Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov is expected to be ready for the start of the season, Flames center Nazem Kadri expects a different style of game from his club, Blues winger Brandon Saad hopes for a bounce-back performance and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
THE SCORE: cited Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell telling the NHL Network that he fully expects winger Andrei Svechnikov to be healthy and ready for the start of this season.
Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov (NHL Images).
Svechnikov, 23, suffered a season-ending knee injury in March. Waddell indicated that the young winger is skating on his own and is on schedule to complete the remainder of his recovery, which will be when training camp opens next month.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Svechnikov’s absence was a big reason why the Hurricanes were swept by the Florida Panthers in the 2023 Eastern Conference Final. They missed his production during the playoffs and it caught up with them against the Panthers.
NHL.COM: Calgary Flames center Nazem Kadri believes the club will play a different style this coming season compared to 2022-23. He anticipates that a lot of his teammates will be ready to play to their potential.
“For whatever reason, we got a little restricted last year, so I’m just looking forward to a clean slate and starting the year off strong,” said Kadri, who was among the key Flames whose production declined last season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kadri didn’t throw Darryl Sutter under the bus, but it’s obvious that the Flames chafed last season under their demanding former head coach. The Flames fired Sutter in May and promoted assistant coach Ryan Huska as his replacement.
STLTODAY.COM: Brandon Saad is hoping to put last season’s disappointing performance behind him in 2023-24. The 30-year-old Blues winger netted 19 goals and 37 points in 71 games after tallying 24 goals and 49 points in 78 games in 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Saad wasn’t the only player on the Blues whose performance suffered in 2022-23. It’ll be interesting to see if he and his teammates can rebound this season and return to playoff contention.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Anton Lundell could be poised for a breakout performance this season. The 21-year-old Florida Panthers center’s production was down last season from his 44-point rookie performance in 2021-22 but he had 10 points in 21 playoff games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report suggests Lundell will be centering the Panthers’ third line to start this season. Given his ongoing development and potential, he could blossom into an important forward for this club.
TSN.CA: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nick Robertson seeks a fresh start in this coming season. He said he’s good to go following surgery to repair a season-ending shoulder injury last December.
The Islanders set a playoff record against the Hurricanes, the Kings down the Oilers in overtime again and the Bruins and Wild take the lead in their respective series. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders got four goals within a span of 2:18 in the third period to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1. Kyle Palmieri, Matt Martin, Scott Mayfield and Anders Lee were the goal scorers in an exciting finish to what had been a close-checking game up to that point. Ilya Sorokin made 30 saves for the Islanders. The Hurricanes lead the best-of-seven opening-round series 2-1.
New York Islanders forward Kyle Palmieri (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders set an NHL record for the fastest four goals in a playoff game. This was the first postseason contest ever played at the Isles’ home arena UBS Arena.
Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov returned to action after missing the first two games of this series with an upper-body injury.
An overtime goal by Trevor Moore lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series. Adrian Kempe scored the game-tying goal on a power play 18 seconds after the Oilers took a 2-1 lead on Connor McDavid’s second goal of the game. Joonas Korpisalo kicked out 38 shots for the Kings for their second overtime win in this series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leon Draisaitl was critical of the officiating after being called for unsportsmanlike conduct for a light slash on Kings defenseman Drew Doughty following McDavid’s second goal.
Draisaitl accepted responsibility for taking a bad penalty but noted the officials ignored Doughty’s earlier knee-on-knee hit on McDavid, who was uninjured on the play. “I just really don’t know what the standard is right now,” he said.
Kings forward Blake Lizotte missed Game 3 with a lower-body injury. Winger Kevin Fiala remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
The Boston Bruins doubled up the Florida Panthers 4-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist, David Pastrnak tallied what proved to be the game-winning goal and Linus Ullmark stopped 29 shots for the Bruins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins got the win with their two top centers out of the lineup. Patrice Bergeron (upper-body injury) missed his third straight game and will be out for Game 4 but could make his return when this series shifts back to Boston for Game 5. David Krejci, meanwhile, was scratched from Game 3 with an upper-body injury.
Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad missed the third period following a hit from Bruins blueliner Charlie McAvoy, who also leveled Panthers forward Anton Lundell later in the game. Lundell said he was fine after the game. There was no postgame update on Ekblad, who will be evaluated today.
Speaking of the Bruins, they topped the list of 15 NHL teams incurring performance bonus overages this season which will count against their salary cap for next season. The Bruins lead the way with $4.5 million due to the bonus-laden one-year contracts of Bergeron and Krejci.
Minnesota Wild winger Mats Zuccarello scored twice and teammate Ryan Hartman had a goal and two assists in a 5-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. Filip Gustavsson returned to the Wild net and made 23 saves as his club took a 2-1 series lead.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild dominated the Stars with their physical play in this contest. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond in Game 4 on Sunday.
IN OTHER NEWS…
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Head coach Rick Bowness is hopeful he’ll return to the lineup for Game 3.
CALGARY SUN: Flames prospect Dustin Wolf is the winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the most valuable player in the American Hockey League.
DAILY FACEOFF: There could be a potential conflict of interest regarding the Philadelphia Flyers’ search for their next president of hockey operations and general manager.
The Flyers are reportedly at least the second team to hire Neil Glasberg of PBI Sports as a consultant to aid in the search. However, he’s also an agent for several team executives and head coaches who could become candidates for open positions.
Auston Matthews tallies his 40th goal of the season, Cale Makar reaches 20 goals, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 40th goal as his Toronto Maple Leafs held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4. It’s the fourth time in six seasons the Leafs center has reached the 40-goal plateau. Matthews, Mitch Marner, Michael Bunting and T.J. Brodie each finished the night with two points. The Leafs are third in the Atlantic Division with 76 points.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is the defending Richard Trophy winner. He’s in a tight race for this season’s goal-scoring crown with the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl and the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider nipping at his heels. Nevertheless, he remains the favorite to take home the Richard Trophy again this season. Since his debut season (2016-17), Matthews is currently tied with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin for the most goals with 239.
The league-leading Colorado Avalanche tallied four goals in the third period, then hung on for a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders. Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar each collected three points for the Avalanche with Makar reaching the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career. Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 44 saves while teammate Anders Lee scored twice and added an assist. The Avs (87 points) hold a four-point lead for first overall over the Carolina Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Makar is the first defenseman to reach 20 goals since the San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns in 2016-17. He leads all NHL blueliners in goals and points with 63. Meanwhile, teammate Tyson Jost suited up after undergoing several hours of surgery on Saturday and Sunday to repair a fractured jaw and damaged teeth after being struck in the face by a puck during Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames.
Speaking of the Flames, they remain red-hot by downing the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 to extend their home points streak to 13 games. Tyler Toffoli scored twice, Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist while Jacob Markstrom made 27 saves. The Flames (75 points) hold a four-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division while the Oilers (64 points) remain two points behind the Nashville Predators for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli has scored seven goals in 10 games since being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens. Earlier in the day, the Oilers placed defenseman Tyson Barrie on injured reserve.
The Florida Panthers regained first place in the Atlantic Divison by thumping the Buffalo Sabres 6-1. Spencer Knight (29 saves) got the win in his first start since Feb. 1 while teammates Aleksander Barkov and Mason Marchment each collected three points. With 81 points, the Panthers sit one ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers rookie Anton Lundell left the game in the first period with an apparent leg injury and is listed as day-to-day.
An overtime goal by Andreas Athanasiou lifted the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Cal Petersen made 29 saves for the win as the Kings (71 points) sit four points behind the first-place Flames in the Pacific Division. Craig Smith and Charlie Coyle each had two points for the Bruins, who hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 73 points. Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk missed the game with an upper-body injury.
TSN: The NHL is suspending its dealings with the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). This decision could make it difficult to sign players from that league. It’s the NHL’s latest move in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move could affect NHL teams trying to bring over their Russian prospects next season. This likely won’t have any effect upon NHL free agents signing with KHL teams this summer, but the increasingly tightened sanctions on Russia could make that league a less-desirable destination for those players.
NHL.COM: Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson, Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz and New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending March 6, 2022.
SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
STONE INJURY COULD ALLOW GOLDEN KNIGHTS TO ACTIVATE EICHEL
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli took note of Vegas Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer saying captain Mark Stone continues to deal with a nagging injury that already cost him 29 games this season. If Stone should be sidelined until the playoffs, it could provide the club with the necessary cap relief to active Jack Eichel without having to trade a forward such as Reilly Smith or Evgenii Dadonov.
Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone (NHL Images).
Eichel’s annual average value is $10 million while Stone’s is $9.5 million. The move would also enable them to reactivate sidelined defenseman Alec Martinez.
THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger also weighed in on the conjecture, pointing out there’s nothing certain about the Golden Knights plans, only that league sources were speculating about it. It’s uncertain whether Stone’s injury will sideline him for the remainder of the season. If he were to return to the lineup following the trade deadline and before the end of the regular season, the club wouldn’t be able to make a cost-cutting trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Call it the “Kucherov Gambit” when a team places a player on LTIR for the remainder of the season to garner cap relief only to welcome him back into the lineup for the postseason when the salary cap doesn’t count. That’s what the Tampa Bay Lightning did last season with Nikita Kucherov. Actually, it should be known as the Patrick Kane gambit, since it was the Chicago Blackhawks who set the standard in 2015 when Kane was sidelined by a broken collarbone.
It’s a form of cap circumvention but it’s also allowed under the CBA. Some general managers might grumble but they’re not about to do anything about it because they know they can also benefit from it if facing similar circumstances.
No one’s faking an injury here. Kane and Kucherov suffered legitimate injuries that took time to heal and their recoveries were monitored by the league to ensure everything was above board cap-wise. They’ll do the same for Stone and the Golden Knights if he ends up on LTIR for the remainder of the regular season.
ARE THE PANTHERS STILL INTERESTED IN CHYCHRUN?
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, George Richards was asked if the Panthers still had an interest in Jakob Chychrun. He believes they do but doubts they can meet the Arizona Coyotes’ asking price for the 23-year-old defenseman. He felt they would be fine with a rental like the Montreal Canadiens’ Ben Chiarot.
Richards also doused any talk of the Panthers part with rookie star Anton Lundell to acquire Chychrun, calling him untouchable. “Get his name out of any rumor right now – in fact, it probably shouldn’t have been brought up.” However, he doesn’t dismiss the notion of giving up goalie Spencer Knight for the Coyotes blueliner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe it was Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek who suggested the Coyotes could ask for Lundell as part of the return. As Richards observed, they could ask for him but that doesn’t mean the Panthers will do it.
There’s no reason for the Panthers to part with Lundell as he’s already become an indispensable part of their lineup. Trading him for Chychrun would address their need for another skilled puck-moving blueliner but it would create a hole on their forward lines that could prove difficult to plug.
LATEST TIDBITS FROM TSN’S INSIDERS AND SPORTSNET’S 32 THOUGHTS
TSN: Discussing what could be next for the Edmonton Oilers following yesterday’s coaching change, Darren Dreger suggests their need for a top-four defenseman is greater than their requirement for reliable goaltending depth. He considers the addition of a right-shot blueline a priority.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I still believe addressing their goaltending is the priority. Given the limited options available or the cost of acquiring Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury if they’re not on his 10-team no-trade list, adding a defenseman would be the next best option. The Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg would be the best rental blueliner but the Oilers might not have sufficient assets to win a bidding war for his services.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli is also the type of player the Canadiens could prefer retaining for their upcoming rebuild. If he forces the issue and wants out, the Habs could seek a first-round pick and either a top prospect or good young NHL player in return.
There were rumblings the Dallas Stars may have considered a coaching change. Friedman believes they’d decided to stick with head coach Rick Bowness.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zacha was the sixth-overall pick by the Devils in 2015. While he hasn’t blossomed into a star as hoped, he’s put up decent numbers in a secondary role.
The 24-year-old Zacha is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. The Devils could be reluctant to part with him but perhaps they’ll entertain offers if they feel he’ll be difficult to retain beyond 2023.
The Avalanche’s home win streak ends at 18 games, the top rookie and the three stars for January are revealed, Willie O’Ree will receive the U.S. Congress’ highest honor, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche’s home winning streak ended at 18 games as the Arizona Coyotes nipped them 3-2. Alex Galchenyuk scored his first goal of the season and tallied the winning goal in the shootout. Coyotes goaltender Scott Wedgewood picked up the win with a 38-save performance. The loss left the Avalanche (68 points) one point behind the first-overall Florida Panthers in the overall standings.
Speaking of the Panthers, they blew a 2-1 lead to drop a 5-2 decision to the New York Rangers. Chris Kreider scored twice and set up another goal while Artemi Panarin had a goal and two assists. The Rangers (64 points) are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes but the latter holds first in the Metropolitan Division with five games in hand.
The Tampa Bay Lightning (63 points) gained some ground on the Panthers by beating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on an overtime goal by Victor Hedman. With the win, the Lightning are three points back of the Panthers. Logan Couture had a goal and an assist for the Sharks (48 points), who sit two points out of the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner extended his goal streak to seven games by tallying twice and adding two assists in a 7-1 thrashing of the New Jersey Devils. Auston Matthews netted his 29th goal of the season as the Leafs remain in third place in the Atlantic Division with 61 points.
Filip Forsberg scored twice and Juuse Saros kicked out 30 shots for his 100th career NHL win to double up the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. The Predators sit in second place in the Central Division with 60 points while the Canucks (56 points) are four points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
David Pastrnak’s two power-play carried the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Seattle Kraken. Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 55 points.
The Calgary Flames overcame a 3-1 deficit with three unanswered third-period goals to drop the Dallas Stars 4-3. Dan Vladar replaced Flames starter Jacob Markstrom after he gave up three goals on 23 shots. Oliver Kylington tallied the winning goal late in the third. The Flames hold the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 50 points while the Stars sit two points back.
Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored twice, including the winner in overtime in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov made 43 saves after Vitek Vanecek left the game following a first-period collision with Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen. The Capitals hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 59 points while the Penguins (62 points) hold third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Vegas Golden Knights (57 points) opened a two-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division by defeating the Buffalo Sabres 5-2. Golden Knights forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had a goal and an assist while Sabres winger Alex Tuch scored in his first game in Vegas against his former club.
New York Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin stopped 26 shots in a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock returned to the lineup after missing 25 games with a lower-body injury.
The Philadelphia Flyers picked up their second straight win following a 13-game losing skid by downing the Winnipeg Jets 3-1. James van Riemsdyk and Oskar Lindblom tallied two unanswered third-period goals for the Flyers. Jets winger Kyle Connor potted his 25th goal of the season.
NHL.COM: The bill to present Willie O’Ree the Congressional Gold Medal was signed into law Monday by U.S. President Joe Biden. It is the U.S. Congress’ highest honor and commemorates O’Ree’s achievements as a hockey pioneer and his ongoing contributions to the game. O’Ree became the first black player in NHL history when he took to the ice for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to O’Ree, who will receive the award in a ceremony at a future date.
Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau, Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros, and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust are the NHL’s three stars for January 2022 while Panthers winger Anton Lundell was named rookie of the month.
THE ATHLETIC: Sean Shapiro reports several NHL executives are frustrated over the Arizona Coyotes plan to spend the next three seasons playing at a 5,000-seat arena at Arizona State University while the franchise attempts to construct a new arena in Tempe. The Coyotes must vacate the Gila River Arena at the end of this season after the city of Glendale opted out of it lease agreement with the club. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Shapiro the Coyotes’ plan is under serious consideration by the league.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those executives told Shapiro they’re concerned over what that move into such a small venue will have upon hockey-related revenue at a time when HRR has already been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re also upset by the prospect of the Coyotes receiving more money under the league’s revenue-sharing plan. Whether those concerns carry any weight in the league’s decision remains to be seen.
TSN: Rick Westhead reports former NHL star Ralph Backstrom had a severe form of the degenerative brain disease CTE. Backstrom died in Feb. 2021 and had his brain donated for research. His wife revealed the posthumous diagnosis. What was notable was Backstrom was a skill player rather than one who engaged in belligerent physical play. CTE is often diagnosed in athletes with a history of repeated blows to the head.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Westhead observes, Backstrom’s CTE may have come not from fights but from body checks that occur during a game.
SPORTSNET: Former NHL player Reid Boucher was sentenced to four years of probation with one year of suspended jail time if he successfully completes his probation in his 2011 sexual assault case. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 13 to third-degree sexual criminal sexual conduct against a minor.
The league will enforce stricter rules for cross-checking, the Olympic schedule is set, plus the latest on Ryan Johansen, Erik Johnson, Joe Thornton and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The NHL intends to crack down on cross-checking this season. The focus will be on three specific areas of the rink: along the boards, in front of the net, and in open ice.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rule changes are drawing a mixed reaction from players. As always, I’m skeptical as to how tightly enforced these changes will be. I fear we’ll see the usual pattern develop whenever such changes regarding on-ice infractions are implemented: closely called early in the season before drifting back to the previous standard over the course of the schedule.
NHL.COM: The men’s hockey schedule for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has been released. It begins on Feb. 9 with Russia (also known as the “Russian Olympic Committee”) versus Switzerland, the Czech Republic facing off against Denmark and Sweden taking on Latvia.
Feb. 10 sees Canada squaring off against Germany, the United States against China, Finland going up against Slovakia, and Denmark taking on the “Russian Olympic Committee”.
The tournament ends on Feb. 19 with the medal games. The gold medal game begins at 11:10 pm ET.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canada vs Germany features Edmonton Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl facing off against each other for the first time in Olympic hockey. That’s an early must-watch for me in this tournament.
The “Russian Olympic Committee” will hereafter be referred to as the “ROC” by me throughout the Olympics. The gold medal game starts after midnight my time, meaning my Keurig will be getting a workout that night.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Joe Thornton and Anton Lundell were absent from Florida Panthers training camp yesterday. Thornton was dealing with a minor sprain while Lundell missed his second straight day with an undisclosed ailment.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen is hoping for a big bounce-back year following two sub-par seasons.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Pavel Francouz are trying to put their lost seasons’ behind them. Injuries limited Johnson to just four games in 2020-21 while Francouz was sidelined the entire season.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider hopes to make his NHL debut this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A highly-touted prospect, Seider could be a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate if he cracks the lineup and plays well in 2021-22.
TSN: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An unfortunate setback for Samberg, who was expected to become a regular on the Jets blueline this season.
Calgary Flames prospect forward Connor Zary is listed as week-to-week with a fractured ankle after blocking a shot in a rookie game earlier this week.
TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Sami Niku to a one-year, two-way contract. Earlier this week, the 24-year-old Niku agreed to a mutual termination of his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
THE ATHLETIC: The New Jersey Devils hope to convince their one unvaccinated player to change his mind and join their other 49 players in camp who are vaccinated against COVID-19.
THE SCORE: The Washington Capitals will be the first NHL club to feature ads on their jerseys starting in 2022-23 after agreeing to a multi-year deal with Caesars Sportsbook.