P.K. Subban slammed for his poor play, Predators coach Peter Laviolette denies abuse allegations, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Corey Crawford made 29 saves for his 250th career win backstopping the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Hawks rookie Kirby Dach tallied the winner in the fifth round of the shootout. The Blackhawks played without Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw, as they were placed on injured reserve earlier in the day. The Devils have dropped four straight games. Speaking of the Devils, the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis implies P.K. Subban is putting marketing himself over hockey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s declining production in 2018-19 can be attributed to injuries, but that’s not the issue this season. As Cyrgalis suggests, his busy off-ice schedule could have something to do with it. One could argue Subban’s play is suffering because the Devils are a lousy club, but he’s supposed to be a superstar who can elevate any team’s performance.
Cyrgalis also suggests the low return the Nashville Predators received (“two middling prospects and two second-round draft picks”) from the Devils last summer was indicative of Subban’s declining value. In reality, that trade was a straightforward salary dump by the Predators, freeing up cap dollars to sign Matt Duchene. That’s why the Devils didn’t have to give up very much to get Subban. Nevertheless, his play this season certainly hasn’t bolstered his stock.
The Penguins spoiled Phil Kessel’s return to Pittsburgh by blanking Kessel and his Arizona Coyotes’ teammates 2-0. Tristan Jarry kicked out 33 shots for his second straight shutout.
Leon Draisaitl had a goal and an assist as his Edmonton Oilers edged the Los Angeles Kings 2-1. Draisaitl (53 points) holds a one-point lead over teammate Connor McDavid atop the league scoring race. Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen turned aside 35 shots. With the Coyotes falling to the Penguins, the Oilers regained first place in the Pacific Division.
Washington Capitals winger Jakub Vrana tallied the game-winning goal and collected an assist in a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Ryan Getzlaf collected two points in a losing cause. The league-leading Capitals have won six in a row.
A late goal by Nate Thompson lifted the Montreal Canadiens over the New York Rangers 2-1. Habs goalie Carey Price made 29 saves for the win. The Canadiens played without center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who suffered a concussion in Thursday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette denied allegations of abusive behavior leveled at him by former player Daniel Carcillo when they were with the Philadelphia Flyers. “First was a suggestion by (Carcillo) that I used my position of power inside of a locker room to bully or … challenge players to go out there and fight,” Laviolette said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Laviolette also responded to a video clip making the rounds on social media showing him apparently punching forward Ville Leino in the back of the head during a game in 2011.
“I had called a timeout. I was trying to get my team motivated and I went to punch my fist into my hand. I nicked the back of his helmet. By no means was it meant as any physical abuse nor have I ever had any physical abuse with a player. … If people really thought I was punching somebody in the back of the head, then that would have come forward a long time ago.”
Leino defended Laviolette, saying he didn’t believe the coach intentionally struck him. “There are a lot of emotions in the game. Coaches get fired up and thing happen,” Leino told ESPN. “I don’t think Peter tried to hit me, and it looks worse than it was.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former Flyers Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell also defended Laviolette, as did current Predators forward Austin Watson. While time will tell if Carcillo’s accusation against Laviolette holds up, that video clip inspired a rush to judgment on social media before all the facts were in. And speaking of rushing to judgment…
SPORTSNET: Nikita Zaitsev’s agent released a statement disputing claims by his ex-wife that he’s taken their children and she doesn’t know about their whereabouts.
“The story that is being circulated online by the ex-wife of my client Nikita Zaitsev is not accurate,” Dan Milstein wrote. “Nikita’s children are safe and with his parents, at his parents’ home in Moscow, where they normally reside. Nikita’s ex-wife knows where the children are and that they are safe. Law enforcement considers this to be a private matter. We ask that you please respect the family’s privacy.”
CBS SPORTS: The Columbus Blue Jackets placed defenseman Zach Werenski (shoulder) on injured reserve.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu is on IR with a lower-body injury.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs placed Andreas Johnsson (leg) on IR until at least Christmas.