NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2021

Panthers, Avalanche games postponed by COVID past Christmas, Paul Maurice steps down as Jets coach, games recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST NHL COVID-19 NEWS

NHL.COM: Rising COVID numbers have forced the league to postpone the Colorado Avalanche’s and Florida Panthers’ games past the upcoming Christmas holiday break (Dec. 24-26). The Calgary Flames’ postponements have been extended to Dec. 23.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on Saturday has been postponed due to the Bruins having seven players on the COVID protocol list.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom joined teammates Evgeni Kuznetsov and Garnet Hathaway in COVID protocol.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs forwards John Tavares, Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds and Alex Kerfoot went on the COVID protocol list yesterday.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defenseman Duncan Keith joined teammates Ryan McLeod and Devin Shore and head coach Dave Tippett on the COVID protocol list.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte became the fifth player on his club to enter COVID protocol.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes forward Alex Galchenyuk joined Lawson Crouse and Jay Beagle in COVID protocol.

Defenseman Nick Borowiecki is the seventh Nashville Predators player to enter COVID protocol.

THE PROVINCE: Capacity at Rogers Place (the Canucks home arena) has been reduced to 50 percent until the end of January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fans and pundits are taking to social media wondering if/when the NHL will pause its schedule because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the league and NHLPA are in constant communication taking a team-by-team, case-by-case approach as they attempt to get through this wave of infections following medical guidelines. They’re hoping to avoid a league-wide pause which is considered a last resort.

Paul Maurice stepped down on Friday as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets (NHL.com).

MAURICE RESIGNS AS JETS HEAD COACH

WINNIPEG SUN: In a surprising move, Paul Maurice yesterday stepped down as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. He’d been in the job for nearly eight years. During his press conference announcing the decision, Maurice felt the struggling Jets were a good team but needed a new voice behind the bench.

Assistant coach Paul Lowry takes over from Maurice on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics will suggest Maurice jumped before he was pushed out of his job by management. Regardless, he handled himself well during his announcement yesterday. He praised the players and never felt they quit on him. Maurice acknowledged the club’s struggles on the ice this season and expressed his belief they could be reversed with someone new as head coach.

Maurice leaves with a solid record as Jets coach (315-223-62), guiding them to the playoffs five times and reaching the 2018 Western Conference Final.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Speaking of the Jets, they lost their first game with Lowry as coach by falling 5-2 to the Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin scored to extend his points streak to seven games while goalie Vitek Vanecek picked up the win with a 40-save performance. Ovechkin is tied with Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid atop the scoring leader board with 47 points while the Capitals (43 points) regained top spot in the overall standings. The Jets (31 points) remain three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Jets players were still coping with the surprising news of Maurice’s resignation earlier in the day. It could take a little time to adjust to their new coach.

An overtime goal by Tanner Jeannot lifted the Nashville Predators to their seventh straight win by downing the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. The COVID-depleted Predators (39 points) were a perfect five-for-five on the penalty kill and sit one point behind the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild.

Jeff Carter’s overtime goal gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Kris Letang picked up two assists as the Penguins have won six straight. Sabres goalie Malcolm Subban kicked out 45 shots.

St. Louis Blues goalie Charlie Lindgren (26 saves) picked up his fifth straight win as he backstopped his club over the Dallas Stars 4-1. Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals as the Blues (39 points) also moved within one point of the conference-leading Wild. The slumping Stars, meanwhile, have lost five straight contests.

The Arizona Coyotes squeaked past the Anaheim Ducks 6-5. Clayton Keller scored twice, including the winner in overtime. Hampus Lindholm tallied twice for the Ducks (39 points), who remain one point out of first in the Western Conference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hands up everyone who thought the rebuilding Ducks would be jockeying for first overall in the conference at this point in the season. OK, put your hands down, you fibbers!

Seriously, though, I’m becoming more convinced to take this club seriously as a playoff contender with each passing game. Their special teams have been terrific thus far, sitting fourth overall on the power play and penalty kill.

Jonathan Marchessault’s shootout goal gave the Vegas Golden Knights a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. The Golden Knights have won four in a row. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider each had two points for the Rangers.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TORONTO SUN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reduced the six-game suspension of Leafs forward Jason Spezza to four games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza would’ve been able to return against the Vancouver Canucks tonight but he’s in COVID protocol.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 13, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 13, 2021

The Golden Knights defeat the Kraken while the Penguins upset the Lightning as the puck drops on the 2021-22 season. Details and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: A tie-breaking goal by Chandler Stephenson lifted the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-3 win over the Seattle Kraken in the latter’s first-ever NHL regular-season game. Max Pacioretty scored twice and Robin Lehner made 28 saves for Vegas, who blew a 3-0 lead as the Kraken rallied on goals by Ryan Donato (the first in franchise history), Jared McCann and Morgan Geekie.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken were expected to have a strong defense but they look shaky while their offense acquitted themselves well in this contest. McCann, Joonas Donskoi, Marcus Johanssen and Jamie Oleksiak had entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Monday but were cleared to play in this game.

Kris Letang collected two assists and Tristan Jarry made 26 saves as the Pittsburgh Penguins downed the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2. Danton Heinen and Brian Boyle scored in their debuts with the Penguins. Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli replied for the Lightning, who raised their 2020-21 Stanley Cup banner in a pre-game ceremony.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning were flat throughout this game, outshot 35-28 by a Penguins team skating without scoring stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel. The Bolts certainly missed former third-liners Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, who departed this summer via expansion draft, free agency and trade.

It was nice seeing Boyle score in his first NHL game since 2019-20. He missed all of last season as an unsigned free agent and earned a spot on the Penguins following a professional tryout offer.

HEADLINES

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens signed center Nick Suzuki to an eight-year, $63 million contract extension. The annual average value is $7.875 million, making him the highest-paid forward on the roster.

Montreal Canadiens center Nick Suzuki (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers questioned the Canadiens signing Suzuki to such a hefty raise after just two consecutive 41-point performances. Anyone who watched his performance in the 2021 playoffs will understand the rationale behind this contract. The 22-year-old Suzuki blossomed into a reliable first-line center, playing a solid game at both ends of the rink.

Suzuki was scoring at a higher rate last season than in his rookie campaign. His 41 points in 56 games last season prorates to 60 points in an 82-game season. Should he reach or exceed that point total this season he would’ve been in a better position next summer to seek a more lucrative deal. The Canadiens now have Suzuki locked in through what should be his prime playing years at what could prove to be a cost-effective long-term contract.

Cap Friendly shows the Canadiens sitting at $84.88 million in projected cap space for 13 players in 2022-23, well above the projected $82 million for next season. They could get over $7.8 million in relief if Shea Weber ends up on permanent long-term injury reserve. Even then, however, they won’t have much cap space to fill out the rest of their roster.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss their season-opener tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s reportedly asymptomatic and feeling good. His earliest possible return is Saturday against the St. Louis Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL announced just four players remain unvaccinated. Nevertheless, MacKinnon’s case shows why the league has implemented strict protocols for this season for even its fully vaccinated players.

WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (hip injury) was placed on long-term injury. Though he skated yesterday for the first time as he rehabs his injury, he will miss at least the first 10 games of the season. Meanwhile, team captain Alex Ovechkin remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury but took to the ice for the club’s optional skate on Tuesday.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Speaking of Ovechkin and Backstrom, they starred in a new commercial for MassMutual.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a funny commercial with Backstrom in a brief but memorable scene-stealing role.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner left practice yesterday as a precautionary measure following a collision with Wayne Simmonds. He’ll be re-evaluated today.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers defensemen Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen have missed several recent practices for “maintenance days.” That’s raising some concern over whether they’ll be in the lineup for their season opener on Friday against the Vancouver Canucks.

SPORTSNET 590’s Nick Kypreos took to Twitter reporting the NHL could be leaning toward suspending San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane under supplementary discipline as per Section 18-18a of the CBA. After serving a set number of games he could be cleared to resume his career. Meanwhile, Cap Friendly reports Kane’s $7 million cap hit currently doesn’t count against the Sharks cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane is currently under two league investigations regarding allegations of spousal abuse and using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets named Boone Jenner as their new captain.

WGR 550: Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons will split the captaincy of the Buffalo Sabres this season.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers winger Vitali Kravtsov refused assignment to their AHL affiliate in Hartford and could face suspension. His agent has also been given permission to speak to other teams to facilitate a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kravtsov was projected as a potential third-line winger this season for the Rangers. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks signed Alex Chiasson to a one-year, $750K contract. He earned a roster spot following a professional tryout offer.

THE ATHLETIC: The NHL set the escrow rate on players’ contracts at 17.2 percent for 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is in line with the rates set in the CBA extension last year. The players owe the owners close to $1 billion as a result of the impact of the pandemic upon hockey-related revenue.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 12, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 12, 2021

The 2021-22 season opens tonight, the Lightning sign Jon Cooper to a contract extension plus the latest on Auston Matthews, Nicklas Backstrom, Evander Kane and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The puck drops on the 2021-22 season tonight as the Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning while the expansion Seattle Kraken plays their inaugural game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken forwards Jared McCann, Marcus Johansson and Joonas Donskoi and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak joined teammate Calle Jarnkrok in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken will be without five of their better players for tonight’s franchise-opening matchup against the Golden Knights. The latter isn’t untouched by COVID as Mattias Janmark also entered the protocol yesterday.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Speaking of the Lightning, they signed head coach Jon Cooper to a three-year contract extension. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Cooper is making between $3.5 million and $4 million on his current deal.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville is earning a league-leading $5.5 million. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cooper earns that much, if not more, on his new deal.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is expected to miss the first three games of the regular season as he continues to recover from offseason wrist surgery. Teammate Ilya Mikheyev suffered a broken thumb and is expected to be sidelined for two months. The Leafs also lost forward Adam Brooks as he was plucked off waivers by the Montreal Canadiens.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals listed center Nicklas Backstrom (hip injury) as injured non-roster yesterday. His $9.2 million cap hit continues to count against the Capitals salary-cap payroll but he doesn’t count against their 23-man roster.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane is listed as non-roster pending the completion of two league investigations into allegations of spousal abuse and using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Meanwhile, 2021 first-round pick William Eklund earned himself a spot on their 23-man roster to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s off-ice issues and Tomas Hertl’s contract situation has overshadowed Eklund’s solid preseason performance. They could have a promising young star in their ranks if he adjusts well to the NHL pace this season.

THE PROVINCE: The Canucks will open the season with forwards Brock Boeser, Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte sidelined. Defenseman Travis Hamonic cleared waivers yesterday and has been loaned to their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars placed goaltender Ben Bishop on long-term injury reserve to give themselves some salary-cap flexibility to open the season. They also listed forwards Jason Robertson and Blake Comeau as day-to-day.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers won’t have a captain this season. They instead named Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Strome and Barclay Goodrow as alternate captains.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: One of them could be named captain following this season as head coach Gerard Gallant evaluates their performance and leadership. They haven’t had a captain since Ryan McDonagh was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The investigation into the July 4 death of Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks continues. The preliminary report concluded his death was a tragic accident but the police turned it over to the county prosecutor’s office on July 12. No criminal charges were request and none have been filed but the prosecutor’s office referred to the matter as a “criminal case”. There’s no timetable for the investigation’s conclusion.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings released winger Bobby Ryan from his professional tryout offer yesterday. However, general manager Steve Yzerman has left the door open for his possible return to the roster at some point.

TSN: Brian Boyle is expected to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins after playing with them during preseason on a PTO.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Hurricanes forwards Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas created a stir yesterday by golfing with pop star Harry Styles, who’s playing the PNC Center on Tuesday.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators promoted Scott Nichol to assistant general manager.

NBC SPORTS: The American Hockey League will have 10 women among their 17 new on-ice officials this season. They are referees Katie Guay, Kelly Cooke, Jacqueline Zee Howard, Laura White, Samantha Hiller, Elizabeth Mantha and Amanda Tasson and linespeople Kendall Hanley, Kirsten Welsh and Alexandra Clarke.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to them all. Perhaps one or more of them will one day be officiating in the NHL.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 3, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 3, 2021

Robin Lehner accuses several teams of medical malpractice plus the latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Jonathan Drouin, Jack Johnson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

ESPN.COM: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner alleged several NHL teams regularly gave players drugs such as benzodiazepines and Ambien without prescriptions. He said the Golden Knights weren’t among those clubs but implied he’d been on teams that had done so.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner can expect a call by NHL HQ if he hasn’t already been contacted. He’ll be in hot water if he can’t substantiate his allegation. If he can, however, it could prompt an investigation by the league.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said his injured hip is improving but there’s no timetable for his return. The ailment doesn’t require surgery and he’s been rehabbing it at an offsite location. His status remains week-to-week, leaving him questionable to start the season.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jonathan Drouin is the 2020-21 recipient of the Jean Beliveau Trophy, awarded annually to the Canadiens player who best exemplifies leadership qualifies in the community. Drouin’s been involved in numerous charities, including those helping children and sick people.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drouin receiving this honor takes on greater significance when one remembers he took a leave of absence from the Canadiens last season to deal with anxiety. Despite that, he still maintained his charitable work.

The Canadiens announced defenseman Sami Niku is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a concussion in Friday’s preseason game against the Ottawa Senators.

TSN: The Canadiens also claimed goaltender Samuel Montembeault off waivers from the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is seen as an insurance move by the Canadiens with starter Carey Price still recuperating from offseason knee injury. His status for the start of the season remains uncertain.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Sources claim the Colorado Avalanche are expected to sign defenseman Jack Johnson, who’s in training camp on a professional tryout offer. With Devon Toews sidelined, he’s likely to fill a spot as the fifth or sixth blueliner to start the season.

 

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 24, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 24, 2021

The Sabres strip Jack Eichel of his captaincy, plus several stars are already sidelined or returning from injuries as training camps open. Check out the details in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams confirmed yesterday the club had stripped Jack Eichel of the captaincy. The 24-year-old center also failed his team physical and will be placed on injured reserve.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Eichel and Sabres’ management remain in a standoff over which medical procedure he should receive to repair a herniated disc in his neck. He favors disc replacement surgery while the team doctors prefer fusion surgery. Adams also indicated the team is still open to trading Eichel at the right price.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt any NHL fan or pundit is surprised by this news. It’s just another chapter in an impasse with no end in sight. There could be teams willing to let Eichel undergo disc replacement but they’re unwilling to pay the Sabres’ high asking price to acquire him.

Don’t expect to see Eichel on the ice this season unless one side blinks. I also don’t anticipate seeing him traded this season unless the Sabres drop their price. Even then, Eichel’s $10 million annual average value over the next five seasons is difficult for most teams to absorb even when he’s healthy.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin is expected to miss at least the first two months of this season recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee. The Penguins also have one unidentified player not yet fully vaccinated though he’s expected to be within the next few weeks.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said he’s been dealing with a nagging injury since prior to the 2020 NHL playoffs but downplayed the severity. He and GM Stan Bowman didn’t elaborate but said it was a common ailment among hockey players.

Meanwhile, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was back with his teammates in his first formal practice since missing all of last season with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. He’s hoping to be ready to play when the season opens next month.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and winger Mike Hoffman are likely to miss training camp and the start of the season. Price is recovering from offseason knee surgery while Hoffman has been sidetracked by a lower-body injury.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is listed as week-to-week due to ongoing rehabilitation on his hip. Meanwhile, teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov said he’s feeling good mentally and physically and ready to put a difficult 2020-21 season behind him.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck confirmed he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Aug. 20. He was unvaccinated at the time and took about 10 days to recover. He’s since been vaccinated but felt rushed into doing so in order to be ready for training camp so soon after recovering from the coronavirus.

I’m not anti-vax by any means,” he said. “But I’d like to have that decision for myself. It felt very forced on me.” He added the post-vaccination symptoms made him feel as though he had COVID again.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hellebuyck’s situation was unique and probably should’ve allowed him more leeway to become vaccinated so soon after recovering from COVID-19. NHL protocols would allow him to join his teammates under certain restrictions until he received his shots.

The league isn’t forcing its players to be inoculated. However, they face travel restrictions, additional testing, forfeiture of portions of their salaries if they miss playing time and social interaction limitations as a result.

Some might feel the NHL’s protocols are too restrictive. However, the league and the NHLPA don’t want a repeat of 2020-21 when multiple game postponements due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among several teams wreaked havoc on an already compressed schedule.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Center Tyler Seguin, winger Alexander Radulov and goaltender Ben Bishop were on the ice for the Stars’ opening day of training camp. Seguin missed all but three games last season to hip and knee surgeries. Radulov was sidelined most of last season by a core muscle injury requiring offseason surgery. Bishop, meanwhile, is hopeful of playing after missing all of last season to knee surgery.

CALGARY SUN: Flames center Sean Monahan revealed a hip injury bothered him for most of last season. He underwent offseason surgery and was on the ice for the club’s opening day of training camp.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche forward Stefan Matteau and defenseman Roland McKeown had both tested positive for COVID-19 but are nearing the end of their recovery. Meanwhile, head coach Jared Bednar said defenseman Cale Makar underwent an upper-body procedure recently but isn’t expected to miss any practice or preseason time.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins center Charlie Coyle began training camp yesterday wearing a non-contact red jersey. He’s coming off a pair of knee surgeries but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken center Yanni Gourde took part in drills yesterday wearing a non-contact jersey. GM Ron Francis indicates Gourde could return to action sooner than expected from offseason shoulder surgery. He was originally expected to be sidelined until December.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace revealed he was recently hospitalized fighting for his life with a severe case of COVID-19. He spent a week in intensive care before being released. He and his wife must now wait eight weeks before getting vaccinated as per CDC guidelines, something they had put off based on advice from doctors related to medical conditions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Legace and his wife for a speedy and complete recovery.

THE PROVINCE: An internal document shared with NHL teams earlier this week reveals the league believes 30 of its 32 teams could start the season with full capacity at their arenas. The exceptions are the Vancouver Canucks (50 percent) and the Montreal Canadiens (33 percent). The memo also revealed the various anticipated vaccine guidelines for all the franchises. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 16, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action include milestones for Tuukka Rask and Nicklas Backstrom, the Canucks’ Friday game is postponed plus the latest on Steven Stamkos and Jack Eichel in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Taylor Hall scored his first goal with the Boston Bruins and Tuukka Rask picked up his 300th career NHL victory after returning from injury in a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. Brad Marchand scored twice for the Bruins, who sit fourth in the MassMutual East Division with 52 points. The Islanders are in second place with 58 points.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (NHL Images).

The Washington Capitals failed to widen their lead over the Isles as they were upset 5-2 by the Buffalo Sabres. Washington center Nicklas Backstrom picked up an assist in his 1,000th career NHL game. Anders Bjork had a goal and an assist for the Sabres. The Capitals remain atop the East with 60 points.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin picked up his second straight shutout over the New Jersey Devils with a 4-0 victory. Artemi Panarin scored two goals as the Rangers (48 points) remain four points behind the Bruins and two ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Speaking of the Flyers, they got shootout goals from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier to nip the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1. Carter Hart kicked out 31 shots for the Flyers. The Penguins are in third place with 57 points, one back of the second-place Islanders.

The Carolina Hurricanes moved into first place in the Discover Central Division by downing the Nashville Predators 4-1. Andrei Svechnikov and Vincent Trocheck each had a goal and an assist to give the Hurricanes 60 points in the standings. The Predators, meanwhile, are in fourth place with 49 points.

An overtime goal by Victor Hedman gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Alex Killorn had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. The Lightning also announced they placed captain Steven Stamkos on long-term injury reserve with a lower-body injury retroactive to April 9. Tampa Bay also has 60 points but sits second in the Central on the basis of games played while the Panthers are one point behind them.

Jakub Vrana scored his first goal with the Detroit Red Wings as they upset the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. Troy Stecher also scored two goals for the Wings to extend their win streak to three games. The loss leaves the Blackhawks (45 points) four points behind the Predators.

The Dallas Stars kept their playoff hopes alive by dropping the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1. Denis Gurianov scored twice and collected an assist as the Stars are one point back of the Blackhawks.

Two-goal performances by Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connors carried the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto center Auston Matthews missed the game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day. The Jets (57 points) moved to within three points of the first-place Leafs in the Scotia North Division.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks’ scheduled game tonight against the Edmonton Oilers was postponed because of player preparation concerns. The Canucks last played on March 24 and their schedule was postponed on March 31 by COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation Saturday’s game could also be postponed. It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes another week before the Canucks can safely ice a healthy roster. This latest postponement came about after the players raised concerns with the NHLPA that they hadn’t fully recovered in time for Friday’s contest with the Oilers.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams denied reports claiming team captain Jack Eichel would soon undergo surgery to repair a season-ending herniated disk in his neck. He said Eichel will continue to rehab the injury and he’ll be reevaluated in May.