NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021
Cross-border games are postponed until after the upcoming holiday break as the number of teams shut down by COVID outbreaks reaches seven while Olympic participation is in question. Details and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
CROSS-BORDER GAMES POSTPONED, OLYMPIC PARTICIPATION IN JEOPARDY
NHL.COM: The league announced yesterday all cross-border games between Canadian and American clubs have been postponed through the upcoming holiday break period (Dec. 24-26) over COVID-19 concerns.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: 16 teams (Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets) won’t be playing this week for COVID-related reasons.
Despite the increasing number of positive COVID tests among players, the league and the NHL Players Association agreed to continue the 2021-22 schedule. That decision was based on advice by medical experts on both sides who point to the low number of cases among the players with concerning symptoms or serious illness.
Given the rising number of postponed games and its potential effect upon the schedule, the league and the PA are discussing whether players will participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last night reported there’s a “real sense” the players won’t be taking part in the Olympics but there’s nothing official yet. A further announcement is expected in the coming days.
NHL.COM: Robin Lehner made 29 saves to backstop the Vegas Golden Knights to their fifth straight win by beating the New York Islanders 4-3. Shea Theodore and Nicolas Roy scored in the shootout to give the Golden Knights the win. Theodore also scored twice in regulation. The Golden Knights have won five straight and taken over first place in the Pacific Division with 40 points. Vegas captain Mark Stone missed the game with an upper-body injury while the Islanders placed Matt Martin and Robin Salo on COVID protocol before this match.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was Lehner’s first game back on Long Island since he last played for the Islanders in 2018-19. He credits Isles fans for helping him battle bipolar disorder and addiction as he got his career back on track.
Paul Stastny scored twice and collected his 500th career assist and Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and three assists as the Winnipeg Jets doubled up the St. Louis Blues 4-2. Earlier in the day, the Jets announced captain Blake Wheeler (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve.
The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their win streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, who’ve now lost six straight.
Three unanswered goals lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Washington Capitals 3-2. Garret Sparks made 33 saves for his first NHL win since 2019 as the Kings have won four of their last six contests. Capitals forwards T.J. Oshie and Michael Sgarbossa and Kings center Phillip Danault missed this game as they were placed on the COVID protocol list. Earlier in the day, the Capitals placed winger Tom Wilson (upper body) on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 10.
IN OTHER HEADLINES…
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said he was hit hard by COVID-19 symptoms during the first two days after he tested positive on Dec. 2 and went into the mandatory 10-day quarantine. He’s since recovered and rejoined his teammates during practice on Sunday.
TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets canceled practice yesterday after Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Gabriel Carlsson were placed on the COVID protocol list.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning center Brayden Point is expected to make his return to action from a shoulder injury on Dec. 28 against the Canadiens. He’s been sidelined for a month.
NHL.COM: The department of player safety suspended Chicago Blackhawks forward Brett Connolly for four games for interference against Dallas Stars forward Tanner Kero on Saturday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kero was stretchered from the ice and taken to a hospital for observation following the hit by Connolly. He’s reportedly been released and is resting at home.
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes senior director of hockey development Matt Shott passed away Sunday following a 10-month bout with liver cancer. He was 34.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Shott’s family, friends and the Coyotes organization.