NHL Rumor Mill – June 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 11, 2021

A look at what could be ahead for the Avalanche in the offseason, more Bruins speculation and the latest on Jack Eichel in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE AVALANCHE?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski observes the Colorado Avalanche face some big free-agent decisions in the offseason. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer, and winger Brandon Saad are among those slated to become unrestricted free agents. Defenseman Cale Makar, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent in line for a significant pay raise coming off his entry-level contract.

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog (NHL Images).

The Avs also risk losing a good defenseman to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft. Even if sidelined Erik Johnson agrees to waive his no-movement clause, someone like Ryan Graves or Jacob MacDonald could be left exposed if they opt to protect three defensemen.

Head coach Jared Bednar could be under the microscope after failing to get the Avs past the second round. He has a year remaining on his contract and could return to finish that season.

THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic needs to build a tougher roster and replace Bednar as head coach, citing the latter’s inability to make strategic roster adjustments against the Vegas Golden Knights during their second-round series. “The Avs are pretty, not gritty,” opined Kiszla among his colorful descriptions of their lack of postseason toughness.

Ryan O’Halloran agreed with Kiszla in less hyperbolic terms. He feels the Avs aren’t in the same depths as the early-era Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals. Nevertheless, he believes “they need to get bigger on defense and deeper at center” to beat the Golden Knights next season.

THE ATHLETIC: Peter Baugh believes the Avalanche must address how long and for much they’re willing to sign Landeskog for. He also thinks paying Makar $10 million annually is worthwhile and considers it too risky to let Grubauer walk via free agency. He also recommends they explore creating cap space through trades and add some low-cost veterans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic did a fine job building the current roster. He must now figure out how to get this team to the next level without the salary-cap flexibility he enjoyed in recent years.

Yes, the Avalanche needs more depth at center and size on defense. Yes, they need to get tougher. However, Sakic and his staff must avoid overreacting as the 2010 version of the Capitals did following their first-round upset by the Montreal Canadiens. Those missteps set the Caps back several seasons before they finally won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Landeskog, 28, will seek a substantial pay raise over his current $5.57 million cap hit. Some might scoff at Makar earning $10 million annually but his rise to Norris Trophy finalist in just three seasons provides his camp with sufficient grounds to seek that much. Sakic could try to go the bridge deal route but that seems unlikely given Makar’s talent. Grubauer’s Vezina nod this season also works in his favor as he pursues a big bump over his $3.33 million AAV.

Sakic has shown in the past a willingness to make bold moves to improve his roster. We should expect he’ll do the same this summer as he attempts to retain his core free agents and address his roster needs.

He could use one of the defensemen he risks losing in the expansion draft as a trade chip. Perhaps he’ll move a skilled blueliner like Samuel Girard for a bigger physical rearguard. Maybe he shops center Nazem Kadri to free up cap space to add a tough, cool-headed two-way replacement.

MORE BRUINS SPECULATION

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Matt Porter wonders where the Bruins go from here after falling short against the New York Islanders in the second round.

His optimistic forecast regarding Tuukka Rask has the goaltender signing a short-term deal between $5 million and $6 million, undergoing whatever offseason surgery he requires and gradually returning to the lineup next season. He also suggests signing Taylor Hall to a five-year deal worth $6 million annually and David Krejci for a year at around $5 million. The latter would give the Bruins time to determine if Jack Studnicka or Charlie Coyle can play at second-line center or if they need to bring in someone for that role.

Porter also speculates Jake DeBrusk could be shopped for a helpful secondary player. The lack of quality left-side defense options via free agency could see them bring back Mike Reilly if another club doesn’t offer to double his $1.5 million cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss suggests the Bruins should transition Jeremy Swayman to the starter’s job but bring back Rask on a one-year deal worth between $3 million and $5 million. It’s a sensible suggestion but that depends on whether Rask is prepared to accept the backup/mentor role with the Bruins or look elsewhere for a starter’s job.

Hall was a good fit with the Bruins and he really wants to stay but that depends on how much he wants on his next deal and for how long. I think Krejci’s open to returning for another year or two for a lesser cap hit, perhaps around $5 million.

The Bruins were reportedly reluctant to trade DeBrusk this season over fear he’d regain his scoring touch elsewhere. However, I think they should explore the trade market while he still has some decent trade value. It’ll be interesting to see if Reilly is willing to stick in Boston for perhaps a little less than market value.

LATEST ON JACK EICHEL

WGR550: Franklin Heinzmann cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s recent appearance on “The Instigators” discussing possible trade interest in Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel.

Friedman believes the Sabres want to move on from their captain. He said the teams around the league with interest in Eichel are trying to convince GM Kevyn Adams to move the unhappy center sooner rather than later. Friedman feels Adams should set the marketplace himself rather than be influenced by those clubs.

The Sabres GM could try to play the interested clubs against each other to drive up Eichel’s trade value. Some teams, however, are pointing to the center’s neck injury to suggest Adams isn’t dealing from a position of strength.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman didn’t indicate which teams could be calling the Sabres. I’ve posted up a list of potential teams in my latest column for The Hockey News, including several suggested by Friedman last month.

If the Sabres trade Eichel during the offseason it’ll likely happen just before or during the opening day of this year’s NHL draft on July 23. Adams will use the next several weeks to evaluate the clubs with the most interest while also gauging Eichel’s ongoing treatment.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2021

The Bruins face some free-agent decisions, some recent speculation linking the Flyers to Seth Jones, and the latest on the Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE BRUINS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports the Boston Bruins must decide on the futures of goaltender Tuukka Rask and center David Krejci. Rask is a polarizing figure among Bruins fans but remains among the NHL’s best goaltenders. It’s unclear what the 34-year-old Rask intends to do but the emergence of Jeremy Swayman makes the club feel better about its’ future plans.

Has Tuukka Rask played his final game with the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Krejci remains a reliable center at age 35 but not at his current $7.25 million cap hit. The chemistry he developed with Taylor Hall and Craig Smith could lead management to try and bring him back at a reduced rate.

Kaplan also believes the Bruins should attempt to re-sign trade-deadline acquisitions Taylor Hall and Mike Reilly. Hall’s been campaigning to remain a Bruins since his arrival in Boston.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could bring back Rask if he’ll accept a short-term deal for perhaps a little less than his current $7 million cap hit. He’ll also have to share more of the goalie duties with Swayman. If not, they’ll go with Swayman and perhaps add an experienced backup as his mentor.

I can see Krejci returning at a reduced rate on a two-year deal, or perhaps a one-year, bonus-laden contract. He doesn’t seem keen to leave the only NHL team he’s played for. The club’s performance this season suggests they could have enough left for another shot at a Cup run next season, depending of course on their offseason moves. Krejci will probably want to be part of that.

The Bruins were pleased with the play of Hall and Reilly. The latter, however, will be easier to re-sign than the former. Kaplan said Hall would prefer long-term stability. If he wants that from the Bruins, he’ll likely have to accept less than market value.

Hall salvaged his reputation with a strong performance in Boston after his disastrous turn earlier this season with the Buffalo Sabres. That will make him an intriguing option for playoff contenders if he heads to free agency this summer.

COULD THE FLYERS LAND SETH JONES?

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall recently cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggesting the Philadelphia Flyers as a viable trade destination for Seth Jones. The 26-year-old defenseman last month informed the Columbus Blue Jackets of his intention to test next summer’s UFA market.

Appearing last week on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, Friedman said he felt the Flyers could make that trade. He wondered how Jones would feel about that but wouldn’t be shocked if the blueliner ends up in Philadelphia.

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Sam Carchidi was asked by a reader if the Flyers could acquire Jones, or Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton, or Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau.

Carchidi believes Gaudreau would help the Flyers’ offensive attack. However, he believes their top priority should be acquiring a right-shot defenseman such as Jones or Hamilton.

While Hamilton would be a perfect fit, Carchidi believes he’ll re-sign with the Hurricanes. Jones would be a great consolation prize, but the Flyers will need assurances he’ll re-sign with them before acquiring him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every team interested in Jones will want to know if he’ll sign a contract extension with them. If he won’t, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher could look elsewhere to address his right-side defense needs.

If Jones is willing to talk contract extension, Fletcher must decide how much he’s willing to spend in return and salary. Others clubs, such as the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, have the cap space and tradeable assets to outbid the Flyers. We also can’t rule out teams like the Colorado Avalanche or Dallas Stars finding a creative way to acquire him.

LATEST ON THE SHARKS

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White suggested five players from teams eliminated from the opening round of the playoffs as target targets for the San Jose Sharks. They are Toronto’s Mitch Marner or William Nylander, Washington’s Lars Eller, Minnesota’s Cam Talbot, and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

White suggested offering up a package including a winger such as Timo Meier ($6 million cap hit) and Kevin Labanc ($4.725 million) for Marner or Nylander. The Capitals’ limited cap space could make them receptive to an offer of draft picks for Eller.

Talbot could be an option if the Wild risk losing him to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft or of giving up assets to the Kraken to retain him. With $11 million in salary-cap space, the Sharks could be positioned to offer Nugent-Hopkins more money on a short-term deal via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks GM Doug Wilson has a well-earned reputation for making bold moves and could do so this summer. I don’t see him prying Marner or Nylander away from the Leafs or winning a bidding war in free agency for Nugent-Hopkins. Pursuing Talbot or Eller are more reasonable options, though we don’t know if either guy will be on Wilson’s radar this summer.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 7, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 7, 2021

The Golden Knights tie their series with the Avalanche, the Canadiens take a commanding lead over the Jets, the Selke Trophy finalists are announced, Canada wins gold at the World Championships, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: A hat trick by Jonathan Marchessault powered the Vegas Golden Knights to a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. William Karlsson collected three assists as the Golden Knights tied their second-round series at two games apiece. Game 5 goes Tuesday in Colorado.

Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas began outplaying the Avalanche midway through Game 2. Despite losing that one in overtime, they have been in control of this series over the last two games.

The Golden Knights dominated Game 4, prompting one Denver columnist to call upon Colorado head coach Jared Bednar to shuffle his lineup for Game 5. If the Avs don’t do something to regain the momentum they’ll be hitting the golf course before the end of this week.

The Montreal Canadiens took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Winnipeg Jets with a 5-1 win. Joel Armia scored two goals and collected an assist while Carey Price made 26 saves. The Canadiens have won six straight stretching back to their first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They can complete the sweep tonight in Game 4 at the Bell Centre.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Winnipeg tried to get off to a fast start but their game plan was quickly derailed when Corey Perry opened the scoring for Montreal in the first period. The Jets sagged like a slowly leaking balloon after that, looking nothing like the team that swept the Edmonton Oilers from the first round.

The Canadiens didn’t emerge unscathed from Game 3 as defenseman Jeff Petry spent the third period on the bench with a hand injury. An update on his status is expected later today.

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, and Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone are this year’s finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins center David Krejci was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL department of player safety for spearing New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal in the groin during Game 3 on Saturday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The initial call was a five-minute major for spearing but was changed to a two-minute minor for…slashing. Yet another puzzling call in a postseason that’s seen more than its share.

TSN: The Canadian government has issued a travel exemption to allow the winner of the North Division and their American opponents to cross the border during the semifinals and Stanley Cup Final. The NHL’s plan, approved by the provincial governments of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, includes a number of rules and protocols players and teams must abide by, including pre-and post-departure COVID-19 screenings whenever teams cross the border.

The restrictions include American teams playing in Canada and the Canadian team playing in the US to quarantine in designated hotels, allowed only to visit the arena where they’re playing. There are also restrictions on who the players can interact with.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ottawa Senators forward Nick Paul scored in overtime as Canada defeated Finland 3-2 to win the 2021 World Championship in Riga, Latvia. Senators forward Connor Brown was the tournament’s leading scorer with 16 points while Calgary Flames winger Andrew Mangiapane was named tournament MVP.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was an impressive victory for Canada, which dropped its first three games in the tournament before roaring back to win it all. Canadian head coach Gerard Gallant will likely draw even more interest from NHL clubs seeking new bench bosses during the offseason. Gallant is reportedly on top of the New York Rangers’ wish list.

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere was named head coach of their AHL affiliate in LeHigh Valley.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2021

A look at some of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton topped Frank Seravalli’s recent list of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell indicated in March the two sides agreed to put aside contract talks until the end of this season. Sources claimed a big gap exists between how much the Hurricanes are willing to pay and what Hamilton’s camp believes is his market value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli believes it makes little sense for the Hurricanes to sign Hamilton before the expansion draft. That would mean protecting him at the expense of perhaps losing blueliner Jake Bean to the Seattle Kraken.

However, the Kraken has a three-day window before the expansion draft to interview pending free agents. Things could get interesting if Hamilton is willing to listen to what they could offer.

Seravalli excluded Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin and Colorado Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog from this list. There’s no indication either player will be leaving their respective clubs. Both would impact their team’s expansion protection lists if they sign before July 21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs could be comfortable waiting until after July 21 to re-sign them if both players are determined to stay put.

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf was also excluded. The Ducks are open to having him return for another season but it remains to be seen if he’ll look elsewhere to chase another Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf, 36, could be back for one more year. Several factors – including his family, his health and his willingness to accept a lesser role with the rebuilding Ducks – will determine his future.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman and Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers hope to re-sign Nugent-Hopkins but that will depend on what he’s seeking in terms of salary. He’s completing a seven-year, $42 million contract. Barrie’s future in Edmonton is less clear.

Mutual interest exists between Hall and the Bruins in talking contract after this season but that will depend on his playoff performance. Hyman wants to stay in Toronto and the Leafs want to keep him but their limited salary-cap space could be an issue.

Seravalli includes former Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet on his list at No. 6. He believes Tocchet will draw interest from multiple teams.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault and Florida Panthers forward Alexander Wennberg fill out the top-ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could bring back Rask on a short-term deal if he’ll accept less than his current annual average value of $7 million. Martinez and Danault face uncertain futures with their current clubs as there’s little indication of contract talks. Wennberg rejuvenated his career in Florida. Panthers GM Bill Zito knows him from their days with the Jackets, signed him last fall, and could ink him to a new deal.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, St. Louis Blues winger Mike Hoffman, Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and Tampa Bay Lightning winger Blake Coleman checked in at Nos. 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the Sabres hope to re-sign Ullmark. Whether he wants to stay is another matter. Hoffman was hoping a big season in St. Louis would bolster his stock in this summer’s UFA market. His inconsistent play, however, could put a lucrative new deal further out of reach.

Recent reports out of Edmonton suggest the Oilers are close to a new deal with Larsson. Andersen’s injury history and his uneven playoff performances could hurt his value but not enough to prevent him from landing with another NHL club. Coleman’s physical two-way style and decent scoring touch will draw plenty of attention if he tests the market.

Colorado Avalanche winger Brandon Saad, Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, New York Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri, and Dallas Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak fill in spots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs likely won’t have the cap space to re-sign Saad as they’ll be keeping Landeskog plus goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Cale Makar must be signed. The Blues prefer to keep Schwartz but their limited cap space will make it difficult to do.

Granlund could be an affordable re-signing for the Predators. Palmieri’s stock took a tumble in the regular season but could rebound with a strong postseason effort. The Stars could part ways with Oleksiak as they’ll need their limited cap room to re-sign blueliner Miro Heiskanen.

Bruins center David Krejci, Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny, Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar, Lightning defenseman David Savard and Bruins blueliner Mike Reilly are in spots 21-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could re-sign Krejci on an affordable short-term deal, especially if they can also retain Taylor Hall. The Jets could retain Stastny if he’s agreeable to a cost-effective contract.

The Canadiens will likely cut ties with the inconsistent Tatar. Savard was a playoff rental for the Lightning as was Reilly with the Bruins. Savard will draw interest from clubs seeking a shutdown blueliner.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Cody Ceci, Arizona Coyotes blueliner Alex Goligoski, Leafs forward Nick Foligno, Canadiens winger Corey Perry and Coyotes forward Michael Bunting complete the top 30.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 25, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 25, 2021

Could the Flyers pursue Mattias Ekholm? What’s the latest Bruins speculation? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD FLYERS PURSUE EKHOLM?

PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi recently suggested Mattias Ekholm might be a fit on the Philadelphia Flyers’ blueline. He considered the 30-year-old Nashville Predators blueliner as “the most interesting veteran defenseman who might be on the market.”

Would Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm be a good fit with the Philadelphia Flyers? (NHL Images)

Carchidi observed the 6’4”, 215-pound Ekholm can be a first- or second-pairing defender with an affordable $3.75 million cap hit and can log over 21 minutes per game. The downside is he’s a left-shot rearguard, acquiring him could interfere with the Flyers’ protection list for this summer’s expansion draft and it would probably take a high draft pick and quality prospect to acquire him.

THE ATHLETIC: Charlie O’Connor and Adam Vingan pointed out colleague Pierre LeBrun included the Flyers on his list of four possible landing spots for Ekholm, with the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals as the others.

Despite being a left-hand shot, Ekholm played on the right side last season when Predators’ d-man Ryan Ellis was sidelined. One reason the Predators could trade him is to protect Ellis, Roman Josi and Dante Fabbro in the expansion draft. O’Connor believes the Flyers might prefer acquiring a rental defenseman on an expiring contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm would be a good fit with any of those four teams suggested by LeBrun. The Bruins might be the best one as they’ve been using younger players on the left side of their defense corps this season. It’s going well so far but injuries to Matt Grzelcyk and Jeremy Lauzon could have them considering an experienced, affordable short-term addition.

Speaking of the Bruins…

LATEST ON THE BRUINS

THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa recently examined the Boston Bruins’ options if long-time center David Krejci departs this summer via free agency. He suggested there would be “turbulence” if Charlie Coyle, Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic slot in at center behind Patrice Bergeron as rival clubs would attack those centers just as they’ve done this season with the Bruins’ young defensemen. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney tends not to re-sign pending UFAs.

In a recent mailbag segment, Shinzawa dismissed the notion of the Bruins using their cap space next season to take on a bad contract to gain extra draft picks and/or prospects. He also believes they’ll attempt to shore up their depth at center over the next couple of years via the draft and perhaps the trade market.

Bruins management and coaching staff might share the fans’ frustration over Jake DeBrusk’s development thus far but Shinawa feels the 24-year-old winger still has too much to toss aside, citing the risk he might blossom elsewhere. He also believes they’d be selling low at this point. He sees the Bruins’ signing goaltender Tuukka Rask to a contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s going to be interesting to see what the Bruins do with Krejci. If he’s willing to take a pay cut on a short-term deal they’ll keep him. The question is whether he thinks he can get a better deal in a free-agent market where the salary cap is expected to remain flattened. I have my doubts that he wants to move on from the only NHL team he’s ever played for.

DeBrusk’s name has floated in the rumor mill for some time. However, if he had suitable value that would help the Bruins he would’ve been traded by now.

Most speculation I’ve read and heard suggests they would want a good NHL player in return and not a draft pick/prospect package. There was some talk of a DeBrusk-for-Jake Virtanen swap with Vancouver but I don’t see that happening. Virtanen wouldn’t be an improvement over DeBrusk.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 19, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action, another Stars game postponed, the league’s COVID-19 numbers are dropping, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Ottawa Senators 7-3. Matthews leads the league with 16 goals while his points streak has stretched to 15 games. Mitch Marner has a goal and three assists while Joe Thornton a goal and two assists. Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle had a goal and an assist. Senators’ defenseman Thomas Chabot missed the game with an upper-body injury while Leafs forward Zach Hyman was listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is making an early case for the Hart Trophy this season.

Kyle Palmieri scored twice as the New Jersey Devils held on for a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pavel Zacha scored what proved to be the game-winner while Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made 25 saves. Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak replied for the Bruins, who lost center David Krejci to a lower-body injury.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin’s shootout goal gave his club a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Kevin Hayes collected two assists for the Flyers, who were playing their first game since Feb. 7 due to COVID-19. They will also play their upcoming outdoor game against the Bruins with six regulars (Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun) sidelined because of the NHL’s COVID protocols.

The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped the New York Islanders’ eight-game points streak with a 4-1 victory. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry made 31 saves while Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust each had a goal and an assist while Evgeni Malkin collected two assists.

A 32-save shutout performance by Elvis Merzlikins gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Cam Atkinson, Max Domi and Eric Robinson were the goal scorers. The Predators have dropped five of their last six contests.

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom scored to extend his points streak to five games as his club downed the Buffalo Sabres 3-1, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen remains sidelined as he works on his conditioning after being sidelined for two weeks by COVID-19.

David Perron scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2. Brayden Schenn scored the tying goal for the Blues late in the third period, setting the stage for the winning goal by Perron, who had a three-point performance. Torey Krug and Marco Scandella returned to the Blues roster from injuries but Colton Parayko missed the game with a nagging undisclosed injury. Earlier in the day, the Sharks announced defenseman Erik Karlsson would miss at least the next two games with a groin injury.

The Los Angeles Kings nipped the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 on a shootout goal by Gabriel Vilardi. The Coyotes overcame a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and the shootout.

Kevin Fiala scored what proved to be the winning goal as the Minnesota Wild beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. It was the Wild’s first win since Jan. 31 when their schedule was paused because of COVID-19 protocols.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Dallas Stars’ Saturday game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was postponed due to power outages related to recent storms in Texas. It’s the fourth straight Stars game postponed this week and the eighth of the season. They face potentially playing 44 games in 78 days if the NHL mandates the Stars must play all their remaining games if the regular season ends on May 10 as scheduled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will also depend on where the Stars are in the standings later in the season. The league could cancel some of their remaining games if they’re out of playoff contention within the final couple of weeks in the season. No point in having them play a pointless game against another non-contender.

ESPN.COM: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list continues to shrink, dropping to 13 players yesterday. The drop coincides with enhanced health and safety measures implemented by the NHL within the past two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The outbreaks earlier this month may have also served as a wake-up call for players and staff, making them more vigilant and adhering more closely to the league’s protocols.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets claimed well-traveled goaltender Eric Comrie off waivers from the New Jersey Devils. It’s the second straight season the Jets have lost Comrie off waivers only to claim him back again later in the year.

AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez hopes to have an opportunity to play a game in Mexico City in an effort to expand the NHL’s brand. He’s also hopeful the Coyotes will one day take part in an outdoor game with one of their rivals.