NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2022
The Flames extend their points streak to nine games, the Avalanche widen their lead atop the overall standings, the Leafs and Coyotes make a trade, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Calgary Flames remain red hot as they picked up their ninth straight victory by downing the Seattle Kraken 2-1, spoiling Mark Giordano’s return to Calgary for the first time since being selected by the Kraken in last year’s expansion draft. Elias Lindholm extended his goal streak to seven games with the tie-breaking goal in the third period. Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk each finished the night with a goal and an assist as the Flames (64 points) hold a four-point lead over the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division.
Third-period goals by Alex Newhook and Mikko Rantanen lifted the Colorado Avalanche over the Buffalo Sabres 5-3. With 76 points, the Avs hold a three-point lead over the Florida Panthers for the top spot in the overall standings. Tage Thompson tallied all three goals for the Sabres.
The Edmonton Oilers got their fifth straight win under interim coach Jay Woodcroft by doubling up the Winnipeg Jets 4-2. Oilers captain Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists to become the first player to reach the 70-point plateau this season. The Oilers (59 points) have moved within a point of the second-place Golden Knights in the Pacific Division while the Jets (52 points) sit seven points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Woodcroft’s hiring has given what had been a slumping Oilers club a timely shot in the arm. The players are all buying into his system, especially those who played for Woodcroft when he was coaching their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. They’re not trying to rely solely on McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to carry the offense. Other players are getting more minutes plus the team has improved its defensive game.
St. Louis Blues winger Pavel Buchnevich scored twice while goaltender Ville Husso kicked out 34 shots in a 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Robert Thomas and David Perron each picked up two assists as the Blues moved ahead of the Minnesota Wild into second place in the Central Division with 64 points. William Nylander tallied two goals for the Leafs, who sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 67 points.
David Pastrnak’s overtime goal lifted the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman made 32 saves and defenseman Mike Reilly had two assists. Boston holds the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 60 points.
Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Adrian Kempe each had three points as the Los Angeles Kings overcame a 3-1 deficit to drop the Arizona Coyotes 5-3. Kopitar had three assists while Doughty and Kempe each scored two goals and collected an assist. The Kings hold the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 59 points.
The Anaheim Ducks remain two points behind the Kings after snapping a four-game skid with a 7-4 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks. Adam Henrique and Nicolas Deslauriers tallied two goals each while rookie star Trevor Zegras picked up three assists. Elias Pettersson had a goal and two assists for the Canucks, who remain seven points back of the Ducks.
TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs traded winger Nick Ritchie and a conditional pick to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin and winger Ryan Dzingel. The conditional pick received by the Coyotes will be either the Leafs’ 2023 third-rounder or their 2025 second-rounder.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ritchie signed a two-year deal ($2.5 million cap hit) with the Leafs this season but failed to play up to expectations and was eventually demoted to their AHL affiliate. This move brings in two affordable depth rentals for the Leafs in Dzingel ($1.1 million) and Lyubushkin ($1.35 million) who should contribute to their roster right away. Ritchie, meanwhile, will get an opportunity for more playing time with the rebuilding Coyotes.
NHL.COM: Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn was fined $5,000.00 by the league’s department of player safety for unsportsmanlike conduct during Friday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a two-year contract extension with an annual average value of $800K.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable depth signing for the Penguins, who evidently liked what they’ve seen of Ruhwedel’s performance over the course of this season. He’s helped to improve the Penguins’ penalty kill.
MLIVE.COM: Gemel Smith is heading back to the Tampa Bay Lightning as they reclaimed him off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings had claimed Smith on Jan. 19. He saw action in three games for Detroit, skating with his younger brother Givani.
THE ATHLETIC: The Anaheim Ducks have reportedly parted ways with assistant general manager Dave Nonis. The move is said to be part of the front-office restructuring under new GM Pat Verbeek. Nonis had a year remaining on his contract.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers yesterday announced Emile Francis passed at age 95. Nicknamed “The Cat”, he played for the Rangers as a goaltender and later served as head coach and general manager. He also worked for the St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982. He holds the Rangers’ coaching records for games (654) and wins (342), as well as playoff games (75) and wins (34).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis built the Rangers into a powerhouse during the late-60s and early-70s, which saw them reach the semifinals four times and the 1972 Stanley Cup Final. Their rivalry with the Boston Bruins during that time was must-watch hockey. My condolences to his family, friends and the Rangers’ organization.