What Next For The New Jersey Devils?
Recaps of Tuesday’s action include Alex Ovechkin reaching two milestones, the Sabres fire coach Ralph Krueger, plus the latest on Evgeni Malkin, Taylor Hall, John Gibson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin scored his 718th career goal and reached his 1,300th career points as his Washington Capitals earned a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders, snapping the latter’s nine-game winning streak. Nicklas Backstrom also had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who moved ahead of the Isles into first place (42 points) in the MassMutual East Division. Ovechkin moved past Phil Esposito into sixth place on the all-time goals list and 34th on the all-time points list with 1,301.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is now 13 goals behind Marcel Dionne, who sits fifth overall.
The Boston Bruins rode a 34-save debut by rookie goaltender Dan Vlader to a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Trent Frederic tallied the game-winner in the third period for the Bruins (34 points), who opened a three-point over the Philadelphia Flyers for fourth place in the East Division.
It was a rough game for both clubs, as Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (lower-body) and Bruins defenseman Jarred Tinordi (upper-body) left the game with injuries. Penguins forward Brandon Tanev was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding Tinordi. Earlier in the day, the Penguins placed defenseman John Marino (undisclosed) on injured reserve and announced forward Teddy Blueger was sidelined longer-term with an upper-body injury.
A third-period goal by Miles Wood lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 3-2, handing the latter their 12th straight loss. It was the Devils’ first home victory since Jan. 24. Sabres winger Taylor Hall left the game in the first period after being knocked to the ice by P.K. Subban and struck in the face by a shot from teammate Colin Miller but returned in the second to complete the game. Earlier in the day, the Devils announced captain Nico Hischier would be sidelined approximately three weeks following surgery to repair a sinus fracture.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall was fortunate to escape serious injury. This season is the nadir of what’s been a decade of suck for the Sabres. Ownership and management seem uncertain over what to do, head coach Ralph Krueger has no solutions while the players seem to be growing more dispirited with each loss.
The Buffalo Sabres this morning fired Ralph Krueger and assistant coach Steve Smith. Don Granato replaces Krueger on an interim basis while development coaches Matt Ellis and Dan Girardi become assistant coaches.
The Colorado Avalanche scored six unanswered goals to overcome a 4-2 deficit and double up the Anaheim Ducks 8-4. Nazem Kadri scored twice and set up two others and Devon Toews collected three assists while Philipp Grubauer got the win after replacing Hunter Miska following the first period. With 36 points, the Avs opened a three-point lead over the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Honda West Division. Earlier in the day, the Ducks announced goaltender John Gibson is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Minnesota Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen made 31 saves to shut out the Arizona Coyotes 3-0 and extending his winning streak to nine games. Ryan Hartman, Mats Zuccarello and Jared Spurgeon were the goal scorers as the Wild (37 points) sit two behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights in the West Division.
The Tampa Bay Lightning blew a 3-1 lead but edged the Dallas Stars 4-3 on a shootout goal by Brayden Point, who also had a goal and an assist in regulation. Third-period goals by Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov forced overtime and the shootout. The win moved the Lightning (42 points) past the Florida Panthers into first place in the Discover Central Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Quite the battle going on between the Lightning, Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes for the top spot in the Central. The rivalry between the two Florida-based franchises is getting more entertaining with the Panthers’ improvement this season.
Speaking of the Hurricanes, their eight-game win streak came to an end as they fell 4-2 to the Detroit Red Wings. Adam Erne tallied twice while teammate Filip Hronek had a goal and two assists for the Wings. Jonathan Bernier kicked out 35 shots for the win. The Hurricanes (41 points) are one behind the Lightning and Panthers in the Central. Earlier in the day, the Wings announced forward Bobby Ryan is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE SCORE: Former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford admitted he attempted to reacquire goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights during the offseason. He said one of the reasons behind the decision to buy out defenseman Jack Johnson was to clear cap space for Fleury.
Rutherford also said he inquired into Fleury’s availability while the Golden Knights were still in the playoffs. The trade discussions were never deeply involved because of the salary-cap difficulties in acquiring Fleury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt we’ll see Rutherford’s successor Ron Hextall pursuing Fleury. The cap issues remain but Hextall wants to take the club in a different direction by focusing on younger players.
Speaking of the Golden Knights, they’ve activated goalie Robin Lehner off injured reserve. He’d been sidelined since Feb. 7 with a lower-body injury.
A five-point performance by Connor McDavid, a four-point output by Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby’s 1000th career game and a long delay in the outdoor game between the Avalanche and Golden Knights are the highlights in this edition of the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid enjoyed a five-point performance as his club thumped the Calgary Flames 7-1. McDavid tallied a natural hat trick while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice. Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek and winger Kailer Yamamoto left the game with injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid remains the early favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season. He leads all NHL scorers with 25 assists and 37 points.
Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. Mitch Marner collected three points for the Leafs, who hold a five-point lead atop the NHL’s overall standings. Matthews now has a league-leading 18 goals on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs feasted on the defensive miscues of a rusty Canadiens squad that hadn’t played in six days. Matthews tallied two of the Leafs’ three power-play goals.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby collected two assists in his 1000th career NHL game during a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. Kris Letang tallied twice as the Penguins swept the two-game series. Before the game, the Penguins honored their captain with a silver stick and video tributes from current and former teammates and several NHL stars including Steven Stamkos and John Tavares.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Crosby on reaching another significant milestone in his long NHL career.
The Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors game at Lake Tahoe was overshadowed by an eight-hour delay following the first period due to poor ice conditions. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists for the Avs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: What could’ve been an entertaining match-up against a beautiful outdoor backdrop became an embarrassment for the NHL. In fairness, the league has a solid track record staging outdoor games in various locations. I don’t fault them for staging this outdoor contest in that scenic location. Unfortunately, no one seemed to consider what might happen to ice conditions on a bright sunny afternoon at a higher altitude in Nevada.
The sunny conditions at Lake Tahoe forced the league to change the start time for today’s outdoor match between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers from 2 pm ET to 7:30 pm ET.
The Buffalo Sabres snapped a four-game losing skid by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Sam Reinhart scored twice for the Sabres, who lost defenseman Jake McCabe to an apparent right-knee injury in the third period. Before the game, the Devils announced Nico Hischier as their new team captain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on McCabe’s status is expected later today. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he was very concerned about the blueliner’s condition.
Mika Zibanejad ended a 13-game goalless drought and Artemi Panarin collected two assists as the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1. Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves for the win and Ryan Strome had two points, including his 100th career NHL goal.
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier’s 38-save performance carried his club to a 2-1 upset of the Florida Panthers. The Wings got second-period goals by Patrik Nemeth and rookie Mathias Brome as they held on for the win.
The Los Angeles Kings got two goals from Alex Iafallo as they doubled up the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty each collected two assists. The Kings have won four straight games.
Logan Couture’s game-winner in the third period gave the San Jose Sharks a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks blew 3-0 and 4-1 leads before Couture sealed the deal. Jordan Kyrou had a goal and two assists for the Blues.
Third-period goals by Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg lifted the Nashville Predators over the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Jarnkrok scored twice for the Predators while the Blue Jackets lost goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to an apparent arm injury in the third period.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves for his first career NHL shutout in a 4-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov each had a goal and an assist.
Kevin Fiala scored twice as the Minnesota Wild rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Fiala now has six goals in his last seven games. Teammates Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov each had two points. In a surprising move earlier in the day, the Ducks placed struggling veteran center Adam Henrique on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone claims Henrique. He’s in the second season of a five-year contract with an annual average value of $5.825 million.
TSN: Former NHL coach Mike Babcock has been named head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Hockey Team. He will lead the club on a voluntary basis for the next two years.
The Blue Jackets sign Dubois, the Blues ink Vince Dunn, plus the latest on Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Nico Hischier, Micheal Ferland and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of 2021.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10 million contract. A restricted free agent before the signing, the 22-year-old center will earn $3.35 million this season and $6.65 million in 2021-22. The annual average value is $5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A skilled two-way player, Dubois enters this season as the Jackets’ No. 1 center. Coming off his entry-level contract, Dubois had little leverage other than to stage a contract holdout or demand a trade. It’s an affordable short-term deal for the Blue Jackets and a reasonable raise for the young center, but he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he has arbitration rights.
Before the signing, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported there were “rumblings” from a few clubs around the league that Dubois wanted a “change of scenery.” I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday signed restricted free agent Vince Dunn to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. Like Dubois, the 24-year-old defenseman was coming off an entry-level deal and lacked sufficient leverage to seek a better deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn deserves more than that but the Blues are pressed for cap space this year. While they’ll place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR for this season, they need to ensure sufficient space for the latter’s anticipated return in March.
The Blues also have winger Mike Hoffman in training camp on a tryout offer and must ensure sufficient cap room to sign him to a one-year deal. I daresay Dunn can expect a much better deal next year when he has arbitration rights and the Blues have more cap room.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders had yet to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal but general manager Lou Lamoriello said the RFA center is in New York and contract discussions are ongoing. Lamoriello also revealed the Isles have signed winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening for last season’s 24 playoff clubs on Sunday, Jan. 3, don’t be surprised if Barzal and the Isles reach an agreement on a new contract as soon as today. No details yet on the new deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider but they’re probably affordable one-year contracts.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revealed the club wanted him back for this season but in a reduced role as they transitioned toward younger defensemen. He also said the Bruins made him a contract offer months ago. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the Bruins envisioned Chara filling the role of a seventh defenseman, meaning he wouldn’t see anywhere near as much playing time as he’s used to. He admitted he’s got no guarantees with the Capitals but he’ll have the opportunity to compete.
THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns spent part of the offseason making a guest appearance in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series “Vikings”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns does look like a modern-day Viking so he’d be a natural for a bit part in that series. His most recent acting gig was a commercial during the 2020 playoffs for Kit Kat Chunky.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is listed as week-to-week with an injured foot. While it’s not considered serious and doesn’t require surgery, the injury could sideline the 21-year-old center for the start of the season on Jan. 13.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland won’t be in Vancouver on Sunday for his training camp physical and is expected to undergo testing remotely with team doctors. Ferland’s agent revealed his client is still attempting to recover from post-concussion symptoms suffered last season. If the winger fails his physical, the Canucks are expected to place him on long-term injury reserve for this season.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are attempting to turn oft-injured defenseman Samuel Morin into a left winger for the coming season. Morin, who said he’s “fighting for his career”, approves of the move. He could become part of the Flyers’ taxi squad for the upcoming season.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly hired former NHL defenseman Dan Girardi in a player development role.
TSN: Players on Canada’s seven NHL teams will be exempt from the country’s 14-day quarantine rule. The Canadian government has approved of the teams’ training-camp plans to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 but all teams must operate within provincial guidelines for regular-season play. Alberta is the first province to approve NHL regular-season games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams are able to stage training camps in their respective cities. If the other provinces don’t approve regular-season games, the Canadian clubs could start the season playing their games in a hub city like Edmonton. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently reiterated the league believes it has clearance to play in all seven Canadian cities.
Jonathan Toews sidelined by a mysterious illness, P.K. Subban and Lindsey Vonn end their relationship, Nico Hischier sidelined, Jack Roslovic asks for a trade, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Jonathan Toews has been sidelined by a mysterious illness that’s left him “drained and lethargic,” according to a statement released yesterday by the Blackhawks captain. There’s no timetable for his return.
Toews indicated he’ll be working with doctors to better understand his condition. He said he won’t join his teammates until his health and fitness levels return to where he feels he can play at an elite level.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Toews can make a complete recovery and return to action soon.
This is terrible news for a Blackhawks club already reeling from the recent loss of promising center Kirby Dach (fractured wrist) and Alex Nylander (knee surgery) for the next four-to-six months.
Toews’ absence is a major setback for the Blackhawks entering this season. Instead of challenging for a playoff berth, they could become a lottery team in the 2021 draft. I’ll have more about the Blackhawks in the rumors section.
ESPN.COM: One of pro sports’ notable power couples is no more. New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and former Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn ended their relationship after three years together.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban won’t be looking back on 2020 with any fondness. In addition to splitting up with Vonn, his declining performance dropped him out of the ranks of the NHL’s all-star players.
SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Devils, center Nico Hischier will miss the upcoming start of training camp with an injured leg. Fortunately, the issue isn’t expected to be long term.
TSN: Jack Roslovic has asked the Winnipeg Jets for a trade. The restricted free agent forward is reportedly home in Columbus and won’t be joining his teammates in training camp when it opens on Sunday. If he returns to the Jets, he’ll have to undergo a seven-day quarantine and have four negative COVID-19 tests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Roslovic frequently surfaced in trade speculation during this offseason. I’ll have more about his status in the Rumors sections.
LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS: The Kings officially announced they’ve signed forward Andreas Athanasiou to a one-year, $1.2 million contract.
The Buffalo Sabres are bringing veteran center Riley Sheahan to training camp on a PTO.
NHL.COM: The Edmonton Oilers signed forward Devin Shore and defenseman Ryan Stanton to professional tryout offers.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers signed goaltender Scott Darling to a professional tryout offer (PTO).
TSN: Speaking of the Panthers, they’ve informed their season-ticket holders that they are allowing 25 percent capacity at the BB&T Center when the season begins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Insert tired joke about the Panthers’ usually woeful attendance here.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators are working on a plan to allow a limited number of fans at Bridgestone Arena after receiving approval from Nashville’s Board of Health.