NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

Cross-border games are postponed until after the upcoming holiday break as the number of teams shut down by COVID outbreaks reaches seven while Olympic participation is in question. Details and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CROSS-BORDER GAMES POSTPONED, OLYMPIC PARTICIPATION IN JEOPARDY

NHL.COM: The league announced yesterday all cross-border games between Canadian and American clubs have been postponed through the upcoming holiday break period (Dec. 24-26) over COVID-19 concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: 16 teams (Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets) won’t be playing this week for COVID-related reasons.

Despite the increasing number of positive COVID tests among players, the league and the NHL Players Association agreed to continue the 2021-22 schedule. That decision was based on advice by medical experts on both sides who point to the low number of cases among the players with concerning symptoms or serious illness.

Given the rising number of postponed games and its potential effect upon the schedule, the league and the PA are discussing whether players will participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last night reported there’s a “real sense” the players won’t be taking part in the Olympics but there’s nothing official yet. A further announcement is expected in the coming days.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Robin Lehner made 29 saves to backstop the Vegas Golden Knights to their fifth straight win by beating the New York Islanders 4-3. Shea Theodore and Nicolas Roy scored in the shootout to give the Golden Knights the win. Theodore also scored twice in regulation. The Golden Knights have won five straight and taken over first place in the Pacific Division with 40 points. Vegas captain Mark Stone missed the game with an upper-body injury while the Islanders placed Matt Martin and Robin Salo on COVID protocol before this match.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was Lehner’s first game back on Long Island since he last played for the Islanders in 2018-19. He credits Isles fans for helping him battle bipolar disorder and addiction as he got his career back on track.

Paul Stastny scored twice and collected his 500th career assist and Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and three assists as the Winnipeg Jets doubled up the St. Louis Blues 4-2. Earlier in the day, the Jets announced captain Blake Wheeler (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve.

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their win streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, who’ve now lost six straight.

Three unanswered goals lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Washington Capitals 3-2. Garret Sparks made 33 saves for his first NHL win since 2019 as the Kings have won four of their last six contests. Capitals forwards T.J. Oshie and Michael Sgarbossa and Kings center Phillip Danault missed this game as they were placed on the COVID protocol list. Earlier in the day, the Capitals placed winger Tom Wilson (upper body) on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 10.

IN OTHER HEADLINES…

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said he was hit hard by COVID-19 symptoms during the first two days after he tested positive on Dec. 2 and went into the mandatory 10-day quarantine. He’s since recovered and rejoined his teammates during practice on Sunday.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets canceled practice yesterday after Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Gabriel Carlsson were placed on the COVID protocol list.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning center Brayden Point is expected to make his return to action from a shoulder injury on Dec. 28 against the Canadiens. He’s been sidelined for a month.

NHL.COM: The department of player safety suspended Chicago Blackhawks forward Brett Connolly for four games for interference against Dallas Stars forward Tanner Kero on Saturday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kero was stretchered from the ice and taken to a hospital for observation following the hit by Connolly. He’s reportedly been released and is resting at home.

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes senior director of hockey development Matt Shott passed away Sunday following a 10-month bout with liver cancer. He was 34.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Shott’s family, friends and the Coyotes organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2021

The Canucks fired Jim Benning and Travis Green, the Flyers fire head coach Alain Vigneault, Blake Wheeler reaches a career milestone, the Lightning picked up a notable win, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CANUCKS FIRE BENNING AND GREEN

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks fired general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green. Assistant GM John Weisbrod and assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner were also relieved of their duties.

The Vancouver Canucks fired head coach Travis Green (left) and general manager Jim Benning (NHL.com).

Bruce Boudreau takes over as head coach on a two-year contract. Stan Smyl replaces Benning on an interim basis as the club begins its search for a full-time replacement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Team owner Francesco Aquilini reportedly decided to remain patient with the club following a meeting with Benning last month. What likely spurred Aquilini to clean house was their 4-1 loss on Saturday to the Pittsburgh Penguins in which a fan tossed a jersey on the ice in the third period as others chanted “Fire Benning”.

That frustration among Canucks fans has been building for some time. The club reached the playoffs only twice in the past seven years under Benning’s management.

They seemed to be on the rise in 2019-20, coming within one game of reaching the Western Conference Final. A poor start and a COVID-19 outbreak scuttled their 2020-21 campaign. Things didn’t get any better this season despite a healthier roster, the additions of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland and the re-signing of core players Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Canucks respond to Boudreau’s coaching. He’s an experienced NHL bench boss who’s had success in turning struggling or rebuilding clubs into playoff contenders. He faces a daunting challenge this season. With 18 points in 25 games, the Canucks are nine points out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

FLYERS FIRE VIGNEAULT

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the Philadelphia Flyers fired head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Michel Therrien. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reports Mike Yeo will replace Vigneault behind the bench for tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Seravalli also believes Rick Tocchet will be high on the Flyers’ list as Vigneault’s full-time replacement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vigneault was on increasingly thin ice as the Flyers dropped their last eight games. Last night’s lifeless 7-1 shellacking at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning was the last straw for general manager Chuck Fletcher.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler celebrated his 1,000th career game with two assists in a 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois each had a goal and an assist for the Jets, who’ve won three of their last four games. Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin departed in the third period following a knee-on-knee collision with the Jets’ Neil Pionk. There was no update on his condition following the game.

The Tampa Bay Lightning collected their 1,000th regular-season victory by crushing the Philadelphia Flyers 7-1. Victor Hedman, Corey Perry, Ryan McDonagh and Ross Colton each had three points. The Flyers have dropped eight straight games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Canucks cleaning house yesterday and the Montreal Canadiens conducting a front-office purge a week ago, could the Flyers be next? Their season has rapidly gone off the rails following a promising start, prompting calls from their fans for Alain Vigneault to be relieved of his coaching duties.

Speaking of teams mired in a winless skid, the New York Islanders dropped their 11th straight in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Patrick Kane potted the game-winner while Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 499th career victory. Mathew Barzal assisted on both Islanders’ goals while teammate Matt Martin was a late scratch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Injuries and a COVID outbreak decimated the Isles’ lineup over the past month. However, they also seemed to lack the spark that sent them to two straight conference finals and had them projected as a potential Stanley Cup contender this season.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner made 23 saves as his club held off the Calgary Flames 3-2. Nicolas Roy had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights while teammates Max Pacioretty and Evgenii Dadonov netted the other two goals. Following the game, Lehner announced he had withdrawn from consideration for Sweden’s Olympic team citing health reasons after consulting with his psychiatrist and his agents.

Drew Doughty had a goal and two assists and Adrian Kempe scored twice as the Los Angeles Kings upset the Edmonton Oilers 5-1. Oilers captain Connor McDavid received a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding Kempe in the third period. Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse scored in his first game since being sidelined six games with an injured finger.

The Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the San Jose Sharks 6-4. Adam Boqvist scored twice for the Jackets. Timo Meier and Matt Nieto each had two assists for the Sharks.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 6, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 6, 2021

Sweden names its first three players to its 2022 Olympic men’s hockey team, more potential trouble for Evander Kane, plus the latest on Robin Lehner, Tyler Bertuzzi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog are the first names submitted to be part of Sweden’s men’s ice hockey team at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Participating countries were asked to declare their three players last month.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canada’s three were recently revealed as Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, and Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. We’ll likely learn more about the other nations’ early three players in the coming days or weeks.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: A report by A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports claims an investigation is underway of San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane over allegations he violated the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols by using a fake vaccination card. In the United States, those who buy a fake vaccination card face six months in jail and a $750K fine.

This news comes following recent reports claiming Kane was being investigated for violating the league’s COVID protocols. The winger was recently cleared of allegations by his estranged wife, Anna, claiming he bet on NHL games. However, they’re also investigating claims of spousal abuse made by Anna.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m assuming this latest report is tied to the earlier one about the league looking into the possibility Kane violated the COVID protocols. If he did use a fake vaccination card, that could become justification for the Sharks to terminate his contract.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner said he’s encouraged about bringing change in hockey following conversations he had with the league and the NHL Players Association. The league reached out to Lehner for an interview after he alleged many teams were giving prescription drugs to players without a doctor’s consent.

This weekend was a cry for help from this league, the league that I love, that has given me so much,” said Lehner. He added the motivation for his recent comments on social media was to protect younger players. Lehner also said he’s encouraged about future discussions on the subject.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Lehner also received support from former NHL enforcer Tom Sestito, who claimed he was given and used “insane” amounts of the painkiller Toradol and Ambien, which is used to treat insomnia. Sestito said it took a year for him to sleep normally again after he stopped using Ambien. He also credited the Pittsburgh Penguins’ medical staff for helping to wean him off Torodol after he joined the club.

MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi still hasn’t suited up for a preseason game. The club is being cautious in his return to action after he underwent season-ending back surgery in April. It’s uncertain if he’ll see any preseason games before the season opens next week.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz left last night’s preseason game against the Golden Knights with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. He missed all of last season with an injured hip but head coach Jared Bednar said it’s not related to his previous hip problems.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets defenseman Logan Stanley is listed as day-to-day following a lower-body injury suffered in Sunday’s preseason contest with the Vancouver Canucks.

ESPN.COM: Los Angeles Kings prospect center Quinton Byfield injured his left leg during last name’s exhibition game with the Arizona Coyotes. Linesman Ryan Gibbons was stretchered from the ice following an accidental collision with Coyotes center Liam O’Brien following the national anthem. His condition is unknown.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan suffered a laceration to his forehead after being struck by a puck during last night’s preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres. He received several stitches and returned to his duties.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk could be sidelined at least two weeks following an ankle injury suffered during practice yesterday.

TSN: The Coyotes signed Alex Galchenyuk to a one-year, $750K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is Galchenyuk’s second stint with the Coyotes, having played for them in 2018-19 when he was traded to Arizona by the Montreal Canadiens for Max Domi.

NBC SPORTS: Several prospects are earning positive reviews for their preseason performance thus far. Among them are the Washington Capitals’ Hendrix Lapierre, the Carolina Hurricanes’ Seth Jarvis, and the Ottawa Senators’ Shane Pinto.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 5, 2021

Check out the latest on Robin Lehner, Carey Price, Auston Matthews, Anders Lee and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Robin Lehner clarified comments he made on Twitter Sunday accusing several NHL teams of distributing medication to players without a doctor’s prescription. He said he was not accusing Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault of doing this but was instead criticizing how he handled his players. Vigneault, meanwhile, denied Lehner’s claim mistreated his players.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (NHL Images).

Meanwhile, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he takes Lehner’s comments seriously and expects to speak with him in short order to hear his concerns and follow up to determine what merit there may be. He added Lehner could’ve contacted the league directly rather than taking to Twitter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Say this for Lehner, he got everyone’s attention with his tweets. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this after his interview with Bettman.

Bettman also spoke about the current standoff between the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel regarding medical treatment for his injured neck. He indicated the league is “up to speed” on the current situation, adding there’s legitimate disagreement among doctors as to which course of treatment Eichel should undergo.

It’s a terrible situation,” said Bettman. “I don’t think it’s fair to point the finger at anybody in terms of who’s right or who’s wrong.” He felt both sides are approaching this issue with “the best intention, ” adding people “need to be a little more patient.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, don’t expect a resolution to this story anytime soon.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Montreal Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said Carey Price was absent from Monday’s practice to a non-COVID illness. He said they’re less confident the 34-year-old goaltender will start the season on time as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a tad optimistic expecting Price to be at full strength when the season opens next week. The Habs would be wise to continue giving their franchise player more time to get into game shape.

The Canadiens got some good news as rookie winger Cole Caufield has resumed practice after missing the past week with an upper-body injury.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews participated in full practice yesterday for the first time since undergoing wrist surgery during the offseason. It’s uncertain if he’ll take part in a preseason game.

TSN: Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau is fine after leaving Monday’s preseason game against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period for precautionary reasons.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Islanders captain Anders Lee could make his preseason debut tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. It would be his first game since undergoing knee surgery in March.

THE ATHLETIC: Seattle Kraken center Yanni Gourde took part in practice for the first time since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. The timeline for his return remains uncertain. He’ll be evaluated in a couple of weeks.

TSN: Ottawa Senators center Colin White could be sidelined for a while after leaving Monday’s preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore and forwards Nicolas Roy and Brett Howden are listed as day-to-day.

TSN: Nashville Predators assistant coach Todd Richards is recovering from a heart attack. He suffered the attack on Friday but has been released from hospital and is resting at home.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Richards for a swift and full recovery.

CAP FRIENDLY: Free agent defenseman Ben Hutton has signed a professional tryout offer with the Anaheim Ducks.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 4, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 4, 2021

Canada’s 2022 Olympic men’s hockey team names its first three players, the league reaches out to Robin Lehner over his social media accusations, Jake Guentzel tests positive for COVID-19, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong has notified Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Alex Pietrangelo they will be part of the 2022 Olympic team. The move was made at the request of the International Ice Hockey Federation, the NHL, and the NHL Players Association.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (NHL Images).

This will be Crosby’s third Olympics, the second for Pietrangelo and the first for McDavid.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s no surprise seeing Crosby, McDavid and Pietrangelo being named to Canada’s squad. I daresay Crosby will be named team captain as he was in 2014. It remains to be seen when the rest of the roster will be named.

No word on which three players will be named to the other men’s Olympic ice hockey clubs. Perhaps those will be revealed in the coming days.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The NHL has reached out to Robin Lehner to set up an interview after the Vegas Golden Knights goaltender took to social media accusing several teams of giving players drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

Lehner claimed he knew several teams that gave players sedatives and anxiety pills with a doctor’s consent, singling out the Philadelphia Flyers and head coach Alain Vigneault. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher issued a statement yesterday denying the allegation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner claimed he had proof to back up his allegation against the Flyers though he never played for the club or Vigneault. As I said yesterday, he could end up in hot water if he cannot substantiate his claims. If he can, however, it could force the league to launch an investigation.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel tested positive for COVID-19 and has been placed in the NHL’s protocol for the coronavirus. He’s the second Penguin to test positive, joining forward Zach Aston-Reese.

Guentzel must remain in isolation for 10 days following his positive test. If he’s asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, he can be released from isolation if he receives two negative tests during that period.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers forward Josh Archibald has been diagnosed with COVID-related myocarditis. It’s the same heart ailment that sidelined Oilers goalie Alex Stalock.

Archibald had contracted COVID during the summer. The unvaccinated forward was in the midst of his 14-day quarantine after traveling to Edmonton from the United States for training camp when he began to not feel well.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like Stalock, Archibald’s career is now in jeopardy. Myocarditis causes inflammation of the heart muscle which can prove fatal under physical exertion. Stalock is out for the upcoming season and Archibald could suffer the same fate.

TSN: The Vancouver Canucks officially signed Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes to their new contracts yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly has the full details. It’s going to be expensive for the Canucks to re-sign Pettersson at the end of his three-year contract. He’ll earn $10.25 million in actual salary in the final season (2023-24) of that deal, meaning it’ll cost them that much to qualify his rights. Hughes, on the other hand, can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of his new six-year contract.

**UPDATE**: I’ve been reminded that rule for contracts signed after July 10, 2020, is now 120 percent of the contract’s annual average value. That means it’ll cost the Canucks $8.82 million to qualify Pettersson’s rights. Still expensive but not as much as $10.25 million. 

THE SCORE: The Tampa Bay Lightning have reportedly opened contract extension talks with head coach Jon Cooper. The club recently re-signed general manager Julien BriseBois.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cooper could become the NHL’s highest-paid coach after guiding the Lightning to consecutive Stanley Cup titles.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov missed yesterday’s practice with a lower-body injury. He’ll be re-evaluated today.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens signed checking-line forward Jake Evans to a three-year, $5.1 million contract extension. The annual average value is $1.7 million.

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sharks goalie Adin Hill left practice yesterday favoring his left wrist. His participation in today’s preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks is in doubt.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 3, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 3, 2021

Robin Lehner accuses several teams of medical malpractice plus the latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Jonathan Drouin, Jack Johnson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

ESPN.COM: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner alleged several NHL teams regularly gave players drugs such as benzodiazepines and Ambien without prescriptions. He said the Golden Knights weren’t among those clubs but implied he’d been on teams that had done so.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner can expect a call by NHL HQ if he hasn’t already been contacted. He’ll be in hot water if he can’t substantiate his allegation. If he can, however, it could prompt an investigation by the league.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said his injured hip is improving but there’s no timetable for his return. The ailment doesn’t require surgery and he’s been rehabbing it at an offsite location. His status remains week-to-week, leaving him questionable to start the season.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jonathan Drouin is the 2020-21 recipient of the Jean Beliveau Trophy, awarded annually to the Canadiens player who best exemplifies leadership qualifies in the community. Drouin’s been involved in numerous charities, including those helping children and sick people.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drouin receiving this honor takes on greater significance when one remembers he took a leave of absence from the Canadiens last season to deal with anxiety. Despite that, he still maintained his charitable work.

The Canadiens announced defenseman Sami Niku is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a concussion in Friday’s preseason game against the Ottawa Senators.

TSN: The Canadiens also claimed goaltender Samuel Montembeault off waivers from the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is seen as an insurance move by the Canadiens with starter Carey Price still recuperating from offseason knee injury. His status for the start of the season remains uncertain.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Sources claim the Colorado Avalanche are expected to sign defenseman Jack Johnson, who’s in training camp on a professional tryout offer. With Devon Toews sidelined, he’s likely to fill a spot as the fifth or sixth blueliner to start the season.