NHL ProteauType: Despite Sunny Bumps, Lake Tahoe Outdoor Games Deserve Praise
A five-point performance by Connor McDavid, a four-point output by Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby’s 1000th career game and a long delay in the outdoor game between the Avalanche and Golden Knights are the highlights in this edition of the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid enjoyed a five-point performance as his club thumped the Calgary Flames 7-1. McDavid tallied a natural hat trick while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice. Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek and winger Kailer Yamamoto left the game with injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid remains the early favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season. He leads all NHL scorers with 25 assists and 37 points.
Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. Mitch Marner collected three points for the Leafs, who hold a five-point lead atop the NHL’s overall standings. Matthews now has a league-leading 18 goals on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs feasted on the defensive miscues of a rusty Canadiens squad that hadn’t played in six days. Matthews tallied two of the Leafs’ three power-play goals.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby collected two assists in his 1000th career NHL game during a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. Kris Letang tallied twice as the Penguins swept the two-game series. Before the game, the Penguins honored their captain with a silver stick and video tributes from current and former teammates and several NHL stars including Steven Stamkos and John Tavares.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Crosby on reaching another significant milestone in his long NHL career.
The Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors game at Lake Tahoe was overshadowed by an eight-hour delay following the first period due to poor ice conditions. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists for the Avs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: What could’ve been an entertaining match-up against a beautiful outdoor backdrop became an embarrassment for the NHL. In fairness, the league has a solid track record staging outdoor games in various locations. I don’t fault them for staging this outdoor contest in that scenic location. Unfortunately, no one seemed to consider what might happen to ice conditions on a bright sunny afternoon at a higher altitude in Nevada.
The sunny conditions at Lake Tahoe forced the league to change the start time for today’s outdoor match between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers from 2 pm ET to 7:30 pm ET.
The Buffalo Sabres snapped a four-game losing skid by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Sam Reinhart scored twice for the Sabres, who lost defenseman Jake McCabe to an apparent right-knee injury in the third period. Before the game, the Devils announced Nico Hischier as their new team captain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on McCabe’s status is expected later today. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he was very concerned about the blueliner’s condition.
Mika Zibanejad ended a 13-game goalless drought and Artemi Panarin collected two assists as the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1. Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves for the win and Ryan Strome had two points, including his 100th career NHL goal.
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier’s 38-save performance carried his club to a 2-1 upset of the Florida Panthers. The Wings got second-period goals by Patrik Nemeth and rookie Mathias Brome as they held on for the win.
The Los Angeles Kings got two goals from Alex Iafallo as they doubled up the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty each collected two assists. The Kings have won four straight games.
Logan Couture’s game-winner in the third period gave the San Jose Sharks a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks blew 3-0 and 4-1 leads before Couture sealed the deal. Jordan Kyrou had a goal and two assists for the Blues.
Third-period goals by Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg lifted the Nashville Predators over the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Jarnkrok scored twice for the Predators while the Blue Jackets lost goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to an apparent arm injury in the third period.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves for his first career NHL shutout in a 4-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov each had a goal and an assist.
Kevin Fiala scored twice as the Minnesota Wild rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Fiala now has six goals in his last seven games. Teammates Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov each had two points. In a surprising move earlier in the day, the Ducks placed struggling veteran center Adam Henrique on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone claims Henrique. He’s in the second season of a five-year contract with an annual average value of $5.825 million.
TSN: Former NHL coach Mike Babcock has been named head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Hockey Team. He will lead the club on a voluntary basis for the next two years.
The NHL is planning two outdoor games at Lake Tahoe, plus the latest on Jack Eichel, Kasperi Kapanen, Andrew Shaw and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the NHL is planning to stage two outdoor games at Edgewood Tahoe Resort at Lake Tahoe, Nevada during the upcoming season. The first would see the Colorado Avalanche face off against the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 20, followed the next day by the Philadelphia Flyers facing the Boston Bruins. Fans will not be in attendance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman said the NHL has been scouting locations to hold “natural wilderness” outdoor-weekend games this year. Since they cannot have fans in attendance owing to COVID-19, it makes sense to take the game closer to its roots for the television audience. As Friedman suggests, if it works out they could consider making such games an annual event.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel missed the opening day of training camp to an upper-body injury suffered during offseason training. He’s listed as day-to-day. Meanwhile, Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark missed practice while quarantining due to an immigration issue. He’s expected in camp in the coming days.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres need a healthy Eichel if they hope to secure their first playoff berth in a decade. Being listed as day-to-day sounds like the injury isn’t serious. Having not seen any meaningful ice time with his teammates in nearly 10 months, the Sabres captain can’t afford to miss too much training-camp time.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen will miss the Jan. 3 start of training camp because of an immigration issue. The 24-year-old winger was acquired by the Penguins last August in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s expected to join his new teammate partway through camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen won’t have much time to get acquainted with his new teammates before the season begins. He’s reportedly still in Finland and will need a mandatory seven-day quarantine as per NHL rules and four non-positive COVID tests before he can join the Penguins in training camp.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks forwards Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith are both healthy and ready to join their teammates in training camp on Sunday. Both players missed considerable time last season with injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander all sidelined for months, the Blackhawks need all the help they can get up front.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser is back on the ice with his teammates after missing all but eight games last season with a herniated disc. He worked with Filip Hronek as his defense partner and also skated with the Wings’ top power-play unit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A positive first step toward returning to action for DeKeyser. The rebuilding Wings will need him as they attempt to take a big leap forward in their overall development this season.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Former Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis has joined the Jets on a professional tryout offer.