NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 11, 2020

Game recaps, stars of the week, the latest on possible NHL participation in future Winter Olympics, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Nikita Kucherov scored twice as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in overtime. With 77 points, the Lightning sits just three behind the league-leading Boston Bruins. The Jackets (70 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Earlier in the day, they revealed defenseman Seth Jones is sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury.

Nikita Kucherov scored both goals in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2-1 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo via NHL Images).

Milan Lucic had a goal and two assists to lead the Calgary Flames over the San Jose Sharks 6-2. David Rittich kicked out 34 shots for the win as the Flames (64 points) hold the first wild-card berth in the West. Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic (upper-body injury) returned to Calgary earlier in the day for further examination.

The Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game winless skid by dumping the Nashville Predators 6-2. Jacob Markstrom made 36 saves, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller each picked up two points and defenseman Quinn Hughes collected three assists for the Canucks (67 points), who remain atop the Pacific Division. With 59 points, the Predators remain four points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.

Two first-period goals by Anthony Beauvillier powered the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the Washington Capitals. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each picked up three assists. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin remains two goals shy of 700 for his career. Washington (77 points) sits atop the Metropolitan Division, seven points up on the third-place Isles.

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart made 30 saves to backstop his club over the slumping Florida Panthers 4-1. Hart was sidelined nine games with an abdominal strain. James van Riemsdyk scored a goal and collected an assist for the Flyers (69 points), who hold the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers, meanwhile, have dropped three straight and remain two points behind the Leafs.

The Arizona Coyotes overcame an early 2-0 deficit to nip the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Jakob Chychrun tallied the game-winner with a power-play goal in the final minute of the third period, while teammate Derek Stepan had a goal and an assist. Canadiens center Phillip Danault left the game after being struck in the mouth by a shot from linemate Tomas Tatar. The Coyotes, meanwhile, played without goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who suffered an injury earlier in the day. The Coyotes (63 points) remain just outside the Western Conference playoff picture, while the Canadiens (61 points) remain five back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic Division.

HEADLINES

Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor, and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 9.

SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said his sore knee is unrelated to the more serious injury he suffered at the end of last season. He bruised the knee during Saturday’s game against Nashville and remains questionable for tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins rookie defenseman John Marino underwent surgery on Monday to repair a facial injury. There is currently no timeframe for his return.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha will return to action tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. He’d been sidelined since Dec. 21 with a rib injury and a punctured lung.

TSN: NHLPA executive Mathieu Schneider called last week’s meeting with the International Olympic Committee as “really positive” and “a good gesture” on the IOC’s part. The news generated hope of future Winter Olympic participation involving NHL players, but league deputy commissioner Bill Daly struck a more cautious tone. “From an overall perspective, I would say we have a long way to go. I wouldn’t get overly excited,” he said. Collective bargaining talks between the league and the PA are expected to resume today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daly further tamped down expectations in an email yesterday to the Associated Press. “We aren’t there yet. In fact, we aren’t even close to being there,” Daly wrote.”At this point in time, we continue to believe that the negatives outweigh the positives.”

Those “negatives” include the travel and insurance costs for the players, as well as allowing the league and the PA to access video and images to market their players. Until those issues are suitably addressed, the league won’t participate in future Olympic games.

ESPN.COM: The coronavirus could soon affect the NHL’s stick supply. 75 percent of the composite sticks are made in China, where the virus has reduced transportation and exports to a trickle.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 10, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 10, 2020

Game recaps, Oilers re-sign Nurse, Brock Boeser sidelined, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets tallied five unanswered goals to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. Kyle Connor led the way with two goals and an assist for the Jets (63 points), who moved into the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference. With 58 points, the Blackhawks are four points out of the final Western wild-card spot.

Kyle Connor scored twice to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo via NHL Images)

Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each scored for the Colorado Avalanche in a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. The Avs (70 points) picked up their fourth straight win and moved within three points of the first-place St. Louis Blues in the Central Division. With 58 points, the Wild are four points out of a playoff spot in the West.

Andreas Athanasiou scored twice as the last-overall Detroit Red Wings upset the first-overall Boston Bruins 3-1, snapping the latter’s six-game winning streak. Jonathan Bernier made 39 saves for the win. It’s the Wing’s second victory in their last 12 games.

Three first-period goals enabled the Anaheim Ducks to hang on for a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Ducks backup Ryan Miller made 31 saves.

New York Rangers rookie goalie Ilya Shesterkin kicked out 42 shot backstopping his club over the Los Angeles Kings 4-1.

HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: The Edmonton Oilers signed defenseman Darnell Nurse to a two-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $5.6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nurse, 25, is in the final season of a two-year, $6.4-million contract. He was slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. This deal provides a nice raise for Nurse, who’s become an invaluable part of the Oilers’ defense corps. It also pushes the Oilers’ salary-cap payroll for 2020-21 to over $68 million invested in 13 players.

Nurse’s new contract takes him up to his eligibility age (27) for unrestricted free agency. It appears Oilers management is buying time by having him agree to an affordable short-term contract with the potential for a more lucrative deal two years from now. Given his value to the Oilers, I expect they’ll attempt to re-sign him to a longer-term extension in the summer of 2021.

Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser will be sidelined at least two games with an undisclosed injury.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights center William Karlsson hopes to return to action on Tuesday. He’s been sidelined by a broken finger since Jan. 14.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon received a two-game suspension from the NHL department of player safety for checking Arizona Coyotes center Derek Stepan in the head on Saturday.

SPORTSNET: Details have emerged over Saturday’s report indicating the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation are willing to address NHL issues to get players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics. They’re willing to address insurance and travel costs, as well as marketing opportunities.

Chris Johnston said Olympic participation is an important issue for NHLPA membership in collective bargaining talks with the NHL. He suggests this recent news of contact between the IOC and IIHF with the league could lead to progress in CBA talks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league makes lots of noise over how the team owners don’t like take a three-week Olympic break in their schedule. The reality, however, is they had no real issue with it as long as the travel and insurance costs (an estimated $20 million) for the players were covered by the IOC and IIHF. A cut of the marketing revenue would also be enticing.

If the league agrees to these proposals, it could (as Johnston suggests) lead to a new CBA getting hammered out before its current expiration in September 2022.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 9, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 9, 2020

Patrik Laine’s hat trick power the Jets over the Senators, Ilya Kovalchuk comes through again for the Canadiens, Claude Giroux reached 800 career points, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Patrik Laine tallied a hat trick and Kyle Connor picked up four points as the Winnipeg Jets downed the Ottawa Senators 5-2. Laine moved past Sidney Crosby with the seventh-most goals (133) scored by a player before the age of 22. With 61 points, the Jets passed the Arizona Coyotes into the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Patrik Laine’s hat trick powered the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators (Photo via NHL Images).

Speaking of the Coyotes, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Boston Bruins. While they also have 61 points, the Jets hold a game in hand. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 29 saves to extend his home points streak to a team-record 18 games. Charlie Coyle scored twice and Patrice Bergeron had a three-point game. The Bruins (80 points) hold a three-point lead over the Washington Capitals in the overall standings. Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta was scratched before the game with a lower-body injury.

Two third-period goals by Leon Draisaitl lifted the Edmonton Oilers over the Nashville Predators 3-2. The Oilers had a scare when captain Connor McDavid suffered a bruised knee in the second period, but he returned to play over five minutes in the third. Draisaitl (85 points) holds a four-point lead over McDavid for top spot in the NHL scoring race. The Oilers (64 points) moved within a point of the Vancouver Canucks for first place in the Pacific Division, while the Predators (59 points) remain two points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.

The Montreal Canadiens edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on an overtime goal by Ilya Kovalchuk. Marco Scandella scored the tying goal late in the third period. John Tavares tallied for the Leafs. Kovalchuk leads the Habs with three game-winning goals, with two of those in overtime. Montreal winger Jonathan Drouin returned to action for the first time since suffering a wrist injury on Nov. 15. The Canadiens (61 points) are five points behind the Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy extended his franchise-record points streak to 18 games with a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Brayden Point had a goal and an assist for the Bolts, who’ve won six straight and remain five points behind the Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings. The Lightning also revealed defenseman Ryan McDonagh will be sidelined for two weeks with a lower-body injury.

Kris Letang had a goal and an assist and Tristan Jarry kicked out 33 shots as the Pittsburgh Penguins hung on for a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. The Penguins (73 points) sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division.

New Jersey Devils netminder Mackenzie Blackwood picked up his second straight shutout to blank the Los Angeles Kings 3-0. Nikita Gusev, Blake Coleman, and Kyle Palmieri were the goal scorers. The Kings have dropped nine of their last 10 contests.

Claude Giroux picked up three points, including his 800th career point, as the Philadelphia Flyers thumped the Washington Capitals 7-2. Sean Couturier tallied two goals for the Flyers, while Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin remains two goals away from 700 career goals. The Flyers (67 points) sit just outside the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Third-period goals by Nazem Kadri and Nathan MacKinnon gave the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, ending Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins’ winning streak at eight games. The Jackets (69 points) sit third in the Metropolitan Division.

Dallas Stars winger Roope Hintz scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in a 3-2 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues. The Stars sit third in the Central Division with 67 points. Dallas winger Alexander Radulov missed the game with an upper-body injury.

The Calgary Flames snapped a three-game losing skid by thrashing the Vancouver Canucks 6-2. Christian Dube had a goal and two assists and Milan Lucic had a goal and an assist for the Flames (62 points), who cling to the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference. Canucks winger Brock Boeser left the game with an apparent arm injury and could be sidelined for a little while.

Shootout goals by Andrei Svechnikov and Justin Williams gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 6-5 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Jake Gardiner picked up three assists for the Hurricanes, who hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 67 points. The Golden Knights (64 points) sit third in the Pacific Division.

IN OTHER NEWS…

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues will retired Chris Pronger’s No. 44 next season. The date has yet to be announced. Pronger had his best seasons with the Blues, spending nine years in St. Louis. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, Pronger won the Hart and Norris Trophies with the Blues in 2000.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Arizona Coyotes organization may face $5 million in fines if found guilty of allegations involving physical fitness testing of draft prospects.

TSN: The International Olympic Committee engaged with the NHL last week. It’s unclear if they offered enough to sway the league into allowing its players to participate in future Winter Olympics.










Bettman’s Olympics Brinkmanship

Bettman’s Olympics Brinkmanship

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seems to be in a staredown with the IOC & IIHF over Olympic participation.

The National Hockey League continues to play coy over allowing its players to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Some observers suggest the likelihood is growing dimmer after a recent “courtesy” meeting in New York involving officials from the NHL, the NHL Players Association, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

For weeks, league commissioner Gary Bettman has repeatedly claimed there’s “strong, negative sentiment” toward Olympic participation by the team owners. Various factors, from shutting the season down during the Olympic period, to travel accommodation and insurance costs for the players, to rumored league-wide unhappiness over a lack of revenue from the Olympics are cited as the chief concerns.

So if the NHL isn’t keen on taking part in the 2018 Games, why this ongoing slow dance with the IOC and the IIHF? Why hasn’t Bettman firmly stated that the league won’t be sending its best players to South Korea?

I believe it has to do with money, as it always does. 

Despite the overall feelings of the NHL team owners, Bettman is the one who rules the roost. The league commissioner may represent the owners, but he has the final say in these matters.

Some of the owners are likely openly hostile to the notion of future Olympic participation, but I believe Bettman has an eye on the future. He knows the NHL has pretty much tapped out the North American market. If the league is to continue “growing the game” – and by that, I mean generate more revenue – it must turn to the international market.

The NHL has already made inroads in Europe by attracting that continent’s best players. It’s only rival is the feeble Kontinental Hockey League, a money-losing venture propped up by Russian oil oligarchs.

Next season, the NHL intends to stage a couple of regular-season games, possibly involving the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators, in one of the European hockey nations. The league has staged regular-season contests in Europe before. If the latest excursion goes well, more regular-season match-ups could be in store down the road.

The possibility of an NHL franchise or two has long been kicked around. While it’s no closer to a reality, the league can cash in by attracting more eyeballs through broadcasting and advertising.

China is considered the biggest untapped market. The KHL is attempting to garner a foothold there. The NHL is already involved in sponsorship programs in China, and apparently have an eye on staging preseason games in the near future. 

While the NHL isn’t keen to get into the 2018 Games, there’s a belief its preference is to take part in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Bettman is a savvy negotiator. He sees the possibilities of expanding the NHL brand into the Chinese market by having its best talent skating in the Beijing Games. It’s likely a key reason behind his willingness to chat with the IOC and IIHF. Perhaps he’s hoping those organizations will bless the NHL skipping South Korea next year to return in Beijing in 2022.

That’s not the only money Bettman could be looking at. His concerns about travel and insurance already prompted the IIHF to step up and say they’ll cover those costs. Perhaps he’s hoping the same tack will squeeze the IOC for more broadcasting and advertising revenue. 

The IOC and IIHF can make do without the NHL’s participation. But both organizations know the 2018 Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament will be a better sell to a worldwide audience with NHL stars taking part. Otherwise, the IOC wouldn’t be travelling to New York for a “courtesy” visit and the IIHF wouldn’t have agreed to cover the players’ travel and insurance.

Bettman also knows the players really want to take part in the Olympics. That’s why he recently offered to extend the current collective bargaining agreement by three years in exchange for a robust schedule of international competitions with the Olympics as the centerpiece.

The players, of course, balked at that notion because of their unhappiness over the hated escrow clawbacks from their paychecks under this CBA. However, the presence of PA director Donald Fehr at the meeting with the IOC and IIHF suggests that window isn’t fully closed yet.

A decision will be required soon from the league in order to prepare its schedule for next season, plus the IOC and IIHF will also need to be informed in order to update their own plans. Brinkmanship plays a significant role in Bettman’s negotiating style. He likes to take things right up to the deadline in order to hammer out an agreement with favorable terms for the NHL owners. 

How this ultimately plays out will keep pundits and hockey fans guessing. But if the league decides to take part, I believe it’ll be due to the PA, IOC and IIHF making significant concessions to Bettman.