NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 28, 2021

Recaps from a busy Saturday night and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

NHL.COM: Sean Couturier had a goal and an assist as the Philadelphia Flyers blanked the Buffalo Sabres 3-0. Brian Elliott made 23 saves for the shutout. The Sabres played without Jack Eichel (day-to-day, lower-body injury) and goaltender Linus Ullmark, who will be sidelined for a month by a lower-body injury. Jeff Skinner, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tobias Rieder returned to the Sabres’ lineup.

A three-goal first period powered the Washington Capitals over the New Jersey Devils 5-2. Devils winger Pavel Zacha scored to extend his points streak to nine games. Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov was a late scratch with an upper-body injury and remains questionable for Sunday’s rematch.

The Calgary Flames downed the Ottawa Senators 6-3 to snap the latter’s three-game win streak. Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk had a goal and an assist while brother Brady scored for the Senators. Mikael Backlund had a goal and two assists for the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators pulled goaltender Matt Murray after he gave up six goals on 33 shots but this loss cannot be pinned on him. His teammates didn’t play well in front of him and the Flames capitalized.

A two-goal performance by Mattias Ekholm rallied the Nashville Predators past the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1. Cam Atkinson tallied for the Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blue Jackets have dropped six of their last seven and sit five points out of a playoff spot in the Discover Central Division. A lack of experienced depth at center is part of the problem. Jack Roslovic, Alexandre Texier and Kevin Stenlund are centering three of their four lines.

Mitch Marner and John Tavares each had two points as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-0. Jack Campbell made 30 saves for the shutout in his first game since being sidelined by a leg injury on Jan. 24. The Leafs played without leading scorer Auston Matthews (wrist injury, day-to-day) and goaltender Frederik Andersen (lower body, day-to-day).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An impressive win by the Leafs without their best player (Matthews) and starting goaltender (Andersen). They also got a boost from the return of winger Joe Thornton and defenseman Jake Muzzin from injuries.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (NHL Images).

Kris Letang scored twice, including the game-winner, as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the New York Islander 4-3 in overtime. Isles forward Cal Clutterbuck missed the game with an undisclosed injury.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his second straight shutout backstopping his club to a 5-0 drubbing of the Dallas Stars. Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli each had a goal and an assist. The Lightning have won four straight.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the first game between these two clubs since last year’s Stanley Cup Final. The defending champion Lightning still looks like a Cup contender while the Stars are stuck at the bottom of the Discover Central Division. The good news for the Stars is they’ve got several games in hand over their division rivals because of several postponed games. The bad news is they’ve won only twice in the last 12 contests and face a daunting challenge of getting back into the playoff chase in a compressed schedule.

The Carolina Hurricanes snapped a three-game losing skid by nipping the Florida Panthers 4-3. Martin Necas tallied the winner in a shootout. Brett Pesce collected two assists for the Hurricanes while Panthers’ winger Patric Hornqvist had a goal and an assist.

Frans Nielsen and Evgeny Svechnikov each had a goal and an assist as the Detroit Red Wings upset the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3. Jonathan Bernier made 33 saves for the win. Earlier in the day, the Wings announced captain Dylan Larkin would sit out this weekend’s games with an upper-body injury.

Minnesota Wild blueliner Matt Dumba scored with 0.3 remaining in overtime in a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings, who have rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to force the extra frame. Dumba finished with two points while Kings goalie Cal Petersen made 38 saves.

A four-goal third period carried the Colorado Avalanche over the Arizona Coyotes by a score of 6-2. Six different players scored for the Avs, including Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.

An overtime goal by William Karlsson lifted the Vegas Golden Knights past the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. It was Karlsson’s second goal of the game while teammate Alex Pietrangelo collected a goal and an assist. The Ducks are winless in six games.

The Winnipeg Jets squeaked past the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on an overtime goal by Paul Stastny. Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck turned in a 41-save performance as the Canadiens are winless in five straight.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens dominated most of this game but Hellebuyck made the difference. The Habs still need to improve in the faceoff circle and their special teams still need work but this effort was an improvement over their recent play.

Marco Scandella scored twice, including the game-winner, as the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks 7-6. Evander Kane and Timo Meier each scored twice for the Sharks, who welcomed back defensemen Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek from injury. Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington was pulled after he allowed four goals on 19 shots and went after several Sharks players before finally leaving the game.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TSN: Only five players (Arizona’s John Hayden, NY Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko, Ottawa’s Ryan Dzingel, Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl) remain on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins claimed defenseman Jarred Tinordi off waivers yesterday from the Nashville Predators.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: The Penguins named Chris Pryor as director of player personnel.

NBC SPORTS: The Seattle Kraken announced Friday it raised $150,000.00 from team and individual investors to save the hockey program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 24, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 24, 2021

Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, recaps of Tuesday’s games, the latest on Artemi Panarin, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

**UPDATE**

The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller. Assistant coach Dominique Ducharme has become interim head coach while Alex Burrows has joined the coaching staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After bursting from the gate with a 7-1-2 record the Canadiens were 2-6-2 and in danger of falling out of playoff contention in the North Division. General manager Marc Bergevin was busy in the offseason improving the roster. A coaching change was the next step. It’ll be interesting to see how the Habs respond to this move. 

Ducharme spent eight seasons coaching in the QMJHL, guiding the Halifax Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup in 2013. He was also a two-time bench boss of Canada’s World Junior team, coaching them to a gold medal in 2018. He joined the Habs’ coaching staff as an assistant later that year.  Following his NHL career, Burrows joined the Canadiens’ farm team in Laval as an assistant coach. 

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark made 41 saves in a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils, handing the latter their third straight loss. Buffalo winger Sam Reinhart collected two assists. Earlier in the day, the Sabres announced defenseman William Borgen will be sidelined up to two months following surgery on Tuesday to repair a broken right forearm.

The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their third straight win by edging the Washington Capitals 3-2. Kasperi Kapanen tallied the winner in overtime as he and Jake Guentzel each had a goal and an assist. It was a costly win for the Penguins as Jason Zucker and Kris Letang left the game with injuries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zucker’s injury looked serious as he had to be helped off the ice after crashing awkwardly into the boards. An update on both players could be made later today.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

Patrick Kane scored his 398th career goal and collected three assists as the Chicago Blackhawks nipped the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-5. Alex DeBrincat tallied the game-winner in a shootout while Carl Soderberg had three points for the Hawks. Patrik Laine and Oliver Bjorkstrand each scored twice for the Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane is playing his way into the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation. He’s the engine driving a Blackhawks team that wasn’t expected to be a playoff contender this season. They’re third in the Discover Central Division with 24 points, two behind the first-place Florida Panthers.

Shootout goals by Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris gave the Ottawa Senators a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, handing the latter their sixth loss in their last eight games. Brady Tkachuk tallied twice for the Senators, including the game-tying goal after the Canadiens overcame a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead. Shea Weber tallied twice for the Habs. Senators center Derek Stepan left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher wasn’t happy after his apparent game-winning goal in the dying seconds of regulation was overturned by what he considered a questionable goaltender interference call. Regardless of the validity of Gallagher’s complaint, the Canadiens once again struggled against the worst team in the league. The loss led to today’s firing of Claude Julien as head coach. 

Pekka Rinne had a 24-save shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Filip Forsberg had a goal and an assist as both goals came in the third period.

The Edmonton Oilers scored four unanswered goals (three in the third period) to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Dominik Kahun tallied twice and Leon Draisaitl collected three assists for the Oilers. Canucks center Elias Pettersson had a goal and an assist.

HEADLINES

NEW YORK POST: Four of Artemi Panarin’s former KHL teammates dispute their former coach’s claim the New York Rangers winger assaulted a young woman in Riga, Latvia in 2011. The allegation by former Vityaz coach Andrei Nazarov forced Panarin to take a leave of absence from the Rangers. Nazarov, a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has publicly criticized Panarin in the past for his outspoken views of the Putin regime.

Larry Brooks reports there’s been no corroboration thus far of Nazarov’s account. Sources say the NHL hasn’t opened an independent investigation and has no intention of doing so due to the lack of credible evidence. There’s no timeline for Panarin’s absence. A source refuted a report the winger sought and was granted two weeks. He remains at his Connecticut home.

Brooks cites a source claiming Nazarov didn’t have a good relationship with Panarin when the winger played for him. Another suggested Nazarov was trying to curry favor with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation in hope of being rewarded with a coaching job.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some have wondered why Panarin needs to take time away from the Rangers after claiming Nazarov’s accusation is baseless. He still has family in Russia and is apparently concerned about the effect of this story on them.

Nazarov reportedly claimed Panarin was detained by local police officials and there were a criminal case and trial. That should be easily verified by local records but nothing has been produced thus far to back up that claim.

SPORTSNET: Henrik Lundqvist is back on the ice less than two months after undergoing open-heart surgery. He was in full gear taking shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication if this means a return to action for Lundqvist is in the near future. Nevertheless, it’s great to see him back on the ice again as he continues his recovery.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers captain Claude Giroux returned to practice yesterday for the first time after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. The Flyers will evaluate him in practice today to determine if he’ll face the Rangers tonight. Teammates Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun remain on the COVID protocol list.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen has been sidelined indefinitely by a concussion. He suffered the injury during last Friday’s game against the Blackhawks.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson suffered a season-ending knee injury during Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings. It could also end his tenure with the Blues as he’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

NHL.COM: The league released another update to its schedule to account for games previously postponed by COVID-19 protocols and recent winter storms in Texas.










Crosby, Malkin and Letang Dominate The NHL Rumor Mill

Crosby, Malkin and Letang Dominate The NHL Rumor Mill

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – February 14, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – February 14, 2021

More Penguins speculation, two of the players involved in yesterday’s Hurricanes-Senators trade shouldn’t get too comfortable, and an update on Derek Stepan in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

MORE PENGUINS SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi recently examined the big decisions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins following their hiring of Ron Hextall as general manager and Brian Burke as president of hockey operations.

Sources close to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin confirm both players endorsed the Burke-Hextall partnership. Team co-owner Mario Lemieux has long expressed to confidants and previous GMs that he wants both players to retire as Penguins.

Malkin’s contract expires at the end of next season. The Penguins can open contract extension talks this summer. Rossi noted Malkin stated in September 2019 his preference to signing a three-year extension to finish his career in Pittsburgh. He believes the Penguins will keep Malkin as that was the understanding when Burke and Hextall signed on.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits outside of Pittsburgh wondered about Malkin’s future (and Crosby’s) under the Penguins’ new management. It appears neither he nor Crosby will be going anywhere based on Rossi’s report. The situation could change but if ownership wants Malkin and Crosby to retire as Penguins then that’s what’s going to happen.

Kris Letang’s contract also expires at the end of next season. Rossi reports Lemieux is believed to prefer retaining the veteran defenseman. However, Burke and Hextall weren’t told Letang couldn’t be traded, only that any trade “must be done the right way for respect for all he’s done.”

Rossi also cited sources saying former GM Jim Rutherford placed calls to many teams to gauge interest in Letang. However, a deal to move him was never in place and wasn’t the reason behind Rutherford’s decision to step down. It remains to be seen if Letang wants to re-sign or what the Penguins might get in return if they trade him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Letang has a modified no-trade clause listing 18 preferred trade destinations. It’s difficult to say what his value could be but given his age (34) and UFA status next summer they might not find many takers in the trade market.

The logjam on the left side of the Penguins’ blueline could become Hextall’s priority to address before the Apr. 12 trade deadline. Rossi speculates either Mike Matheson or Juuso Riikola will have to go.

Parting with Matheson could require Hextall to package the blueliner with a draft pick, prospect or a player off the current roster. The Penguins cannot afford to carry an extra defenseman with Matheson’s contract ($4.875 million AAV through 2025-26).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson lacks no-trade protection this season but his modified no-trade (eight-team no-trade list) goes into effect next season. Moving him this season is preferable but his cap hit and poor play make him a tough sell.

COULD GALCHENYUK AND DZINGEL BE ON THE MOVE AGAIN?

SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Chris Johnston reports anyone involved in yesterday’s trade between the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senator shouldn’t get too comfortable in their new locations.

Johnston doesn’t consider it out of the question that Alex Galchenyuk’s stay with the Hurricanes will be short given he’s bounced around a lot in recent years and could be on the move again in the near future. Meanwhile, the Senators have a decision to make with Ryan Dzingel. He’s in the final year of his contract and could be flipped for a draft pick at the Apr. 12 trade deadline if they decide not to keep him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cedric Paquette was the centerpiece of that deal. The Hurricanes intend to keep him for the playoffs given his gritty style of play and postseason experience. Galchenyuk saw limited action with the Senators while Dzingel wasn’t playing up to expectations with the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes could flip Galchenyuk to another club at some point before the trade deadline. Dzingel could also be moved if he fails to regain the scoring touch he had during his previous tenure with the Sens.

UPDATE ON STEPAN

SPORTSNET: Wayne Scanlan reported Friday center Derek Stepan could be among the first Senators moved before the trade deadline. He’s among several players eligible for unrestricted free agent status this summer who could be useful pieces for a contending team.

Scanlan reported the team and the player seem to regret the trade that brought him to Ottawa. The veteran center is missing his family in Arizona but GM Pierre Dorion insisted Stepan hasn’t requested a trade. Nevertheless, Scanlan feels it’s clear Stepan is hoping the Senators can move him closer to home.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid performance by Stepan in the coming weeks could improve his trade value. His annual average value is $6.5 million but he’s earning just $2 million in actual salary after being paid a $3 million signing bonus by the Arizona Coyotes before his acquisition by the Senators. Still, the Sens might have to pick up part of his AAV to make him attractive to cap-strapped contenders.










NHL Rumor Mill – February 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – February 10, 2021

What the Penguins hiring Ron Hextall and Brian Burke could mean for the club going forward in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen wonders what’s in store for the Pittsburgh Penguins following their hiring of Ron Hextall as general manager and Brian Burke as president of hockey operations. Hextall has a reputation for patiently building a team while Burke is known for his aggressive moves.

There’s no indication they’ll move away from ownership’s current win-now mentality. Nevertheless, Boylen questions how much their current core of talent has left in the tank. Team captain Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang are 33 while Evgeni Malkin is 34. The latter two have contracts that expire at the end of next season.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Boylen ponders what will happen if the Penguins miss the playoffs or suffer another early elimination. Do they re-sign Letang and Malkin or move in a different direction?

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Paul Zeise also deliberates over how well Hextall and Burke will work together. He suggests perhaps Hextall will focus on the draft, scouting prospects and building up the foundation while Burke can focus on trying to give the Penguins a chance of winning the Stanley Cup around their current core.

Zeise believes the first order of business is to upgrade the goaltending. However, he admits that’s easier said than done. He questioned who has the priority when it comes to making big decisions on personnel, and at what point do they decide the Penguins are no longer Cup contenders and try to retool by dumping some of their big-name players.

TSN: Darren Dreger recently reported on the possibility Crosby and Malkin might not finish their careers in Pittsburgh. Asked how their futures could be affected by the hiring of Hextall and Burke, Dreger believes it depends upon the conversations they have with those two and Letang about the club’s direction. That could happen in the short term and perhaps in the offseason.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski included Malkin’s situation among the five factors facing Hextall and Burke. Multiple sources indicate ownership’s unwillingness to move Malkin and Letang. He noted the Penguins have been approached in recent years with tantalizing offers for Malkin that could help the club in the short and long term only to be rebuffed.

A top priority is figuring out where Malkin and Letang fit best. If it’s not with the Penguins, they’ll have to convince ownership to buy into that.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski feels Hextall and Burke made it clear during their introductory press conference yesterday that moving Letang or Malkin is unlikely at least for this season. They and Crosby were cited as the top players to build around.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Attempting to build up the roster around Crosby, Malkin and Letang is the short-term goal for Hextall and Burke. That’s not going to be easy during a pandemic-shortened season when most teams have limited salary-cap space and trades between Canadian and American clubs are hampered by tight border restrictions.

Hextall and Burke might not shake things up right away if the Penguins fall short this season because of ownership’s insistence on sticking with their aging core. The goal this summer could become restocking their prospect cupboard while attempting to make trades and/or free-agent signings that provide immediate help, especially if they can land younger talent. They could also open contract-extension talks with Letang and Malkin or put those off until the end of next season.

The Penguins, however, have limited cap room for 2021-22. Cap Friendly indicates they have $79.3 million invested in 17 players. With the cap expected to remain at $81.5 million, there’s little wiggle room for free-agent additions while trades would have to be dollar-for-dollar.

If the Penguins fail to improve next season, Hextall and Burke will have no choice but to convince ownership that it’s time for big changes. That means deciding whether to re-sign Letang and Malkin, assuming they haven’t already been signed to new deals. It could also mean shopping them before next year’s trade deadline.

Preparing for a rebuild will also mean determining whether Crosby wants to be part of it. He’s signed through 2024-25 so there’s not as much urgency about his situation as there is with Letang and Malkin. Still, the front office will have to have that discussion with their captain sooner or later.










What If The Penguins Next GM Decides To Blow Up The Roster?

What If The Penguins Next GM Decides To Blow Up The Roster?