NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 22, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action, Pierre-Luc Dubois benched, an update on the four Capitals sidelined under COVID-19 protocols, and a lengthy list of injuries in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Tyler Toffoli scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens thumped the Vancouver Canucks 7-3 in the second game of their three-game series. With the score tied 2-2 following the first period, the Canadiens blew the game open with four unanswered second-period goals.

Montreal Canadiens winger Tyler Toffoli (NHL Images).

Montreal winger Joel Armia also scored twice but suffered a concussion late in the third period from a blindside hit by Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers, who received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Habs forward Paul Byron also left in the third after being struck in the leg by a shot from teammate Shea Weber. Canucks defensemen Travis Hamonic and Alexander Edler missed the game with upper-body injuries, while blueliner Jalen Chatfield suffered a first-period upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli now has five goals in two games against his former club this season. It’s uncertain if Myers will receive supplemental discipline for his cheap shot on Armia. The Canadiens and Canucks will play the final game of this series on Saturday, with the Habs unbeaten in regulation (3-0-2) thus far.

Jake DeBrusk tallied the only goal in a shootout to give the Boston Bruins a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Nick Ritchie had a goal and an assist while David Krejci collected two assists. James van Riemsdyk tallied twice and Jakub Voracek collected three assists for the Flyers, who gave up 43 shots in this contest. The Flyers played without forward Morgan Frost (dislocated shoulder, injured reserve) and defenseman Philippe Myers (fractured rib, week-to-week).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a big win for the Bruins, who entered this game sitting dead-last in goals for per game (1.00). A porous defense saw the Flyers blow 2-0 and 3-2 leads in this game. The injuries are piling up for the Flyers, who were also playing without Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere.

The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their third straight win by edging the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on an overtime goal by Brayden Point. Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois was benched for almost the entire game, seeing less than four minutes of ice time in the first period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts victory was overshadowed by Dubois’ benching. This is ramping up speculation over the 22-year-old center’s future with the Blue Jackets and his relationship with head coach John Tortorella. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

New York Islanders winger Jordan Eberle tallied twice in a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Isles center Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists. Josh Bailey returned to the Isles lineup after spending one day on the club’s COVID-19 absence list. The Devils were without starting goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who was placed on the club’s COVID list, though that doesn’t mean he’s tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and an assist to lead the Winnipeg Jets over the Ottawa Senators 4-1. The Jets took control of the game with three unanswered second-period goals. Jets winger Patrik Laine missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

The Los Angeles Kings got their first win of the season by doubling up the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. The Kings overcame a 2-0 deficit with Adrian Kempe netting the game-winner in the third period. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had a goal and an assist for the Avs.

HEADLINES

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov has tested positive for COVID-19. Samsonov, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov were placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol-related absence list on Wednesday. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov will miss at least four games while Samsonov could be sidelined longer. It remains to be seen if the other three tested positive.

Samsonov’s positive test triggered contact testing within the Capitals dressing room, leading to the NHL discovering the four players spent time socializing in the team hotel without facial coverings on multiple occasions. The league fined the Capitals $100K.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits and fans questioned the NHL’s protocols when this story broke on Wednesday. The bottom line is the Capitals, and every other team in the league knew what the protocols were before this season started. The NHLPA voted for them. Every player had the opportunity to opt-out of playing this season. The players involved in this incident broke those rules and must now suffer the consequences.

The NHL’s COVID protocols were based on CDC and Health Canada guidelines enabling the 31 NHL teams to stage this season in their home arenas. They must also follow local guidelines.

Those rules have had an effect upon this season. A ban on non-essential travel at the Canada-US border has limited Canadian teams to playing among themselves during the regular season. The San Jose Sharks started this season on the road because Santa Clara County has prohibited all sports activities due to high local COVID levels.

The NHL has already postponed games involving the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes because of COVID outbreaks. They cannot risk further spread jeopardizing the season because some players won’t adhere to the rules.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola will each be sidelined several weeks with undisclosed injuries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could have Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford shopping for help. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

SPORTSNET: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson is sidelined for six weeks with an oblique muscle injury.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman John Klingberg (medical reasons) is questionable for his club’s season-opener on Friday against the Nashville Predators.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews left practice early yesterday as he wasn’t feeling great, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe. His status will be updated today. Forward Joe Thornton is expected to miss some games with an upper-body injury.

CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Dillon Dube is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

WGR550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton will miss at least two games with a head injury. Sabres starter Linus Ullmark revealed he missed Monday’s game against Philadelphia as he was grieving the death of his father in Sweden. Ullmark returned to practice and is slated to travel with the club for their upcoming two-game series against Washington.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Ullmark during this difficult time.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 16, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s five games, updates on Henrik Lundqvist and Jordan Staal, the latest notable contract signings, waiver claims and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists and Gabriel Landeskog scored twice as the Colorado Avalanche crushed the St. Louis Blues 8-0. Philipp Grubauer turned in a 20-save shutout and Cale Makar collected three assists.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wednesday’s season-opening 4-1 loss to the Blues seemed to light a fire under the Avs. They were far more energized compared to their rather flat effort in their previous contest. Coach Jared Bednar’s decision to reunite Landeskog with MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen on the top line for this game paid off.

The Ottawa Senators opened their season with a 5-3 upset of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Winger Brady Tkachuk led the way for Ottawa with a goal and two assists while goalie Matt Murray made 20 saves for his first victory as a Senator. John Tavares had a goal and an assist for the Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators exploited the Leafs’ defensive breakdowns for a well-deserved season-opening win. Toronto blueliners TJ Brodie and Zach Bogosian wore the goat horns in this one. The offseason additions haven’t brought much to the Leafs’ defense thus far but there’s still lots of time for them to adjust to their new team.

Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 35 shots to backstop the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat were among four Lightning forwards with a goal and an assist. Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat replied for the Blackhawks

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks made it interesting by narrowing the Bolts’ 3-0 lead to 3-2 by the end of the second period but Yanni Gourde and Stamkos put the game out of reach in the third.

The Philadelphia Flyers swept their two-game series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5-2 victory. Travis Konecny tallied a hat trick as the Flyers chased Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry from the game after he gave up three goals on six shots. Sidney Crosby and Brandon Tanev replied for the Penguins. Flyers center Sean Couturier left the game in the first period with a shoulder injury. He’s slated for an MRI today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins’ defensive play has been sloppy and undisciplined thus far. It’s still very early in this season and they have plenty of time to address the problem but it could become their undoing this season if a solution isn’t found soon.

Tom Wilson had a goal and an assist as the Washington Capitals nipped the Buffalo Sabres 2-1. Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek turned aside 30 shots to pick up the win in his first NHL contest. Rasmus Ristolainen replied for the Sabres.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tough loss for the Sabres. They outplayed the Capitals but couldn’t get more than one goal past Vanecek. They didn’t help their cause by going 0-5 on the power play.

HEADLINES

TSN: Henrik Lundqvist announced yesterday he left hospital after having open-heart surgery last week. He’ll remain in Cleveland for a few more days before returning to New York City.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes in your ongoing journey to a full recovery, King Henrik.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list on Friday. Staal played in the Hurricanes’ season-opener on Thursday. There’s no indication how long he could be sidelined.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sometimes players are placed on this list because of an initial positive test and then come off it if the follow-up test is negative. That could be the case with Staal.

SPORTSNET: The Edmonton Oilers placed goaltender Mike Smith on long-term injury reserve. He’ll miss at least 24 days or 10 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a concern given the Oilers’ lack of goaltending depth, especially after losing Anton Forsberg to Carolina on waivers earlier this week. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Speaking of Forsberg, he was claimed off waivers from the Hurricanes by the Jets.

THE SCORE: The Anaheim Ducks signed defenseman Ben Hutton to a one-year, $950K contract. He recently joined the Ducks on a professional tryout offer.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins defenseman Zach Trotman underwent surgery on his right knee and will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars will start their season on Jan. 22 after having their first four games postponed and rescheduled following a recent COVID-19 outbreak during training camp.

CBS SPORTS: The New York Islanders loaned forward Joshua Ho-Sang to Orebro of the Swedish Hockey League for the remainder of this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could officially signal the end of Ho-Sang’s NHL career. The former first-round pick (28th overall, 2014) last played in the NHL in 2018-19 and spent last season in the AHL. The Isles reportedly tried to trade him but couldn’t find any takers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 11, 2021

The Dallas Stars remain sidelined by COVID-19, an update on the Canucks after they canceled yesterday’s practice, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: The Dallas Stars remain sidelined by a COVID-19 outbreak among six players and two staff members. The club last practiced on Wednesday. Their regular-season schedule has been revised with their season-opener now slated for Jan. 19.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks will resume practice today after canceling activities on Sunday as a precautionary measure due to potential COVID-19 exposure.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: COVID-19 remains a factor despite the league’s health and safety protocols. Expect more canceled practices and perhaps future game postponements over the course of this season similar to those in other major pro sports leagues in recent months.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed winger Jesper Bratt to a two-year, $5.5 million deal. The restricted free agent’s contract standoff sidelined him from the Devils’ opening week of training camp.

New Jersey Devils sign winger Jesper Bratt (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will still take some time for Bratt to join his teammates. He’s still in Sweden awaiting a work visa, after which he’ll have to quarantine for seven days after traveling to New Jersey. He’ll miss their opening two games of the season on Jan. 14 and 16 and perhaps more depending on how long it takes to get his visa sorted out.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and could miss their season-opener on Jan. 14 against the Anaheim Ducks.

NEWSDAY: New York Islanders forward Casey Cizikas left yesterday’s practice nursing what appeared to be an injured left hand or lower-left arm.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Michael Del Zotto to a one-year, two-way contract. He was attending their training camp on a tryout basis.

SPORTSNET: Free-agent defenseman Ben Hutton signed a professional tryout offer with the Anaheim Ducks.

THE SCORE: Promising prospect Tim Stuetzle had his first practice session with the Ottawa Senators yesterday. The 18-year-old center was selected third overall by the Senators in the 2020 NHL Draft.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild prospect Marco Rossi is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Rossi is the Wild’s first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2020 draft.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2021

Updates on Patrik Laine, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mathew Barzal, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his first “31 Thoughts” column of 2021, Elliotte Friedman weighed in on the future of Patrik Laine with the Winnipeg Jets. The 22-year-old has been the subject of trade speculation for some time.

Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

Friedman said Laine arrived in Winnipeg with the understanding he could be a Jet for the entire season. If Laine wants a trade his best option is to fill the net with pucks.

The Philadelphia Flyers considered acquiring the winger a few months ago but the cost in assets and salary proved too expensive. Friedman feels the Columbus Blue Jackets could be a suitor if Laine were to commit to staying in Columbus, assuming a trade could be worked out.

Speaking of the Blue Jackets, Friedman feels there currently isn’t much optimism in fixing the situation between the organization and Pierre-Luc Dubois. The 22-year-old center reportedly seeks a trade despite signing a two-year contract last week.

Several sources tell Friedman not to lay blame for this situation solely at the feet of Jackets head coach John Tortorella. The feeling is Dubois wants to perform on a bigger stage. In other words, a bigger market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some folks have suggested swapping Laine for Dubois, but getting either player to commit to their new cities could be the big sticking point. Winnipeg wouldn’t fit Dubois’ supposed desire to play in a big market.

As I’ve said before, moving Laine or Dubois seems unlikely during the regular season. Right now, they’re both too important to their respective clubs’ playoff hopes. It could also prove difficult to find suitable returns before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. I’m expecting they’ll get shopped during the offseason.

Friedman feels a long-term deal between the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal doesn’t seem likely because of the team’s salary-cap situation. He expects the Barzal camp prefers contracts comparable to Toronto’s Mitch Marner or Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen but that’s not possible for the Isles at this point. Friedman speculates Barzal could get a two- or three-year deal worth around $6 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in camp though he can’t train with his teammates until he’s under contract. The Isles could go as high as $7 million annually for Barzal but I agree it’ll be a short-term deal with the promise of a long, lucrative contract down the road.

The Isles have also tried to move defenseman Thomas Hickey (with a sweetener). Half his $2.5 million cap hit for this season has been paid out in a signing bonus. He’s got one year left on his contract.

The Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils are among the clubs interested in free-agent defenseman Ben Hutton.

Every time Friedman sees a commercial starring Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, he wonders if they’ll find a way to play together someday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless it’s as teammates with Team Canada in the Olympics or the World Cup of Hockey, don’t expect to see that happen in the NHL anytime soon.

MacKinnon, 25, is the Colorado Avalanche’s franchise player. While his contract expires in 2023, the Avs will open the vault to keep him in Denver. The 33-year-old Crosby’s best seasons may be behind him but he remains the Penguins’ top player and among the league’s elite. He’s also under contract until 2025 with a full no-movement clause.










Jets, Blackhawks and Bruins Prominent in Year-End NHL Rumor Roundup

Jets, Blackhawks and Bruins Prominent in Year-End NHL Rumor Roundup

 










NHL Rumor Mill – December 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 31, 2020

How will the Bruins replace Zdeno Chara? Are any moves coming for the Penguins before the season opens? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HOW WILL THE BRUINS REPLACE CHARA?

THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa reports the Boston Bruins could go with one of the younger defensemen within their system to fill the gap on their blueline left by the departure of Zdeno Chara. The former Bruins captain yesterday signed a one-year deal with the Capitals.

The Boston Bruins are said to be interested in free-agent defenseman Sami Vatanen (NHL Images).

The Bruins have three young left-shot defensemen in Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Urha Vaakanainen. Shinzawa observes they’ve played a combined 44 NHL games. He also noted team president Cam Neely last week indicating the Bruins were studying the trade market for help on defense, something they’re liable to keep doing as cap-strapped clubs seek to shed salary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could also look to free agency for affordable options. Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy cited sources saying they’re interested in Sami Vatanen and Karl Alzner, while his colleague Joe Haggerty recently reported they’re looking at Ben Hutton.

Management will likely evaluate the roster during training camp to determine if they need to make a move. Given Neely’s remarks and the rumors they’re checking out free-agent options, it wouldn’t be surprising if they add a veteran left-side rearguard before the season opens on Jan. 13.

THE LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski recently observed the Penguins weren’t in on affordable free agents Carl Soderberg or Erik Haula to bolster their third-line center position. He wonders if GM Jim Rutherford is saving his cap space to perhaps swing an impact trade during the regular season.

THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe reports Rutherford doesn’t intend to make any trades before the season opens on Jan. 13. “I would say it’s highly unlikely,” said the Penguins GM, adding he wants to see his club play and see what they have.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford is a proven wheeler-dealer so we shouldn’t rule out the possibility he’ll make a trade before the season begins. That probably won’t happen, however, until he gets an opportunity to evaluate his roster in training camp.