NHL Rumor Mill – May 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 15, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill, Drew Doughty calls upon Kings management to add experienced depth plus a look ahead at possible offseason moves by the Senators and Canucks.

DOUGHTY WANTS KINGS TO MAKE BIG MOVES THIS OFFSEASON

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites Drew Doughty calling upon Los Angeles Kings management to bring in more experience to their rebuilding roster. The 31-year-old defenseman feels he and veteran teammates Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown are running out of time.

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (NHL Images).

Doughty acknowledged the club’s been rebuilding but feels they have the salary-cap space to make some big moves. “There’s no point in just waiting for these prospects to develop when you’ve got guys in their prime, hungry to win, and sick of losing,” he said. When asked if he’d be happy if big moves aren’t made, Doughty simply replied, “No.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kings general manager Rob Blake has patiently built up his roster with promising youngsters but his veteran core wants to return to playoff contention and a shot at winning the Stanley Cup again.

Doughty has six more seasons left on his contract with an annual average value of $11 million. Kopitar has three more at $10 million annually, Quick has two years at $5.8 million and Brown one year at $5.875 million. Blake could trade one or two of those players but their age or hefty contracts would be difficult to move.

Cap Friendly shows the Kings with over $20 million in cap space for 2021-22 with all their core players under contract. There’s room to make a big offseason move to accelerate the rebuild. That’s why the Kings have been linked to Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel in recent trade rumors.

We’ll have to wait and see what Blake has in store for his roster this summer. If he sticks with his current plan, however, he’ll have an unhappy No. 1 defenseman on his hands. And that will raise questions about Doughty’s future in Los Angeles.

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS AND SENATORS

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance included reallocating salary-cap space among his list of offseason priorities for the Vancouver Canucks. Once restricted free agents Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are re-signed, there won’t be enough cap room to rebuild the blueline, upgrade their bottom-six forwards and add a top-six winger.

They could get some relief if the Seattle Kraken select goalie Braden Holtby (4.3 million) in this summer’s expansion draft. A contract buyout or two is possible. Drance also proposed bundling a future asset to move an additional contract or attempt to move Micheal Ferland’s contract to a cap-strapped team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have over $65 million tied up in 15 players. Most of that will be used up signing Pettersson and Hughes.

GM Jim Benning could be squeezed by the Kraken for a draft pick to take Holtby off his hands. Ferland and Jay Beagle could start next season on long-term injury reserve. However, it would be less complicated if one or both could be shipped to teams better equipped than the Canucks to carry those contracts. Those moves also mean including a draft pick, prospect or young NHL-ready player into the deal.

Benning attempted to trade disappointing winger Jake Virtanen this season but couldn’t find any takers. His $3.4 million in actual salary for next season combined with his recent off-ice issues could give Benning little choice but to buy out Virtanen.

THE ATHLETIC: Ian Mendes includes the acquisition of a top-four defenseman among his suggested offseason priorities for the Ottawa Senators. He feels they need a veteran blueliner who can log over 20 minutes per game.

Mendes proposed targeting teams with expansion draft protection issues or those with salary-cap issues in the trade market. They could also go the free-agent route.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators want to add another center and perhaps a top-four defenseman. GM Pierre Dorion could attempt to address those needs from within but could shop around first.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have over $53 million invested in 17 players with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson as their notable free agents. They’ll have plenty of salary cap room once those two are re-signed, but that depends on how close to the $81.5 million cap owner Eugene Melnyk is willing to spend.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2021

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos hits the ice for training camp, the Wild name Jared Spurgeon captain, an update on Joe Thornton, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: After missing all but one game of the 2020 playoffs to a core muscle injury, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he’ll be a full participant in training camp. He also expects to be ready for the start of the season on Jan 13.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthy Stamkos should help the defending Stanley Cup champions offset the absence of winger Nikita Kucherov, who’s expected to miss the regular season recovering from hip surgery.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild named Jared Spurgeon as their second full-time captain in franchise history. He replaces Mikko Koivu, who was their first full-time captain for 11 seasons until his departure via free agency in October.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spurgeon gets the nod over long-time Wild stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The 31-year-old defenseman has spent his entire NHL career with the Wild, becoming an underrated but invaluable part of their roster core.

TSN: Joe Thornton will begin Toronto Maple Leafs training camp playing left wing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how long that line stays together. There will be concerns over whether the 41-year-old Thornton can keep pace with his younger, faster linemates.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed Dylan Strome to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $3 million. The 23-year-old center is expected to take on a larger role this season with centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach sidelined by illness and injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks couldn’t afford to let Strome’s contract negotiations keep him out of training camp. With Toews and Dach on the shelf, they need all the help they can get at the center position.

Strome played well during his first season with the Blackhawks (51 points in 58 games during 2018-19) but his numbers tumbled to 38 points in the same number of games in 2019-20. This will be a golden opportunity for Strome to prove his worth to the Hawks and earn himself a more lucrative long-term deal in two years’ time.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman John Marino to a six-year contract extension beginning in 2021-22. The annual average value is $4.4 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marino, 23, enjoyed a promising NHL debut with the Penguins, netting 26 points in 56 games while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. This contract could be a bargain for the Pens if he blossoms into a full-time first-pairing defenseman.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders are downplaying Mathew Barzal’s absence from training camp as contract negotiations continue with the restricted free agent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in New York and it’s expected a new contract could be announced sometime this week.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland won’t be in training camp and his playing career could be in jeopardy as he continues to deal with post-concussion symptoms. He saw action in just 14 regular-season games last season. GM Jim Benning said Ferland is expected to miss the start of the upcoming season.

SPORTSNET: Benning also said the club intends to sign head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. Green has one year remaining on his current deal.

CBS SPORTS: The Calgary Flames signed defenseman Michael Stone to a professional tryout offer. Stone spent the last four seasons playing with the Flames

SPORTSNET: The province of British Columbia has become the second Canadian province to officially approve NHL games this season. Alberta last week also issued its approval for its NHL teams to stage games in Calgary and Edmonton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected the other three provinces with NHL franchises (Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) will follow suit this week.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

The Blue Jackets sign Dubois, the Blues ink Vince Dunn, plus the latest on Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Nico Hischier, Micheal Ferland and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of 2021.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10 million contract. A restricted free agent before the signing, the 22-year-old center will earn $3.35 million this season and $6.65 million in 2021-22. The annual average value is $5 million.

Pierre-Luc Dubois yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A skilled two-way player, Dubois enters this season as the Jackets’ No. 1 center. Coming off his entry-level contract, Dubois had little leverage other than to stage a contract holdout or demand a trade. It’s an affordable short-term deal for the Blue Jackets and a reasonable raise for the young center, but he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he has arbitration rights.

Before the signing, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported there were “rumblings” from a few clubs around the league that Dubois wanted a “change of scenery.” I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday signed restricted free agent Vince Dunn to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. Like Dubois, the 24-year-old defenseman was coming off an entry-level deal and lacked sufficient leverage to seek a better deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn deserves more than that but the Blues are pressed for cap space this year. While they’ll place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR for this season, they need to ensure sufficient space for the latter’s anticipated return in March.

The Blues also have winger Mike Hoffman in training camp on a tryout offer and must ensure sufficient cap room to sign him to a one-year deal. I daresay Dunn can expect a much better deal next year when he has arbitration rights and the Blues have more cap room.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders had yet to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal but general manager Lou Lamoriello said the RFA center is in New York and contract discussions are ongoing. Lamoriello also revealed the Isles have signed winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening for last season’s 24 playoff clubs on Sunday, Jan. 3, don’t be surprised if Barzal and the Isles reach an agreement on a new contract as soon as today. No details yet on the new deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider but they’re probably affordable one-year contracts.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revealed the club wanted him back for this season but in a reduced role as they transitioned toward younger defensemen. He also said the Bruins made him a contract offer months ago. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals earlier this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the Bruins envisioned Chara filling the role of a seventh defenseman, meaning he wouldn’t see anywhere near as much playing time as he’s used to. He admitted he’s got no guarantees with the Capitals but he’ll have the opportunity to compete.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns spent part of the offseason making a guest appearance in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series “Vikings”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns does look like a modern-day Viking so he’d be a natural for a bit part in that series. His most recent acting gig was a commercial during the 2020 playoffs for Kit Kat Chunky.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is listed as week-to-week with an injured foot. While it’s not considered serious and doesn’t require surgery, the injury could sideline the 21-year-old center for the start of the season on Jan. 13.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland won’t be in Vancouver on Sunday for his training camp physical and is expected to undergo testing remotely with team doctors. Ferland’s agent revealed his client is still attempting to recover from post-concussion symptoms suffered last season. If the winger fails his physical, the Canucks are expected to place him on long-term injury reserve for this season.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are attempting to turn oft-injured defenseman Samuel Morin into a left winger for the coming season. Morin, who said he’s “fighting for his career”, approves of the move. He could become part of the Flyers’ taxi squad for the upcoming season.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly hired former NHL defenseman Dan Girardi in a player development role.

TSN: Players on Canada’s seven NHL teams will be exempt from the country’s 14-day quarantine rule. The Canadian government has approved of the teams’ training-camp plans to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 but all teams must operate within provincial guidelines for regular-season play. Alberta is the first province to approve NHL regular-season games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams are able to stage training camps in their respective cities. If the other provinces don’t approve regular-season games, the Canadian clubs could start the season playing their games in a hub city like Edmonton. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently reiterated the league believes it has clearance to play in all seven Canadian cities.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 21, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 21, 2020

The Blackhawks begin rebuilding, a look ahead to next season, the latest notable contracts signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: In an open letter to their fans, the Blackhawks announced their commitment to “developing young players and rebuilding our roster”. The letter also stated the club needs “a stockpile of emerging talent to complement our top players” in order to return to Stanley Cup contention.

Chicago Blackhawks want core veterans like Jonathan Toews to be part of their rebuild. (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks are finally admitting what’s been apparent for some time. Years of salary-cap constraints led to cost-cutting moves that steadily eroded their depth of talent, leaving them with no choice but to restock with younger, affordable players.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports they want veterans such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith to be part of the rebuild. He said general manager Stan Bowman spoke with those players about their role in the club’s direction. “Now, we’ll see how those players react,” said LeBrun.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the joint NHL-NHLPA committee tasked with return-to-play for next season haven’t met yet but it eventually will as the league conducts internal intel among its clubs. Ten players are expected to be on this committee.

LeBrun reports the NHL general managers will be meeting on Friday. There will be discussion over when the American Hockey League will begin play as some GMs want to get their prospects playing as soon as possible. He also indicated the league and the PA have tentatively agreed that the seven clubs that didn’t qualify for return-to-play this summer will have extra training-camp time ahead of the normal training-camp period for next season.

Frank Seravalli reported NHL players are wondering if salaries will be prorated in case of a shortened season. For now, there’s been little discussion on that issue. The players are expected to receive all but 30 percent of their salaries next season, with 20 percent deducted for escrow and 10 percent deferred.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Player agent Allan Walsh believes it’s safe to assume the NHL won’t return to action on the tentative target date of Jan. 1. He believes it could be Jan. 15 or pushed to Feb. 1.

Walsh also speculated there could be multiple bubble cities with two in Canada and four in the United States where teams would travel to those cities for two weeks to play several games, return home for a week, and then travel to another bubble city for two weeks. He doesn’t expect to see any clarity on next season until mid-December.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everything seems to be in the preparatory stage for the actual meetings between the league and the PA. Holding a regular season during the pandemic comes with a different set of challenges compared to staging the 2020 playoffs in two bubble cities.

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley last week suggested the league could return on Feb.1 with a reduced schedule played in some sort of divisional bubbles, including a Canadian division if the border between Canada and the United States remains closed to non-essential travel. We’ll probably find out by mid-December if Foley’s remarks foreshadow the league’s intentions.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs avoided salary arbitration with Ilya Mikheyev by signing the winger to a two-year deal worth $1.645 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs are $175K over the $81.5 million salary cap with defenseman Travis Dermott to re-sign. They’re allowed to sit over the cap by 10 percent during the offseason.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators and Connor Brown are $2.5 million apart in contract negotiations. Brown seeks a one-year, $4.8 million deal while the Senators countered with $2.25 million. Brown’s arbitration hearing is slated for Thursday.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland is skating again but his agent said his client’s health will determine if he resumes his playing career. Ferland made three attempts to return from a concussion suffered in a game last year against the Los Angeles Kings.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed forward Karson Kuhlman to a two-year, $1.5 million contract. It’s a two-way deal in the first year.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens signed Kaiden Guhle to an entry-level contract. The 18-year-old defenseman was the Habs first-round pick (16th overall) in this year’s NHL Draft.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Geoff Baker reports Kraken general manager Ron Francis said the ownership of the expansion club has approved spending toward the upper limit of the 2021-22 salary cap as long as they aren’t hamstrung in future years.

Baker speculates players with hefty contracts lacking no-movement protection, such as San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, Tampa Bay Lightning winger Tyler Johnson, Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby, could be targeted by the Kraken if left unprotected in next year’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect Francis to use the Vegas Golden Knights as his template for building an expansion roster. Thanks to some savvy moves including trades and free-agent signings, the Golden Knights became a Stanley Cup Finalist in their inaugural season and a perennial playoff club ever since.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 6, 2020

In today’s NHL morning coffee headlines, recaps of Wednesday’s games plus the latest on Jake Muzzin,  Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Micheal Ferland, and more.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Jeff Petry scored his second game-winning goal as the Montreal Canadiens overcame a 3-1 deficit to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3, taking a 2-1 lead in their qualifying-round series. Habs captain Shea Weber led the way with a goal and two assists.

 

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens seemed done like dinner midway through the second period. They’re now poised to eliminate the Penguins in Game 4 on Friday. And speaking of potential upsets…

The Chicago Blackhawks got two unanswered third-period goals by Matthew Highmore and Jonathan Toews to nip the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 and take a 2-1 lead in their qualifier. Toews finished the game with two goals while teammate Corey Crawford made 25 saves to become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to record his 50th career playoff win. Leon Draisaitl scored twice and set up another for the Oilers. Edmonton defenseman Adam Larsson was unfit to play while Oilers winger Tyler Ennis left the game in the second period with an apparent leg injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bounces went the Blackhawks’ way as Highmore’s goal was a deflection from a point shot while Toews’ deflected shot bounced in off an Oilers’ defenseman. They’re now poised to eliminate the Oilers if they win Game 4 on Friday.

The Boston Bruins won’t be the top seed in the 2020 playoffs after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning in round-robin play. Tyler Johnson tallied the winning goal late in the third period. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 32 saves in his return to action after being unfit to play in their first round-robin game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the first time in NHL history the season’s Presidents’ Trophy winner won’t be the top seed in the playoffs. The Bruins are 0-2 in round-robin play. While they are guaranteed a playoff spot, they risk drawing a tougher first-round opponent the lower they sink in the round-robin seedings.

The Florida Panthers avoided elimination by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders. Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman and Brian Boyle broke a 1-1 tie while Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves for the win. A rare penalty by Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov for playing the puck beyond the trapezoid behind his net led to Hoffman’s power-play goal. The Isles hold a 2-1 series lead.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the Panthers’ first postseason victory since the 2016 playoffs. It certainly came at the right time. They also shook up their lineup yesterday, scratching Mike Matheson and Frank Vatrano after their disappointing performances in the first two games.

Three unanswered third-period goals by Conor Garland, Taylor Hall, and Carl Soderberg lifted the Arizona Coyotes over the Nashville Predators 4-1. The Coyotes hold a 2-1 series lead. Darcy Kuemper enjoyed a bounce-back effort in this contest with a 39-save performance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes weathered the first-period onslaught from the Predators and opened the scoring on their first shot of the game. They finally got some productions from Hall and Garland, who’d been held goalless in the first two games.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz kicked out 27 shots to shut out the Dallas Stars 4-0 in round-robin action. Cale Makar tallied the game-winner while Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky each had a goal and an assist.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars were without starting goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman John Klingberg in this game. Both were declared unfit to play. Under league protocols, no reason was given for their absence, but it doesn’t appear as though it’s COVID-related.

HEADLINES TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin won’t be available for the remainder of his club’s qualifying-round series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was injured in Game 2 and taken to hospital with what appeared to be a head or neck injury. Muzzin was released yesterday and returned to the Leafs hotel within the safety zone and will remain in quarantine until cleared. Martin Marincin will replace him in the lineup for today’s match with the Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois won’t face supplemental discipline for the hit that sent Muzzin to hospital after colliding awkwardly with Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstand.

NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets aren’t ruling out Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine for Game 4 of their qualifier with the Calgary Flames later today. Both players have been sidelined since Game 1. The Flames hold a 2-1 series lead and could wrap it up with a win today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets need some help following a dispiriting loss in Game 3. They also need Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor to start cashing in or this series will be over later tonight.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland is out of action and has returned to his home in Brandon, Manitoba. He’s been declared “unfit to play”, raising speculation it’s tied to the concussion symptoms that sidelined him for most of this season.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals forward Lars Eller returned to Washington to be with his wife as she gives birth to their second child. He’ll rejoin his teammates following a period of quarantine and testing in the first round of the playoffs.

SPORTSNET: A report from a Swedish media outlet indicates winger Oskar Lindblom will be traveling to the Toronto bubble to join his Philadephia Flyers teammates. He missed the bulk of this season battling a rare form of bone cancer and finished his treatment on July 2. He could return to action in September if the Flyers are still in the playoffs by then.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Tomas Hertl has resumed skating for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury in January.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi has re-signed a one-year contract with Finland’s Karpat. It’s believed the deal contains an out-clause should Puljujarvi return to the Oilers next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports suggest the relationship between Puljujarvi and the Oilers has improved after he spent last season in Finland. With the NHL tentatively planning a full 82-game schedule in December, it makes sense for him to get in some meaningful playing time in Finland before NHL camps open in November.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The general managers of the seven non-playoff teams have submitted a proposal to the league allowing their clubs a two-week mini-camp before training camp for all clubs open in November.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like a reasonable proposal. Those teams haven’t played since the regular season was derailed in mid-March and they’re now amid an unusually long off-season.  










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 5, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 5, 2020

Recaps of Tuesday’s games plus the latest on Jake Muzzin, Steven Stamkos,  and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (Photo via NHL Images).

 NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes are the first team to advance past the qualifying round, defeating the New York Rangers 4-1 to sweep their best-of-five series. The Hurricanes scored four unanswered goals, including two by Sebastian Aho, while James Reimer made 38 saves for the win. Chris Kreider tallied the only goal for the Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This series saw dominant performances by Aho and linemate Andrei Svechnikov. The young Hurricanes forwards proved too much for the Rangers to contain. Aho leads all playoff scorers with eight points, while Svechnikov has three goals and five points in three games.

 

Auston Matthews’s second-period goal was the game-winner and Frederik Andersen had a 20-save shutout as the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0, tying their qualifying round series at a game apiece. John Tavares and Morgan Rielly also tallied for the Leafs. The Maple Leafs win was overshadowed by Jake Muzzin being stretchered from the ice late in the game with a suspected head/neck injury after a cross-check by Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois sent the defenseman colliding awkwardly with Jackets winger Oliver Bjorkstand. Muzzin was taken to a local hospital and was reportedly able to move his limbs.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Muzzin will be ok. It remains to be seen how long he’ll be at the hospital and if he’ll have to undergo the mandatory four-day quarantine before rejoining his teammates. The Leafs had the better of the play in this game, outshooting the Jackets 39-20.

Sean Monahan had a goal and two assists as the Calgary Flames downed the Winnipeg 6-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. Monahan’s linemates Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm each had a goal and an assist, as the Flames went three-for-four on the power play. The injury-depleted Jets suffered another casualty as Mathieu Perreault left the game following a big hit from Flames forward Sam Bennett. Winnipeg defenseman Tucker Poolman left the game briefly left the game for stitches after taking a puck to the face.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a very physical game that left both sides battered, but the Jets got the worst of it. Already down two players with stars Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine sidelined, they cannot afford to lose more regulars. They also need more production from first-liners Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor, who’ve both been held to just one point in this series.

The New York Islanders tallied three unanswered goals to double up the Florida Panthers 4-2 and take a 2-0 series lead. Jordan Eberle tallied twice as the Isles overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits. Mike Hoffman and Keith Yandle each had two points for the Panthers. The Islanders can wrap it up in Game 3 later today. Following the game, Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson was fined $2,500.00 for high-sticking Isles center Brock Nelson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders showed lots of poise in this game. They didn’t get rattled when they fell behind and garnered momentum after Matt Martin made it 2-2. It was a disappointing outcome for the Panthers, who played much better in this game but couldn’t hold the lead.

J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat each had a goal and an assist as the Vancouver Canucks held on to edge the Minnesota Wild 4-3 and tie their series at a game apiece. Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom turned in a 34-save performance. Kevin Fiala scored two late goals for the Wild. The Canucks successfully killed off six penalties in this contest but also lost winger Micheal Ferland to an undisclosed injury in the first period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A strong bounce-back effort for the Canucks, who looked flat in Game 1. They also tweaked their roster, with Jake Virtanen and Loui Eriksson entering the lineup for this one. Tyler Toffoli missed this game with an injured foot suffered in Game 1.

Nashville Predators’ goaltender Juuse Saros made 24 saves for his first career postseason win, backstopping his club to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes to tie their series at a game apiece. Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist as the Preds rolled to a 4-0 lead before the Coyotes tallied twice in the final minute of regulation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After falling behind early in Game 1, it was the Predators’ turn to ride an early lead to victory. Apart from brief flurries from the Coyotes, the Preds largely controlled the play, especially when Calle Jarnkrok made it 3-0. Coyotes backup goalie Antti Raanta was declared “unfit to play” after leaving the bench mid-game and won’t suit up for Game 3 later today.

HEADLINES

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos won’t be in the lineup when his club faces off today in round-robin play against the Boston Bruins. Though he’s skated with his teammates in recent days, he’s still recovering from an injury suffered during Phase 2 training.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Jack Studnicka will be a healthy scratch from today’s game against the Lightning. He’ll be replaced by Nick Ritchie.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues forward Ivan Barbashev is returning to St. Louis to attend the birth of his first child. He’s expected to rejoin his teammates for the first round of the playoffs.

THE SCORE: Former Washington Capitals winger Brendan Leipsic signed a one-year contract with KHL club CSKA Moscow. He was released from his contract in May when inappropriate comments he made on a group chat were leaked to social media.