NHL Rumor Mill – March 24, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – March 24, 2023

Could tension between Flames coach Darryl Sutter and center Nazem Kadri force management to make offseason changes? Could the Flyers end up shopping some right wings in the summer trade market? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

COULD FRICTION BETWEEN SUTTER AND KADRI SPARK OFFSEASON CHANGE?

CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Steve MacFarlane cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently reporting of possible friction between Flames head coach Darryl Sutter and center Nazem Kadri having an adverse effect on the latter’s production this season.

Calgary Flames center Nazem Kadri (NHL Images).

Friedman cited Kadri’s limited minutes in three recent games where he saw less than 14 minutes of ice time, including their 8-2 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He believes Kadri’s blunt nature could be behind the reduction in his playing time and led to frustration between the center and Sutter boiling over in that Kings’ game.

MacFarlane noted Kadri’s been in a scoring drought since Feb. 18 and had just two goals in his previous 23 games before scoring on Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights. He wondered if that means it was time for a change and if the Flames’ ownership has the stomach to make the right ones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kadri downplayed the conjecture about tension between himself and Sutter, claiming his relationship with the Flames coach was fine. He also observed that there’s lots of speculation in Canadian NHL markets but was putting his focus on the game.

MacFarlane pointed out that Kadri was acquired last summer to help improve the Flames, especially during this point in the season when they’re jockeying for a playoff spot. His reduced playoff time and popgun offense could be attributable to age, the wear and tear of a long season or an ongoing adjustment to a new team and coach.

Whatever the cause, Kadri’s struggles are among the reasons why the Flames are in danger of missing the playoffs. That could spark some offseason changes but I doubt Sutter or Kadri will be part of it. It could be in the front office starting with general manager Brad Treliving, who built this club, brought back Sutter and signed Kadri last summer.

WILL THE FLYER SHOP SOME RIGHT WINGERS THIS SUMMER?

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Sam Carchidi reports the Flyers possess a deep group of right wingers. They include Travis Konecny, Cam Atkinson, Owen Tippett, Tyson Foerster, Wade Allison and Bobby Brink.

If the Flyers move one of them this summer, Carchidi believes it’ll be to bolster their depth at center, left wing and defense. The center position, however, could improve if Sean Couturier is healthy for next season and promising Cutter Gauthier is ready to make the jump to the NHL.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers head coach John Tortorella’s recent cryptic comments about the need for subtraction before adding in younger players could provide grist for the rumor mill. He felt that some of the young players had improved and some hadn’t. “Some of the veteran guys hadn’t,” he added.

I still believe the more likely trade candidates are veterans like center/left winger Kevin Hayes and defenseman Ivan Provorov. Still, we don’t know yet what interim general manager Daniel Briere has in store for his roster.

Maybe Briere will move one of those right wingers mentioned by Carchidi. Konecny would draw the most interest and has the best trade value but he played very well under Tortorella so I can see them hanging onto him. Atkinson was sidelined by injury for the entire season so they might want to see how he performs in 2023-24.

They’ll likely hang onto Tippett and Foerster but Allison could become the odd man out here, especially if they’re looking at promoting Brink next season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 24, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 24, 2023

The Hurricanes clinch a playoff berth, John Carlson makes his return to the Capitals, the Bruins continue their quest for the single-season wins record and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Rangers but still clinched a playoff spot for the fifth straight season. Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox scored for the 42-20-10 Rangers, who sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 94 points. Sebastian Aho netted his 31st goal of the season for the 46-16-8 Hurricanes as they sit on top of the Metro with 100 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rangers defensemen Ryan Lindgren missed this game as he remains plagued by a nagging shoulder injury that had sidelined him for 11 straight games.

The Hurricanes clinched that spot thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs downing the Florida Panthers 6-2. Auston Matthews scored two goals and John Tavares collected three assists for the Leafs (43-19-9) as they sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with 95 points. Matthew Tkachuk netted his 35th goal of the season for the 36-29-7 Panthers (79 points) as they remain one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eric and Marc Staal of the Panthers became the latest NHL players to opt out of wearing Pride-themed warmup jerseys for their club’s Pride Night, citing their religious beliefs. However, Eric Staal took part in a similar ceremony with the Montreal Canadiens in 2021.

A handful of players opting out of Pride Night has overshadowed the fact that most of their teammates are willingly taking part in these events.

Some teams, like the Chicago Blackhawks, opted not to participate but those were reportedly front-office decisions. The Blackhawks cited safety concerns for their Russian players over potentially violating their native country’s homophobic law banning “gay propaganda”. However, that theory was punctured by Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky taking part in his club’s Pride-themed warmup.

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (NHL Images).

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson had a goal and an assist in a 6-1 romp over the Chicago Blackhawks. It was his first game since being in the head by a slapshot on Dec. 23 resulting in a fractured skull and severed temporal artery. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom also had a goal and an assist for the Capitals as they improved to 34-31-8 to sit four points behind the Penguins with 76 points. Nikita Zaitsev scored for the 24-41-6 Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chicago forward Colin Blackwell underwent season-ending sports hernia surgery on Wednesday.

Speaking of the Penguins, they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Dallas Stars. Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn scored 31 seconds apart in the third period to take the lead while Joel Oettinger held off the Penguins with a 40-save performance as the Stars (39-19-14) hold first place in the Central Division with 92 points. Sidney Crosby and Pierre-Olivier Joseph replied for the 35-27-10 Penguins as they cling to the final Eastern wild-card spot with 80 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen set a franchise record for defensemen by extending his points streak to 12 games. Penguins starting goalie Tristan Jarry missed this game with a lower-body injury.

The Boston Bruins continued their quest for the single-season wins record by doubling up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. David Pastrnak netted his 49th of the season while Tyler Bertuzzi scored his first goal since joining the Bruins before the trade deadline. Boston sits atop the overall standings with 115 points thanks to their record of 55-11-5. Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach replied for the 28-38-6 Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins have 11 games remaining in their regular-season schedule to break the record of 62 wins co-held by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile, the injury-ravaged Canadiens announced Josh Anderson suffered a season-ending high-ankle sprain on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A shootout goal by James van Riemsdyk gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild. Joel Farabee had a goal and an assist for the 27-32-10 Flyers. Matt Boldy scored twice for Minnesota (41-22-9) as they sit one point back of the first-place Stars in the Central Division. Wild defenseman John Klingberg missed this game with an upper-body injury.

The Vegas Golden Knights held off the Calgary Flames by a score of 3-2. Vegas goaltender Logan Thompson made 37 saves before leaving the game with an injury with six minutes remaining. Jonathan Quick stopped all five shots he faced as the Golden Knights (45-21-6) hold first place in the Western Conference with 96 points. Milan Lucic and Nazem Kadri replied for the 32-26-15 Flames (79 points) as they slipped six points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was Thompson’s first game after missing 17 games with a leg injury. Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith also left the game with an injury during the second period.

Speaking of the Jets, they got a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks when Adam Lowry broke a 2-2 tie in the third period. The win improved their record to 41-29-3 and opened a five-point cushion over the Nashville Predators with 85 points. Cam Fowler and Frank Vatrano scored for the 23-39-10 Ducks.

Meanwhile, the Predators surpassed the Flames in the standings by nipping the Seattle Kraken 2-1 on shootout goals by Matt Duchene and Philip Tomasino. Kiefer Sherwood also scored and Juuse Saro stopped 27 shots for the 36-26-8 Predators (80 points). Daniel Sprong scored for the Kraken (39-24-8) as they sit one point up on the Jets in the first wild-card spot.

The Ottawa Senators kept their playoff hopes alive with a 7-2 upset of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alex DeBrincat and Brady Tkachuk each scored twice and Mads Sogaard stopped 27 shots for the 35-32-5 Senators (75 points) as they sit five points out of the final Eastern wild-card berth. Brayden Point tallied his 45th goal of the season for the Lightning (42-25-6) as they hold third place in the Atlantic Division with 90 points.

Vancouver Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko set a franchise record for most goals by a first-year player with 35 in a 7-2 drubbing of the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks improved to 32-34-5 on the season while the Sharks are 19-38-15.

The St. Louis Blues held off the Detroit Red Wings 4-3. Joel Hofer made 25 saves for the win as the Blues improved to 32-33-6. Simon Edvinsson tallied his first career NHL goal for the 31-31-9 Red Wings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues forward Richard Thomas was a late scratch due to an illness.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2023

Which teams would be good destinations for Ducks goalie John Gibson? Will the Canadiens delve into this summer’s free-agent market for a scorer? Should the Wild re-sign trade deadline pick-up Marcus Johansson? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

LATEST GIBSON SPECULATION

NHL.COM: In his latest mailbag segment, Dan Rosen was asked if this is the summer when the Anaheim Ducks trade John Gibson and where the 29-year-old goaltender might end up.

Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (NHL Images).

Rosen thinks the Ducks are weighing the value of keeping Gibson to help them stabilize their rebuild or trading him for a return that accelerates the process. He pointed out that his $6.4 million annual average value for the next four seasons isn’t an issue for the Ducks as they’re flush with cap space.

If the Ducks decide to shop Gibson this summer, Rosen believes he has value in the trade market. The Pittsburgh Penguins could use him as a replacement for pending free agent Tristan Jarry while the Buffalo Sabres need an upgrade between the pipes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Penguins have $19.4 million in projected cap space with 15 roster players under contract for 2023-24. They have sufficient cap room to take on Gibson, who could be open for a return to his hometown. The Pens could ask the Ducks to retain some salary or take back a salaried player as part of the deal.

The Sabres can easily afford Gibson’s cap hit with over $19 million in projected space and 20 players under contract, including their core talent. The Ducks could ask them to include a promising young roster player or one of their top prospects as part of the return.

WILL THE CANADIENS PURSUE A SCORER THIS SUMMER?

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Marc Dumont was asked if he sees the Canadiens dipping into this summer’s UFA pool. He doubts they’ll make a big splash but thinks they’ll try to add a scorer as they did with Denis Gurianov.

Dumont suggests a winger such as Ottawa’s Alex DeBrincat or Carolina’s Max Pacioretty would fit the bill, though the former would be more expensive than the latter. He knows things ended poorly for Pacioretty in Montreal but that was with different teammates. Dumont believes he’d be worth bringing back on a reasonable contract if he’s healthy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t expect the Canadiens to pursue any expensive veteran talent via free agency this summer. The Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan cited general manager Kent Hughes telling TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Ryan Rishaug that they’re not going to sign a 28 or 29-year-old to speed up their rebuild. His preference is to trade for good, young players like last summer’s acquisition of Kirby Dach.

If Pacioretty makes a full recovery from his torn Achilles I don’t see him returning to Montreal even if Hughes was open to signing a veteran UFA scorer. The 34-year-old winger will likely want to join a contender.

SHOULD THE WILD RE-SIGN JOHANSSON?

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo observed the Minnesota Wild’s recent acquisition of Marcus Johansson has improved Matt Boldy’s performance. In their recent five games since Kirill Kaprizov was sidelined by an injury, Boldy has five goals and nine points while Johansson has two goals and seven points. The Wild were 3-1-1 during that stretch.

Russo believes the Wild should look at re-signing the 32-year-old Johansson if he and Boldy maintain that solid offensive chemistry together. The winger said he enjoys playing in Minnesota and hopes he can make a home there.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have $11.4 million in projected cap space for 2023-24 with 14 players under contract and restricted free agents Filip Gustavsson and Calen Addison to re-sign. Johanson is on a one-year, $1.1 million contract. Perhaps a one-year deal with a slump bump to $1.5 million will interest him.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 23, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 23, 2023

Oilers captain Connor McDavid tallies his 60th goal of the season, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby reaches a goal-scoring milestone, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored two goals, including his 60th of the season in overtime, to nip the Arizona Coyotes 4-3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also tallied twice while Leon Draisaitl collected four assists for the 41-23-8 Oilers (90 points), who sit two points behind the second-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division. Clayton Keller scored twice and Nick Schmaltz had two assists for the 27-33-12 Coyotes.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid joins Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Auston Matthews as the fourth active player to reach the 60-goal plateau. He’s also the fastest player to score 60 goals in a season (72 games) since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 and is on pace to reach 68 goals, which would be the most since Lemieux netted 69 goals in ’95-’96. McDavid is one goal away from 300 career goals and on track to become the third-fastest active player to reach that mark.

Keller, meanwhile, is a big reason why the Coyotes aren’t wallowing near the very bottom of the overall standings this season. The 24-year-old is enjoying a career-best performance with 34 goals, 44 assists and 78 points.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby reached the 30-goal plateau for the 11th time in his career in a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Jeff Carter scored two goals for the Penguins (35-26-10) as they moved one point ahead of the Florida Panthers into the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 80 points. J.T. Compher had a goal and an assist while Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves for the 41-23-6 Avalanche (88 points), who remain two points back of the second-place Minnesota Wild in the Central Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby becomes the 20th player in NHL history to record 11 30-goal seasons and ties Lemieux for the most in Penguins history. He’s also the first player in NHL history to have a 30-goal season at age 18 and another at 35 or older.

HEADLINES

NHLPA.COM: The results of the NHL Players Association annual player poll were revealed on Wednesday. Among the notable results:

The Oilers’ Connor McDavid was named the most impactful forward in a must-win game. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy was named the goalie the players would want on their team if they need to win one game.

Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche was named the best defenseman while the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby was named the most complete player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the complete list and results by following the NHLPA link above.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks will not wear Pride jerseys for warm-ups before Sunday’s Pride Night game against the Vancouver Canucks. The decision was made out of safety concerns for the club’s Russian players due to Russia’s homophobic law banning “gay propaganda”.

The law makes it illegal for Russians to promote or “praise” LGBTQ relationships or suggest they are normal. Blackhawks roster players Nikita Zaitsev, Philipp Kurashev and Anton Khudobin are of Russian heritage or have family in Russia.

This decision was made by the Blackhawks’ front office and not the players. The club still intends to hold a variety of Pride-related events on Sunday at the United Center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks could be justified in their concern that their Russian players and their families risk persecution by their government over this issue. It was two years ago that New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin was the victim of an unsuccessful smear campaign for supporting Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

There’s also the possibility that another club uses this as a convenient excuse to scrape its participation in Pride Night on-ice events for reasons other than protecting their Russian players.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is expected to remain sidelined for the rest of this season due to a sprained ankle suffered on Feb. 15.

DAILY FACEOFF: Brian Boyle announced his retirement as an NHL player on Wednesday. He will be joining NHL Network as a studio analyst.

Boyle, 38, played 14 seasons as a center with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

In 871 games, Boyle scored 141 goals and 111 assists for 252 points along with 33 points in 124 playoff games. He was a two-time Stanley Cup Finalist with the Rangers (2014) and Lightning (2015) and won the Masterton Trophy in 2017-18.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Boyle in his new role with NHL Network.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 22, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – March 22, 2023

The latest speculation on Alex DeBrincat’s next contract, an update on possible suitors for the Senators and the latest on the Blue Jackets in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

LATEST ON THE SENATORS

TSN’s Shawn Simpson guesses Alex DeBrincat could be skating with the Ottawa Senators next season on his $9 million qualifying offer.

Ottawa Senators winger Alex DeBrincat (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrincat is a restricted free agent his summer with arbitration rights who’s also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. His average annual value is $6.4 million but his actual salary this season is $9 million, which is what it’ll cost the Senators to qualify his rights.

The Senators gave up three draft picks (including their 2022 first-rounder) to acquire DeBrincat last summer. General manager Pierre Dorion indicated last month that they’ll see how things go over the remainder of the season. Teams had called about DeBrincat before the March 3 trade deadline but Dorion had no interest in moving the 25-year-old left winger.

It’s believed Senators’ management wants to wait until the new ownership is in place before opening contract discussions with DeBrincat. I think Dorion wants to re-sign him before the June 30th deadline for qualifying offers but his hands are tied until the new owner takes over. If that hasn’t been sorted out before that deadline, Dorion might not have much choice but to qualify DeBrincat for next season and work on an extension beyond 2023-24.

Speaking of the sale of the Senators…

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports six potential suitors for the Senators will be in town this week to get a first-hand look at the city and the team’s operation. Meanwhile, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are expected to attend Monday’s game between the Senators and Florida Panthers at Canadian Tire Centre and meet with Ottawa mayor Mark Sutcliffe along with officials from the National Capital Commission.

The six interested parties are believed to be Markham-based developer The Remington Group, billionaire Michael Andlauer, Toronto-based Harlo Capital, Los Angeles-based producer Neko Sparks, developer Rocco Tullio and Graeme Rouston, the owner of The Hockey News.

UPDATE ON THE BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline recently reported the Columbus Blue Jackets moved winger Patrik Laine to center on the first line with Johnny Gaudreau and Kirill Marchenko and bumped center Boone Jenner down to their second line. They could maintain this experiment for what remains of the regular season.

Portzline believes the Blue Jackets could have “a dramatically different look at center ice next season” even if Laine returns to the wing. Checking-line center Dmitry Voronkov is expected to make the jump to the NHL after spending his development years in Russia. Portzline also noted they’re hopeful of landing one of the franchise centers at the top of this summer’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets are currently at the bottom of the NHL standings, giving them the best odds of winning this year’s draft lottery if they’re still in that position by season’s end.

Connor Bedard of the WHL’s Regina Pats is the top prize and could be ready to make the jump right away into the NHL. Other promising options include the University of Michigan’s Adam Fantilli and versatile Swedish Hockey League forward Leo Carlsson.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 22, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 22, 2023

Alex Ovechkin passed Wayne Gretzky to claim a scoring record, the Hurricanes and Stars remain on top of their respective divisions, Jonathan Quick reaches a goaltending milestone and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin surpassed Wayne Gretzky for the most 40-goal seasons in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Ovechkin has now reached the 40-goal plateau a record 13 times in his NHL career but his Capitals dropped to 33-31-8 (74 points) and sit five points behind the Florida Panthers for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth. Jack Roslovic scored twice, including the game-winner, for the 22-41-7 Blue Jackets.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 10 games left in the Capitals’ schedule, Ovechkin has a shot at reaching 50 goals for a record 10th season.

A three-goal third period lifted the Carolina Hurricanes over the New York Rangers 3-2 with Teuvo Teravainen tallying the winning goal late in the third period. The Hurricanes (46-15-8)  became the second team this season to reach 100 points and sit two ahead of the New Jersey Devils for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The 41-20-10 Rangers got a 36-save performance by Igor Shesterkin but remain in third place in the Metro with 92 points.

The Dallas Stars dropped a 5-4 decision to the Seattle Kraken as Adam Larsson scored the game-winner in overtime. Brandon Tanev tallied twice and collected an assist for the Kraken (39-24-7) as they hold the first Western Conference wild-card spot with 85 points. Stars captain Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists as his club rose to 38-19-14 to maintain their hold on first place in the Central Division with 90 points.

An overtime goal by Matt Boldy carried the Minnesota Wild over the New Jersey Devils 2-1. Filip Gustavsson kicked out a career-high 47 shots as the Wild (41-22-8) sit second in the Central with 90 points on the basis of regulation wins. Timo Meier netted his 35th goal of the season for the 45-18-8 Devils (98 points), who sit two points back of the first-place Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division.

The league-leading Boston Bruins nipped the Ottawa Senators 2-1 with Linus Ullmark stopping 40 shots for the win. David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk scored for the 54-11-5 Bruins (113 points) while Dylan Gambrell scored for the 34-32-5 Senators (73 points) as they sit six points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before this game, the Bruins announced defenseman Derek Forbort will be sidelined by a lower-body injury for the remainder of the regular season.

Speaking of the final Eastern wild-card spot, the Florida Panthers (36-28-7) failed to widen the gap between them and the teams chasing them after dropping a 6-3 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers. Travis Sanheim tallied two goals and Carter Hart made 41 saves for the 26-32-12 Flyers. Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour each had two points for the Panthers (79 points), who remain one up on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The New York Islanders improved to 37-27-8 by thumping the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-2 to widen their lead over the Panthers for the first Eastern wild-card berth with 82 points. Cal Clutterbuck scored twice and chipped in an assist for the Islanders. Mitch Marner tallied his 27th goal of the season for the Leafs (42-19-9) as they sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with 93 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders center Brock Nelson left the game in the first period following a hit by Leafs forward Noel Acciari. There was no immediate update on his condition.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Jonathan Quick (31 saves) took over second place for most wins among American-born goaltenders (375) by backstopping his club over the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. The Golden Knights (44-21-6) hold first place in the Pacific Division with 94 points. J.T. Miller scored twice and added an assist while Quinn Hughes set a franchise single-season assist record for defensemen (61) as they fell to 31-34-5 on the season.

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 29 shots in a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Nikolaj Ehlers and Adam Lowry scored for the Jets (40-29-3) as they hold the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 83 points. Barrett Hayton tallied for the 27-33-11 Coyotes.

The Calgary Flames kept pace with the Jets by dropping the Anaheim Ducks 5-1. Tyler Toffoli had three assists for the 32-25-11 Flames (79 points) as they remain four back of the Jets. Frank Vatrano scored for the 23-38-10 Ducks. Flames defenseman Chris Tanev missed this game with an upper-body injury. 

Montreal Canadiens netminder Sam Montembeault stopped 31 shots as his club upset the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2. Nick Suzuki had two assists and Kirby Dach scored in his return to action for the 28-37-6 Canadiens after missing 16 games with a lower-body injury. Brayden Point netted his 44th goal of the season for the Lightning (42-24-6) as they remain three points back of the Leafs in the Atlantic Division with 90 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The good news for the depleted Canadiens is Dach and Brendan Gallagher returning to the lineup following lengthy injuries. The bad news is winger Josh Anderson left the game with an ankle injury and is expected to miss their next game while defenseman Kaiden Guhle is done for the season with a high-ankle sprain suffered last week against the Panthers.

The Nashville Predators snapped a three-game skid with a 7-3 drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres. Luke Evangelista scored twice and added two assists while Matt Duchene scored twice for the Predators (35-26-8) as they are five points behind the Jets with 78 points. Tage Thompson scored his 43rd of the season while Jeff Skinner netted his 30th for the 33-31-6 Sabres (72 points) as they remain seven points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot.

A shootout goal by Lucas Raymond gave the Detroit Red Wings a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. Filip Zadina and Alex Chiasson scored for the 31-30-9 Wings, who sit eight points out of the final Eastern wild-card berth. Marco Scandella and Robert Bortuzzo replied for the 31-33-6 Blues.

IN OTHER NEWS…

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: The Avalanche signed head coach Jared Bednar to a three-year contract extension. He’s led the Avs to five straight playoff appearances, two consecutive division titles and the 2022 Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a well-deserved extension for Bednar, who took over this club during the lowest period in its history after Patrick Roy quit as head coach before the 2016-17 season. Their rise among the league’s elite over the past five seasons is in part due to his coaching.

TSN: The NHL announced Fanatics will take over as its’ on-ice jersey provider beginning in 2024-25, taking over from Adidas.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That move reportedly isn’t sitting well with hockey fans familiar with Fanatics products.