NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 21, 2022
The Panthers remain on course for a franchise-best season, the Hurricanes and Rangers gain points in tight Metropolitan Division, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov had a goal and two assists to lead his club over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. Jonathan Huberdeau collected two assists and Aaron Ekblad had a goal and an assist as the Panthers remain on track for their best record in franchise history. With 75 points, they lead the Eastern Conference and sit one point behind the league-leading Colorado Avalanche.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers look very much like a Stanley Cup contender. They’ve dominated throughout this season and could become an even tougher opponent if general manager Bill Zito’s rumored efforts to add a top-four defenseman prove successful.
The Carolina Hurricanes got third-period goals from Jesper Fast and Sebastian Aho to hold off the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3. Antti Raanta picked up the win with a 31-save performance. The Hurricanes sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 70 points and sit three behind the Panthers in the Eastern Conference standings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes are another Eastern club that must be considered among this season’s Cup contenders. It’ll be interesting to see if GM Don Waddell makes a move or two before the March 21 trade deadline to bolster his roster for the postseason.
New York Rangers forwards Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome each had a goal and an assist to lead their club to a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Igor Shesterkin kicked out 29 shots for the Rangers (69 points), who moved within one point of the second-place Penguins in the Metropolitan.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speaking of teams that could be busy at the trade deadline, the Rangers have plenty of deadline cap space and depth in prospects and promising players to swing a significant deal or two by March 21. It remains to be seen if GM Chris Drury will take advantage of it.
The Minnesota Wild thumped the Edmonton Oilers 7-3, handing the latter their first loss under interim coach Jay Woodcroft. Kevin Fiala scored two goals and added an assist as the Wild (65 points) moved one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues into second place in the Central Division. The Oilers remain in third place in the Pacific Division with 59 points. They’d won five straight under Woodcroft prior to this contest.
Jack Eichel tallied his first goal with the Vegas Golden Knights in a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Logan Thompson got the win with a 35-save performance. Eichel and Max Pacioretty each had a goal and an assist. The Golden Knights (62 points) move two points behind the first-place Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division while the Sharks (49 points) are 10 points out of the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks could soon become sellers in the trade market if they can’t gain ground in the standings over the next two or three weeks. That could stoke the trade speculation about Sharks center Tomas Hertl if he and the Sharks fail to reach an agreement on a contract extension.
The Dallas Stars fail to gain ground in the race for the final Western playoff spot after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Arizona Coyotes. Scott Wedgewood made 32 saves while Nick Schmaltz had a goal and two assists for the Coyotes. With 56 points, the Stars are three behind the Los Angeles Kings, who hold the final wild-card berth.
Goaltender J-F Berube made 33 saves in his first NHL start in four years to backstop the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Buffalo Sabres 7-3. Dean Kukan and Brendan Gaunce each had three-point performances while Patrik Laine picked up two assists.
Speaking of goalies getting wins in their first start in nearly four years, Andrew Hammond made 30 saves as the Montreal Canadiens nipped the New York Islanders 3-2. Cole Caufield and Rem Pitlick tallied in the shootout as the Canadiens have won two straight for the first time this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That loss may be the final nail in the coffin for the Islanders (43 points) as they sit 17 points behind the Boston Bruins for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. They have four games in hand on the Bruins but this appears to be a bridge too far for the Isles, who are likely to become sellers by the March trade deadline.
IN OTHER NEWS…
LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS: Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf missed his last two games with a lower-body injury.
NHL.COM: The league’s department of player safety fined Edmonton Oilers defenseman Markus Niemelainen $2,043.75 for cross-checking Winnipeg Jets forward Kristian Vesalainen on Saturday.
TSN: One day after being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ryan Dzingel has been placed on waivers. If he clears, he’ll be sent to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.