-team trade list. He carries an $8 million annual cap hit through 2021-22, although the Toronto Maple Leafs are picking up $1.2 million of it. The 31-year-old’s goal-scoring declined over the second half of the season but he still finished with 82 points and had a good playoff series against the Islanders. If the Penguins shop Kessel this summer there will be a market for his services.

The same can’t be said for Hornqvist. His contract is difficult to move, especially with that full no-trade clause, plus he’s got a concussion history and his production was down this season. Maatta looks like he could use a fresh start somewhere else. He’s only 24 and have good puck-moving abilities and carries a reasonable salary-cap hit of $4.083 million through 2021-22. 

LIGHTNING

THE ATHLETIC: In the wake of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s stunning first-round exit from the 2019 playoffs, Joe Smith expects GM Julien BriseBois will closely examine his club this summer. Smith doesn’t anticipate a major shakeup but believes there will be a change in the blueline with Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn, and Anton Stralman due to become unrestricted free agents. 

Winger Ryan Callahan has a year remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $5.8 million, making him a trade or buyout candidate. He expects restricted free agent Brayden Point will be re-signed to a big raise and rules out moving Tyler Johnson by pointing to his full no-trade clause. Still, they could look at moving a forward to bring in a younger one. 

ESPN.COM:  Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters don’t see BriseBois making any panic moves this summer. They point out core players such as Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn are all under 30 and signed through 2022, with Point soon to join them. They also expect there will be changes coming to the Lightning defense corps. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t expect the Bolts to trade away one of their core players. Head coach Jon Cooper recently signed a contract extension. He won’t be going anywhere but will be under pressure to address his club’s opening-round collapse and his apparent inability to counter the Blue Jackets aggressive forechecking.

The Lightning has over $73 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20. Point will command a big raise that could reach $7 million per season, though the Bolts have had success in convincing their core players to accept less than market value to stay in Tampa Bay. Even if they can convince him to accept, say, $5 million per season, they still won’t have sufficient cap room to suitably fill those blueline spots if Girardi, Coburn, and Stralman depart via free agency.

Moving Callahan via trade or buyout will free up some cap space. They could try to trade Yanni Gourde before his new contract (with a no-trade clause) kicks in on July 1. Having signed Gourde to that deal last November, however, they obviously want him to be part of their long-term future. They’ll be hard-pressed to sufficiently replace those departing blueliners, forcing them to find younger, cheaper options within their system, via trade or free agency. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 17, 2019

Lightning and Penguins swept from the opening round, Jets tied their series with the Blues, and Golden Knights take 3-1 series lead over the Sharks. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets won their first playoff series in franchise history by sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 7-3 victory in Game 4 of their opening-round series. The Lightning became the first team in league history to win the Presidents’ Trophy and get swept from the first round of the playoffs. Jackets rookie Alexandre Texier scored twice, Pierre-Luc Dubois had a goal and two assists, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves. 

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky backstopped his club to a four-game opening-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets dominated the Lightning at both ends of the rink in this series. They got clutch goaltending from Bobrovsky, played a solid overall defensive game while their forecheck forced the Bolts defenders into costly turnovers. The Lightning were also their own worst enemies, struggling to deal with adversity for the first time this season. Changes could be coming for the Bolts this summer. I’ll have more on that later today in the Rumors section.

Robin Lehner kicked out 32 shots and Jordan Eberle scored in his fourth straight playoff game as the New York Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 to sweep the latter from the opening round in four games. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Lehner’s goaltending and the Isles stifling defensive play frustrated the Penguins time and again. When the Pens would score a goal, the Isles would quickly counter and regain the momentum. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was held to just one point in this series. Like the Lightning, the Penguins could be facing some offseason changes. Check ’em out later today in the Rumors section. 

The Vegas Golden Knights took a commanding 3-1 lead in their series with the San Jose Sharks by blanking the latter 5-0 in Game 4. Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a 28-save shutout while Max Pacioretty scored twice and set up two others. The series returns to San Jose for Game 5 on Thursday. Sharks winger Evander Kane received a game misconduct after cross-checking Golden Knights center Paul Stastny and sucker-punching Colin Miller in the face. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaky goaltending, a porous defense and a growing lack of composure have caused the Sharks to unravel following their convincing 5-2 victory in Game 1. Left unaddressed, they’ll be hitting the golf course after Game 5.

Kyle Connor’s overtime goal gave the Winnipeg Jets a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues, tying their opening-round series at two games apiece. Connor also assisted Mark Scheifele’s game-tying goal after St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko opened the scoring early in the third period. The series returns to Winnipeg for Game 5 on Thursday. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have been the better team in this series since Game 2. Goalie Connor Hellebucyk looks like he’s returned to form in the last two games while their defensive play has also improved over that time. 

TSN: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov has been placed in concussion protocol after being knocked out in a fight with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin in Game 3 of their opening-round series on Monday. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Svechnikov was evaluated at a hospital and looks normal and feels great, but the club won’t be rushing him back into the lineup. Svechnikov isn’t expected to play in Game 4 on Thursday.  

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings yesterday announced the hiring of Todd McLellan as their new head coach. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise there as the Kings had courted McLellan for some time. He guided the Edmonton Oilers to their first playoff appearance in 11 years in 2017. He also coached the San Jose Sharks to two Western Conference finals and three Pacific Division titles. McLellan is expected to help this rebuilding team improve an offense that was 30th overall this season while also improving their defensive game. 

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild reached a 10-year extension agreement with the city of St. Paul to continue playing at the Xcel Energy Center through 2035. That will include upgrades to the arena and parking areas.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 16, 2019

More speculation over Nazem Kadri’s future with the Leafs, an update on Karl Alzner, and the latest on the Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

COULD KADRI BECOME A SALARY-DUMP CANDIDATE?

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell joins a growing list of pundits suggesting Nazem Kadri’s latest suspension could bring his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs to an end. Campbell points out the Leafs face a salary-cap crunch for next season and face re-signing restricted free agents Mitch Marner, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen and signing or replacing unrestricted free agents Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner. 

Nazem Kadri’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs has become a hot topic in the rumor mill (Photo via NHL Images).

Kadri carries a $4.5-million salary-cap hit over the next three seasons. While Campbell praised the center’s two-way skills and feistiness, his recent antics and the need to free up salary-cap room could make it easier for the Leafs to justify moving him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can question the logic of trading Kadri over his playoff suspensions but the need to find sufficient cap space to re-sign other key players could rationalize moving him.

Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs currently have over $75 million invested in 19 players for 2019-20. They’ll get $5.3 million in cap relief to start the season by placing all-but-retired Nathan Horton on long-term injury reserve. Assuming a cap of $83 million for next season, they’ll have less than $13 million to re-sign Marner, Johnsson, and Kapanen and re-sign or replace Hainsey and Gardiner.

Shedding Kadri’s cap hit would provide some much-needed cap relief. His 10-team no-trade list and recent suspension history could complicate things. Still, if the Leafs were to shop Kadri this summer they should be able to find a club looking for a center of his talents and affordable contract. 

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Mathieu Boulay reports Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner faces an uncertain future with the club. He spent most of this season with their AHL affiliate in Laval. The 30-year-old blueliner still has three years remaining on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $4.625 million. He said he’d like to find himself in a situation where he can play in the NHL again but said he’s had no discussions about his future with Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In a league trending toward swift-skating youth, Alzner’s age and lack of speed hurt his effectiveness as an NHL defenseman. Maybe Bergevin can peddle Alzner to a club lacking blueline depth in need of reaching the salary-cap minimum this summer but he’ll likely have to include a sweetener like a draft pick or a prospect or agree to pick up half of Alzer’s annual cap hit as part of the deal.

A buyout would provide the Canadiens $3.55 million in cap savings for 2019-20 but the cap hit jumps to $4.1 million in 2020-20 and over $2 million the following season before dropping back to 1.069 million for the final three seasons. 

LATEST ON THE KINGS

THE ATHLETIC: Josh Cooper suggests goaltender Jonathan Quick’s lack of no-trade protection could make him a trade candidate this summer. He feels the Kings will have to pick up part of his $5.8-million annual average value through 2022-23 to make a deal happen.

Cooper considers aging defenseman Dion Phaneuf a buyout candidate. He has two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.25 million. The buyout cap hit will be high over the next two seasons but Cooper feels the Kings won’t be concerned about that as they retool with a younger roster. He also believes the Kings trading Jake Muzzin to Toronto indicates they’ll retain Alec Martinez. 

LA KINGS INSIDER: Jon Rosen reports Kings GM Rob Blake intends to meet with left wing Ilya Kovalchuk to discuss the club’s plans for next season and his potential role under a new head coach. Kovalchuk had a disappointing first season with the Kings and was a frequent subject of trade rumors. He’s got two years left on his contract ($6.25-million AAV) and a full no-movement clause. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The solid performance of goaltenders Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen was among the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable season for the Kings. They also earn considerably less combined than Quick. If there’s a market for the veteran goaltender, I think the Kings will explore it. I agree with Cooper regarding a potential buyout of Phaneuf and their retention of Martinez.

As for Kovalchuk, he holds all the cards here. If he wants to stay put – and he’s made it clear how much he and his family love living in Los Angeles – the Kings will have to hope his production improves next season under a new head coach. Buying him out isn’t an option for cap relief as he’s on a plus-35 contract, meaning his full cap hit will still count against their payroll. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 16, 2019

Game recaps, Nazem Kadri and Joe Thornton receive suspensions, the Flyers hire Alain Vigneault as their new head coach, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Power-play goals by Auston Matthews and Andreas Johnsson gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins to take a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen kicked out 34 shots. The Leafs were also playing without center Nazem Kadri, who was suspended for the remainder of this series for cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in Game 2. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  A much better team effort by the Leafs in this game after being manhandled by the Bruins in Game 2. They also did a fine job neutralizing the Bruins top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Kadri’s suspension could be between three-to-five games, depending on how long this series goes. Seems like he was fortunate not to receive stiffer punishment. 

Warren Foegele and Dougie Hamilton each scored twice and goalie Petr Mrazek had an 18-save shutout as the Carolina Hurricanes blanked the Washington Capitals 5-0 to narrow the Capitals’ series lead to 2-1. It was a costly win for the Hurricanes as rookie winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an apparent head injury following a fight with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and winger Micheal Ferland was also sidelined following a hit from Capitals right wing Tom Wilson. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit the Hurricanes for not getting rattled by losing two key forwards like Svechnikov and Ferland. They dominated the Capitals in this contest to pick up their first playoff victory since 2009. I saw some on Twitter scolding Ovechkin for knocking out Svechnikov but the youngster goaded Ovechkin and was a willing participant in that scrap. Here’s hoping he wasn’t seriously hurt and returns to action soon.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon scored twice in a 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of their opening-round series (Photo via NHL Images).

Nathan MacKinnon scored twice and rookie defenseman Cale Makar scored in his first-ever NHL game as the Colorado Avalanche thumped the Calgary Flames 6-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. Flames goalie Mike Smith made 50 saves in this one. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit the Avalanche for a strong effort in this one. They took control of this contest from the opening whistle in what was Calgary’s worst performance in this series. Giving up 56 shots in a playoff game is an unacceptable effort for a club that finished atop the Western Conference. 

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 40 saves to backstop his club to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars and a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Mikael Granlund broke a 2-2 tie in the third period with a long wrist shot that eluded Stars netminder Ben Bishop. Before the game, the Predators announced Wayne Simmonds (knee) and Brian Boyle (appendix procedure) are listed as week-to-week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinne was hot and Bishop was not in this contest. Granlund and Rocco Grimaldi’s goals were stoppable shots for Bishop, who’ll look to return to the strong form he displayed in the first two games in this series. The absence of Simmonds and Boyle could hurt the Predators checking-line depth as this series goes on. 

NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton will miss Game 4 of his club’s opening-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. He’ll serve a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vegas forward Tomas Nosek. 

CBS SPORTS/THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (undisclosed ailment) and winger Alex Killorn (undisclosed injury) could miss tonight’s crucial Game 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets hold a 3-0 lead in the series and could close it out with a win tonight. 

NBC SPORTS: The Philadelphia Flyers announced Alain Vigneault was hired yesterday as their new head coach. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vigneault brings plenty of experience behind the Flyers bench as a former bench boss of the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Rangers. He guided the Canucks and Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final (2011 and 2014 respectively) and is a former winner (2007) of the Jack Adams Award

TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Milan Lucic suffered a leg injury following practice the day before their final game of the season against Calgary. He’ll be in a cast for two more weeks and the injury isn’t expected to affect his summer training program.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane was named the captain of Team USA at the upcoming 2019 World Championships.