NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2023
The Sabres move into a wild-card berth, Brad Marchand gets another fine, Erik Cernak gets a suspension, Penguins GM Ron Hextall responds to his critics, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The Buffalo Sabres moved into the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Craig Anderson made 53 saves, Jeff Skinner scored twice to reach 600 career points and Tage Thompson collected three assists as the Sabres improved to 30-23-4 (64 points) to sit ahead of the Detroit Red Wings (28-21-8). Anthony Duclair had an assist in his season debut with the Panthers, who also have 64 points but drop to 29-26-6.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The race for the Eastern Conference wild-card berths is heating up. Five points separate the New York Islanders (67 points) and the Washington Capitals (62 points) with the Sabres, Red Wings, Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins (63 points) in between. The Capitals and Penguins, however, are fading while the Sabres, Wings and Panthers are surging.
Earlier in the day, the NHL and NHL Players Association released a joint statement indicating that Panthers goaltender Spencer Knight was taking a personal leave of absence to receive care from the Players’ Assistance Program. Best wishes to Knight as he undergoes treatment.
Carolina Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta stopped 32 shots to shut out the Ottawa Senators 4-0. Brent Burns, Seth Jarvis, Martin Necas and Brady Skjei scored for the 39-10-8 Hurricanes (86 points) as they sit seven points behind the league-leading Boston Bruins in the overall standings. The Senators slipped to 27-26-4.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Raanta’s record is 9-0-1 at home while the Hurricanes are 14-1-1 in the last 16 contests.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and an assist for his sixth straight multi-point game in a 5-1 romp over the Winnipeg Jets. Mikko Rantanen and J.T. Compher also each had a goal and an assist as the 32-19-5 Avalanche (69 points) sit one point behind the Seattle Kraken while opening a three-point lead over the Calgary Flames in the final Western Conference wild-card spot. Mason Appleton scored for the Jets (35-23-1), who’ve dropped four of their last five but remain one point behind the first-place Dallas Stars in the Central Division with 71 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The only reason the Jets are still close behind the Stars is that the latter has won just two of their last 10 games. The news got worse for the Jets as they announced before this game that rookie Cole Perfetti will be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season with an undisclosed injury.
An overtime goal by William Nylander lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Minnesota Wild 2-1. David Kampf also scored for the Leafs and Ilya Samsonov kicked out 24 shots as they improved to 36-15-8 to hold a four-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division with 80 points. Brandon Duhaime replied for the Wild (32-21-6) as they sit in third place in the Central with 70 points, just one back of the second-place Jets.
The Los Angeles Kings scored three goals in the second period as they held off the New York Islanders by a score of 3-2. Phillip Danault, Arthur Kaliyev and Gabriel Vilardi scored for the 33-19-8 Kings. They hold a two-point lead over the Edmonton Oilers for second place in the Pacific Division with 74 points and sit one point back of the first-place Vegas Golden Knights. Noah Dobson and Adam Pelech replied for the Islanders (30-25-7) as they hold the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference with 67 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick picked up his 370th career win to surpass Tom Barrasso for the third-most wins by an American-born NHL goaltender. John Vanbiesbrouck is second with 374 and Ryan Miller holds first place with 391.
Montreal Canadiens winger Jesse Ylonen had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Chris Tierney also scored in his first game with Montreal after being claimed off waivers on Thursday. The Canadiens (25-29-4) have won five of their last seven games while the Flyers (23-27-10) have dropped six of their last seven contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers winger Joel Farabee dismissed rumors yesterday claiming his representatives have expressed their displeasure over how their client’s season is going under head coach John Tortorella.
“I think for me right now, I’m 100 percent committed to being a Flyer,” said Farabee. Tortorella, meanwhile, was more blunt, telling reporters that if Farabee’s agent is leaking information he should “just shut up,” adding he “doesn’t give a damn” what he thinks.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Brad Marchand was fined $5,000.00 for a dangerous trip on Seattle Kraken winger Oliver Bjorkstrand.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak received a two-game suspension for elbowing Buffalo Sabres captain Kyle Okposo.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins general manager Ron Hextall downplayed calls from some fans calling for his firing as his club slides in the standings. He said it won’t change how he conducts business, adding that he won’t spend big assets like a first-round pick to add a rental player before the March 3 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall didn’t say he wouldn’t trade a first-round pick for a player under contract beyond this season. That’s what he’s likely shopping for if he’s looking for help in the trade market.
Speaking of the Penguins, they place winger Kasperi Kapanen on waivers.
THE SCORE: St. Louis Blues center Robert Thomas took offense over head coach Craig Berube accusing his core players of not caring about the team during their loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. “I’ve been a part of this team for a long time,” said Thomas. “What he said couldn’t be further from the truth. I know everyone in that room cares.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Berube doubled down with his comments on Friday, saying he hoped his comments sparked a response from his players. Meanwhile, general manager Doug Armstrong sought to diffuse the situation by saying the club needs to come to grips with the current situation, puts its past behind them and turn the page.