NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 17, 2021
COVID cases keep rising among NHL teams, Steven Stamkos reaches a scoring milestone, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines
COVID NUMBERS STILL RISING AMONG NHL CLUBS
CALGARY SUN: Forward Dillon Dube and defenseman Oliver Kylington are the latest Flames players to be placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, bringing the total number to 18 players and five staff members, including head coach Darryl Sutter. Test results also showed several players appear to have the Omicron variant.
MIAMI HERALD: The Florida Panthers now have seven players in COVID protocol. They are forwards Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe, Frank Vatrano and Ryan Lomberg and defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Radko Gudas and Brandon Montour.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins have three more players in COVID protocol as goaltender Jeremy Swayman and forwards Trent Frederic and Anton Blidh were added to the list. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Craig Smith were placed on the list earlier this week.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche’s COVID protocol list grew to five with forwards Andrew Burakovsky and J.T. Compher, defenseman Cale Makar and goaltender Darcy Kuemper joining defenseman Devon Toews. Toews is the only player with symptoms and those were described as mild.
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes forwards Lawson Crouse and Jay Beagle were placed on the COVID list yesterday.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers forward Devin Shore joined teammate Ryan McLeod and head coach Dave Tippett in COVID protocol.
The Nashville Predators placed forward Nick Cousins and assistant coach Dan Hinote on the COVID protocol list. They joined head coach John Hynes, forwards Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Matt Luff, Michael McCarron and Philip Tamasino and defenseman Ben Harpur.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN reported Cousins took to Twitter wondering why the NHL doesn’t pause the schedule until after Christmas to get this situation under control. “This is ridiculous!”, he said. They added that Cousins fully supports advanced protocols but doesn’t think it’s fair to have the threat of COVID hanging over the players and their families in this way.
There’s no indication thus far the league intends to pause the schedule. However, there might not be many choices if the number of infected players keeps rising. The good news is those who have tested positive were asymptomatic or felt mild symptoms thanks to 99.9 percent of the players being fully vaccinated.
The league could be hoping to make it as far as their scheduled three-day break next week. That could slow the spread while allowing time for those who’ve already tested positive to be cleared to resume play following the holiday break. Let’s hope we’ll get some clarification soon because so far there’s little indication of what the league’s intentions are at this point other than soldiering on as cases mount.
NHL participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February could soon be out of the question if more teams have games postponed by the league due to rising COVID numbers. Commissioner Gary Bettman said he’d leave it up to the players but the league can opt-out by Jan. 10 if it believes mounting COVID cases will adversely affect the remainder of this season’s schedule.
NHL.COM: Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos collected an assist to reach his 900th career point in a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman had a goal and an assist. Senators defenseman Nikita Zaitsev left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. With 42 points, the Lightning now sits first in the overall standings.
Filip Forsberg scored twice and collected an assist as the Nashville Predators topped the Colorado Avalanche 5-2. Colton Sissons picked up three assists as the Predators extended their win streak to six games. Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche.
The Vancouver Canucks picked up their sixth straight win in as many games under new coach Bruce Boudreau in a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Brock Boeser scored twice and J.T. Miller had a goal and two assists for the Canucks. Earlier in the day, the Canucks announced Stan Smyl was promoted to vice-president of hockey operations.
Edmonton Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi scored twice and assisted on another as his club dropped the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 to snap a six-game losing skid. Connor McDavid chipped in two helpers while goaltender Stuart Skinner picked up the win with a 36-save effort.
The Montreal Canadiens got their first win in eight games by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on Jonathan Drouin’s shootout goal. The Habs played without fans in the Bell Centre at the request of Quebec public health officials concerned over the rising cases in the region. They received assurances they will be able to return to a partial capacity scenario in January.
Jonathan Quick kicked out 41 shots to lead the Los Angeles Kings over the Florida Panthers 4-1. The King extended their points streak to four games while handing the Panthers their third straight loss. Anze Kopitar was among the Kings’ goal scorers.
The Vegas Golden Knights got goals 33 seconds apart by William Karlsson and Nicolas Roy in the third period to hold off the New Jersey Devils 5-3. Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault had two points apiece for Vegas. The Devils have lost 10 of their last 12 contests.
Carolina Hurricanes winger Nino Niederreiter tallied two goals in a 5-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The COVID-depleted Hurricanes iced a roster of just 16 players. One of them was rookie Jack Drury, who scored his first NHL goal. Drury is the son of former NHLer Ted Drury.
Semyon Varlamov turned aside 40 shots for his first win of the season as the New York Islanders downed the Boston Bruins 3-1. Cal Clutterbuck tallied twice for the Isles.
A shootout goal by Tage Thompson lifted the Buffalo Sabres over the Minnesota Wild 3-2, handing the latter their third straight loss. The Sabres played without defenseman Robert Hagg as he’s month-to-month with a lower-body injury.