NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 6, 2024

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 6, 2024

The Jets take over first place in the overall standings, Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard suffers an injury and Andrei Svechnikov ties a Hurricanes record. Details on these and other stories in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets took over first place in the overall standings with 54 points as they downed the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. Laurent Brossoit stopped 37 shots while third-period goals by Nate Schmidt and Cole Perfetti powered the 25-9-4 Jets to their fifth straight win, extending their points streak to 11 games. Mason McTavish scored for the Ducks (13-24-1), who’ve won just three of their last 10 games.

Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard (NHL Images).

Third-period goals by Simon Nemec, Michael McLeod and Tyler Toffoli lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Nemec and Alexander Holtz each had a goal and an assist for the Devils (21-14-2) as they vaulted into the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 44 points. Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard left the game in the first period following a clean hit by Devils defenseman Brendan Smith. The ‘Hawks dropped to 11-26-2 on the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bedard jumped up immediately following the hit and skated off holding his mouth. Blackhawks forward Nick Foligno also left this game with an injury. There was no postgame update as both players will be re-evaluated in Chicago on Saturday.

Bedard was recently named as his club’s representative for the 2024 NHL All-Star Game. His fans will be hoping that his condition isn’t serious.

The Blackhawks have been decimated by injuries this season. Taylor Hall, Seth Jones, Anthony Beauvillier, Tyler Johnson and Andreas Athanasiou are among the notables currently sidelined, with Hall out of the season.

The Carolina Hurricanes tallied five unanswered third-period goals to thump the Washington Capitals 6-2. Andrei Svechnikov had a goal and two assists to tie the Hurricanes’ record with his sixth straight multi-point game. Brent Burns had two goals and an assist and Sebastian Aho collected three assists for the surging Hurricanes (22-13-4) as they’ve won five straight and sit second in the Metropolitan Division with 48 points. Nic Dowd and Dylan Strome scored for the 18-13-6 Capitals (42 points) as they blew a 2-0 lead and dropped two points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.


THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen is listed as week-to-week with an apparent leg injury following an accidental collision with Stars goaltender Scott Wedgewood during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.

Head coach Pete DeBoer said Heiskanen would undergo further testing on Friday but the injury “doesn’t look terrible.” The blueliner isn’t out for the season and won’t require surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Heiskanen is the Stars’ top defenseman. Losing him for a significant period would be a big setback for their blueline.

CBS SPORTS: Minnesota Wild winger Mats Zuccarello has come off the injured reserve list. He’d been sidelined since Dec. 16 with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zuccarello’s return might help the Wild snap out of their four-game losing skid that has sent them tumbling five points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes are close to announcing the location they will focus on for their new arena.

DAILY FACEOFF: Speaking of the Coyotes, they placed forward Zach Sanford on waivers.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers called up forward Mackie Samoskevich and placed forward Nick Cousins (concussion) on injured reserve.

IIHF: Team USA defeated Sweden 6-2 to capture gold at the 2024 World Junior Championship. It’s the sixth WJC gold in the country’s history with their first coming in 2006 and the previous one in 2021.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks prospect Jonathan Lekkerimaki was named the most valuable player of the 2024 WJC. The 19-year-old winger had seven goals and 10 points in seven games to lead Sweden to a silver medal. Lekkerimaki was chosen by the Canucks in the first round (15th overall) in the 2022 NHL Draft.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 4, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 4, 2023

The Stars’ Miro Heiskanen sets his sights on the Norris Trophy, the latest on the Capitals’ Max Pacioretty, Sheldon Keefe’s contract might not be a vote of confidence from Leafs management, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen has his sights set on winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy. “That’s one thing I really want to win,” he said. “I want to be the best defenseman in the NHL”.

Heiskanen, 24, finished seventh in voting for the Norris Trophy last season. He had a career-best 73 points in 79 games with the Stars while logging over 25 minutes of ice time per game. The Stars blueliner felt that he was able to contribute more offensively last season without sacrificing the defensive aspects of his game.

Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen (NHL Images).

While Heiskanen wants to be recognized as the league’s top blueliner, he’s not losing sight of the ultimate goal. “I try to help my team win the Stanley Cup, but if there is a chance to win the Norris as well that would be great.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Heiskanen could be a finalist for the Norris this season and over the next several years. The Hockey News’ Carol Schram has him sitting second to Colorado’s Cale Makar among this season’s top-five Norris candidates.

CBS SPORTS: cited NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti reporting that Washington Capitals winger Max Pacioretty is not expected to be available for the start of the upcoming season. He could miss the opening month or two of the Capitals’ schedule.

The 34-year-old winger suffered two Achilles tendons since last September, limiting him to just five games last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Capitals in July.

DAILY FACEOFF: Mike McKenna believes we shouldn’t view Sheldon Keefe’s recent two-year contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a vote of confidence from management.

McKenna believes Leafs general manager Brad Treliving did the right thing by extending Keefe’s contract. It lifts the pressure from Keefe’s shoulders and allows him to focus on his head coaching duties. However, there’s no certainty that he’ll complete the full tenure of his extension if the Leafs fail to improve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McKenna pointed out that the deep-pocketed Leafs can afford to eat that two-year extension if Treliving feels a change is needed behind the bench. In his view, Keefe remains on the hot seat this season.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Stefen Rosner doesn’t anticipate the New York Islanders will go the professional tryout offer route to bolster their forward depth for the coming season. He pointed to GM Lou Lamoriello signing Julien Gauthier to a two-year, one-way contract as well as one-year, two-way deals for Karson Kuhlman and Brian Pinho earlier in the summer.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers arena will have a new name for the coming season. It will be called the Amerant Bank Arena.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m not one to pine for the so-called “good old days”, but I miss when arenas weren’t named for businesses or corporations. If you were an NHL fan in the 1970s, you knew who played at the Montreal Forum, Maple Leafs Gardens, the Olympia or The Spectrum. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to remember the names of half of the arenas because they change them so often to cash in on naming rights.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Sabres are reportedly planning to limit the sale of individual game tickets to a certain geographic radius to make it more difficult for fans of nearby opposing teams (especially Toronto Maple Leafs followers) to have a significant presence at Key Bank Center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Previous attempts by the Sabres to limit the number of Leafs and Montreal Canadiens fans in their arena failed. I don’t expect they’ll have much success this time around.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has fully recovered from the shoulder injury that cut short his 2022-23 season. He played 15 games for the Blackhawks last season and hopes to earn a full-time roster spot in training camp.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Former Minnesota North Stars defenseman Brad Maxwell died on Sunday at age 66 after battling an aggressive form of lung cancer.

Drafted seventh overall by the North Stars in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, Maxwell spent nearly eight seasons in Minnesota from 1977-78 until traded to the Quebec Nordiques during the 1984-85 season. His best season was in 1983-84 with 73 points in 78 games along with 225 PIMs.

Over the following two seasons, Maxwell played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers before returning to the North Stars to finish his playing career. Following his playing career, he ran a cabinet and construction business and also organized and played charity games with the North Stars alumni.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Maxwell’s family and friends as well as his former teammates and coaches.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines -May 10, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines -May 10, 2023

The Hurricanes take a commanding lead in their series with the Devils, the Stars tie their series with the Kraken and Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog to miss next season. Details and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes have a stranglehold on their second-round series with the New Jersey Devils following a 6-1 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday. Martin Necas scored two goals and Jordan Martinook collected three points as the Hurricanes hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Jack Hughes scored for the Devils. The Hurricanes can wrap things up on home ice in Game 5 on Thursday.

Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils got off to a fast start as Hughes opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game. However, the Hurricanes tied it before the end of the first period and romped to victory with a five-goal second period. The Devils just fell apart in that period and had no pushback in the third as they were completely dominated by the more experienced Hurricanes.

This was Martinook’s franchise-record fourth straight multi-point playoff game. He went scoreless during the Hurricanes’ first-round series with the New York Islanders. With nine points, Martinook moves past Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl for the most points in the second round of this year’s playoffs.

Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta skated with his teammates in practice yesterday but sat out Game 4 as he’s still recovering from an illness. Meanwhile, Devils defenseman Ryan Graves missed his second-straight game with an upper-body injury.

The Dallas Stars tied their series with the Seattle Kraken at two games apiece with a 6-3 win in Game 4. Max Domi scored twice and collected an assist while Joel Pavelski tallied his sixth goal in this series. Jaden Schwartz tallied two goals for the Kraken while goalie Philipp Grubauer got the hook after giving up five goals on 22 shots. Game 5 goes Thursday night in Dallas.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen was in the lineup and show no ill effects from taking a puck to the face in Game 3. Kraken winger Jared McCann returned to action after being sidelined by an upper-body injury in Game 4 of their first-round series with the Colorado Avalanche.

There was some controversy when Domi made it 3-0 in the second as the Kraken believed Grubauer had been interfered with by Jamie Benn. Their coach’s challenge, however, failed to overturn the goal.


NHL.COM: Arizona Coyotes winger Clayton Keller, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock are this season’s finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, Dallas Stars winger Jason Robertson, Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes, Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson are among the 32 finalists for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is expected to miss the entirety of the 2023-24 season. He undergoes surgery today (May 10) as he’ll undergo a cartilage transplant in his right knee. Landeskog hasn’t played since helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: By the sound of things, there’s no certainty that Landeskog will fully recover to the point where he’ll be able to play hockey again. Here’s hoping the surgery goes well and he makes a full recovery.

THE DENVER POST: Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland remains hopeful that Valeri Nichushkin will remain part of the club’s future. However, he offered no update as the winger’s status.

Nichushkin was sent back to Colorado for “personal reasons” following an incident in Seattle prior to Game 3 of their first-round series with the Kraken. A woman was found in his hotel room so intoxicated that a team doctor called an ambulance to take her to a hospital.

There is no criminal investigation involving the winger and he’s not facing discipline from the Avalanche. However, neither he nor the club are commenting on the situation.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud spoke with ESPN anchor Jon Anderson and accepted the latter’s apology after Anderson joked on air that the blueliner’s last name was a good name for toilet paper. Whitecloud was born in Manitoba and grew up in the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers winger Zach Hyman appears questionable for Game 4 tonight against the Golden Knights. He was not part of the club’s full practice yesterday after taking a shot off his right knee/thigh area in Game 3.

TORONTO STAR: Joseph Woll will get the start for the Maple Leafs in Game 4 tonight against the Florida Panthers. Ilya Samsonov remains sidelined with an upper-body injury suffered during Game 3 on Sunday. Matt Murray will serve as Woll’s backup. The Leafs face elimination tonight down 0-3 to the Panthers.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Season ticket sales are booming for the Blackhawks after they won the 2023 draft lottery. They’re expected to use that pick to select top prospect Connor Bedard during the first round of the draft on June 28. The Hawks sold $5.2 million worth of new season ticket packages within 12 hours of winning the lottery.

CALGARY SUN: Flames forward Tyler Toffoli was named captain of Team Canada in the upcoming IIHF World Championship.

CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Speaking of the Flames, MacKenzie Weegar said Mikael Backlund occasionally clashed with former head coach Darryl Sutter. Backlund is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility and was non-committal about signing a contract extension with the Flames during his end-of-season interview.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Backlund might have a change of heart after Sutter was fired as head coach last week. It could depend on who takes over as general manager and who they hire as Sutter’s replacement.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers relieved assistant coaches Mike Kelly and Jim Midgley of their duties on Tuesday. The move comes days after head coach Gerard Gallant and the Rangers agreed to part ways.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 9, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 9, 2023

The Golden Knights regain their series lead over the Oilers while the Blackhawks win the draft lottery. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights regained the lead in their second-round series over the Edmonton Oilers with a 5-1 victory on Monday evening. Jonathan Marchessault scored twice while Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist. Adin Hill made 24 saves for the win relief of Laurent Brossoit, who suffered what appeared to be an injured right leg in the first period. Warren Foegele replied for the Oilers while Stuart Skinner got the hook after giving up four goals on 23 shots.

Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word yet regarding the severity of Brossoit’s injury. An update is expected sometime today. Hill did a fine job covering off for his sidelined teammate while the Golden Knights limited their trips to the penalty box, silencing the Oilers’ vaunted power play. They also effectively neutralized their opponents at even strength.

This was the worst performance by the Oilers in this postseason. They scored the first goal but spent the rest of the game on their heels, struggling to generate quality scoring chances while making costly mistakes in their own zone. They’ll need a much better effort in Game 4 on Wednesday or face returning to Las Vegas on the brink of elimination.


The Chicago Blackhawks won the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, earning the right to select top prospect Connor Bedard in the first round of the draft on June 28. The Blackhawks had the third-best odds (11.5) of winning the lottery.

The Anaheim Ducks had the best odds (18.5) but slipped to second overall while the Columbus Blue Jackets (13.5) will pick third.

The Ottawa Senators’ first-round pick was 12th overall. As per the conditions of the Jakob Chychrun trade on March 1, that pick belongs to the Arizona Coyotes (stick tap to Cap Friendly).

1. Chicago Blackhawks

2. Anaheim Ducks

3. Columbus Blue Jackets

4. San Jose Sharks

5. Montreal Canadiens

6. Arizona Coyotes

7. Philadelphia Flyers

8. Washington Capitals

9. Detroit Red Wings

10. St. Louis Blues

11. Vancouver Canucks

12. Arizona Coyotes (via Ottawa Senators)

13. Buffalo Sabres

14. Pittsburgh Penguins

15. Nashville Predators

16. Calgary Flames

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Choosing Connor Bedard will positively affect the Blackhawks on and off the ice. He’ll help to improve the on-ice product while giving their fans a watchable star as the club continues its rebuilding program.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bedard on his own won’t turn the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup contenders again. Management still faces the daunting task of surrounding him with a strong supporting cast via the draft, trades and free agency over the next several years. Nevertheless, Bedard gives them a solid foundation on which to base their rebuild.

There was a negative reaction on social media over the Blackhawks winning this lottery. The conspiracy-minded believe it was rigged to help the Hawks, though these are the type of people who would claim the lottery is on the level if their team had won.

Many were angry that the Blackhawks hadn’t had their 2023 pick stripped away as part of their punishment after an investigation two years ago revealed the club covered up Kyle Beach’s allegations that he was sexually assaulted in 2010 by the team’s video coach. General manager Stan Bowman was forced to step down for his role in the cover-up as did former Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville from his job as Florida Panthers head coach.

Given the Hawks odds, everyone knew they had a good chance of winning the lottery but no concern was raised before the event. While the outrage is understandable it probably wouldn’t have been on the same level had the Hawks got the second or third-overall pick or if they wound up much lower in the draft order.

NEW YORK POST: ESPN insider Kevin Weekes inadvertently revealed the Blue Jackets had fallen to No. 3 before deputy commissioner Bill Daly officially revealed it. The incident occurred just before the network went to a commercial break.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some folks on social media saw this as proof that the lottery was rigged. They overlooked the fact that the lottery had been held well beforehand and not in real time on the air as Daly announced each position in the draft order. The network knew the results before the show went on the air and wrote their script accordingly. It was likely a technical error that led to Weekes’ accidentally revealing the Jackets’ position.


THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen is listed as day-to-day after being struck in the face by a puck during Game 3 of his club’s second-round series with the Seattle Kraken. He is not in concussion protocol but is uncertain for Game 4 tonight in Seattle.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov is feeling better and will undergo tests (including an MRI) to determine his status for Game 4 against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. Samsonov suffered an upper-body injury during Game 3 after teammate Luke Schenn accidentally fell on him trying to break up a play near the Leafs net.

New Jersey Devils winger Tomas Tatar was fined $5,000.00 for high-sticking Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho during Game 3 of their second-round series on Sunday.

CBS SPORTS: Speaking of the Hurricanes, goaltender Antti Raanta participated in practice yesterday after missing the last two games due to illness.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers signed prospect Mackie Samoskevich to a three-year entry-level contract.

ILLEGAL CURVE: Winnipeg Jets winger Nino Niederreiter will play for Switzerland in the upcoming IIHF World Championship

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks were fined $50,000.00 for violating the NHL’s offseason training rules. They reportedly held on-ice sessions with a number of players in mid-April after the season ended, which is a violation of the CBA.

NHL.COM: Former NHL winger Vic Stasiuk passed away over the weekend at age 93. Stasiuak spent 14 seasons in the league from 1949-50 to 1962-63 with the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins. In 745 regular-season games, he scored 183 goals and 437 points along with 34 points in 68 playoff games. Between 1969-70 to 1972-73, he was head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, California Golden Seals and Vancouver Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Stasiuk’s family, friends and former teammates.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 8, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 8, 2023

The Panthers take a stranglehold on their series with the Leafs while the Kraken and Devils get lopsided wins in their respective series. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: An overtime goal by Sam Reinhart gave the Florida Panthers a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and a 3-0 stranglehold lead in their best-of-seven second-round series. Anthony Duclair and Carter Verhaeghe scored while Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves for the Panthers.

Florida Panthers forward Sam Reinhart (NHL Images).

Sam Lafferty and Erik Gustafsson tallied for the Leafs, who also lost goaltender Ilya Samsonov to an upper-body injury when Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn accidentally slid into him in the second period. Game 4 is Wednesday evening in Florida.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Now the Leafs’ season is truly on the brink as they try to become only the fifth team in Stanley Cup playoff history to overcome an 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series. If they play in that game as they did in Game 3 they’ll be booking their tee times for the weekend.

The Leafs’ best players – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander – came up small in this must-win game. Credit the Panthers for doing a great job in shutting down the Leafs’ high-scoring foursome. Maybe some of those guys are playing hurt which would also explain that poor effort in Game 3. Nevertheless, they need a better effort in Game 4 or this series is over.

It remains to be seen if they’ll have to do it without Samsonov as there’s no word yet regarding the seriousness of his injury or how long he’ll be sidelined. Joseph Woll did his best coming in cold to replace Samsonov but his teammates let him down with their poor defensive play on Reinhart’s goal. The Panthers forward was untouched as he gained the Leafs’ zone to create the play that led to his game-winning tally.

The Seattle Kraken are two games away from reaching the Western Conference Finals with a 7-2 drubbing of the Dallas Stars. They pulled away from the Stars with a five-goal second period. Matty Beniers, Justin Schultz, Eeli Tolvanen and Alex Wennberg each had a goal and an assist while Philipp Grubauer turned in a 24-save effort for the win. Stars goalie Jake Oettinger got the hook after giving up five goals on 17 shots.

Game 4 goes Tuesday night with the Kraken holding a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen left the game in the second period after being struck in the face by the puck seconds before Kraken winger Jordan Eberle opened the scoring.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars seemed rattled by Heiskanen’s departure and the Kraken quickly capitalized to put the game out of reach before the period had ended. Stars coach Peter DeBoer said the defenseman suffered “a pretty bad cut” but there was talk that he might’ve returned to this game had the score been closer. That suggests he’ll be back in the lineup for Game 4.

New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes had two goals and two assists while brother Luke Hughes collected two assists in an 8-4 romp over the Carolina Hurricanes. Dawson Mercer had three assists for the Devils, who cut the Hurricanes’ series lead down to two games to one. Seth Jarvis and Jordan Martinook each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes. Game 4 is Tuesday night in New Jersey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes became the fourth team in NHL history to score three shorthanded goals in a playoff game. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome a Devils team motivated to avoid falling further behind in this series. Canes goalie Frederik Andersen was replaced by Pyotr Kochetkov after giving up four goals on 12 shots.


TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine will skip the upcoming IIHF World Championships. He hasn’t fully recovered from a strained triceps that forced him to miss the Jackets’ final dozen games of the regular season.

HOCKEYSVERIGE.SE: Anaheim Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg hopes to one day return to his hometown club of Brynäs IF in the Swedish Hockey League. The 32-year-old forward played for them prior to beginning his 12-year NHL career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Silfverberg has one season remaining on his contract with the Ducks. He could be eyeing a return to Brynäs IF when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 24, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 24, 2023

The Hurricanes clinch a playoff berth, John Carlson makes his return to the Capitals, the Bruins continue their quest for the single-season wins record and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Rangers but still clinched a playoff spot for the fifth straight season. Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox scored for the 42-20-10 Rangers, who sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 94 points. Sebastian Aho netted his 31st goal of the season for the 46-16-8 Hurricanes as they sit on top of the Metro with 100 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rangers defensemen Ryan Lindgren missed this game as he remains plagued by a nagging shoulder injury that had sidelined him for 11 straight games.

The Hurricanes clinched that spot thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs downing the Florida Panthers 6-2. Auston Matthews scored two goals and John Tavares collected three assists for the Leafs (43-19-9) as they sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with 95 points. Matthew Tkachuk netted his 35th goal of the season for the 36-29-7 Panthers (79 points) as they remain one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eric and Marc Staal of the Panthers became the latest NHL players to opt out of wearing Pride-themed warmup jerseys for their club’s Pride Night, citing their religious beliefs. However, Eric Staal took part in a similar ceremony with the Montreal Canadiens in 2021.

A handful of players opting out of Pride Night has overshadowed the fact that most of their teammates are willingly taking part in these events.

Some teams, like the Chicago Blackhawks, opted not to participate but those were reportedly front-office decisions. The Blackhawks cited safety concerns for their Russian players over potentially violating their native country’s homophobic law banning “gay propaganda”. However, that theory was punctured by Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky taking part in his club’s Pride-themed warmup.

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (NHL Images).

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson had a goal and an assist in a 6-1 romp over the Chicago Blackhawks. It was his first game since being in the head by a slapshot on Dec. 23 resulting in a fractured skull and severed temporal artery. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom also had a goal and an assist for the Capitals as they improved to 34-31-8 to sit four points behind the Penguins with 76 points. Nikita Zaitsev scored for the 24-41-6 Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chicago forward Colin Blackwell underwent season-ending sports hernia surgery on Wednesday.

Speaking of the Penguins, they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Dallas Stars. Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn scored 31 seconds apart in the third period to take the lead while Joel Oettinger held off the Penguins with a 40-save performance as the Stars (39-19-14) hold first place in the Central Division with 92 points. Sidney Crosby and Pierre-Olivier Joseph replied for the 35-27-10 Penguins as they cling to the final Eastern wild-card spot with 80 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen set a franchise record for defensemen by extending his points streak to 12 games. Penguins starting goalie Tristan Jarry missed this game with a lower-body injury.

The Boston Bruins continued their quest for the single-season wins record by doubling up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. David Pastrnak netted his 49th of the season while Tyler Bertuzzi scored his first goal since joining the Bruins before the trade deadline. Boston sits atop the overall standings with 115 points thanks to their record of 55-11-5. Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach replied for the 28-38-6 Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins have 11 games remaining in their regular-season schedule to break the record of 62 wins co-held by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile, the injury-ravaged Canadiens announced Josh Anderson suffered a season-ending high-ankle sprain on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A shootout goal by James van Riemsdyk gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild. Joel Farabee had a goal and an assist for the 27-32-10 Flyers. Matt Boldy scored twice for Minnesota (41-22-9) as they sit one point back of the first-place Stars in the Central Division. Wild defenseman John Klingberg missed this game with an upper-body injury.

The Vegas Golden Knights held off the Calgary Flames by a score of 3-2. Vegas goaltender Logan Thompson made 37 saves before leaving the game with an injury with six minutes remaining. Jonathan Quick stopped all five shots he faced as the Golden Knights (45-21-6) hold first place in the Western Conference with 96 points. Milan Lucic and Nazem Kadri replied for the 32-26-15 Flames (79 points) as they slipped six points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was Thompson’s first game after missing 17 games with a leg injury. Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith also left the game with an injury during the second period.

Speaking of the Jets, they got a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks when Adam Lowry broke a 2-2 tie in the third period. The win improved their record to 41-29-3 and opened a five-point cushion over the Nashville Predators with 85 points. Cam Fowler and Frank Vatrano scored for the 23-39-10 Ducks.

Meanwhile, the Predators surpassed the Flames in the standings by nipping the Seattle Kraken 2-1 on shootout goals by Matt Duchene and Philip Tomasino. Kiefer Sherwood also scored and Juuse Saro stopped 27 shots for the 36-26-8 Predators (80 points). Daniel Sprong scored for the Kraken (39-24-8) as they sit one point up on the Jets in the first wild-card spot.

The Ottawa Senators kept their playoff hopes alive with a 7-2 upset of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alex DeBrincat and Brady Tkachuk each scored twice and Mads Sogaard stopped 27 shots for the 35-32-5 Senators (75 points) as they sit five points out of the final Eastern wild-card berth. Brayden Point tallied his 45th goal of the season for the Lightning (42-25-6) as they hold third place in the Atlantic Division with 90 points.

Vancouver Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko set a franchise record for most goals by a first-year player with 35 in a 7-2 drubbing of the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks improved to 32-34-5 on the season while the Sharks are 19-38-15.

The St. Louis Blues held off the Detroit Red Wings 4-3. Joel Hofer made 25 saves for the win as the Blues improved to 32-33-6. Simon Edvinsson tallied his first career NHL goal for the 31-31-9 Red Wings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues forward Richard Thomas was a late scratch due to an illness.