NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 14, 2020
An update on Vladimir Tarasenko, the latest return-to-play news, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: St. Louis Blues scoring star Vladimir Tarasenko is reportedly ready to return to action when the 24-team playoff tournament begins later this summer. In an interview with The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, Blues head coach Craig Berube complimented the 28-year-old winger for his rehab efforts and remaining in shape as he recovered from early-season shoulder surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko is one of the Blues’ corp players and a key reason they won the Stanley Cup last season. Having their top sniper healthy in time for the proposed playoff tournament provides a welcome boost to the Blues’ offense as they attempt to defend their championship.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the Eastern Conference teams participating in the playoff tournament will play in Las Vegas, which is expected to be named one of the two host cities.
The top-four Eastern clubs (Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Philadelphia) have a bye from the qualifying round and will play a round-robin against each other to determine their final seeding. The qualifying round matchups see the New York Rangers face Carolina, New York Islanders take on Florida, Pittsburg against Montreal, and Toronto versus Columbus.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rationale here is to remove any possibility of home-ice advantage. In other words, the Vegas Golden Knights won’t be able to benefit from playing in their home arena during the tournament.
Brooks also reports Games 1 and 2 and Games 3 and 4 of the qualifying round will be played back-to-back with one day off in between. That’s similar to the playoff scheduling format for the first two rounds in 1980-1984 and for the first round throughout the 1980s.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For hockey fans with no memory of what the 1980s playoff schedule was like, here’s your chance to see if it was as good as older fans claim it was.
It has yet to be determined if non-NHL players signed to NHL contracts for next season will be allowed to participate in the tournament.
Brooks also reports the 2020-21 season could start in December or January to play as much of the schedule as possible with fans in the stands. It could be conducted with a conference-only format.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the league is strongly encouraging players in need of extending their work visas through the post-season to return to Canada or the United States (depending on which of the two countries they play in) by June 21. The league’s usual annual calendar expires on June 30.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman writes that it could generate some dissatisfaction among the players because it’s not mandatory to report to their NHL cities under the current phase of the return-to-play plan. Nevertheless, this will be necessary if the players on work visas intend to be ready when training camp opens on July 10.
THE SCORE: Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot told The Athletic she’s hopeful her city will be selected as one of the two hosts for the playoff tournament. She feels Chicago is well-situated to accommodate 12 NHL teams, pointing out the ongoing decline in COVID-19 cases within the state. The league is expected to formally announce the host cities on June 22
ARIZONA SPORTS: A Coyotes staff member tested positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and is self-isolating at home while those who were in close contact with him have been notified. He’s the only member of the team who tested positive during the club’s Phase 2 testing protocol.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’s also the second NHL person this past week to test positive for the coronavirus. This is yet another indication of the difficulty the league faces to ensure the health and safety of its players and staff to complete this season. While Las Vegas is reportedly one of the two host cities, these tests could have an effect upon the decision for the second city.
The @CanadiensMTL Phase 2 will start officially Monday at the practice facility. So far, 4 players have made a request to access the rink: Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin, Charles Hudon and Michael McNiven. Tests on Monday and ice will be available on Tuesday.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) June 13, 2020