NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 3, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 3, 2023

The Bruins defeat the Penguins in the 2023 NHL Winter Classic, the three stars of the week are announced, plus updates on sidelined stars such as Ryan O’Reilly and John Carlson in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 at the 2023 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Jake DeBrusk tallied the game-tying and winning goals in the third period for the league-leading Bruins (29-4-4, 62 points) as they extended their home points streak to 22 games. Kasperi Kapanen scored for the Penguins (19-12-6) as they’ve lost five straight games.

Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. No update was provided on his condition following the game.

The Pens also played without defenseman Kris Letang, who returned home to Montreal following the death of his father. He remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. My condolences to Letang and his family for their loss.

Vegas Golden Knights forward Nicolas Roy scored twice as the Vegas Golden Knights held off the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. With the win, the Golden Knights (26-12-2) regained first place in the Western Conference with 54 points and sit two up on the Dallas Stars. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and an assist for the 19-14-3 Avalanche, who’ve dropped four games in a row.

The Philadelphia Flyers (14-17-7) picked up their third straight win with a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Travis Konecny had a goal and an assist while goaltender Samuel Ersson made 28 saves. Ryan Strome replied for the Ducks, who dropped to 10-24-4.

HEADLINES

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg, San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson and Carolina Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Jan. 1, 2023.

The Seattle Kraken will host the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2024 NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2024, at T-Mobile Field.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m taking a victory lap having predicted this during a Bleacher Report roundtable last week. OK, I picked the wrong stadium where they’d play but I’m not sweating the minor details here.

TSN: Bad news for the St. Louis Blues as captain Ryan O’Reilly (broken foot) will be sidelined for six weeks while winger Vladimir Tarasenko (hand injury) will be out for four weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues are struggling to stay in the Western Conference playoff race. Losing their two core forwards for a month could sink their postseason hopes.

THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir recently reported Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson could be sidelined for months with a head injury suffered against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 23. His estimated return could be late in the regular season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals will miss Carlson’s presence on the blueline. He had 21 points in 30 games this season before his injury.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: The Red Wings have extended Jakub Vrana’s conditioning stint with their AHL affiliate from three days to the full two weeks. He only played two games with the Wings this season before voluntarily entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program in mid-October.

The New York Islanders activated goaltender Semyon Varlamov off injured reserve.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning signed defenseman Nick Perbix to a two-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $1.125 million.

DAILY FACEOFF: Top NHL prospect Connor Bedard broke the Canadian World Junior record for all-time goals (16) and points (33) to lead Canada to a 4-3 overtime victory over Slovakia in the quarter-final of the 2023 World Junior Championships.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bedard was considered the top prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft prior to the 2023 WJC. His performance in this tournament will cement his spot in that position.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2023

Kick off 2023 with recaps of the final games of 2022 – featuring hat tricks by Alex Ovechkin and Filip Forsberg – in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied a hat trick as his club crushed the Montreal Canadiens 9-2. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Erik Gustafsson each had three points as the Capitals (21-13-5) are 11-1-1 in their last 13 games. Cole Caufield tallied twice to reach the 20- goal plateau as his Canadiens (15-19-3) have lost five in a row.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals (47) sit one behind the second-place New Jersey Devils in the Metropolitan Division. Caufield, meanwhile, joined Guy Lafleur and Stephane Richer as the only Canadiens with consecutive 20-goal seasons before the age of 22. The Canadiens also announced that defenseman Kaiden Guhle (lower-body injury) will miss their upcoming game against the Nashville Predators.

Speaking of the Predators, they got a hat trick performance from Filip Forsberg but fell 5-4 to the Vegas Golden Knights on an overtime goal by Nicolas Hague. Mark Stone collected three assists and Chandler Stephenson had a goal and two assists for the Golden Knights (25-12-2), who are tied with the Dallas Stars with 52 points but sit second in the Western Conference. The Predators (15-14-6) played without winger Cole Smith, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

The Dallas Stars, meanwhile, got a three-point performance from Joe Pavelski in a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Jason Robertson collected two points to move into sole possession of third place in the NHL scoring race with 54 points while his Stars (23-9-2) hold first place in the Western Conference with a game in hand. Erik Karlsson collected an assist to extend his point streak to 12 games but his Sharks drop to 11-20-7 on the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks defenseman Radim Simek left this game with an undisclosed injury. There was no postgame update regarding his status.

Buffalo Sabres winger Alex Tuch scored twice, including the winner in overtime, in a four-point performance to upset the Boston Bruins by a score of 4-3. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 37 shots for the win as the Sabres improved to 18-14-2 with their sixth straight win. David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand each had two points as the league-leading Bruins (28-4-4) extended their home points streak to 21 games.

The Toronto Maple Leafs got two goals from Michael Bunting in a 6-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche (19-13-3). Auston Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares each had two points for the Maple Leafs (23-8-6), who sit two points behind the second-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference with 52 points. Nathan MacKinnon was held scoreless in his return to the Avalanche roster after missing the last 11 games with an upper-body injury.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos tallied his 498th career NHL goal as his club downed the Arizona Coyotes 5-3. Stamkos and Brayden Point each had two points while Victor Hedman collected three assists as the Lightning improved to 23-11-1. The Coyotes (13-17-5) played without forward Nick Schmaltz, who’s listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

The Winnipeg Jets nipped the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on a third-period goal by Kyle Connor to finish the night with two points. Teammate Neal Pionk also had a goal and an assist as the Jets improved to 23-13-1. Klim Kostin replied for the Oilers (20-16-2) while teammate Connor McDavid had his point streak end at 17 games.

Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman tallied twice in a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. Marc-Andre Fleury got the win with a 29-save effort for the Wild (21-13-2). Jordan Kyrou collected two assists for the Blues (17-17-3), who also lost winger Vladimir Tarasenko to an injured hand suffered in the first period after blocking a shot by Matt Dumba. An update was not provided on his status following the game.

Calgary Flames defenseman MacKenzie Weegar’s first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner as his club held on for a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Elias Lindholm also scored for the Flames (18-13-7) in his 700th career NHL game. Sheldon Dries and Elias Pettersson replied for the Canucks, who fell to 16-17-3.

The Detroit Red Wings got three unanswered third-period goals from Lucas Raymond, Elmer Soderblom and Michael Rasmussen to double up the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Raymond finished with two points as the Red Wings move to 16-12-7 while the Senators dropped to 16-17-3.

Two unanswered third-period goals by Noah Cates and Travis Konecny lifted the Philadelphia Flyers (13-17-7) to a 4-2 upset of the Los Angeles Kings. Cates, Owen Tippett and Scott Laughton each had two points for the Flyers. Adrian Kempe and Phillip Danault replied for the 21-13-6 Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kings defenseman Alex Edler skated in his 1,000th career NHL game.

The Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a seven-game losing skid by downing the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2. Gustav Nyquist scored twice for the Blue Jackets (11-22-2) while Johnny Gaudreau collected two assists. Andreas Athanasiou replied for the Blackhawks, who sit at the bottom of the overall standings with a record of 8-23-4.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2022

The schedule resumes with the Hurricanes extending their win streak to nine games, Connor McDavid stretching his points streak to 16 games and Jamie Benn reaching a Stars milestone. Details and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes extended their win streak to nine games by blanking the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0. Antti Raanta stopped 24 shots for the shutout while Martin Necas, Jesper Fast and Jordan Martinook were the goal scorers as the Hurricanes (23-6-6, 52 points) hold a six-point lead over the New Jersey Devils for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Petr Mrazek made 46 saves for the Blackhawks (8-21-4) sitting in last place in the overall standings with 20 points.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid stretched his points streak to 16 games by scoring the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. McDavid leads the league with 31 goals while Stuart Skinner kicked out 46 shots for the win as the Oilers improved to 19-15-2. Mikael Backlund scored for the Flames as they dropped to 16-13-7.

The Vancouver Canucks are over .500 for the first time this season (16-15-3) as they downed the San Jose Sharks 6-2. Bo Horvat and Ilya Mikheyev each had four points for the Canucks. Timo Meier scored twice and Erik Karlsson collected two assists to extend his points streak to a career-high 10 games for the 11-19-6 Sharks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier in the day, Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau said he’s hoping sidelined starting goaltender Thatcher Demko can return in mid-January but remains uncertain if he’ll be back before February. Demko’s been out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 1.

Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn scored his 343rd career goal and Roope Hintz tallied twice in a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators. Benn moved past Brian Bellows into second place on the Stars’ all-time goals list. With 48 points (21-9-6), Dallas moves to within one point of the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights. Juuse Saros made 30 saves for the Predators as they slipped to 14-14-5. Predators forward Matt Duchene missed this game as his wife was giving birth to the couple’s baby daughter.

The Ottawa Senators (15-16-3) got a 49-save performance from Cam Talbot to upset the Boston Bruins 3-2 on a shootout goal by Alex DeBrincat, who also scored in regulation. Jake DeBrusk tallied his 14th goal of the season for the Bruins (27-4-3), who remain atop the overall standings with 57 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Senators defenseman Nikita Zaitsev left this game in the first period with a lower-body injury and didn’t return. There was no update as to his condition following the game.

An overtime goal by William Nylander lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs past the St. Louis Blues 5-4 after the Blues (16-16-3) overcame 3-1 and 4-3 deficits to force the extra frame. Calle Jarnkrok had a goal and two assists for the Leafs (22-7-6) while Ryan O’Reilly and Jordan Kyrou were among the Blues scorers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues played without defenseman Torey Krug as he was placed on long-term injury reserve with a lower-body injury. He’s expected to be re-evaluated in six weeks. The Leafs, meanwhile, placed forward Nick Robertson and defenseman Victor Mete on LTIR.

The Los Angeles Kings doubled up the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 with Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson each collecting a goal and two assists. The Kings (20-12-6, 46 points) move within three points of the Golden Knights (24-12-1), who sit atop the Western Conference with 49 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kings forward Trevor Moore missed this game for undisclosed reasons. The Kings also placed Arthur Kaliyev (lower body) on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 20. Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez departed in the second period with an injured leg after blocking a shot by Kings forward Alex Iafallo.

Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 32 saves to blank the New York Rangers 4-0. Marcus Johansson, Erik Gustafsson, Lars Eller and Conor Sheary were the goal scorers as the Capitals (20-13-4) picked up their fifth straight win and their 10th in their last 11 contests. Igor Shesterkin stopped 26 shots for the 19-12-5 Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen left the game in the final minutes after being struck in the face by the puck. Earlier in the day, they placed blueliner John Carlson (facial injury) on injured reserve.

New York Islanders forwards Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal each tallied twice in a 5-1 romp over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders improved to 20-14-2 but lost winger Oliver Wahlstrom to injury after he was cross-checked in the first period by Pittsburgh defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph. The Penguins slide to 19-10-5.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier in the day, the Penguins recalled defenseman Mark Friedman from their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Minnesota Wild (20-12-2) picked up their seventh victory in their last eight games by dropping the Winnipeg Jets 4-1, handing the latter their third straight defeat. Mats Zuccarello had a goal and an assist while Filip Gustavsson made 36 saves for the Wild. Pierre-Luc Dubois tallied for the Jets (21-13-1).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets played without rookie forward Cole Perfetti as he’s out for at least a week with an injured shoulder. Wild defenseman Jake Middleton missed this game with a non-COVID illness.

Arizona Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse had a goal and two assists in a 6-3 upset of the Colorado Avalanche. Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz each had a goal and an assist for the 12-16-5 Coyotes. Cale Makar had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche as they dropped to 19-12-2.

IN OTHER NEWS…

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: The Philadelphia Flyers got some good news as goaltender Carter Hart skated with his teammates in practice on Tuesday. He suffered what appeared to be an upper-body injury during Friday’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes following a collision with Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis.

MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings assigned forward Jakub Vrana to their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids on a conditioning stint. Vrana hasn’t played since Oct. 15 before entering the NHL/NHLPA Players Assistance Program.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens recalled defenseman Justin Barron from their AHL affiliate in Laval.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 27, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – December 27, 2022

The NHL’s holiday roster freeze ends at 12:01 am on Dec. 28. Check out the latest on Bo Horvat, Vladislav Gavrikov and more as we catch up on recent trade speculation in the NHL Rumor Mill.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Owen Krepps recently wondered if the Golden Knights have enough to make a bid for Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat in the NHL trade market. His suggested proposal was “Brett Howden, Kaeden Korczak, Laurent Brossoit, a 2023 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick.”

Krepps, however, doubted that package would be enough to bring Horvat to Vegas. He believes the Canucks would seek bigger packages.

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights have made several significant acquisitions in recent seasons via trades, landing Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Jack Eichel. However, as Krepps observed, they lack the cap space and depth in tradeable assets to make a competitive bid to the Canucks for Horvat.

Speaking of the Golden Knights, they’re currently carrying three goaltenders. Logan Thompson isn’t going anywhere, meaning a pending free agent like Brossoit or Adin Hill could be moved before the March 3 trade deadline.

Krepps suggested the Winnipeg Jets, Philadelphia Flyers and Canucks as possible trade partners. He believes Jets backup David Rittich is struggling, the Flyers are relying on inexperienced backups such as Samuel Ersson and Felix Sandstrom, while Canucks starter Thatcher Demko is sidelined for six weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers appear in more dire need of depth between the pipes, especially if Carter Hart (upper-body injury) is sidelined for a lengthy period of time.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger wondered if the Blue Jackets will put Vladislav Gavrikov on the trade block before deadline day. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

Gavrikov and his wife love living in Columbus and he’d prefer to stay with the Blue Jackets. Contract talks, however, have been at a standstill since the summer. Salary and term are the sticking points.

Hedger suggested a healthy Gavrikov could fetch a first-round pick as part of the return. His $2.8 million cap hit shouldn’t be difficult to move by March 3. On the other hand, it wouldn’t make much sense for a team that’s struggling defensively to part with one of its few experienced blueliners.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gavrikov has frequently surfaced in the rumor mill linked to playoff contenders such as the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. His solid all-around game and cost-effective cap hit should draw even more interest as the trade deadline approaches.

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Marc Dumont recently examined the Canadiens’ options for struggling forward Joel Armia.

Armia’s difficulties this season and $3.4 million cap hit make him tough to move in the trade market even if the Canadiens retain half of his salary. They could assign him to their AHL affiliate in Laval, freeing up $1.125 million in cap relief but still carrying $2.275 million of his remaining cap hit.

Dumont believes buying out the remaining two years of his contract in June is the only workable option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has proven quite savvy at making shrewd trades. However, he’d probably have to include a sweetener like a draft pick or prospect as well as retain 50 percent of Armia’s cap hit to drum up any interest in the trade market. a buyout in June as Dumont suggested seems the more likely option.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2022

Roman Josi becomes the Predators’ all-time leading scorer, Golden Knights captain Mark Stone makes franchise history, Oilers captain Connor McDavid extends his points streak, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi became his club’s all-time leading scorer in a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Josi scored the game-winning goal and collected an assist to reach 567 career points, surpassing David Legwand’s 566 points. Juuse Saros made 37 saves for the win as the Predators improved to 14-13-4. Connor Murphy had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks (7-20-4), who remain last overall in the standings.

Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi.

Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone made franchise history in his club’s 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Stone became the first Golden Knights player to score a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal in the same game as he finished the night with three points. Vegas (23-11-1) sits in first place in the Western Conference and second in the overall standings with 47 points.

The New Jersey Devils snapped a five-game losing skid with three unanswered third-period goals to double up the Florida Panthers 4-2. Jesper Bratt scored twice and Mackenzie Blackwood made 34 saves in his first start since Nov. 3. The Devils (22-9-2) sit in third place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier in the day, Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said winger Patric Hornqvist could remain sidelined long-term as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered on Dec. 3 against the Seattle Kraken.

Three unanswered third-period goals by Warren Foegele, Connor McDavid and Mattias Janmark lifted the Edmonton Oilers over the Dallas Stars 6-3. Janmark scored twice, McDavid extended his points streak to 14 games and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a three-point performance for the Oilers (18-14-2). Mason Marchment had two assists for the 19-9-6 Stars, who hold a one-point lead with points over the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Central Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars were without winger Denis Gurianov, who’s on an indefinite leave of absence for family reasons.

The Detroit Red Wings scored four goals in the third period in a 7-4 romp over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Michael Rasmussen scored twice and added two assists while Dylan Larkin tallied twice as the Red Wings (14-11-7) snapped a six-game winless skid. Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist for the Lightning (20-11-1) as they sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 41 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier in the day, the NHL department of player safety fined Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev $5,000.00 for slashing Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting during Tuesday’s game between the two clubs.

An overtime goal by Mikko Rantanen lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Artturi Lehkonen scored the tying goal for the Avs (18-11-2) as they hold the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference with 38 points. Jake Allen made 34 saves for the 15-15-3 Canadiens.

Minnesota Wild forward Matt Boldy had a goal and two assists in a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The Wild (19-11-2) sit in third place in the Central Division with 40 points, three behind the second-place Winnipeg Jets. Lukas Dostal stopped 38 shots for the 9-22-3 Ducks.

IN OTHER NEWS…

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed Artum Zub to a four-year contract extension. The 27-year-old defenseman will earn an average annual value of $4.6 million starting in 2023-24.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zub is completing a two-year deal with a $2.5 million AAV. He’s become an invaluable part of the Senators’ defense corps. Injuries have limited him to 14 games so far this season but he netted 22 points in 81 games in 2021-22.

The Senators’ blueline is better with a healthy Zub in the lineup. One could quibble over the AAV on his new contract but it’s not extravagant and the term of the contract is reasonable.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Yegor Chinakhov is sidelined by a high ankle sprain. The club announced he will miss approximately six weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chinakhov is the 11th Blue Jackets regular currently sidelined by injuries. Among the notables are Zach Werenski, Jakub Voracek, Boone Jenner and Elvis Merzlikins.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: The Islanders placed forward Cal Clutterbuck on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 16.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning-Buffalo Sabres game scheduled for Dec. 23 has been postponed due to inclement weather expected for Buffalo on that day. It has been rescheduled to March 4, 2023.

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: The Flyers game with the Sabres scheduled for March 4 has been rescheduled to Jan. 9, 2023.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2022

Game recaps feature a four-point game for Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, the three stars of the week are revealed, two trades go down before the holiday freeze goes into effect, the Oilers re-sign Stuart Skinner and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins extended their home points streak to 19 games by dumping the Florida Panthers 7-3. Boston captain Patrice Bergeron scored twice and collected two assists while Brad Marchand collected three assists as the Bruins (25-4-2) opened a seven-point lead over the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the overall standings with 52 points. Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe each had two points for the 15-14-4 Panthers.

Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins are showing no signs of cooling off from their hot start to this season as they approach the holiday season. They’re widening their lead over the teams chasing them in the overall standings.

Speaking of the Golden Knights, they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Buffalo Sabres. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 41 saves to hold off Vegas while Tage Thompson tallied his 26th goal of the season as the Sabres improved to 16-14-2. Chandler Stephenson and Reilly Smith replied for the Golden Knights (22-11-1) as they hold a one-point lead over the Dallas Stars for first place in the Western Conference with 45 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin returned to the lineup after missing nine games with a lower-body injury.

The Stars (19-8-6), meanwhile, nipped the Columbus Blue Jackets by a score of 2-1. Jake Oettinger made 27 saves while Wyatt Johnston and Jason Robertson were the goal scorers. Kent Johnson replied for the Blue Jackets, who have lost four in a row and dropped to 10-19-2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blue Jackets forward Yegor Chinakhov left this game with an upper-body injury. The Jackets also played without captain Boone Jenner as he’s sidelined for four weeks with a broken thumb.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev turned in a 26-save shutout and Evan Rodrigues scored the only goal in a 1-0 shootout victory over the New York Islanders. Ilya Sorokin stopped 46 shots for the 18-13-2 Islanders. The Avalanche improved to 17-11-2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar provided a fine example of sportsmanship by telling the referees not to call a tripping penalty on Isles center Mathew Barzal. The call was reversed after Makar told the official that he wasn’t tripped by Barzal but merely slipped and fell down.

Before the game, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said goaltender Semyon Varlamov (lower-body), Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Palmieri (upper body) are day-to-day. Defenseman Adam Pelech remains sidelined with an upper-body injury but it’s not believed to be long-term. The Isles also terminated the contract of Nikita Soshnikov.

An overtime goal by Alexander Carrier lifted the Nashville Predators over the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Juuse Saros kicked out 30 shots for the Predators (13-13-4) as they end a six-game skid. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice and Connor McDavid (two assists) extended his points streak to 13 games. The Oilers sit at 17-14-2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Oilers announced they’ve signed goaltender Stuart Skinner to a three-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $2.6 million. Skinner has outplayed Jack Campbell ($5 million AAV) and taken over the starter’s job from the struggling Campbell.

Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov’s overtime goal gave his club a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Nic Dowd scored twice in 11 seconds during the second period for the Capitals as they move to 17-13-4 on the season. Ville Husso made 38 saves for the 13-11-7 Red Wings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an upper-body injury. He backed up Charlie Lindgren for this contest.

A hat trick by Jordan Kyrou carried the St. Louis Blues over the Vancouver Canucks 5-1. Vladimir Tarasenko collected three assists and Jordan Binnington made 33 saves for the Blues as they improved to 16-15-1. Ilya Mikheyev scored for the Canucks as they drop to 13-15-3.

An overtime goal by Mike Hoffman gave the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Sam Montembeault stopped 37 shots while Cole Caufield netted his 19th goal of the season for the Canadiens (15-15-2). Nick Schmaltz and Matias Macelli replied for the Coyotes as they slide to 10-15-5.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Canadiens announced they’ll honor former Habs defenseman P.K. Subban prior to their Jan. 12 game at the Bell Centre against the Nashville Predators. Subban played for both clubs but he spent seven of his 13 NHL seasons with the Canadiens, winning the Norris Trophy in 2012-13. He retired before the start of this season.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson and Minnesota Wild winger Mats Zuccarello are the three stars for the week ending Dec. 18, 2022.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers winger Cam Atkinson’s season is over before it had a chance to begin. He’ll undergo neck surgery on Dec. 21 and is expected to make a full recovery.

Meanwhile, Flyers center Kevin Hayes didn’t believe he deserved to be a healthy scratch for the club’s 6-3 loss to the Islanders on Saturday. “I wasn’t happy but it’s not my decision,” said Hayes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tensions appear to be rising between Hayes and Flyers coach John Tortorella. I’ll have more about that in today’s Rumor Mill update.

NHL.COM: The department of player safety suspended San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl for two games for high-sticking Calgary Flames forward Elias Lindholm during Sunday’s game between the two clubs.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs traded forward Denis Malgin to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Dryden Hunt.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks acquired defenseman Michael Del Zotto in a three-team trade involving the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers. Del Zotto was traded first by the Panthers to the Red Wings for blueliner Giavani Smith. The Wings then flipped him to the Ducks for center Danny O’Regan. All three will be reporting to their new minor-league teams.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks activated Alex Stalock from injured reserve and sent Arvid Soderblom to their AHL affiliate in Rockford. They also placed Jarred Tinordi (facial fracture) on IR retroactively to Dec. 18.

NHL.COM: Former NHL goaltender Andrew Hammond has announced his retirement. He spent six seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Colorado Avalanche, Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils from 2013-14 to 2021-22 with a record of 31 wins, 20 losses and 7 overtime losses. He had a career goals-against average of 2.56 and a .916 save percentage with four shutouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hammond is best remembered for his 20-1-2 run with the Senators to carry the club into the 2015 playoffs. Best wishes to “The Hamburglar” in his future endeavors.