The Penguins down the Capitals, the Golden Knights edge the Avalanche, plus the latest injury and COVID protocol list updates in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Bryan Rust scored two goals and collected an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals 6-3. Jake Guentzel also had a three-point performance (one goal, two assists) while Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby also set a new milestone, surpassing Hall of Famer Al MacInnis for the most points (1,275) by a Nova Scotia-born NHL player.
Marc-Andre Fleury turned in a 30-save shutout as the Vegas Golden Knights blanked the Colorado Avalanche 1-0. Max Pacioretty tallied the game’s only goal. It was the Avalanche’s first game since their schedule was postponed on Feb. 4 for COVID-19 protocols.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury now has 473 career victories, sitting just 11 behind Ed Belfour for fourth on the all-time list. His 63 shutouts place him one back of Henrik Lundqvist for 16th all-time.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos came off the NHL’s COVID protocol list yesterday after it was determined his first test was a false positive. He remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin came off the protocol list yesterday. Krueger, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, joined the Sabres on the ice for a few minutes during yesterday’s practice. He isn’t sure if he’ll be behind the bench for their game today against the New York Islanders. The Sabres haven’t played since Jan. 31 due to COVID protocols.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers still have seven players on the protocol list. Travis Sanheim came off the list yesterday but winger Travis Konecny was added to it. The Flyers’ next scheduled game is Thursday against the New York Rangers, after which they’re slated to fly to Lake Tahoe for an outdoor game against the Boston Bruins on Sunday.
TORONTO STAR: Joe Thornton returns to the Maple Leafs lineup tonight against the Ottawa Senators after missing 10 games with a rib injury.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (lower-body injury) will miss tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Jaden Schwartz is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He joins Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder surgery), Tyler Bozak (upper body, likely concussion), Robert Thomas (broken hand) and Sammy Blais (undisclosed) on the sidelines.
THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Radim Simek (upper body) on injured reserve.
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.
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.
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.
The latest on Frederik Andersen plus an update on the Lightning and Ducks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes a strong regular season and playoffs in 2020-21 by Frederik Andersen will make him one of the highest-paid goaltenders in next year’s unrestricted free agent market despite the possibility of a flat cap for 2021-22. He wonders if that might serve as motivation for the 31-year-old Maple Leafs netminder.
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (NHL Images).
Koshan also mused about the recent trade chatter surrounding Andersen might put a chip on the goalie’s shoulder in his contract year. He feels the Leafs would be loath to lose the netminder to free agency next year for nothing. Trading him, however, wouldn’t be prudent, as Koshan doubts a tandem of Jack Campbell and Aaron Dell could carry the Leafs on a deep playoff run.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I didn’t put much stock into the Andersen trade rumors. The Leafs couldn’t afford to land a suitable replacement via this year’s free-agent market and the pickings were slim in the trade market.
Andersen could be moved by the 2021 trade deadline if the Leafs are out of playoff contention by then. However, I doubt that will be the case. If Andersen carries them on a long playoff run, they’ll do all they can to retain him. If not, he’ll hit the open market and the Leafs will look to the trade and free-agent markets for a new starter.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently examined the Tampa Bay Lightning’s current salary-cap crunch and its effect upon their efforts to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. They have $2.895 million in cap space with only 18 players under contract. They must also re-sign defenseman Erik Cernak and add another depth defenseman and forward.
The current economic climate makes Cirelli and Sergachev tempting offer-sheet targets. However, Gretz points out how rare offer sheet signings are and the difficulty in successfully signing away either player.
Gretz noted it’s tempting to wonder what the Lightning could get for Steven Stamkos after they won the Stanley Cup while he was sidelined for all but one game. However, he doesn’t expect they’ll try to move him. He listed Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and possibly Yanni Gourde as trade candidates with Johnson the obvious after the Lightning’s efforts to move him via waivers earlier this month.
The Lightning’s current cap woes mean they’ll likely have to absorb part of Johnson’s salary or throw in a sweetener to move him. Gretz dismisses the idea of trading Cirelli or Sergachev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson has a full no-trade clause but has apparently provided an eight-team list of preferred destinations. Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list. Palat and Gourde would have to agree to waive their no-trades. It’s down to Johnson and Killorn and it’s possible both could be traded to free up sufficient cap space to address the Lightning’s needs.
While an offer sheet for Cirelli or Sergachev is still possible, I don’t believe we’ll see it. If either guy was going to sign an offer sheet it would’ve happened by now. Both players could be reluctant to go that route.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Stephens was asked who he saw as potential trade targets for the Anaheim Ducks. He feels they need an affordable young forward with scoring ability but those are tough to find.
The Ducks had an interest in Kasperi Kapanen before the Toronto Maple Leafs traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stephens thinks they have a real interest in Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson but not at his full $5 million annual cap hit.
Stephens thought they might have been interested in Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen before the Canucks re-sign him. He noted Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny is on TSN’s trade-bait list but doubts the Flyers will part with him unless it’s for a player who can lead a franchise.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe the Ducks will look to free agency for an affordable short-term option. Possibilities include Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Anthony Duclair or Andreas Athanasiou.
Recaps of Friday’s action, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask opts out of return-to-play, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy finalists are announced, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat (Photo via NHL Images)
NHL.COM: Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat opened and finished the scoring as he led his club to a 4-3 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues, taking a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven opening-round series. Horvat’s game-winner came after the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz tied the game in the dying seconds of regulation. Canucks forwards Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser each had two points, as did the Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo and David Perron.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues outhit the Canucks 41-27 but struggled at times to keep up with their speedy young opponents. They’re also getting no production from sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. The Canucks have an opportunity to take a stranglehold on this series in Game 3 on Sunday.
Tomas Tatar and Jesperi Kotkaniemi each scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens thumped the Philadelphia Flyers 5-0 to square their first-round series at one game apiece. Carey Price kicked out 30 shots for his second shutout of the postseason. Flyers winger Travis Konecny left the game in the third period after injuring his left foot blocking a shot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Determined to win this game for sidelined coach Claude Julien, the Canadiens came out flying with a rare dominating performance. Flyers coach Alain Vigneault expressed his displeasure following the game over Habs interim coach Kirk Muller putting his top power-play unit on the ice late in the game. Muller said it was merely to give a little more work to his club’s erratic play with the man advantage.
Vigneault indicated he’d try to use that as motivation for his players in Game 3. If that’s his intended rallying point, the Flyers could be in worse shape than we thought. They’re a better team than what we’ve seen thus far in this series, but most of their scoring forwards have fired blanks thus far in this postseason. If those players don’t start scoring soon, the Flyers could be in big trouble against the underdog Habs.
Calgary Flames goaltender Cam Talbot made 35 saves to shut out the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 3 of their series, putting his club up two games to one. Mikael Backlund and T.J. Brodie were the goalscorers for the Flames, who hope to have sidelined winger Matthew Tkachuk back in their lineup for Game 3 on Sunday. Earlier in the day, the Flames announced forward Austin Czarnik has returned home to attend to a personal matter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talbot stole this one for the Flames, as the Stars dominated the play for most of this contest. They were also their own worst enemies, missing several quality scoring chances.
Three unanswered goals by Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, and Anders Lee powered the New York Islanders over the Washington Capitals 5-2, giving the Isles a 2-0 series lead. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied both goals for his club.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders were the better-disciplined team in this contest, as the Capitals were sloppy defensively and took too many unnecessary penalties. Without a better effort in Game 3, the Caps could fall into a hole too deep to climb out of against the determined Isles.
The Colorado Avalanche took a 2-0 series lead over the Arizona Coyotes with a 3-2 victory. Andre Burakovsky snapped a 2-2 tie with 2:53 remaining in regulation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a disappointing defeat for the Coyotes, who had a strong bounce-back effort after being dominated by the Avs in Game 1. Game 3 now becomes a must-win for the Desert Dogs.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has opted out of participating further in the return-to-play plan. In a statement released by the team, Rask indicated he’s making the decision for family reasons. “I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family.” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Rask’s priorities are in the right order, noting the goalie had a newborn baby daughter born just months ahead of the return-to-play in Toronto.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing their starting goaltender is a significant blow for the Bruins in the midst of their opening-round series with the Carolina Hurricanes. Backup Jaroslav Halak will take over the starter’s role, and NBC Sports suggests Daniel Vladar will be Halak’s understudy.
Some will rush to criticize Rask’s actions, but we don’t know the full story other than it’s for family reasons. He may have found being isolated from his family for weeks simply too difficult to bear. The Bruins and the league are respecting his decision. We should too.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and New Jersey Devils blueliner P.K. Subban are the finalists for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, presented annually to the player “who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins winger David Pastrnak didn’t practice yesterday and remains uncertain for Game 3 today against the Carolina Hurricanes. The 48-goal scorer was unfit to play in Game 2 following an apparent left injury in the previous game.
TSN: The Florida Panthers plan to interview former Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Mike Futa as they search for a replacement for former general manager Dale Tallon.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs have let go of assistant coaches Paul McFarland and Andrew Brewer.
WGR550: The Buffalo Sabres are reportedly hiring Seth Appert as head coach of their AHL affiliate in Rochester.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings have suspended the mascot actor who performs as team mascot Bailey. He is being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct.
Sidney Crosby has a four-point game, an update on Jay Bouwmeester, the Senators honor Chris Phillips, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby picked up four points in a 5-2 victory over the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs. Bryan Rust collected three points as the Penguins (80 points) moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division. Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 43rd goal of the season for the Leafs (70 points), who cling to third place in the Atlantic Division. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was a late scratch due to illness. Earlier in the day, the Penguins also revealed forward Zach Aston-Reese is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby led his club to a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not to take anything away from the Penguins’ dominant performance, but that was a pathetic effort by the Leafs in a must-win game. They’ve dropped six of their last nine and remain in danger of slipping out of a playoff spot.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington made 17 saves to shut out the New Jersey Devils 3-0, snapping his club’s five-game losing skid. It was their first victory since Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac incident last week in Anaheim. Bouwmeester released a statement yesterday indicating he’s on the road to recovery. With 76 points, the Blues hold a two-point lead over the Dallas Stars for first place in the Western Conference. Devils’ Will Butcher and Nick Merkley left the game with injuries.
The Ottawa Senators honored former defenseman Chris Phillips by retiring his number and thumping the Buffalo Sabres 7-4. They tallied four goals in a 3:29 span in the first period and sealed the two with two third-period goals. Jean-Gabriel Pageau led the way with two goals and two assists while Artem Anisimov also scored twice. Brandon Montour scored twice for the Sabres, who remain eight points behind the Leafs in the Atlantic.
Travis Konecny had a three-point performance as the Philadelphia Flyers rolled to a 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, leaving the latter winless in their last six games. The Flyers (73 points) vaulted over the New York Islanders and the Blue Jackets into third in the Metropolitan Division.
Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho scored to extend his points streak to 10 games in a 4-1 win over Nashville Predators. The Hurricanes (72 points) hold the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Predators (65 points) remain three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.
Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers each had three points as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-3. With 67 points, the Jets are one point out of a Western Conference wild-card spot.
The Montreal Canadiens blew a 3-1 lead to fall 4-3 to the lowly Detroit Red Wings, who swept their four-game regular-season series. Andreas Athanasiou scored twice for the Wings, handing the Habs their fifth straight defeat.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: And with that, we can close the book on the Canadiens’ playoff hopes for 2020. Earlier in the day, they traded defenseman Marco Scandella to the St. Louis Blues for two draft picks. More moves are likely in store leading up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Wings, meanwhile, won 15 games thus far this season. Four of those came against the Canadiens.
SPORTSNET: Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen received some good news when an MRI on his upper-body injury revealed no requirement for surgery. He’s expected to return before the end of the regular season.
TSN: Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser will be sidelined eight weeks with a rib cartilage fracture.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks already made a significant move to address Boeser’s absence by acquiring Tyler Toffoli earlier this week. They might not be done dealing.
CBC.CA: A shoulder injury will sidelined Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom for the next two-to-three weeks.
SPORTSNET: The New York Rangers acquired minor-league winger Julien Gauthier from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for minor-league defenseman Joey Keane.