The Jets keep their playoff hopes alive, Evgeni Malkin is suspended, Drew Doughty is done for the season, the three stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets got third-period goals from Evgeny Svechnikov and Adam Lowry to double up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the only game on Monday’s schedule. Jets forward Paul Stastny reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time since 2013-14. With the win, the Jets (81 points) move to within five points of the Dallas Stars for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rookie Morgan Barron collected his first two points since joining the Jets at last month’s trade deadline from the New York Rangers in the Andrew Copp deal. Meanwhile, his younger brother Justin missed his third straight game with the Montreal Canadiens with a suspected broken right ankle that could finish his season. Like his older brother, the younger Barron was also traded on deadline day. The Canadiens acquired him from the Colorado Avalanche in the Artturi Lehkonen trade.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The NHL department of player safety handed down a four-game suspension to Penguins center Evgeni Malkin for his “retaliatory and aggressive” crosscheck on Nashville Predators defenseman Mark Borowiecki on Sunday. It’s the second time in Malkin’s NHL career that he’s been suspended for a stick infraction.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings defenseman Drew Doughty will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing wrist surgery on Monday. He’s expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp in September.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Doughty is the Kings’ top defenseman. His absence could cripple their efforts to secure their first playoff berth since 2017-18. The Kings are clinging to third place in the Pacific Division with 86 points, two points ahead of the surging Vegas Golden Knights.
NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson, and Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending April 10.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has not yet returned to on-ice activities in his recovery from knee surgery. However, he’s still expected to return to action when the playoffs begin in early May.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin (knee injury) has resumed solo skating but there’s still no timetable for his return to the lineup. Leafs winger Ondrej Kase remains sidelined with a concussion.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Torey Krug could return to the lineup tonight against his former club, the Boston Bruins. He’s missed the last 10 games with an upper-body injury.
MLIVE.COM: Sam Gagner is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer but hopes to return with the Detroit Red Wings next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings reportedly appreciate the 32-year-old Gagner’s experience, leadership and two-way skills. He’s on a one-year, $850K contract and should be an affordable re-signing if they wish to bring him back next season.
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Stephens reports sources indicate Dallas Eakins will return next season as head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.
Recaps of Thursday’s action, Jeff Skinner’s status with the Sabres concerns his agent, updates on Auston Matthews and Henrik Lundqvist, some notable injury news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders tallied five unanswered third-period goals to upset the Boston Bruins 7-2. Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves while teammates Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders. The Bruins have dropped three of their last four games.
Three straight third-period goals lifted the Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller each had a goal and an assist. Tom Wilson tallied the game-winner and also received a two-minute minor penalty for injuring Penguins forward Mark Jankowski with a late hit in the first period. Earlier in the day, the Penguins placed winger Jason Zucker (lower body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a history of questionable hits but it doesn’t appear as though he’ll receive supplemental discipline for this one.
The Tampa Bay Lightning scored twice in the third period in a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Yanni Gourde netted the game-winner as the Lightning won their third straight over the Hurricanes, moving into second place in the Discover Central Division with 27 points.
A three-goal third-period rallied the Florida Panthers over the Dallas Stars 3-2. Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves while Aleksander Barkov, Anton Stralman and Frank Vatrano tallied for the Panthers, who sit atop the Discover Central Division with 28 points. Stars forward Roope Hintz missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is playing his way into the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation (NHL Images).
Patrick Kane tallied his 399th career goal and Malcolm Subban made 26 saves for his first shutout with the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-0 blanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carl Soderberg also scored for the Hawks, who sit third in the Central with 26 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks keep finding ways to win thanks in part to Kane’s production and leadership. He’s moved into a tie with Toronto’s Auston Matthews (31 points) for third place in the NHL scoring race and continues to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
The Ottawa Senators are on their first three-game win streak of the season after upsetting the Calgary Flames 6-1. Matt Murray made 29 saves, Colin White scored twice and Drake Batherson scored for the fourth straight game.
Earlier in the day, the Senators placed center Derek Stepan on injured reserve among reports he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. They also placed little-used forward Filip Chlapik on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. Meanwhile, the Flames placed goaltender Jacob Markstrom (upper body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators’ improvement throughout February is due in part to giving more ice time to their younger players. They still have more rebuilding to do but they’ve served notice in recent weeks that they’re no longer an easy two points. The Flames, meanwhile, have dropped five of their last six.
An overtime goal by Pavel Zacha lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The Sabres made winger Jeff Skinner a healthy scratch for the third straight game, prompting his agent to contact general manager Kevyn Adams to express his concern over his client’s status. Sabres captain Jack Eichel was a late scratch with a lower-body injury while goalie Linus Ullmark left the game following the first period with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s poor production this season is cause for concern for the Sabres but critics question if he’s being properly utilized by head coach Ralph Krueger. It’s yet another issue for a team whose playoff hopes are fading while raising questions about Eichel’s future in Buffalo.
Sam Gagner tallied his third career hat trick as the Detroit Red Wings downed the Nashville Predators 5-2. Jonathan Bernier made 37 saves for the win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The mounting losses for the Predators continue to stoke speculation they’ll become sellers at the Apr.12 trade deadline. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor section.
Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists while Kyle Connor scored twice as the Winnipeg Jets overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3. The Habs dropped their fourth straight, spoiling the debut of interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game in the first period after an apparent slew foot by Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo. He’ll undergo more tests but Ducharme said his injury isn’t considered to be too serious.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme declared a clean slate for his players before this game. What he got was a strong start undone by more shaky goaltending from Carey Price, sloppy defensive play and a collapse of confidence as the game rolled along. The Habs (22 points) still hold a playoff spot in the Scotia North Division only because the Flames and Vancouver Canucks are playing worse than they are. Speaking of the Canucks…
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith turned in a 32-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Canucks. Alex Chiasson, Jesse Puljujarvi and Connor McDavid were the goal scorers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have only two victories in 13 games this month.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said center Auston Matthews has been dealing with a wrist injury for most of this season. Matthews appeared to aggravate the injury during Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Flames but Keefe feels it hasn’t gotten worse.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews was scoring at a goal-per-game pace prior to Wednesday. He has a shot at becoming the first player since Brett Hull in 1991-92 to score 50 goals in 50 games.
NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist returned to the ice earlier this week after undergoing open-heart surgery seven weeks ago. However, the 39-year-old goaltender said it will be months before he can reach a decision on whether he’ll continue his playing career.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Saturday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will continue as scheduled after the Sharks announced no new positive COVID-19 tests. Thursday’s game between the two clubs was postponed after Sharks forward Tomas Hertl tested positive. He’s expected to miss some time as he remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
TSN: The number of players on the league’s protocol list shrunk to seven players with three of those being members of the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets are preparing to increase the number of fans attending their home games after Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced indoor sports and entertainment events in the state to 25 percent capacity. The Jackets currently have a plan approved by the state that allows 10 percent capacity.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins will soon welcome fans back to TD Garden as the state of Massachusetts will allow 12 percent capacity starting on March 22.
The Stars stave off elimination in a Game 5 doubt OT win, the Rangers trade Marc Staal to the Red Wings, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Corey Perry scored twice, including the winner in double overtime, as the Dallas Stars edged the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Joe Pavelski scored the game-tying goal in the third period, becoming the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL playoff history with 61 career postseason goals. Tyler Seguin assisted on all three Stars goals while Anton Khudobin made 39 saves for the win.
Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry (NHL Images)
Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev scored for Tampa Bay, who hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 6 set for Monday night. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was listed unfit to play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dallas’ oldest players (the 36-year-old Pavelski, 35-year-old Perry and 34-year-old Khudobin) were the heroes for the Stars, who were outshot 41-33 and outplayed for long stretches in this game. It appeared the Lightning had this one in the bag when Sergachev made it 3-2 early in the third. For the second straight game, Pavelski forced overtime with the game-tying goal. He also leads the Stars with 13 goals.
NEW YORK POST/THE DETROIT NEWS: The New York Rangers traded defenseman Marc Staal and a second-round pick in the 2021 draft to the Detroit Red Wings for future considerations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a significant move for the Rangers, freeing up $5.7 million in salary-cap space for next season, giving them over $20 million in cap room. The Post points out the Rangers have the room now to re-sign RFAs Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo, Alexandar Georgiev and Brendan Lemieux.
Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said this deal plugs a huge hole on their defense while also adding a future asset with that second-round pick. Staal, who’s entering the final season of his contract, agreed to this trade as he carries a no-movement clause. This could be a short-term move by the Wings to buy time until their younger blueliners are more NHL-ready.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports of “murmurs” suggesting the NHL might seek to enforce the force majeure clause (paragraph 17) of the standard player contract to prorate the players’ pay should next season be shorter than expected.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league’s intention is to return with a full 82-game schedule next season. We’ll have to wait and see what transpires. The players have agreed under the new CBA to defer 10 percent of their salaries for next season.
Reporting by @FriedgeHNIC on @hockeynight that NHL bubbles cost $75-90M total, NBA bubble $170M. Obviously won’t see NHL bubbles again.
Recent speculation on the Oilers, Flames, and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked if the Edmonton Oilers might bring back Taylor Hall if they can shed some salary. He felt there’s zero chance of the 28-year-old winger returning to Edmonton, pointing out the Oilers already carry several players with expensive contracts. “I think it’s a dream Oilers fans should wake up from. Hall’s not coming back,” wrote Spector.
(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with “Cousin Mark”. Hall returning to the Oilers is a pipe dream. Stop pining about what could’ve been and look forward.
Jesse Puljujarvi’s future remains an off-season question for the Edmonton Oilers (Photo via NHL Images).
Asked out the most likely scenario for Jesse Puljujarvi, Spector said the Oilers prefer he returns and plays for them. If he doesn’t, they could let him spend another season in Finland (where he’ll make less money), or trade him at the draft for perhaps two second-round picks, or a second and a prospect (the Oilers lack a second-rounder in this year’s draft). Spector thinks Puljujarvi should return to the Oilers on a one-year deal and prove he can still play.
(STILL NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the Oilers handle this situation. Puljujarvi’s done well in Finland (53 points in 56 games), but that’s not much of an indicator whether he can be an effective NHL player.
Asked if Sam Gagner might sign with the Oilers as an unrestricted free agent, Spector believes he will. He’d be an affordable signing, his home is in Edmonton, and Oilers general manager Ken Holland could see Gagner as a future member of the front office.
(THE OTHER ) SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gagner is completing a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $3.15 million. He’s not getting that much ever again, but he could be a decent fourth-line pickup for the Oilers (or somebody else) on a one-year, $900K contract.
SPORTSNET: Eric Francis recently opened up the mailbag to address questions from Calgary Flames fans. Asked if the Flames might shake up their core, Francis doesn’t believe they will. Acknowledging the production of stars like Johnny Gaudreau is down this season, he feels the early end to this season ensures Gaudreau will return next season. He thinks players like Gaudreau and Monahan shouldn’t be shopped until they’ve had a shot at redemption.
(THE BETTER-LOOKING) SPECTOR’S NOTE: I didn’t put any stock into the trade rumors involving Gaudreau and Sean Monahan this season. Yes, their production was down this season, but they’re only a year removed from their respective career-high point totals. They’re still in the mid-twenties and very much in their playing prime. Unless they asked to be moved, they’re not going anywhere.
Francis thinks the Flames will kick tires on Taylor Hall if he tests the UFA market but believes they’ll use their cap space to plug holes in their defense corps than overspending on Hall. He also doesn’t see both T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic returning next season but Brodie could stay.
Francis also sees the Flames attempting to re-sign UFA goalie Cam Talbot or taking a stab at Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom or Vegas’ Robin Lehner. He doesn’t think they’ll try to buy out Milan Lucic’s contract, pointing out he fills an effective physical role, as well as his popularity with his teammates and among Calgary fans.
Asked if interim coach Geoff Ward will remain as their bench boss after this season, Francis believes he will, citing GM Brad Treliving saying he’s seen enough to make his decision. Following a shaky start, the Flames turned things around under Ward, who has a year remaining on his contract.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan recently weighed in with his thoughts on what Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman will do with his 12 restricted free agents.
Tyler Bertuzzi will likely get a long-term deal. Anthony Mantha’s situation could be more complicated. He could sign a one-year deal to post up big numbers before his UFA eligibility in two years, or the Wings could ink him to a four- or five-year deal believing he’ll keep progressing.
Kulfan believes Robby Fabbri has shown enough this season to be part of the Wings’ short-term future. He expects Adam Erne to be re-signed but feels he must take a bigger step forward.
He wouldn’t be surprised if the Wings cut ties with Madison Bowey and Brendan Perlini.