Game recaps, the latest on Zach Werenski, Bobby Ryan and William Nylander, the Avalanche reacquire Patrik Nemeth, the Leafs deal for Riley Nash, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied career goal 727 in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Capitals defenseman Justin Schultz had a goal and two assists. Ovechkin is four goals shy of Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne for fifth on the NHL’s all-time goals list. The Capitals are tied with the New York Islanders with 56 points but hold first place in the MassMutual East Division on the basis of regulation wins (21).
The Islanders, meanwhile, dropped a 4-1 decision to the New York Rangers. Alexandar Georgiev made 31 saves for the win in his first start in 11 games while teammate Adam Fox’s point streak ended at 12 games. Blueshirts winger Artemi Panarin collected two assists.
PIttsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (NHL Images).
Sidney Crosby scored and added two helpers to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the New Jersey Devils 6-4. Pittsburgh winger Bryan Rust scored two goals and chipped in an assist while Devils winger Miles Wood tallied twice. The Penguins have won seven of their last nine contests and sit two points behind the second-place Islanders.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jonas Johansson made 28 saves for his first career NHL shutout in a 2-0 blanking of the Anaheim Ducks. Valeri Nichushkin and Mikko Rantanen were the goal scorers as Colorado won their sixth game in their last seven outings. They canceled their practice earlier in the day after Bo Byram was placed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list. The Avs sit atop the Honda West Division with 58 points.
A four-goal first period powered the Vegas Golden Knights to a 7-4 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Reilly Smith scored two goals for the Golden Knights, who remain four points back of the Avalanche in second place. Phil Kessel collected three assists for Arizona and took over sole possession of fifth place on the NHL’s Ironman list by skating in his 885th consecutive game. The Coyotes are in fourth place with 43 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel is quite durable for someone who is sometimes mocked because his physical appearance isn’t that of a prototypical NHL player. As the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.
St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly tallied a hat trick in a 9-1 thumping of the Minnesota Wild. Jaden Schwartz scored twice while Justin Faulk and Sammy Blais each had a goal and two assists. The Blues moved within one point of the Coyotes while the Wild remain in third place with 50 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues made winger Mike Hoffman a healthy scratch for the second straight game. He’s among the top names being bandied about the NHL rumor mill and could be on the move before Monday’s trade deadline.
Brent Burns collected three assists and Martin Jones made 32 saves as the San Jose Sharks downed the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. The surging Sharks sit three back of the Coyotes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The race for that final playoff berth in the West is getting interesting. The Coyotes are trying to hang on, the Blues are battling to overcome a recent season-threatening losing skid while the Sharks are trying to keep their postseason hopes alive.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski will undergo season-ending sports hernia surgery next week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A difficult season for the Blue Jackets just got a lot worse with their best puck-moving defenseman on the shelf. This could be the last nail in the coffin for their playoff hopes.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forward Bobby Ryan appears to be done for the season after suffering an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ryan was expected to draw some interest in the trade market leading up to Monday’s deadline. Nagging injuries have plagued the 34-year-old winger throughout this season.
ESPN: The Nashville Predators placed winger Filip Forsberg on injured reserve and announced winger Eeli Tolvanen (lower body) and defenseman Dante Fabbro (upper body) are week-to-week. Right wing Mathieu Olivier will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators surged into playoff contention in recent weeks in the Discover Central Division. This latest rash of injuries could threaten their efforts to clinch a postseason berth.
TSN: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said many of his 21 players who tested positive for COVID-19 are feeling better. He expects his club will be able to complete its 56-game schedule, adding none of his players want to opt-out of the remainder of the season. Benning anticipates most of his players will be back on the ice once the team receives clearance to reopen its practice facility.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens prospect Cole Caufield is the 2021 winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in US college hockey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Caufield celebrated by scoring two goals in his pro debut as the Laval Rocket downed the Toronto Marlies 5-3 in AHL action on Friday.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs acquired center Riley Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nash is sidelined for four-to-six weeks with a sprained knee. However, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas can place him and his $2.75 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve, giving them the flexibility to perhaps make another move before Monday’s trade deadline. A clever move by Dubas, who’s done this sort of thing in the past to provide himself some much-needed cap relief. Nash will also join the Leafs for the playoffs.
TORONTO STAR: Speaking of the Leafs, winger William Nylander will be sidelined for a week on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche reacquired defenseman Patrik Nemeth from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 fourth-round pick. Nemeth spent two seasons with the Avalanche (2017 to 2019). The Wings are also retaining half of his $3 million salary-cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche also have $5.4 million in cap wiggle room with Erik Johnson and Pavel Francouz on LTIR. GM Joe Sakic might not be done dealing as concern remains over the Avs’ goaltending depth.
NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils placed winger Nikita Gusev on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent if he clears at noon ET today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gusev had a promising NHL debut with 44 points in 66 games last season but struggled under head coach Lindy Ruff this season and has just five points in 20 games. The 27-year-old winger might regain his scoring touch with another club.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres claimed forward Drake Caggiula off waivers from the Arizona Coyotes.