NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 27, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 27, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s action plus the latest on Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Vladimir Tarasenko and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Two goals in 12 seconds by Colin Blackwell and Chris Kreider lifted the New York Rangers to a 6-2 drubbing of the Boston Bruins in front of 1,800 fans at Madison Square Garden. Ryan Strome had a goal and two assists for the Rangers. Bruins’ captain Patrice Bergeron scored to collect his 889th career point, surpassing Bobby Orr for fifth on the club’s all-time points list while linemate Brad Marchand netted his 300th career goal. The Bruins have dropped four of their last five contests.

Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov (NHL Images).

The Minnesota Wild picked up their fifth straight victory by downing the Los Angeles Kings 3-1, snapping the latter’s six-game win streak. Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov scored his fifth of the season and leads the Wild and all NHL rookie skaters with 16 points in 17 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kaprizov must be considered the favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year. The smooth-skating 23-year-old is very entertaining to watch and a big reason why the Wild are playing so well of late.

Nazem Kadri had a goal and two assists as the Colorado Avalanche held off the Arizona Coyotes 3-2. Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist while rookie goalie Hunter Miska made 16 saves for this first NHL win.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is listed as day-to-day with an injured hand. Goaltender Frederik Andersen (lower-body injury) was on the ice yesterday ahead of Leafs practice while winger Joe Thornton and defenseman Jake Muzzin joined their teammates in practice.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews’ injury is reportedly considered a minor issue. He and his teammates are slated to meet the Edmonton Oilers tonight.

ESPN.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury while goaltender Linus Ullmark is expected to miss at least two games with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s absence could force Sabres coach Ralph Krueger to insert Jeff Skinner into the lineup. The struggling winger was a healthy scratch for the club’s last three games.

STLTODAY.COM: Vladimir Tarasenko could soon return to the Blues’ lineup before the club’s six-game road trip ends on March 8. The 29-year-old winger has been recovering from offseason shoulder surgery but is taking part in practice with his teammates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues have struggled of late so the return of their top sniper should provide a welcome boost to their offense. They’ll have to do some juggling with their salary cap space to make room for his $7.5 million annual salary-cap hit when he comes off long-term injury reserve.

THE ATHLETIC: Jim Rutherford told Pierre LeBrun he’s ready to work in the NHL only a month after suddenly stepping down as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rutherford insists he was “treated great” by the Penguins and has no regrets. He also said he has no geographical limitations on where he’d like to work.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford has a solid reputation around the NHL as one of the savviest general managers in the business. I doubt he’ll be unemployed for long.

NHL.COM: Former Montreal Canadiens general manager Irving Grundman passed away on Friday at age 93 following a short illness. He was the Habs GM from 1978-79 to 1982-83, winning the Stanley Cup in his first season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Grundman’s family, friends, and the Canadiens’ organization. During his tenure as GM he drafted future Hall-of-Famers Chris Chelios and Guy Carbonneau, as well as such noteworthy players as Mats Naslund, Craig Ludwig and Mike McPhee.










NHL ProteauType: Despite Sunny Bumps, Lake Tahoe Outdoor Games Deserve Praise

NHL ProteauType: Despite Sunny Bumps, Lake Tahoe Outdoor Games Deserve Praise

 










NHL Rumor Mill – February 22, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 22, 2021

Could the New York Rangers pursue Jack Eichel? Should the Canadiens target Eric Staal? What’s the latest on the Avalanche? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD ZIBANEJAD’S STRUGGLES TURN RANGERS TOWARD EICHEL?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders if Mika Zibanejad’s poor play through the first quarter of this season will make them consider pursuing Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel at some point.

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Zibanejad is having a horrible follow-up thus far to last year’s 41-goal effort. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2021-22. The decline in his production will affect potential contract extension talks.

Brooks suggests Eichel could be ripe for the picking with the Sabres once again struggling in the standings. The 24-year-old center has five years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $10 million.

If the Rangers go that route they’ll have to include 2020 first-overall pick Alexis Lafreniere as part of the return. “The Sabres aren’t moving their captain to New York for a handful of expendable parts,” writes Brooks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zibanejad’s early-season woes are concerning for the Rangers. He’s shown little sign thus far of breaking out of his slump. Whatever’s behind it, be it a medical issue, putting too much pressure on himself, or struggling to cope with heightened expectations, Zibanejad’s play this season is hurting the Rangers’ playoff hopes and will impact his contract extension talks this summer.

The Rangers are well-positioned to make a competitive bid for Eichel if they choose to go that route. They’ll have sufficient cap space to take on his $10 million AAV plus they’re loaded with promising young talent to tempt the Sabres. Lafreniere or 2019 second-overall pick Kaapo Kakko will have to be part of the package.

SHOULD THE CANADIENS TARGET ERIC STAAL?

TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie recently suggested the Montreal Canadiens should consider targeting Eric Staal before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. He speculated the 36-year-old Sabres center might be tempted to leave the struggling club. Staal also appears at ease playing in Montreal, tallying 45 points in 50 career games against the Canadiens in their home rink.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal could accept a trade to a playoff contender if the Sabres decide to become sellers leading up to the deadline. Whether it would be the Canadiens remains to be seen given his a 10-team no-trade list.

The Habs are struggling right now but general manager Marc Bergevin might not be ready to shake things up just yet. Any player he acquires from an American-based team must self-isolate for two weeks after crossing the US-Canada border before joining the Canadiens.

LATEST ON THE AVALANCHE

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Adrian Dater was asked about the Avalanche’s backup goaltending. With Pavel Francouz week-to-week with a lower-body injury, they’re making do with Hunter Miska and Adam Werner backing up starter Philipp Grubauer. Dater wonders if San Jose Sharks goalie Devan Dubnyk might be available if GM Joe Sakic decides to shop for help between the pipes if Francouz remains on LTIR.

Dater also believes the Avalanche could use a little more muscle, pointing out that they were pushed around during last year’s series against the Dallas Stars.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic will likely remain patient but that could be tested if Grubauer should be sidelined. For now, it seems he’ll stick with his current goalies and wait for Francouz to return.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s action, the Avalanche and Golden Knights prepare for today’s outdoor game at Lake Tahoe, Sidney Crosby addresses his future as he approaches his 1000th career NHL game, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: A four-goal first period powered the Florida Panthers to a 7-2 romp over the Detroit Red Wings. Aleksander Barkov and Keith Yandle each had three points, Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau picked up two assists. The Panthers (24 points) sit in first place in the Central Division, one point up on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they extended their points streak to five games (4-0-1) by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3. Nino Niederreiter scored twice and collected an assist for Carolina while Patrick Kane factored in each goal (one goal, two assists) for the Blackhawks, who sit one point behind the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane has to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He’s definitely been the Blackhawks’ MVP this season. They wouldn’t be jockeying with the Panthers, Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the division without Kane powering their offense.

The Edmonton Oilers won the latest chapter in the Battle of Alberta by edging the Calgary Flames 2-1. Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made 20 saves for his fourth win since his season debut earlier this month. Jesse Puljujarvi and Gaetan Haas tallied for the Oilers while Rasmus Andersson replied for the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I was really looking forward to this contest but it lacked the usual fireworks we’ve come to expect whenever these two clubs meet.

Winnipeg Jets backup Laurent Brossoit turned in a 29-save shutout as his club blanked the Vancouver Canucks 2-0. Jets center Mark Scheifele scored to extend his points streak to nine games. The Jets (21 points) sit one back of the second-place Oilers in the North Division.

HEADLINES

Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal for the Vegas Golden Knights when they tangle later today with the Colorado Avalanche in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday game at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It’s the first outdoor contest for the Golden Knights in franchise history.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will return to the lineup for this contest after coming off the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Defenseman Cale Makar (upper-body injury) will be a game-day decision.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Sidney Crosby reaffirmed his desire to finish his career with the Penguins. “I love playing here, and this is where I’d love to play for the rest of my career,” said Crosby, adding“I can’t really control what’s said or rumors and things like that.” Crosby will play his 1000th NHL game tonight against the New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby was referring to recent media speculation about his future with the Penguins if the club’s new management decides to rebuild. That doesn’t appear to be their intention. It’s worth remembering that he has four years remaining on his contract with a full no-movement clause giving him full control over his situation.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: A lower-body injury could keep center David Krejci from traveling with the Bruins for Sunday’s outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

TSN: Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger believes his club’s fragile psyche is the reason behind their inability to score goals. “They’re fragile right now,” he said. “They don’t believe in themselves and they don’t see themselves celebrating.” The Sabres opened the season 4-4-2 and has dropped three straight since resuming their schedule after it was postponed for two weeks by an outbreak of COVID-19 among their players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are a mess despite their front-office purge and several notable roster changes during the offseason. That sparked recent speculation about captain Jack Eichel’s future in Buffalo. Bigger changes could be in store for the Sabres if they miss the playoffs again. Whether those adjustments would involve their franchise player is anyone’s guess right now.

Meanwhile, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen revealed to a Finnish newspaper that he suffered chest pains and significant drops of oxygen levels when he was sidelined by COVID-19. He was cleared to resume skating on Wednesday but has yet to return to action. He spent a team-high two weeks on the COVID protocol list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Ristolainen can resume his playing career without any adverse aftereffects from the coronavirus.

NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues announce forward Ivan Barbashev was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He’s expected to be sidelined for six weeks.

The league also rescheduled March 28th’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes to today. The Hurricanes game against the Blackhawks today has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.

TSN: The number of players on the NHL’s COVID protocol list dropped to 11 names yesterday. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Long-time Red Wings masseur Sergei Tchekmarev passed away yesterday at age 65. He’d been with the Wings since 1998.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tchekmarev’s family, friends and the Red Wings’ organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 17, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 17, 2021

Recaps of Tuesday’s action, the league reschedules more postponed game, an explosive report about turmoil within the Coyotes’ organization and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Nazem Kadri scored with 41 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Colorado Avalanche over the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2. Nathan MacKinnon scored, Brandon Saad tallied a goal and picked up an assist and Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves for the win.

Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the most entertaining game of the night. It could be a preview of a potential playoff series between these two clubs.

The New York Islanders extended their points streak to eight games by blanking the Buffalo Sabres 3-0. Isles rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin made 20 saves for his first NHL win and shutout while team captain Anders Lee scored twice. Anthony Beauvillier returned to the Islanders lineup after missing nine games with a lower-body injury.

Three unanswered goals in the third period gave the New Jersey Devils a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Mackenzie Blackwood kicked out 37 shots and Janne Kuokkanen collected three assists in the Devils’ first game since Jan. 31. Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba left the game in the third period with an upper-body injury.

The Washington Capitals snapped a four-game losing skid by downing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1. Vitek Vanacek made 26 saves, Jakub Vrana tallied what proved to be the game-winner and Richard Panik collected two assists. Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson returned to action after being sidelined for nine games.

Jonathan Quick turned in a 28-save shutout as the Los Angeles Kings blanked the Minnesota Wild 4-0. It was the Wild’s first game since Feb. 2 following a COVID-19 outbreak. They took to the ice with five regulars (Jonas Brodin, Brad Hunt, Victor Rask, Carson Soucy and Cam Talbot) still on the protocol list.

HEADLINES

THE ATHLETIC: Katie Strang reported on widespread turmoil and financial woes with the Arizona Coyotes organization. Her detailed investigation involving interviews with more than 50 people including current and former employees. Among the issues revealed were inquiries into the Coyotes’ finances (including unpaid invoices, delays in paying bonuses to players and accusations of breach of contract) and complaints of dysfunctional workplace culture.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes released a statement condemning Strang’s report, accusing The Athletic of engaging in a “harassment campaign” and questioning the reliance on what the club deemed “disgruntled ex-employees.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strang is a well-respected hockey reporter who did considerable research into this story. This wasn’t harassment, it was journalism. The issues examined in her report are serious and have been bubbling for some time. raising legitimate concerns about the Coyotes’ ownership and the club’s future in Arizona.

The NHL announced widespread changes to its schedule. Twenty-nine postponed games have been rescheduled while another six are expected to be rescheduled in the near future.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The NHL postponed a second straight game between the Stars and Nashville Predators due to ongoing power issues in Dallas stemming from a major winter storm.










NHL’s 2021 Season Already Affected by COVID-19

NHL’s 2021 Season Already Affected by COVID-19