NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 6, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 6, 2024

Recaps of Monday’s games, the three stars of the week are revealed, Hall-of-Famer Lanny McDonald is in hospital following a cardiac event, and David Pastrnak weighs in on the NHL’s 4 Nations Faceoff tournament. Get the details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: An overtime goal by Alexis Lafreniere lifted the New York Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Artemi Panarin scored the tying goal for the Rangers (31-16-3) as they hold first place in the Metropolitan Division with 65 points. Nathan MacKinnon scored for the 32-14-4 Avalanche as he moved into a tie with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov for first place in the scoring race with 85 points. The Avs extended their points streak to 14 games, holding first place in the Central Division with 68 points.

New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere (NHL Images).

The New York Islanders nipped the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on a late goal by former Leaf Pierre Engvall. Ilya Sorokin made 35 saves for the 21-17-12 Islanders (54 points) as they snapped a three-game winless skid (0-2-1) to sit four points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth. John Tavares had a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs (25-15-8) as they hold the first Eastern wild-card spot with 58 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Defensemen Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock returned to action for the Islanders after missing several games due to injury. Meanwhile, Leafs forward David Kampf is out for a week with an undisclosed injury.


NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Detroit Red Wings forward Alex DeBrincat were the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 4.

SPORTSNET: Hall-of-Famer Lanny McDonald is in a Calgary hospital after suffering a cardiac event Sunday after returning from the 2024 NHL All-Star weekend in Toronto. He said he owes his life to two quick-thinking nurses who were catching their flights at the Calgary airport but stopped to attend to him. In the stress of the moment, his wife didn’t get their names.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping McDonald has a quick recovery and learns the names of those nurses so he can thank them properly.

THE SCORE: Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak is no fan of next year’s 4 Nations Faceoff tournament. Scheduled for Feb. 2025, the nine-day tournament features only Canada, the United States, Finland and Sweden.

Pastrnak, who’s from Czechia, isn’t pleased that his country was excluded from the tournament. “It’s a huge disappointment…Definitely not happy about it,” he told Boston.com’s Conor Ryan. He said he understood that it was a quick turnaround and the league probably didn’t have enough time to expand the tournament.

Nevertheless, Pastrnak said he’s not going to watch that tournament, putting his focus on representing Czechia at the 2026 Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t blame Pastrnak for feeling slighted. It’s a slap in the face to NHL players from smaller hockey-playing nations like Czechia, Germany, Slovakia and others. The league could’ve addressed this by having a Team Europe comprised of NHL players from those countries as they did during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov has entered the NHL-NHLPA player assistance program and will be away from the team indefinitely. The 31-year-old’s production has declined over the past two seasons and he’s struggled with consistency.

TSN: London, Ontario police yesterday confirmed charges against five former players of Canada’s 2018 World Junior team.

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, Calgary Flames winger Dillon Dube, New Jersey Devils forward Michael McLeod and defenseman Cal Foote and unsigned Ottawa Senators winger Alex Formenton were each charged with one count of sexual assault stemming from an alleged incident following a Hockey Canada event in London in June 2018. McLeod also faced an additional charge of sexual assault for “being a party to the offense.”

The case is set to return to court on April 30.

THE ATHLETIC: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the Flyers, Flames and Devils will receive salary-cap relief for those players during their indefinite leaves of absence to deal with these legal proceedings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be within the realm of the collective bargaining agreement and not something arbitrarily decided by the league.

OTTAWA SUN: Former Senators head coach D.J. Smith will join the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach to interim bench boss Jim Hiller for the remainder of the season. Smith was fired on Dec. 18 after over four seasons with the Senators.

DAILY FACEOFF: The Tampa Bay Lightning are getting several injured players back. Forwards Tanner Jeannot and Austin Watson and defensemen Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak and Haydn Fleury participated in practice on Monday.

TORONTO SUN: Matthew Spezza, the younger brother of former NHL star Jason Spezza, died over the weekend from an accidental overdose. Now an assistant general manager with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jason issued a statement yesterday confirming the news and asking for his family’s privacy to be respected during this difficult time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My sincere condolences to the Spezza family.

Senators Fire Head Coach D.J. Smith, Bring Back Jacques Martin As Interim Coach

Senators Fire Head Coach D.J. Smith, Bring Back Jacques Martin As Interim Coach

The Ottawa Senators announced they’ve relieved head coach D.J. Smith and assistant coach Davis Payne of their duties.

Jacques Martin takes over as head coach on an interim basis. Former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson joins the staff as an assistant coach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has been building for several weeks. Coming off four straight losses, the Senators have floundered with just three wins in their last 10 games. Despite holding several games in hand over their Eastern Conference rivals, they’re mired at the bottom of the Conference standings.

Ottawa Senators interim head coach Jacques Martin. (NHL.com)

Smith was hired by former Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, who was fired on Nov. 1. The club failed to reach the playoffs in his four previous seasons behind their bench.

It was excusable for most of those seasons as the club was rebuilding with young talent. This season, however, there was an expectation that the Senators would finally break through as a playoff contender.

They had a .500 record on Dec. 5 but they’ve managed just one win in their last six games since then. That slump threatens to derail their playoff hopes as they failed to gain ground in the standings.

Martin was hired earlier this month as a special advisor to the coaching staff. Many observers, however, suggested that he was brought in as Smith’s potential replacement. He has 17 years of NHL head coaching experience, including nine seasons behind the Senators bench from 1995-96 to 2003-04.

During that period, the Senators had four 100-plus points season, with Martin winning the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 1998-99. He was also an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins during their Stanley Cup seasons 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Alfredsson, meanwhile, is stepping behind an NHL bench in a coaching role for the first time. Revered by Senators fans and respected by his former teammates, he spent 17 of his 18 NHL seasons with the Senators, 13 of those as team captain and nine seasons playing for Martin. Their all-time leader in goals (426), assists (682) and points (1,108), he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2022.

Martin and Alfredsson face a difficult task in reversing the Senators’ slide.

Stocked with stars such as Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Claude Giroux and Jakob Chuchrun, the Senators have no problem scoring goals, sitting 10th overall as of Dec. 17 with a goals-per-game of 3.35.

Keeping the puck out of their net, however, is another matter. They possess the seventh-highest goals against per game (3.42) and the second-worst penalty-killing percentage (72.4). In short, they lack reliable goaltending and a sound defensive system.

Defensive hockey was Martin’s bread-and-butter in his previous head-coaching tours with the Senators, St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. It will be interesting to see if he can get this version of the Sens to buy into his system.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 28, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 28, 2023

The 2023-24 schedule is released, the Leafs and Senators will retain their head coaches for next season, Bruins are preparing for life without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, plus more news heading into the 2023 Draft in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NOTE: The 2023 NHL Draft opens tonight at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville with the first round starting at 7 pm ET.

Follow this link for my take on yesterday’s notable trade activity.

NHL.COM: The league released its schedule for 2023-24 starting with a tripleheader on Oct. 10 featuring the Vegas Golden Knights’ 2023 Stanley Cup banner raising before facing off with the Seattle Kraken at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Also on that night, the Nashville Predators will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning while the Chicago Blackhawks journey to Pittsburgh to square off against the Penguins.

All seven Canadian teams will be in action on Oct. 11 with the Montreal Canadiens against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Ottawa Senators facing the Carolina Hurricanes, the Winnipeg Jets meeting the Calgary Flames, and the Edmonton Oilers meeting the Vancouver Canucks.

Notable dates include the Tim Hortons Heritage Classic between the Flames and Oilers on Oct. 29 at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, the Jan. 1 Winter Classic between the Golden Knights at Kraken at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, and the NHL All-Star Weekend from Feb 1-4 in Toronto.

The regular-season schedule ends on Apr. 18.

TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving confirmed that Sheldon Keefe will return as head coach for 2023-24. He also expressed confidence in getting Auston Matthews and William Nylander signed to contract extensions this summer.

Keefe has a year remaining on his contract. Treliving said he’s open to signing him to an extension.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators GM Pierre Dorion confirms head coach D.J. Smith and his coaching staff will be back for 2023-24.

Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The performances of both clubs will determine if those coaches will remain in those jobs beyond 2023-24. Another early playoff exit will likely spell the end of Keefe’s tenure behind the Leafs bench while another missed postseason will see Smith receive his walking papers.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins are preparing for next season under the assumption that centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci will retire at some point this summer. Team president Cam Neely said they’ll give both players the time they need to reach their decisions but the club has to press on with their offseason plans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins created salary-cap space by trading Taylor Hall to Chicago but most of that will be taken up attempting to re-sign or replace key players. If Bergeron and/or Krejci decide to return it’ll be on low-cost one-year contracts provided the Bruins can still squeeze them in.

DAILY FACEOFF: Teams that have met and interviewed Matvei Michkov have come away impressed by the young Russian prospect. Stories have circulated about the 18-year-old KHL winger questioning his attitude. Michkov is considered the best Russian prospect in years and could be chosen among the top 10 in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Any NHL club that selects Michkov will have to be patient. He’s signed with KHL team SKA St. Petersburg through 2025-26. It could be worth the wait if he follows in the footsteps of Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov, who quickly matured into NHL stars following their KHL tenures.

CHICAGO HOCKEY NOW: The Blackhawks signed Nick Foligno to a one-year, $4 million contract. They acquired the 35-year-old forward the day prior from the Bruins. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno wouldn’t have gotten that much money on a one-year deal on the opening market. If he has a good season the rebuilding Blackhawks can attempt to move him to a contender at the trade deadline for a draft pick. This signing also helps the Hawks reach the $61.7 million salary-cap floor for 2023-24.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed winger Evgenii Dadonov to a two-year, $4.5 million contract. The average annual value is $2.25 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dadonov struggled through most of last season with 18 points in 50 games skating with the rebuilding Montreal Canadiens. He regained his scoring touch after being acquired by the Stars on Feb. 26 with 15 points in 23 regular-season games along with 10 points in 16 playoff contests.

SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reports the Anaheim Ducks are unlikely to give winger Max Comtois a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A once-promising young winger, Comtois’ production has declined since his 33-point performance in 55 games during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. The 24-year-old could become an affordable reclamation project.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Speaking of the Ducks, they’ve named former captain Ryan Getzlaf a player development coordinator.

DAILY FACEOFF: Seattle Kraken defenseman Carson Soucy intends to test the free-agent market on July 1.

SPORTSNET: The New Jersey Devils have given winger Miles Wood permission to speak with other clubs. Wood, 27, is scheduled to become a UFA on July 1.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 7, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 7, 2023

The Kraken clinch their first-ever playoff berth, the Panthers maintain their hold on a wild-card spot while eliminating the Senators, the Avalanche’s Mikko Rantanen reaches the 50-goal plateau, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: In just their second season of existence, the Seattle Kraken are headed to the playoffs after doubling up the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann each had a goal and two assists while Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves for the 44-26-8 Kraken, who hold the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference with 96 points. Barrett Hayton and Laurent Dauphin replied for the Coyotes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the first time Seattle will have a team in the Stanley Cup playoffs since the 1919-20 Metropolitans lost the Cup Final to the Ottawa Senators. The Kraken join the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings among the Western Conference clubs that have punched their tickets to the 2023 postseason.

A 56-save effort by Alex Lyon and a four-point night (one goal, three assists) by Brandon Montour powered the Florida Panthers to a 7-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators, eliminating the latter from playoff contention. Aleksander Barkov scored twice and collected an assist for the 41-31-7 Panthers (89 points), who maintain their hold on the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Claude Giroux and Ridley Greig replied for the 37-35-7 Senators.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Senators coach D.J. Smith was ejected from the game for arguing with officials in the final minutes in a physical third period that resulted in six roughing penalties and three misconducts.

Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen (NHL Images).

Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen tallied a hat trick to reach 50 goals for the first time in a 6-2 trouncing of the San Jose Sharks. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and three assists for the Avalanche (47-24-6), who move into first place in the Central Division with 100 points. Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson had a goal and an assist to move within two points of 100 on the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Head coach Jared Bednar had no timetable for Makar’s return.

The New York Islanders kept pace with the Panthers by dumping the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-1. Brock Nelson had a goal and two assists and Ilya Sorokin stopped 30 shots for the 40-30-9 Islanders, who hold the final Eastern wild-card berth with 89 points. Steven Stamkos played his 1,000th career NHL game and Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning, who hold third place in the Atlantic Division with 96 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles played without defenseman Alexander Romanov, who’s been sidelined since Sunday with an upper-body injury. They have the same number of points as the Panthers with each club having three games remaining in their schedules. However, the Panthers hold the advantage with 41 wins. The Lightning, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers have clinched the top six playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

Speaking of the Lightning, winger Alex Killorn was fined $5,000.00 for slashing Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin on Wednesday. Teammates Tanner Jeannot and Pat Maroon both left this game with injuries. Head coach Jon Cooper called Jeannot’s leg injury “worrisome”.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins kept up with the Panthers and Islanders with a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild. Kris Letang and Rickard Rakell each had a goal and an assist while Tristan Jarry made 27 saves for the Penguins (39-30-10) as they sit one point out of that final Eastern wild-card spot with 88 points. Marcus Johansson replied for the Wild, who sit third in the Central Division with 98 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the NHL department of player safety fined Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman $2,000.00 for embellishment during an April 2 game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Wild, meanwhile, lost Joel Eriksson Ek and Oskar Sundqvist to lower-body injuries.

The Buffalo Sabres kept their thin playoff hopes live by beating the Detroit Red Wings 7-6 on shootout goals by Jack Quinn and Alex Tuch. Dylan Cozens had two goals and an assist while Tage Thompson tallied his 45th goal of the season for the 38-32-7 Sabres (83 points) as they sit six points behind the Panthers and Islanders with two games in hand. Lucas Raymond collected three assists and Dylan Larkin netted his team-leading 32nd goal of the season for the Red Wings (35-33-10) as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention.

New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes had two goals and two assists in an 8-1 drubbing of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Timo Meier had two goals and an assist and Jack Marino collected three assists as the Devils reached the 50-win plateau (50-21-8) for the second time in franchise history as they sit one point back of the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes with 108 points. Joona Luoto replied for the Blue Jackets, who lost winger Johnny Gaudreau as he left the game due to illness.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hughes now has 95 points and sits one back of Patrik Elias for the Devils’ single-season record.

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they were blanked 3-0 by the Nashville Predators. Juuse Saros kicked out 33 shots for the shutout while Mark Jankowski, Michael McCarron and Dante Fabbro scored for the 40-30-8 Predators (88 points), who moved within one point of the idle Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames for the final Western wild-card spot.

The league-leading Boston Bruins moved one step closer to tying the single-season wins record (62) by nipping the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on an overtime goal by David Pastrnak. Charlie Coyle scored the game-tying goal for the 61-12-5 Bruins (127 points). Sam Lafferty scored for the Leafs, who sit second in the Atlantic Division (103 points) and clinched home-ice advantage in their opening-round series with the Lightning.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy left this game midway through the second period with an upper-body injury for precautionary reasons. Pastrnak, meanwhile, is just three goals away from 60 on the season.

Dallas Stars winger Joe Pavelski had a goal and two assists to lead his club to a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Pavelski now sits one point away from 1,000 for his career. Jason Robertson scored twice for the Stars as they netted their 100th point of the season to sit second in the Central Division. Kevin Hayes replied for the Flyers while goalie Carter Hart returned to the net after missing five games with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars are tied in points with the Avalanche but the latter holds first place in the Central with a game in hand and four more wins.

A four-goal first period carried the Vegas Golden Knights to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Chandler Stephenson had a goal and two assists and Phil Kessel collected two points for the Golden Knights, who sit in first place in the Pacific Division with 106 points. Anze Kopitar and Vladislav Gavrikov replied for the Kings, who sit third in the Pacific with 100 points.

An overtime goal by Kasperi Kapanen lifted the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 upset of the New York Rangers. Jordan Binnington made 22 saves for the win. New York winger Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist against his former team. The Rangers sit third in the Metro with 104 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the department of player safety fined Rangers defenseman Adam Fox $5,000.00 for slashing Lightning winger Corey Perry on Wednesday.

The Montreal Canadiens snapped a four-game losing skid by beating the Washington Capitals 6-2. Joel Armia tallied a hat trick and Mike Matheson had three assists for the Canadiens. Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who were officially eliminated on Tuesday from playoff contention. Capitals forward Anthony Mantha missed this game with a lower-body injury.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko made 33 saves to shut out the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0. Andrei Kuzemenko scored his 38th goal of the season and J.T. Miller netted his 30th for the Canucks. Alex Stalock made 26 saves for the Blackhawks.