NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 29, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 29, 2022

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery on his training camp plans, Andre Burakovsky hoping for a larger role with the Kraken, the Rangers Sammy Blais is looking forward to a bounce-back season, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Jim Montgomery outlines his training-camp plans for the Bruins this season in an interview with Matt Porter. He’ll be replacing Bruce Cassidy, who was fired in June.

Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery (NHL Images).

Montgomery intends to shake up his forward lines to see who plays well with others. With first-line winger Brad Marchand sidelined to start the season, he’ll have Jake DeBrusk and new Bruin Pavel Zacha skating with center Patrice Bergeron.

The second line would see recently-returned David Krejci centering Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak. Charlie Coyle will be centering the third line with wingers such as Trent Frederic, Craig Smith, Nick Foligno or Zacha once Marchand returns to the line. If Foligno skates on the fourth line, Montgomery expects him to lead that line.

With defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk sidelined for the start of the season, Montgomery intends to use Hampus Lindholm in a leadership role along with Brandon Carlo. He’ll have to mix and match his second and third defense pairings. The new Bruins coach isn’t concerned about the goalie tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, noting how well they worked together last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: How well the Bruins adjust to the absence of core players like Marchand and McAvoy will determine the course of their season. The additions of Krejci and Zacha to their forward lines could be critical to the club’s early-season performance.

WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Andre Burakovsky hopes to get the opportunity to become a regular top-six forward with the Seattle Kraken. The 27-year-old winger felt he never got that chance with his two previous clubs, the Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche. He signed a five-year deal with the Kraken last month as an unrestricted free agent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken are coming off their expansion season and need as much depth as they can get. Burakovsky should be among their top-six wingers along with Jaden Schwartz, Jordan Eberle, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jared McCann and Ryan Donato.

NEW YORK POST: Sammy Blais is hoping to rebound from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of last season. Acquired from the St. Louis Blues last summer, the 26-year-old winger inked a one-year, $1.525 million contract with the Rangers in June.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blais could fill the third-line right wing position with the Rangers to start the season. A strong bounce-back performance on his part would provide a boost to their checking lines.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers winger Carter Verhaeghe was the Grand Marshall of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. The race is part of the NASCAR Cup Series.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: The Flyers signed restricted free agent forwards Wade Allison and Linus Hogberg on Friday.

Allison, 24, inked a two-year contract which become a one-way deal during the second season. He’ll earn $785K at the NHL level. Hogberg, meanwhile, signed a one-year, two-way contract for $750K.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2022

The Flyers reportedly hire John Tortorella as head coach, the Predators are on the verge of being sold, the salary cap range for 2022-23 is set, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Sam Carchidi reports a source claims the Flyers have hired John Tortorella as their new head coach with the official announcement expected Friday.

Philadelphia Flyers reportedly hire John Tortorella as their new head coach (NHL.com).

ESPN’s Kevin Weekes reports Tortorella’s new contract is expected to be in the range of four years at $4 million per season. That means the Flyers will be paying $9 million on coaches for next season as they still owe former coach Alain Vigneault $5 million for ’22-’23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tortorella has a reputation as a demanding coach who preaches an aggressive defensive style. He also has a long history of success in almost every NHL city he’s coached in.

Tortorella guided the Tampa Bay Lightning to their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2003-04, winning his first Jack Adams Award this season. He coached the New York Rangers to the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals and the Columbus Blue Jackets to their first-ever playoff series win in 2019 by sweeping the Lighting in the opening round. Tortorella won his second Adams Award with the Blue Jackets in 2016-17.

The Flyers, however, will be a challenge for Tortorella. While his hiring fits into management’s goal of “aggressive retooling” of its roster, there are questions about their scoring punch and their blueline depth. Signing him a four-year deal suggests they’re willing to give him the time he needs to reverse the Flyers’ on-ice fortunes.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators are nearing an agreement to sell the franchise to former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam. He’s expected to become the majority owner for an unspecified period of time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what changes, if any, Haslam could have in store for the Predators. One thing is certain: he won’t be moving the club out of Nashville.

NHL.COM: The NHL and NHLPA confirmed the salary cap limits for 2022-23. The upper limit will rise by $1 million to $82.5 million while the lower limit is set at $61 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: League commissioner Gary Bettman announced earlier this week that the upper limit will continue to rise by $1 million increments for at least the next two seasons. If hockey-related revenue continues to improve over that period, the increases will become more robust by 2024-25.

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli believes it’s likely the San Jose Sharks and Evander Kane will reach some sort of settlement regarding the latter’s grievance over his contract termination. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested an arbitrator might not be available to hear the case until after the NHL free-agency period begins on July 13.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane would still be allowed to sign with another NHL team if his case hasn’t been heard by July 13. However, the arbiter’s subsequent ruling could complicate things for both sides.

Seravalli suggests the arbiter could rule that the Sharks terminated Kane’s contract without cause. That would mean the winger would be reinstated with the Sharks and any contract he signed with another club would be voided. Kane would get the remainder of his original contract back but he’d have to return to the Sharks, which neither side wants at this stage.

THE DENVER POST: Valeri Nichushkin turned into the best bargain signing ever made by Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. Inked to a one-year, $850K contract in 2019-20 after being bought out by the Dallas Stars, the two-way winger has gone on to become an invaluable member of the Avalanche’s march to the 2022 Stanley Cup Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nichushkin’s performance in 2019-20 earned him a two-year extension worth $2.5 million annually. This season has been a career year for the 27-year-old winger, tallying 25 goals and 52 points in 62 games during the regular season and six goals and 11 points in 15 postseason games thus far.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning aren’t panicking over their overtime loss to the Avalanche in the opening game of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. They’re 1-3 in Game 1 in this postseason and 11-3 in every other game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be important for the Lightning to win Game 2 on Saturday and return home for Games 3 and 4 with this series tied. While they overcame being down 2-0 against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, they could find it more difficult surmounting a similar deficit against the talented, swift-skatingAvalanche.

WINNIPEG SUN: Barry Trotz is set to meet again with the Jets for more discussions regarding the club’s vacant head coaching position.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That doesn’t mean it’s a certainty Trotz will sign with the Jets but it is a promising step in that direction.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers have signed Sammy Blais to a one-year, $1.525 million contract extension. The 26-year-old winger was slated to become a restricted free agent on July 13. He missed most of this season following a knee injury suffered in November.

Speaking of the Rangers, former Blueshirt Sean Avery was found guilty of using his scooter to hit a car that was blocking a bike lane in Manhattan in 2019. He was sentenced to time served.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 17, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 17, 2021

The Penguins are reportedly on the verge of being sold, Ryan Getzlaf reaches a points milestone, the Panthers extend their home winning streak, Dion Phaneuf retires and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Fenway Sports Group LLC is in advanced talks to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are the owners of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, and Liverpool FC.

The cost of the sale could be $850 million. Sources indicate Mario Lemieux would maintain a small stake in the team and continue to have a say in hockey matters. The status of co-owner Ron Burkle remains uncertain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move will ensure long-term stability for the Penguins. This comes at a time when they will be approaching a rebuild as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin head into the home stretch of their long careers.

As The Hockey News’ Adam Proteau points out, this is good news for the Penguins. Fenway Sports Group provides them with deep-pocketed ownership with a well-documented history of building and maintaining competitive sports franchises.

GAME RECAPS

Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf (NHL Images).

  NHL.COM: Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf collected an assist to reach his 1,000th career NHL point in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals. Trevor Zegras scored twice, including the game-winning goal while Troy Terry had an assist to extend his points streak to 15 games. The Ducks (10-4-3) have won eight straight games. Capitals center Lars Eller missed this game as he was placed on COVID protocol earlier in the day.

The league-leading Florida Panthers (11-2-3) remain unbeaten at home (8-0-0) after thumping the New York Islanders 6-1. Patric Hornqvist and Brandon Montour each had two points on the night. It was the Panthers’ first win in five games but came at the cost of losing captain Aleksander Barkov, who left the game in the second period following a knee-on-knee hit by Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield. Barkov will be reevaluated today. The Islanders, meanwhile, played without Ryan Pulock (upper-body injury) and Josh Bailey (COVID protocol).

Third-period goals by Seth Jarvis and Vincent Trocheck lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Trocheck and Sebastian Aho each had a goal and an assist as the Hurricanes (12-2-0) sit one point behind the Panthers with 24 points. The Golden Knights played without Jonathan Marchessault as he entered COVID protocol earlier in the day.

The Winnipeg Jets tallied three goals in the second period on route to downing the Edmonton Oilers 5-2. Connor Hellebucyk picked up the win with a 32-save performance. Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl scored both Oilers goals to extend his lead in the goals (17) and points race (33) while Connor McDavid (two assists) stretched his season-opening points streak to 15 games.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dustin Tokarski kicked out 45 shots as he backstopped his club to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Colin Miller and Kyle Okposo tallied for the Sabres (7-6-2) while Jake Guentzel replied for the Penguins, who drop to 5-6-4. Sidney Crosby collected his first point of the season assisting on Guentzel’s goal.

Jack Campbell made 24 saves for his third shutout of the season as the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the Nashville Predators 3-0. He also leads the league among goalies with three or more games played with a 1.68 goals-against average and .943 save percentage. Auston Matthews scored the winning goal and collected an assist as the Leafs record sits at 11-5-1.

The New York Rangers (9-3-3) picked up their fourth straight win by hanging on to nip the Montreal Canadiens 3-2, whose record drops to 4-12-2. Igor Shesterkin turned aside 31 shots for the win while Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher earned a misconduct penalty late in the game for sucker-punching Rangers forward Barclay Goodrow. The Habs played without Mike Hoffman (back injury) and Jake Allen (concussion). Earlier in the day, the Rangers learned winger Sammy Blais will be sidelined for the season with a torn ACL.

An overtime goal by Cam Atkinson lifted the Philadelphia Flyers over the Calgary Flames 2-1. Flyers center Kevin Hayes scored his first of the season and pointed skyward to honor his late brother Jimmy. Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau was held off the score sheet despite tallying 10 shots on goal.

The Arizona Coyotes picked up their second win of the season (2-13-1) by dropping the St. Louis Blues 3-2. Barrett Hayton scored twice, including the game-winner in the third period, while Scott Wedgewood picked up the victory with a 34-save effort.

Jason Robertson scored two goals and collected an assist to power the Dallas Stars over the Detroit Red Wings 5-2. Jake Oettinger made 28 saves in his season debut with the Stars. Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin was removed from the game following the second period and placed in COVID protocol.

San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. Logan Couture and Rudolfs Balcers each collected two assists while James Reimer made 26 saves.

IN OTHER NEWS…

ESPN.COM: The Los Angeles Kings arena will be getting a new name. Starting Christmas Day, the Staples Center will become Crypto.com Arena in a $700 million arena naming rights deal.

TORONTO STAR: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired forward Kyle Clifford from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for future considerations. It’s Clifford’s second tenure with the Leafs, playing 16 games for them in the 2019-20 season.

THE ATHLETIC: Former AHL coach Clark Donatelli was indicted on four counts of sexual assault. The charges stem from a November 2018 incident involving the wife of Donatelli’s former assistant coach during their tenure with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the affiliate of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.

NHLPA.COM: Dion Phaneuf officially announced his NHL retirement yesterday. Phaneuf last played in 2018-19. He spent 14 seasons in the NHL with the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings, tallying 494 points in 1,048 games. Phaneuf was captain of the Leafs from 2010-11 until his trade to the Senators late in the 2015-16 campaign.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phaneuf’s best seasons were during his first four years with the Flames, netting 47-or-more points in each of those campaigns. He was captain of the Leafs during a difficult time as the club endured a number of management and coaching changes while reaching the playoffs just once. Best wishes to Phaneuf and his family in their future endeavors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 15, 2021

Connor McDavid achieves a points milestone while Ryan Getzlaf is on the verge of reaching one of his own. Check out the details in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid became the sixth-fastest player to reach 600 points during his club’s 5-4 win over the St. Louis Blues. McDavid had a goal and an assist to reach that milestone in 421 games and now has 601 points. Leon Draisaitl had a goal and two assists and Kailer Yamamoto netted the game-winner with 28 seconds remaining in regulation. Robert Thomas collected three helpers for the Blues.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drasaitl (31 points) opened a four-point lead over McDavid atop the NHL points leader board.

The Anaheim Ducks won their seventh straight game by downing the Vancouver Canucks 5-1. Trevor Zegras scored twice, Troy Terry (one assist) extended his points streak to 14 games, and Ryan Getzlaf collected two assists to reach 999 career points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf had 17 points in 48 games last season. The 36-year-old center has the same number of points in just 16 games thus far this season.

A shootout goal by Chris Kreider gave the New York Rangers a 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko picked up his first points of the season with a goal and an assist. Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood left the game in the third period and entered concussion protocol. Rangers forward Sammy Blais suffered an injured leg following a collision with Devils defenseman P.K. Subban.

The Washington Capitals scored twice in the second period and two more in the third in a 6-1 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Conor Sheary Garnet Hathaway and Daniel Sprong all collected two points. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was held scoreless in his first game since returning from COVID protocol. Earlier in the day, the Capitals announced center Nic Dowd signed a three-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $1.3 million.

A four-goal third period lifted the Boston Bruins over the Montreal Canadiens 5-2. Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle each scored twice for the Bruins while teammate Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens announced goaltender Jake Allen was listed as day-to-day with a head injury.

Calgary Flames goaltender Dan Vladar made 27 saves for his first career NHL shutout in a 4-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan each had two points. The Senators were playing with 10 regulars on COVID protocol as Drake Batherson was the latest to make the list yesterday.

The NHL department of player safety fined Minnesota Wild defenseman Alex Goligoski $5,000.00 for high-sticking Seattle Kraken winger Jordan Eberle on Saturday. Buffalo Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues was fined $2,500.00 for a dangerous trip of Ottawa Senators forward Zach Sanford.










Notable NHL Trades – July 23, 2021

Notable NHL Trades – July 23, 2021

A list of the noteworthy trades that took place leading up to, and including the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft along with my hot take on each. I will update this throughout the evening.

The Columbus Blue Jackets trade defenseman Seth Jones, the final pick in the first round of the 2021 draft (32nd overall) and a sixth-round pick in 2022 to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Adam Boqvist, a first-round pick in 2021 (12th overall), a second-round pick in 2021 and a first-round pick in 2022. If the latter pick is top-two, it becomes a 2023 first-rounder.

Jones also signs an eight-year contract extension with the Blackhawks worth an annual average value of $9.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t say I’m surprised that Jones wound up in Chicago. The Blackhawks were among the early suitors and really wanted to bolster their defense, especially after shipping Duncan Keith to Edmonton earlier this month.

What I am surprised by is the shock on social media that Jones got that expensive contract extension. Folks, if I’ve said it once, I said it a thousand times: never underestimate the ability of NHL general managers to spend too much on talent. Even under a flattened salary cap, some just can’t help themselves.

Some believe this is a lousy deal for the Blackhawks, pointing to the decline in Jones’ play over the past year, or the drop in his offensive numbers over the last two years. I believe Jones’ play suffered last season because the Blue Jackets were falling apart. Maybe the reason behind the decline in his production was playing for a club with a popgun offense.

Jones is 26, still in his playing prime, with a contract taking him up to age 35, skating for a team with a lot more talent than the one he just left. True, the Blackhawks are rebuilding, but they’ve got a mix of established and promising talent. Adding Jones to their lineup could help him regain his form and accelerate their rebuild.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, got the best return they could for a player who wasn’t going to re-sign with them before next season. Boqvist, 20, is coming off his NHL sophomore season. He’s a promising offensive blueliner who could be very effective on the Blue Jackets power play.

Landing the Blackhawks’ first-rounder while giving up the 32nd selection still gives the Jackets three selections in that round. They’re in a good position to land some promising prospects as they commence their rebuild in earnest this summer.

The Arizona Coyotes trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and winger Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for winger Loui Eriksson, winger Antoine Roussel, center Jay Beagle, the Canucks first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2021 NHL draft, their second-rounder in 2022 and a seventh-rounder in 2023. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be the blockbuster of the day. The Canucks were one of just two teams Ekman-Larsson was willing to waive his no-movement clause for when the Coyotes tried to trade him last October. The two sides ran out of time to hammer out a deal before the blueliner’s deadline on Oct. 9.

Ekman-Larsson’s performance has declined over the past three seasons. The Canucks are betting he’ll regain his form on a promising team in Vancouver. The Coyotes retained 12 percent of his $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit but that could still be an expensive gamble with six years remaining on his contract at $7.26 million per season.

Garland, 25, is coming off back-to-back 39-point performances and should provide a boost to the Canucks’ secondary scoring. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, he was pursued by several clubs in recent weeks.

The Canucks tried shedding Eriksson’s $6 million cap hit for the past two years. They’re finally rid of it when there’s just one year remaining. Beagle has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $3 million. There was speculation he could miss 2021-22 with an undisclosed injury. Roussel also has a year left on his deal with a cap hit of $3 million. The Coyotes could use the physical winger as a trade chip at next year’s trade deadline. 

For the Coyotes, the real prize was that first-round pick. They forfeited theirs for violating 2020 Draft Combine rules under former general manager John Chayka. Current GM Bill Armstrong was willing to eat the remaining year on Eriksson’s and Beagle’s contracts to get a top-10 pick.

Canucks GM Jim Benning is getting roasted on social media for this move. If Ekman-Larsson improves in Vancouver and Garland bolsters their scoring he’ll come out of this smelling like a rose. If not, he’ll be smelling of something rather unpleasant.

The Buffalo Sabres trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Robert Hagg, a first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2023.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher continues to shore up his defense after acquiring Ryan Ellis last Saturday from the Nashville Predators. Expect Ristolainen to slot in behind Ellis as their second-pairing right-side defenseman. 

The Sabres begin what appears to be another rebuild. Ristolainen’s been a fixture in the rumor mill for a couple of years now. Prying a 13th overall pick from the Flyers was quite a coup by GM Kevyn Adams, especially for a player who’s slated to become a UFA next summer. Flyers fans are taking to social media expressing their unhappiness with Fletcher for parting with that pick for Ristolainen. 

The New York Rangers trade right wing Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for winger Sammy Blais and a second-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could set the table for the Blues to trade Vladimir Tarasenko. It could also set the stage for the Rangers to make their much-rumored deal for Sabres center Jack Eichel. Or, it could simply be the Blueshirts being unwilling to invest too much for too long in Buchnevich when they’ve got two key players to re-sign next summer in Mika Zibanejad and 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believed the Rangers had to bring in another physical winger to skate on the third line with recently-signed Barclay Goodrow. Blais will fill that role at an affordable cap hit of $1.5 million. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 23, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 23, 2021

Recaps of Monday’s action, Artemi Panarin takes leave of absence amid assault allegations levied by his former Russian coach, stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Despite a 49-save effort by goaltender Anton Khubodin the Dallas Stars fell 3-1 to the Florida Panthers. Defensemen Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad provided two of Florida’s goals as the Panthers (26 points) sit in first place in the Discover Central Division. The Stars have dropped six straight games.

The Tampa Bay Lightning remains within three points of the Panthers after doubling up the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2. Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning while Jesper Fast tallied twice for the Hurricanes, who sit one point behind the Panthers and two up on the Lightning.

A third-period power-play goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau lifted the New York Islanders past the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Sabres winger Jeff Skinner was a healthy scratch. The Sabres also announced defenseman Jake McCabe will require season-ending surgery to repair a knee injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich turned in a 34-save shutout as his club blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0. Rittich got the nod as Flames starter Jacob Markstrom was day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Leafs star Auston Matthews was held without a point for the first time in 17 games. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen (upper-body injury, day-to-day), forwards Joe Thornton and Zach Hyman (undisclosed, day-to-day) and defenseman Jake Muzzin (broken facial bone) also missed this game. It’s uncertain when Muzzin will return.

Jonathan Quick picked up his 54th career shutout backstopping the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Dustin Brown scored twice as the Kings picked up their fifth straight win to remain in fourth place in the Honda West Division with 19 points. Blues forward Sammy Blais returned to the lineup following a false positive test for COVID-19.

The Arizona Coyotes overcame a 3-0 deficit to nip the Anaheim Ducks 4-3. Christian Dvorak scored twice and Clayton Keller collected two assists for the Coyotes.

Mats Zuccarello had a goal and three assists as the Minnesota Wild thumped the San Jose Sharks 6-2. Victor Rask had a goal and two assists while Marcus Foligno had a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a goal, an assist and a fight.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin (NHL Images).

HEADLINES

NEW YORK POST: Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the Rangers after his former KHL coach alleged the winger beat up an 18-year-old woman in a bar following a 2011 game in Riga, Latvia. Panarin released a statement through his agent denying Andrei Nazarov’s allegation, calling it a fabrication. The Rangers also expressed their support for their winger, indicating he “unequivocally and vehemently” denied the charge.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panarin is an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Post reporter Larry Brooks cites a source indicating this isn’t a direct retaliatory measure by the Putin government toward the Rangers star but rather Nazarov “going rogue”. He suggests Nazarov, a Putin supporter, is attempting to sully Panarin’s reputation to curry favor within the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.

Brooks points out Latvian journalist Aivis Kalnins reported a spokesman for the hotel where the alleged incident took place claims it never happened. None of Panarin’s former KHL teammates support Nazarov’s allegation.

Nazarov claimed Panarin was detained by police and there was a criminal case and trial but the incident was covered up by bribing local officials with 40,000 euros. However, Brooks pointed out Panarin at that time was not a high-profile player and had been passed over in two previous NHL drafts. He suggests there would’ve been little reason to engage in bribery and a cover-up for someone who at that time was a run-of-the-mill player.

NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 21.

New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac played in his 1000th NHL game during Sunday’s contest against the Washington Capitals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A Devils fan contacted me yesterday to point out I missed this during yesterday’s morning coffee headlines. I regret the oversight. Congratulations to Zajac on reaching this noteworthy career milestone.

TSN: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list has shrunk to nine players. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks announced center Dylan Strome has been placed in concussion protocol and defenseman Lucas Carlsson is on injured reserve with a strained groin. Blueline Connor Murphy has been activated from IR after missing six games with a hip injury.

THE ATHLETIC: Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau is interested in becoming the Seattle Kraken’s bench boss.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken aren’t believed to have started interviewing potential coaching candidates yet. Boudreau could be among the contenders given his years of NHL experience.