Hat tricks for the Golden Knights’ Jack Eichel, the Devils’ Jesper Bratt and the Wild’s Matt Boldy plus a franchise record performance by the Rangers’ K’Andre Miller in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel tallied a hat trick in a 7-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Alex Pietrangelo collected four assists and Jiri Patera stopped 35 shots for the Golden Knights (43-21-6) as they sit on top of the Western Conference with 92 points. Patrik Laine and Kirill Marchenko each had two points for the 21-41-7 Blue Jackets.
Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen missed this game as he’s temporarily taken some time away from the team due to a death in the family. My condolences to Larsen and his family during this difficult time.
The New Jersey Devils overcame a 2-0 deficit to down the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2. Jesper Bratt scored his first career hat trick and his 100th career goal for the Devils (97 points), who improved to 45-18-7 and sit one point behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division. Nikita Kucherov scored to reach 100 points for the third time in his career as the Lightning (42-23-6) sit third in the Atlantic Division with 90 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Devils forward Curtis Lazar missed this game with an undisclosed injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers.
Speaking of hat tricks, Matt Boldy netted the second one of his young career in a 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals. Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 33 shots for the 40-22-8 Wild as they regained second place in the Central Division with 88 points. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored two goals and collected an assist but his club sank to 33-31-7. With 73 points, they’re five points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov left this game with an apparent shoulder injury following a high hit from Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. There was no penalty on the play. The Capitals were also playing without starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper as he’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin returned to action after missing 12 games with a lower-body injury.
The New York Rangers’ K’Andre Miller set a franchise record for most points by a defenseman in one period (four) with two goals and two assists as his club scored six first-period goals to thump the Nashville Predators 7-0. Artemi Panarin had three points and Jaroslav Halak made 22 saves for his first shutout of the season for the 41-19-10 Rangers, who sit third in the Metropolitan Division with 92 points. The Predators fell to 34-26-8 and remain five points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 76 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those six first-period goals were also a Rangers record for most goals in one period. Meanwhile, the Predators played without captain Roman Josi as he’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman kicked out 26 shots for his second straight shutout in a 7-0 romp over the Buffalo Sabres. Jake DeBrusk had a goal and three assists, Patrice Bergeron had three points and David Pastrnak netted his 48th goal of the season for the league-leading Bruins as they improved to 53-11-5 and 111 points. The Sabres fell to 33-30-6 and sit six points away from the final Eastern wild-card berth with 72 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pastrnak is just two goals away from becoming the first Bruin to reach 50 in a season since Cam Neely in 1993-94. As for the Sabres, WGR 550’s Paul Hamilton indicates that they have the league’s second-worst record over their last 11 games, sitting 28th in goal scoring during that stretch while allowing a league-high 53 goals.
St. Louis Blues rookie goalie Joel Hofer made 33 saves to shut out the Winnipeg Jets 3-0. Kasperi Kapanen, Nathan Walker and Jakub Vrana scored for the 31-33-5 Blues. The Jets fell to 39-29-3 and cling to the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 81 points.
The Anaheim Ducks were officially eliminated from playoff contention as they fell 2-1 to the Vancouver Canucks. J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson scored for the 31-33-5 Canucks while Ryan Strome replied for the 23-37-10 Ducks.
Connor McDavid and the Oilers humiliate the Penguins, the Bruins acquire Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from the Capitals, and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored two goals and collected two assists in a 7-2 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Leon Draisaitl scored to extend his goal streak to six games as the Oilers (32-19-9) vaulted into second place in the Pacific Division with 72 points. Kris Letang tallied both Penguins goals as his club dropped its fourth straight game as they fell to 27-21-9 (63 points) to sit one point out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth.
Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid now has a career-high 46 goals to lead the goal-scoring race. Teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and an assist to reach 600 career points. As for the Penguins, this high-profile match-up was a disaster, prompting their hometown crowd to vent their unhappiness with general manager Ron Hextall with chants of “Fire Hextall!”
The Penguins’ loss was good news for the Detroit Red Wings as they leaped into the final Eastern wild-card berth by downing the New York Rangers 4-1. Andrew Copp led the way with a goal and two assists against his former team while Ville Husso made 30 saves for the 28-21-8 Red Wings (64 points). Vincent Trocheck replied for the Rangers (33-16-9) as they remain in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 75 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers sat out Vitali Kravtsov and Jake Leschyshyn from this game, prompting speculation they could be close to acquiring Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane. I’ll have more about that later today in the Rumors section.
Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk scored the game-winner with 1:38 remaining in the third period for a 6-5 victory over the Seattle Kraken. David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist for the league-leading Bruins (44-8-5), who’ve won five straight and hold a nine-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes in the overall standings with 93 points. Matty Beniers, Vince Dunn and Jamie Oleksiak each had a goal and an assist for the 32-20-6 Kraken as they dropped into the first Western Conference wild-card berth with 70 points.
The Vegas Golden Knights overcame a 3-1 deficit to burn the Calgary Flames 4-3 on an overtime goal by Alex Pietrangelo. Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist as the Golden Knights improved to 35-18-5 to hold a three-point lead over the Oilers for first place in the Pacific Division with 75 points. Mikael Backlund and Jakob Pelletier each had a goal and an assist for the Flames (27-20-12) as they sit one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 66 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Golden Knights center Nicolas Roy missed this game as he’s listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
An overtime goal by Dawson Mercer lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 4-3. Mercer finished the night with two goals and an assist while Nico Hischier sent the game to overtime with 39 seconds remaining in the third period. The Devils improved to 38-15-5 and sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 81 points, three back of the first-place Carolina Hurricanes. Anze Kopitar, Kevin Fiala and Sean Durzi each had two points for the Kings (32-19-8) as they sit in third place with 72 points in the Pacific Division.
The Buffalo Sabres upset the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-5 on an overtime goal by Ilya Lyubushkin. Tage Thompson had his fourth hat trick of the season for the Sabres as they improved to 29-23-4 (62 points) to sit two points out of the final Eastern wild-card berth. Brayden Point had a goal and three assists for the Lightning (36-17-4) as they sit two points behind the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division with 76 points.
Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves to shut out the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0. Brandon Duhaime and Kirill Kaprizov scored for the Wild (32-21-5) as they sit in third place in the Central Division with 69 points, two back of the second-place Winnipeg Jets. The Blues Jackets sank to 18-35-5 on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Wild placed defenseman Jonas Brodin (lower-body) on injured reserve.
The Nashville Predators got two-goal performances from Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter in a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Matt Duchene collected three assists as the Predators improved to 28-22-6 (62 points) to sit five points out of the final Western Conference wild-card berth. The Sharks dropped to 18-30-11.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators got some bad news before the game as they announced that center Ryan Johansen underwent emergency surgery on his right leg on Wednesday after being cut by a skate blade during Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. He’ll be sidelined for 12 weeks.
Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson kicked out 41 shots in a 4-2 upset of the Washington Capitals. Troy Terry scored as he came off injured reserved after being sidelined since Feb. 6 as the Ducks (18-34-7) ended a six-game losing skid. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless as his club dropped its sixth straight game and sit two points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot with a record of 28-26-6 (62 points).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks placed center Adam Henrique on injured reserve before this game.
The Vancouver Canucks downed the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on an overtime goal by Elias Pettersson, who finished the game with three points. J.T. Miller scored his 20th goal of the season for the 23-30-5 Canucks. Jordan Binnington made 38 saves for the Blues as they fell to 26-28-4. Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad were activated off injured reserve for this game
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues are 0-3-1 in the four games since trading Ryan O’Reilly to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Blues head coach Craig Berube criticized his top players following this game, accusing them of not caring about the team.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins acquired defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals in a three-team trade involving the Minnesota Wild.
The Capitals receive forward Craig Smith, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick. The Capitals also retain 25 percent ($2.5 million) of Orlov’s $5.1 million annual cap hit. The Wild retained 25 percent ($1.2 million) of the remainder of Orlov’s cap hit after the Bruins sent them a 2023 fifth-rounder and prospect Andrei Svetlakov. The Bruins pick up the remaining $1.2 million of Orlov’s cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins general manager Don Sweeney continues his impressive streak of making significant moves before the trade deadline to bolster his roster for the playoffs. Orlov will provide an experienced physical shutdown presence to the left side of the Bruins’ defense corps while Hathaway will bring additional grit and depth to their checking lines.
This move might not seem as significant as Sweeney’s previous acquisitions of Taylor Hall and Hampus Lindholm. Nevertheless, the additions of Orlov and Hathaway make the Bruins a tougher team. That’s crucial for the postseason when the games get more physical. It’s also bad news for whoever faces them in the 2023 playoffs.
Orlov and Hathaway are slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan explained he made this move to “acquire draft capital, infuse youth and restock the system”. It’s also a clear sign that MacLellan doesn’t believe his club can win if they reach the playoffs. This may not be the start of a rebuild for the Capitals but it’s at least the start of a roster retool that could continue during the offseason.
This is the second time in as many weeks that Wild GM Bill Guerin has used his cap space to be a third-party trade broker, having done the same in last week’s Ryan O’Reilly deal. He can only make this type of move once more as teams are only allowed to have three retained salaries on their books.
Cap Friendly indicates the Wild have $11.5 million in projected trade deadline cap space so Guerin might not be done as a third-party broker. He could also make a move that directly benefits his roster for the remainder of this season.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: The Canadiens claimed forward Chris Tierney off waivers yesterday from the Florida Panthers. They also announced that center Kirby Dach’s non-COVID-related illness symptoms were in fact related to a lower-body injury.
OTTAWA SUN: Former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson indicated he’d like to meet with whoever becomes the club’s new owner to discuss a potential front-office job.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Former San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau is in discussions with the club about rejoining the organization in a front-office role.
In the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup, Pierre-Luc Dubois’ contract negotiations could be worth monitoring and the Wild must find a way to sign Kevin Fiala.
SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Elliotte Friedman believes Pierre-Luc Dubois’ contract talks with the Winnipeg Jets will be worth watching this offseason. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights sitting two years away from unrestricted free agency.
Winnipeg Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images).
Friedman speculated Dubois’ name could be out there in this summer’s trade market if the 23-year-old center and the Jets fail to reach an agreement on a long-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois is completing a two-year deal with a $5 million annual cap hit but an actual salary of $6.65 million for this season. Cap Friendly indicates it’ll cost the Jets $6 million to qualify his rights. I daresay he’ll be seeking more than that on his new contract.
The Jets have $66.3 million invested in 15 active players for 2022-23 with Dubois as their priority signing. They have the talent to be a better club than they’ve been this season but their defensive game needs improvement while their scorers need more consistency.
Whatever moves they make to address their issues this summer will likely factor into their contract discussions with Dubois. He’ll want assurances the Jets can get back on track and become a perennial playoff contender. He will also want to be paid as a first-line center, a role he took over from Mark Scheifele during this season. He could seek $8 million annually, which could mean shedding a high-salaried player to free up cap space for his new contract.
Having given up Patrik Laine to get Dubois last season, it wouldn’t be a good look for this franchise to start peddling him this summer. They might not have much choice if he only wants a two-year deal taking him up to UFA eligibility. However, I believe they’ll get him signed to a long-term deal but it will be expensive.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz believes the Minnesota Wild must find a way to re-sign Kevin Fiala, who’s formed a dominant scoring duo with rookie Matt Boldy this season. The 25-year-old winger is completing a one-year, $5.1 million contract and is enjoying a career year with 32 goals and 82 points.
Fiala is due for a significant raise on his next contract. The Wild, however, face a significant salary-cap crunch over the next three seasons following last summer’s contract buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Gretz suggests they need to shed some salary to free up the cap space needed to keep Fiala in the fold. They could ship out a depth forward such as Marcus Foligno or Jordan Greenway or Tyson Jost, or perhaps a higher-salaried player such as Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fiala has garnered praise for his improved performance this season. Cynics will suggest he only stepped up his game to land a lucrative long-term deal but I don’t buy into that theory. He’s genuinely worked hard to better all aspects of his game, so much so that parting with him now would be a serious blow to their top-six depth.
As Gretz points out, the Wild must make a cost-cutting deal in order to re-sign Fiala. They have over $74 million invested in 17 players for next season. That includes the $12.7 million buyout hit for Parise and Suter. Moving a higher-salaried player will make it easier to free up sufficient space for Fiala’s next season.
Dumba has frequently surfaced in trade rumors over the past couple of seasons. He’s popular among his teammates but is only a year away from UFA status and carries a 10-team no-trade list. He’d be easier to move than Brodin, who has a full no-movement clause. He would also fetch a better return than Greenway or Foligno.
The Flames set a franchise record in win over Blue Jackets, the Avalanche’s home win streak continues, the Penguins re-sign Jeff Carter, the Canucks hire Patrik Allvin as GM, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Calgary Flames fired a franchise-record 62 shots at the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-0 victory. Johnny Gaudreau collected three assists, Matthew Tkachuk scored two goals and Jacob Markstrom turned in a 23-save shutout. Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made 56 saves. With 46 points, the Flames tie the Dallas Stars but take over the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference with two games in hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Merzlikins wasn’t to blame for his club’s lopsided loss. His teammates let him down with a lousy defensive effort. They also lost center Alexandre Texier as he left the game with an injured hand.
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (NHL Images).
Cale Makar’s overtime goal lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins, extending their home winning streak to 17 games. They forced the extra frame with unanswered third-period goals by Samuel Girard and Gabriel Landeskog while Nazem Kadri finished the night with three assists. Charlie McAvoy collected two assists for the Bruins. The Avs are tied with the Florida Panthers with 63 points but hold first overall with two games in hand while the Bruins hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 51 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a costly win for the Avs as center Nathan MacKinnon left the game following a hard hit from Bruins winger Taylor Hall. MacKinnon’s face was bloodied by his own stick following contact from Hall’s shoulder. He could miss the Avs’ upcoming game with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 on a shootout goal by Auston Matthews. Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell reached the 20-win mark in a season for the first time in his career as his club remains in third place in the Atlantic Division with 55 points. The Ducks picked up a point thanks to goalie John Gibson’s 41-save effort and sit in second place in the Pacific Division with 50 points.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Dylan Strome tallied his first NHL hat trick in an 8-5 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Alex DeBrincat scored twice and added an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have been trying to trade Strome since last season. The Athletic’s Scott Powers speculates his improved play of late might make him more enticing to other clubs if he keeps playing well between now and the March 21 trade deadline.
The San Jose Sharks got a 32-save performance from James Reimer to beat the Washington Capitals 4-1, handing the latter their third loss in the past four games. The win keeps the Sharks (46 points) in the hunt for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Jeff Carter to a two-year contract extension. The 37-year-old forward will receive an annual average value of $3.125 million with a full no-movement clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A reasonable contract for a veteran forward who still has plenty left in the tank. He’s been a good fit with the Penguins since joining them in a trade last season. He’s sixth among their leading scorers this season with 12 goals and 26 points in 36 games.
Cap Friendly indicates this signing leaves the Penguins with $51.8 million invested in 10 players for 2022-23. Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Kasperi Kapanen are among their free agents to be re-signed or replaced.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks officially announced Patrik Allvin as their new general manager. He’d been with the Penguins for 16 seasons and was named their assistant GM in 2020. Allvin previously worked with Canucks president Jim Rutherford during the latter’s tenure as Penguins GM.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Canucks management team in place, there’s speculation big roster changes could be coming before the March trade deadline. I’ll have more about that in today’s NHL Rumor update.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Aaron Dell received a three-game suspension by the NHL department of player safety for interference on Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson.
OTTAWA SUN: Speaking of Batherson, he suffered a high-ankle sprain as a result of Dell’s actions. He was slated to play in the upcoming NHL All-Star Game and has been replaced by Brady Tkachuk. Batherson could be sidelined for months.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Batherson is the Senators’ leading scorer so this is a significant blow to their offense.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
CBS SPORTS: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild got some good news as defenseman Jonas Brodin is set to return after missing several weeks with an upper-body injury.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks intend to begin reaching out to potential general manager candidates for interviews this week. Current interim GM Kyle Davidson will also interview for the job.
The NHL returns to action from its COVID-extended holiday break while Brad Marchand and Vladimir Tarasenko express their unhappiness over the league’s withdrawal from the 2022 Winter Olympics. Details & more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The San Jose Sharks defeated the Arizona Coyotes 8-7 in the highest-scoring game of 2021-22. Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl scored in the shootout to give the Sharks the win. Couture, Timo Meier and Alexander Barbanov each had a goal and an assist for the Sharks while teammate Brent Burns was held scoreless in his 1,200th career NHL game. Phil Kessel and Lawson Crouse each had four points for the Coyotes.
Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and added an assist as the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-3. Both clubs combined for four goals in 76 seconds in the first period with the Golden Knights jumping to a 3-1 lead. Adrian Kempe had a goal and an assist for the Kings.
The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 4-3 deficit to nip the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on an overtime goal by Ondrej Palat. Corey Perry scored with 20 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra frame. Lightning forward Braydon Point finished with two goals and an assist in his first game since being sidelined for 14 games by an upper-body injury. Canadiens defenseman Kale Clague and forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard each tallied their first career NHL goals.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Brad Marchand took to Twitter to once again condemn the NHL’s decision to withdraw from the 2022 Winter Olympics. He noted the recent mutually-agreed change to the collective bargaining agreement allowing NHL teams to use taxi squads to maintain their rosters and not miss any games or lose money due to postponements.
Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand (NHL Images).
Marchand wondered why taxi squads couldn’t be used to allow players to participate in the Olympics. “please tell me that’s not bullshit,” he tweeted, calling for the league to allow the players to make the choice.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko also expressed his unhappiness over the league’s decision. “I think every Russian has a dream to play for the national team,” he said. “It’s very bad they took it away from us, I think it’s unfair. They give each player a choice, but we don’t have a choice at the end. So I think it’s very bad from them.”
Tarasenko indicated he read Marchand’s interview on Monday and agreed with the Bruins winger. “So with all the restrictions, all the rules, I don’t really understand the point when people are deciding for you.” He added he would’ve participated in the Beijing Games if given the choice. “I think you’d be surprised how many people would choose to go,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand the frustration felt by Marchand and Tarasenko and sympathize with having this opportunity to participate in the Winter Olympics taken away from them. Given their ages, this was likely the only opportunity for both players to represent their countries on the Olympic stage.
However, the NHL didn’t arbitrarily decide to screw over the players. The CBA allows the league to withdraw from the Winter Olympics before Jan. 10 if participation would jeopardize the completion of the 2021-22 schedule in a timely manner. This was mutually agreed upon by the league and the PA as per the CBA. The players should know this. If they don’t, that’s the fault of their PA leadership, not the league.
It’s well known NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league board of governors (team owners) don’t like Olympic participation because there’s no money in it for them. Given their choice, they’d never take part in the Winter Games ever again. Nevertheless, they agreed to send players to the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics as part of their concessions to get the players to sign off on the CBA extension last year.
Up until roughly two weeks ago, the NHL was going to leave Olympic participation up to the players. The only reason they took their current action (in conjunction with the PA) was the latest COVID-19 outbreak led to multiple game postponements that threatened to derail the season.
Yes, the league is concerned about hockey-related revenue. So should the players. Another shortened season means the salary cap remains flattened beyond 2024, meaning less money to go around for players in line for new contracts in two years’ time. That also means it will take longer for the players to pay back the debt they owe to the owners because their share of HRR in 2020 exceeded that of the owners’ share.
Speaking of postponed games, the total number yesterday reached 80 with 10 more games put on hold. Nine of them were upcoming games in Canada due to limits on large gatherings in Canadian NHL cities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was media speculation yesterday suggesting the league could soon announce some Canadian teams could end up playing home games scheduled for January on the road until those restrictions are eased or lifted. That’s because playing those games with limited attendance or no fans in the stands will adversely affect HRR for this season.
SPORTSNET: Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and New York Islanders center Brock Nelson were the latest notable NHL players placed on the COVID protocol list yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild were hoping to avoid an outbreak with their Jan. 1 Winter Classic game against the St. Louis Blues at Target Field fast approaching. Brodin is the only member of the wild (thus far) to test positive.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have recalled goaltender Matt Murray from a month-long stint with their AHL affiliate in Belleville.
CBS SPORTS: The Vegas Golden Knights placed defenseman Alec Martinez (facial injury) on long-term injury reserve. He’s been sidelined since Nov. 11.
The Lightning takes a 2-0 series lead over the Hurricanes, the Vezina Trophy finalists are announced, the 2021 Draft Lottery goes tonight, an update on Jack Eichel and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: A third-period goal by Anthony Cirelli was the game-winner as the Tampa Bay Lightning held off the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 to take a 2-0 lead in their second-round series. Alex Killorn opened the scoring in the second period for the Lightning. Andrei Svechnikov got the Hurricanes on the board late in the third. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 31 saves for the win as the Bolts were outshot 32-15. The series shifts to Tampa Bay for Game 3 on Thursday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck left the game with an injured right leg following a second-period collision with teammate Warren Foegele. Head coach Rod Brind’Amour said it didn’t know the extent of Trocheck’s injury but indicated it didn’t look good. An update could come later today.
Losing their second-line center would be another blow to the Hurricanes’ forward lines. Winger Nino Niederreiter is out for the series with an undisclosed injury suffering in practice before Game 1.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (NHL Images).
Speaking of Andrei Vasilevskiy, he joins Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights and Philipp Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche as this year’s finalists for the Vezina Trophy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the fourth straight season Vasilevskiy has been named a finalist, winning the award in 2018-19. It’s the first time Fleury and Grubauer have been honored.
The 2021 NHL Draft Lottery goes tonight at 7 pm ET at league headquarters. The Buffalo Sabres have the best odds of winning after finishing with the worst overall record, followed by the Anaheim Ducks. The expansion Seattle Kraken has the third-best odds.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL Draft will be held virtually on July 23-24. Follow the link above for full details on the lottery rules and this year’s top prospects.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel has reached the end of the rehab period for the herniated disk in his neck. If he still wants the neck surgery that team doctors haven’t been comfortable with, he has the right to take the team to arbitration. If he doesn’t agree with the arbiter’s decision, he can ask for a trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The surgical procedure Eichel prefers has never been done before on an NHL player. The team doctors’ preference is for continued rehab. It’ll be interesting to see what unfolds if Eichel feels he hasn’t made much progress with his current treatment.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted goaltender Tuukka Rask has been battling nagging injuries. However, he doesn’t feel there’s any reason to believe Rask won’t be ready to play against the New York Islanders tonight in Game 3 of their second-round series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask appeared to struggle during the Bruins’ overtime loss in Game 2. If that continues in Game 3 we could see backup Jeremy Swayman for Game 4.
TSN: Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL department of player safety for cross-checking Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield in Game 2.
WINNIPEG SUN: The province of Manitoba will allow 500 fully-vaccinated healthcare workers into the MTS Centre tonight for the Winnipeg Jets’ opening game of their second-round series against the Montreal Canadiens.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin said he suffered a sprained shoulder during his club’s series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Teammate Joel Eriksson Ek played through a knee injury suffered in Game 6. The duo won’t require offseason surgery.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers signed defenseman Kevin Connauton to a one-year, two-way contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, Connauton will earn $825K at the NHL level. He spent most of this season on the Panthers’ taxi squad, seeing action in seven games.
TSN: The Pittsburgh Penguins have given teams around the league permission to speak with former general manager Jim Rutherford before his contract with them expires at the end of June. Rutherford stepped down as GM in January for personal reasons.