NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 7, 2023
The resurgent Oilers win again as Connor McDavid rises in the points race, the Golden Knights regain first place in the overall standings, Patrick Kane to make his debut with the Red Wings on Thursday, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The resurgent Edmonton Oilers picked up their fifth straight win by thumping the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1. Zach Hyman tallied a hat trick while Connor McDavid and Mattias Janmark each collected three assists as the Oilers improved their record to 10-12-1. Jordan Staal scored for the 14-10-1 Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big reason why the Oilers have improved is McDavid is healthy and scoring again. With 32 points, he’s tied with the Florida Panthers’ Sam Reinhart for 10th in the scoring race. He’s 12 points behind Nikita Kucherov, who leads the race with 44 points. At McDavid’s current pace, the Oilers captain could overtake the Tampa Bay Lightning winger by the time the calendar flips to January.
Meanwhile, Staal and Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour weren’t pleased with their club’s effort in this contest. Brind’Amour called their performance “a bad game from start to finish”, calling out the play of his best players. Staal, meanwhile, called it “embarrassing,” saying their lack of pushback was “just all-around crap.”
Speaking of Kucherov, he extended his points streak to 11 games with a goal and an assist to lead the Lightning over the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-1. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 shots as the Bolts improved to 12-10-5. Jake Guentzel scored for the Penguins (11-11-3) as they’ve lost three straight games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins’ punchless power play is a big reason behind their struggles this season. Evgeni Malkin lamented his club’s inability to cash in with the man advantage, having gone 0-33 since Nov. 11. Hard to believe with a team sporting proven scorers such as Malkin, Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and offseason acquisition Erik Karlsson, but these guys can’t buy a power-play goal right now.
A four-goal second period lifted the Vegas Golden Knights to a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues. Jack Eichel, William Karlsson and Keegan Kolesar each had a goal and an assist as the Golden Knights (17-5-5) retook first place in the overall standings with 39 points. Jordan Binnington stopped 43 shots while Jordan Kyrou had a goal and an assist for the 13-11-1 Blues.
The Florida Panthers held off the Dallas Stars by a score of 5-4. Evan Rodrigues scored twice and set up two others while Sam Reinhart had a goal and two assists for the 15-8-2 Panthers. Mason Marchment and Thomas Harley each had a goal and an assist for the Stars (14-7-3), who’ve dropped three of their last four games.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Patrick Kane will make his season debut with the Red Wings on Thursday against the San Jose Sharks at Little Caesars Arena. He’s expected to be on a line with J.T. Compher and Alex DeBrincat, his former linemate during their days with the Chicago Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be Kane’s first game since May 1. He’s coming off a hip resurfacing procedure in June. It’ll be interesting to see how well he plays and how the Wings manage his playing time in this upcoming contest.
NHL.COM: Speaking of the Red Wings, defenseman Jake Walman was fined $2,500.00 by the department of player safety for high-sticking Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner on Tuesday.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John Klingberg will undergo season-ending hip surgery at the end of December. The 31-year-old signed a one-year, $4.15 million contract with the Leafs during the offseason but hasn’t played since Nov. 11 and was placed on long-term injury reserve on Nov. 23.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Klingberg on LTIR for the rest of the season, expect the Leafs to use the salary-cap savings to find a replacement on the blueline.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have brought back former coach Jacques Martin as a senior advisor to lend a hand to their coaching staff.
DAILY FACEOFF: The Columbus Blue Jackets placed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (illness), defenseman Adam Boqvist (shoulder strain) and forward Cole Sillinger (upper body) on injured reserve.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres added some depth to their bottom-six forwards by acquiring Eric Robinson from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a conditional 2025 seventh-round draft pick.
THE ATHLETIC: Ian Mendes analyzed NHL attendance during the first quarter of this season to see which clubs have made the biggest gains and losses year-over-year after the pandemic skewed attendance figures in three consecutive seasons.
Overall, Mendes finds the numbers paints “a fairly upbeat picture” of NHL attendance. Fifteen of the league’s 32 clubs were at 99 percent or better in the first two months of this season. Ten teams had averaged between 91 percent and 98 percent. Six others averaged between 75.6 percent and 89.5 percent. Mendes omitted the Arizona Coyotes because they play in a 4,600-seat arena, though he pointed out that they sold all 11 home games thus far.
All but six teams (Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals) saw increases in attendance. The Lightning and Bruins were at full capacity while the latter four saw their attendance drop, with the Jets and Capitals encountering the biggest declines.
The biggest risers were the Chicago Blackhawks, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres. The Blackhawks improved thanks to the presence of highly-touted rookie Connor Bedard while last season’s performances by the other three accounted for their attendance bumps. The Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers also saw significant improvement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The struggles of the Flames and Sharks account for their attendance declines.
Mendes cites colleague Murat Ates indicating the Jets are a small-market club that doesn’t sell as many corporate season tickets and thus are affected by factors such as day-to-day economic issues for their fans, customer service and a feeling ownership got complacent when their arena was full.
The Capitals’ decline was a surprise despite their competitive team this season. Mendes noted they only had one game in which attendance dipped below 16,000.
SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens are receiving a backlash for charging their fans $195.00 to meet their mascot Youppi.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens aren’t forcing their fans to pay to meet their mascot. They can take it or leave it. Still, when one considers the high cost of attending their games, paying to meet Youppi seems to have crossed the line with a number of their followers.