NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 24, 2021
Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, recaps of Tuesday’s games, the latest on Artemi Panarin, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller. Assistant coach Dominique Ducharme has become interim head coach while Alex Burrows has joined the coaching staff.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After bursting from the gate with a 7-1-2 record the Canadiens were 2-6-2 and in danger of falling out of playoff contention in the North Division. General manager Marc Bergevin was busy in the offseason improving the roster. A coaching change was the next step. It’ll be interesting to see how the Habs respond to this move.
Ducharme spent eight seasons coaching in the QMJHL, guiding the Halifax Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup in 2013. He was also a two-time bench boss of Canada’s World Junior team, coaching them to a gold medal in 2018. He joined the Habs’ coaching staff as an assistant later that year. Following his NHL career, Burrows joined the Canadiens’ farm team in Laval as an assistant coach.
NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark made 41 saves in a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils, handing the latter their third straight loss. Buffalo winger Sam Reinhart collected two assists. Earlier in the day, the Sabres announced defenseman William Borgen will be sidelined up to two months following surgery on Tuesday to repair a broken right forearm.
The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their third straight win by edging the Washington Capitals 3-2. Kasperi Kapanen tallied the winner in overtime as he and Jake Guentzel each had a goal and an assist. It was a costly win for the Penguins as Jason Zucker and Kris Letang left the game with injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zucker’s injury looked serious as he had to be helped off the ice after crashing awkwardly into the boards. An update on both players could be made later today.
Patrick Kane scored his 398th career goal and collected three assists as the Chicago Blackhawks nipped the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-5. Alex DeBrincat tallied the game-winner in a shootout while Carl Soderberg had three points for the Hawks. Patrik Laine and Oliver Bjorkstrand each scored twice for the Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane is playing his way into the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation. He’s the engine driving a Blackhawks team that wasn’t expected to be a playoff contender this season. They’re third in the Discover Central Division with 24 points, two behind the first-place Florida Panthers.
Shootout goals by Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris gave the Ottawa Senators a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, handing the latter their sixth loss in their last eight games. Brady Tkachuk tallied twice for the Senators, including the game-tying goal after the Canadiens overcame a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead. Shea Weber tallied twice for the Habs. Senators center Derek Stepan left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher wasn’t happy after his apparent game-winning goal in the dying seconds of regulation was overturned by what he considered a questionable goaltender interference call. Regardless of the validity of Gallagher’s complaint, the Canadiens once again struggled against the worst team in the league. The loss led to today’s firing of Claude Julien as head coach.
Pekka Rinne had a 24-save shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Filip Forsberg had a goal and an assist as both goals came in the third period.
The Edmonton Oilers scored four unanswered goals (three in the third period) to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Dominik Kahun tallied twice and Leon Draisaitl collected three assists for the Oilers. Canucks center Elias Pettersson had a goal and an assist.
NEW YORK POST: Four of Artemi Panarin’s former KHL teammates dispute their former coach’s claim the New York Rangers winger assaulted a young woman in Riga, Latvia in 2011. The allegation by former Vityaz coach Andrei Nazarov forced Panarin to take a leave of absence from the Rangers. Nazarov, a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has publicly criticized Panarin in the past for his outspoken views of the Putin regime.
Larry Brooks reports there’s been no corroboration thus far of Nazarov’s account. Sources say the NHL hasn’t opened an independent investigation and has no intention of doing so due to the lack of credible evidence. There’s no timeline for Panarin’s absence. A source refuted a report the winger sought and was granted two weeks. He remains at his Connecticut home.
Brooks cites a source claiming Nazarov didn’t have a good relationship with Panarin when the winger played for him. Another suggested Nazarov was trying to curry favor with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation in hope of being rewarded with a coaching job.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some have wondered why Panarin needs to take time away from the Rangers after claiming Nazarov’s accusation is baseless. He still has family in Russia and is apparently concerned about the effect of this story on them.
Nazarov reportedly claimed Panarin was detained by local police officials and there were a criminal case and trial. That should be easily verified by local records but nothing has been produced thus far to back up that claim.
SPORTSNET: Henrik Lundqvist is back on the ice less than two months after undergoing open-heart surgery. He was in full gear taking shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication if this means a return to action for Lundqvist is in the near future. Nevertheless, it’s great to see him back on the ice again as he continues his recovery.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers captain Claude Giroux returned to practice yesterday for the first time after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. The Flyers will evaluate him in practice today to determine if he’ll face the Rangers tonight. Teammates Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun remain on the COVID protocol list.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen has been sidelined indefinitely by a concussion. He suffered the injury during last Friday’s game against the Blackhawks.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson suffered a season-ending knee injury during Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings. It could also end his tenure with the Blues as he’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
NHL.COM: The league released another update to its schedule to account for games previously postponed by COVID-19 protocols and recent winter storms in Texas.