NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 31, 2021
Jonathan Huberdeau enjoys a five-point performance for the Panthers, the latest COVID wave’s ongoing effect upon the schedule, and Max Pacioretty sidelined indefinitely in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Jonathan Huberdeau collected five points (one goal, four assists) as the Florida Panthers romped to a 9-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was the fourth five-point performance of Huberdeau’s career. Anthony Duclair scored two goals and Spencer Knight picked up the win with 39 saves. The Panthers (44 points) moved to within two points of the Lightning for first place in the Eastern Conference.
The Carolina Hurricanes blanked the depleted Montreal Canadiens 4-0 with Antti Raanta making 26 saves for this first shutout of the season. Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho collected two assists for his sixth straight multi-point game while Teuvo Teravainen scored twice. Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period while Jonathan Drouin missed the game with a non-COVID-related illness.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens began this game with just three players with salary-cap hits over $1 million. That dropped to two when Gallagher was sidelined. It’s the latest lowlight in a season of suck for the hapless Habs.
A shootout goal by Gustav Nyquist lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators. Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine scored in his return to action since being sidelined by injury on Nov. 3 and the recent passing of his father. Matt Duchene collected two assists for the Predators.
Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists in his return from COVID protocol as his New York Islanders downed the Buffalo Sabres 4-1. Barzal extended his points streak to seven games. Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov kicked out 36 shots.
Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau had two goals as his club downed the Seattle Kraken 6-4. Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk each finished the night with three points. Kraken captain Mark Giordano also collected three points (one goal, two assists) in his first game against his former club.
The Vancouver Canucks suffered their first loss under head coach Bruce Boudreau as they dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the Los Angeles Kings with Viktor Arvidsson tallying the game-winner. Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves in a losing cause for the Canucks, who remain unbeaten in eight regulation games (7-0-1).
Tomas Hertl’s overtime goal gave the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Hertl now has points in eight straight games. Flyers goalie Felix Sandstrom turned aside 36 shots in his NHL debut. With the win, the Sharks (35 points) moved within a point of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
LATEST NHL COVID HEADLINES
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he still believes the league will complete a full 82-game schedule despite the recent outbreak of the Omicron version of COVID-19. He indicated the schedule is being revised to use what would’ve been the Olympic break in February to fill replacement dates for recently postponed games.
Daly remains hopeful that by mid-January there should be a normalization of the schedule. Nevertheless, he acknowledged it’s been a daily balancing act in recent weeks given how quickly the latest COVID outbreaks have spread around the league.
Regarding attendance restrictions for Canadian clubs, Daly said the league is trying to be as cooperative and flexible as possible when it comes to making up those games or moving them. They’re exploring all alternatives, including playing those games in empty home arenas or on the road until local restrictions are lifted.
SPORTSNET: Speaking of attendance restrictions for Canadian teams, the Ontario government yesterday announced stadium capacity will be reduced to 1,000 fans. They also announced the reduction of isolation for fully-vaccinated people with COVID symptoms from 10 days to five if those symptoms improve and all public health and safety measures are followed.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced there will be no sold tickets for Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors home games for at least the next three weeks.
TSN’s Gord Miller yesterday reported Canadian-based NHL teams are asking the league to shift their home dates to later in the season.
NHL.COM: The number of postponed games reached 81 with the league announcing Sunday’s contest between the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes will be rescheduled for COVID-related reasons.
SPORTSNET: has the latest updated list of NHL players and coaching staff in COVID protocols.
IN OTHER NEWS…
LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing wrist surgery. Pacioretty has missed 17 games earlier this season with a broken foot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could have an effect upon the Golden Knights’ possible plans for freeing up cap space for Jack Eichel’s anticipated February return from neck surgery.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers center Sean Couturier (upper body) is listed as week-to-week after being placed on injured reserve.
CBS SPORTS: New York Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri (lower body) was placed on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 16. There’s no timetable for his return.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild announced multi-year contract extensions for head coach Dean Evason and his staff.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Evason and his staff have done a fine job since last season turning around the Wild. They finished with last season’s ninth-best record and are just two points out of first place entering tomorrow’s Winter Classic at Target Field against the St. Louis Blues.
ESPN.COM: Canadia women’s hockey player Brigette Lacquette has been hired as a scout by the Chicago Blackhawks. She becomes the first Indigenous woman to become an NHL scout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Lacquette, who also made history in 2018 by becoming the first First Nations woman to play for Canada’s Women’s Olympic hockey team.