NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 31, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 31, 2022

The Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, plus the latest on the Lightning, Oilers, Avalanche and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The New York Rangers are heading to the Eastern Conference Finals after eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes with a 6-2 victory in Game 7 of their second-round series. Chris Kreider scored twice, Mika Zibanejad collected three assists and Igor Shesterkin made 37 saves for the Rangers.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (NHL Images).

Vincent Trocheck and Max Domi replied for the Hurricanes, who lost goaltender Antti Raanta and winger Seth Jarvis to injuries. Raanta left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury after stretching out to make a save. Jarvis was sidelined with an upper-body injury in the first period by a hit from Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a dominant performance by the Rangers, who took an early 2-0 lead and never looked back. They earned this thanks to outstanding goaltending from Shesterkin, solid special teams play, timely offense from their leading scorers and a playoff-leading 236 blocked shots.

The Hurricanes entered this series with starting goaltender Frederik Andersen sidelined since mid-April by a lower-body injury. However, his absence was just one of several reasons why they failed to defeat the Rangers. They couldn’t win on the road, their power-play sputtered and their leading scorers such as Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen failed to deliver.

THE ATHLETIC’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman reports Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse skated with their Edmonton Oilers teammates in practice on Monday. It was Draisaitl’s first practice since suffering an injury in Game 6 of the first round while Nurse had skipped most recent practices.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Draisaitl is believed to have a high-ankle sprain but you’d never know it by his performance. He set an NHL record in the second round by tallying the most assists (15) in a single playoff round.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Speaking of the Oilers, an NHL insider said there was no truth to a report claiming the club had some “COVID-related travel issues” getting to Colorado on Sunday. The Oilers face the Avalanche in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.

THE DENVER POST: On the eve of the Western Conference Finals, Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic is earning praise for sticking with center Nazem Kadri and head coach Jared Bednar. Kadri earned suspensions in recent postseasons while Bednar faced criticism for his inability to get his club beyond the second round.

NHL.COM: Brandon Hagel missed his third straight practice on Sunday. However, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper believes the forward will be ready for Game 1 against the Rangers on Wednesday.

THE ATHLETIC’s Michael Russo reports Minnesota Wild captain Jared Spurgeon had core muscle surgery and will be back at full strength in six weeks. Winger Mats Zuccarello is facing similar surgery plus he had a leg fracture that will heal with rest.

CALGARY SUN: Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom denied his struggles against the Oilers in the second round were injury-related.

VANCOUVER HOCKEY NOW: The Vancouver Canucks have added Mike Komisarek and Mikael Samuelsson to their player development department. Meanwhile, Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be working daily with the Canucks’ young players in Vancouver and with their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 22, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 22, 2022

The Avalanche take a 2-1 series lead over the Blues but each club loses a key player to injuries, the Penguins sign Bryan Rust to a contract extension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche regained the lead in their second-round series with the St. Louis Blues with a 5-2 victory in Game 3. Artturi Lehkonen scored twice, including what proved to be the game-winning goal in the second period. Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen each collected two points while Ryan O’Reilly had a goal and an assist for the Blues.

Each team lost a key player to injuries during this contest.

Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard is out for the playoffs after suffering a broken sternum early in the first period when he was checked into the boards behind his own net by Ivan Barbashev.

Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (NHL Images).

Later in the period, Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington left the game with a suspected knee sprain following a collision with Kadri. Ville Husso replaced him and made 19 saves on 23 shots. During a post-game interview, Kadri accused Binnington of throwing a water bottle at him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kadri has earned suspensions for undisciplined play in recent postseasons. In this instance, however, there was no intent to injure or to run Binnington and no penalty call on the play. He was driving for the net and reaching for the puck when he inadvertently collided with Binnington and Blues defenseman Calle Rosen.

Losing Binnington could be a big blow for the Blues. He won four of his last five starts and played a key role in his club’s first-round elimination of the Minnesota Wild and their bounce-back win in Game 2 of this series.

The Avalanche will feel Girard’s absence. He had three points in seven games this postseason while playing on their second defense pairing.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Bryan Rust won’t be testing this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguin announced they’d signed the 30-year-old winger to a six-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $5.125 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rust has flourished skating alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the Penguins’ top line. He’s reached or exceeded 22 goals in the last three seasons and netted over 50 points in two of the last three.

Rust was earning $3.5 million annually on a four-year deal. His raise is a reasonable rate that reflects market value, though the six years is a little long for a 30-year-old forward with an injury history. Cap Friendly indicates this signing leaves the Penguins with $58.5 million invested in 15 players for 2022-23 with Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang as their notable remaining unrestricted free agents.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers need more from their best players, especially on the power play, if they hope to overcome their 2-0 series deficit to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The rivalry between the Panthers and Lightning hasn’t generated much passion or heat between the fan bases of both clubs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I chalk that up in part to what’s been a disappointing series thus far in terms of excitement compared to when these two clubs tangled in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. The Lightning has successfully shut down the Panthers’ vaunted offense with a grinding defensive style that has also sucked much of the life out of this series.

THE ATHLETIC’s Joe Smith reports Lightning coach Jon Cooper said center Brayden Point (lower body) will remain sidelined for Game 3 today against the Panthers. He’s uncertain if Point will return for this series. He suffered the injury in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

CALGARY SUN: Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom promises to improve his performance as his club’s second-round series against the Oilers shifted to Edmonton for Game 3 on Sunday. The Vezina Trophy finalist allowed 11 goals in the first two games, compared to allowing that many during the entire seven-game opening-round series against the Dallas Stars.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s not just Markstrom who must be better. The Flames’ usually solid defensive game vanished during those two games against the Oilers.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes’ third defense pairing of Brendan Smith and Ian Cole have made their presence felt in their club’s second-round series against the New York Rangers.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers hope to open up their offense more in Game 3 to avoid falling behind 3-0 in the series against the Hurricanes. They’ve been limited to just one goal thus far.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 15, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 15, 2022

Milestone nights for the Leafs Mitch Marner, the Wild’s Matt Boldy and the Oilers’ Stuart Skinner, Jack Eichel to make his Golden Knights’ debut on Wednesday, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner reached 400 career points with a goal and two assists in his club’s 6-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken. He joins the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid as the second player from the 2015 NHL Draft to achieve that milestone. With 65 points, the Leafs are three points behind the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

Minnesota Wild rookie winger Matt Boldy tallied his first career NHL hat trick in a 7-4 romp over the Detroit Red Wings. Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov scored twice and collected an assist as his club opened a three-point lead over the Nashville Predators (60 points) for second place in the Central Division. The Wings (50 points) remain seven points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba missed this game and could be sidelined for several weeks with a lower-body injury.

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner kicked out 20 shots for his first career NHL shutout to blank the San Jose Sharks 3-0. Oilers forward Evander Kane was held scoreless in his first game against his former club since the recent termination of his contract. The Oilers (53 points) moved within two points of the Anaheim Ducks for the final Western Conference while the Sharks (48 points) remain seven points back.

Marc-Andre Fleury turned in a 31-save performance to backstop his Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Alex DeBrincat snapped a 1-1 tie in the third and Brandon Hagel got the insurance marker. The loss leaves the Jets (48 points) seven points away from a Western wild-card berth. Jets defenseman Neal Pionk missed this game due to border restrictions as he’s ineligible for one more day to cross the border despite emerging from COVID protocol last Thursday.

HEADLINES

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Jack Eichel will make his long-awaited debut with the Golden Knights when the club faces the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. The Golden Knights also placed winger Mark Stone (lower-back injury) on long-term injury reserve, clearing sufficient cap space for Eichel to return to action. Acquired from the Buffalo Sabres last November, the 25-year-old center had been recovering from neck surgery.

The Golden Knights also announced defenseman Alec Martinez remains sidelined by a facial injury that’s taken longer than expected to recover from. He’s been out since Nov.11 after suffering a facial laceration during a game against the Minnesota Wild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With defenseman Jake Bischoff (716K) already on LTIR for the season, the addition of Stone’s $9.5 million cap hit ensures sufficient cap room for the Golden Knights to activate Eichel ($10 million AAV). It’s uncertain how long Stone will remain sidelined but it will stoke complaints from some fans and pundits if he’s out for the regular season but returns for the playoffs when the salary cap doesn’t count.

Yes, it’s a legalized form of salary-cap circumvention which we saw in 2015 with the Chicago Blackhawks (Patrick Kane) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (Nikita Kucherov) in 2021. Once again, it’s worth remembering that the league closely monitors players on LTIR with uncertain recovery timelines to ensure a fully healthy player isn’t being held out of the lineup solely for cap purposes.

The NHL had an opportunity to address that loophole during the 2020 extension to the collective bargaining agreement. The issue either didn’t come up during negotiations with the NHL Players Association or else sufficient numbers of team owners had no problem with it. Just remember, folks, it could one day benefit your team.

NHL.COM: Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine, and New Jersey Devils captain Nico Hischier are the league’s three starts for the week ending Feb. 13.

SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators could return to full capacity in their respective arenas on March 1 as the province of Ontario eases restrictions on large indoor gatherings provided public health and health system indicators continue to improve.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 19, 2021

Connor McDavid and Troy Terry extend their points streak, Jacob Markstrom collects another shutout, the Panthers remain undefeated at home, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid tallied another highlight-reel goal to extend his season-opening points streak to 16 games in a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. McDavid and Kyle Turris also scored in the shootout while Stuart Skinner made 46 saves for the win. Nikolaj Ehlers scored in regulation for the Jets.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid’s goal was almost a carbon copy of the one he recently tallied against the New York Rangers, stickhandling his way through three defenders with his blazing speed to beat Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck. With 30 points, McDavid sits three behind teammate Leon Draisaitl for first place in the NHL scoring race.

Troy Terry also extended his points streak with a goal but his Anaheim Ducks had their eight-game winning streak snapped in a 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Seth Jarvis snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period while Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen stopped 31 shots.

Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom collected his league-leading fifth shutout of the season to douse the Buffalo Sabres 5-0. Johnny Gaudreau and Andrew Mangiapane each tallied twice for the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL’s modern-day single-season shutout record is 15 held by the late Tony Esposito in 1969-70. Markstrom is already a third of the way toward reaching that record.

The Florida Panthers extended their season-opening home winning streak to 9-0-0 by dropping the New Jersey Devils 4-1. Spencer Knight kicked out 45 shots while Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair each had a goal and an assist. Panthers center Joe Thornton returned to the lineup after missing eight games with an undisclosed injury. The Panthers (27 points) hold a one-point lead over the Hurricanes atop the NHL’s overall standings.

Shootout goals by Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning extended their points streak to nine games (7-0-2). Stamkos also had a goal and an assist in regulation play while Claude Giroux tallied twice for the Flyers. Earlier in the day, the Flyers announced defenseman Ryan Ellis will be sidelined four-to-six weeks dealing with a lingering lower-body injury.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov had his first four-point NHL game (one goal, three assists) as his club trounced the Dallas Stars 7-2. Mats Zuccarello, Victor Rask and Alex Goligoski each had a goal and two assists for the Wild.

Morgan Rielly scored twice and Jack Campbell made 27 saves as the Toronto Maple Leafs nipped the New York Rangers 2-1. The Leafs have won five straight games and snapped the Rangers’ win streak at four.

A two-goal performance by Brandon Saad carried the St. Louis Blues to their first victory in five games with a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Blues goalie Ville Husso got his second win in as many starts with a 27-save performance.

The Vegas Golden Knights got two goals from defenseman Zach Whitecloud in his return to the lineup from a broken hand to beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-2. Golden Knights blueliner Shea Theodore was scratched from this contest with an undisclosed injury. Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin returned to the lineup after missing half of his previous game to a false positive COVID test. Teammate Moritz Seider left the game in the third period after taking a puck off his right knee.

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner netted two goals to lead his team over the Arizona Coyotes 5-4. Coyotes goalie Scott Wedgewood made 42 saves. Earlier in the day, Coyotes defenseman Conor Timmins underwent successful knee surgery. He’ll be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins blanked the Montreal Canadiens 6-0 as Tristan Jarry made 24 saves for his first shutout of the season. Sidney Crosby scored his first goal of the season while Teddy Blueger tallied twice and set up another. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens recalled winger Cole Caufield after his six-game stint with their AHL affiliate in Laval.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have just one win in their last 10 games. They’ve now reached the point where their “slow start” to the season can now be called a poor start, with no end to their misery in sight.

IN OTHER NEWS…

CANUCKS ARMY: The Vancouver Canucks placed Justin Bailey on waivers.

TSN: Winger Troy Brouwer announced his retirement after 14 NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers. He scored 181 goals and 363 points in 851 regular-season games and 16 goals and 35 points in 106 playoff contests, winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010. His last season was with the Blues in 2019-20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Brouwer and his family in their future endeavors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 2, 2021

Commissioner Bettman publicly apologizes to Kyle Beach while attempting to defend the league’s disciplinary actions in the Blackhawks scandal, NHLPA votes for an independent investigation of its role in the scandal, the Rangers re-sign Adam Fox & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

BETTMAN DEFENDS LEAGUE’S HANDLING OF BLACKHAWKS SCANDAL, NHLPA VOTES FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO ITS ROLE IN THE SCANDAL

TSN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman publicly apologized yesterday to Kyle Beach for what he endured since he alleged he was sexually assaulted by former Chicago Blackhawks video coach Bradley Aldrich in 2010 during a video conference call with the media.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman also defended the league fining the Blackhawks $2 million, allowing Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville to be behind the bench during last Wednesday’s game after the report was released regarding his role in the coverup (Quenneville stepped down as Panthers coach following a meeting with Bettman on Thursday), and absolving Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff for what the commissioner considered his minor role in the process.

Bettman said he felt Cheveldayoff, who was the Blackhawks assistant GM at the time, was a “minor player” in the affair who thought the allegations would be handled and properly resolved by his superiors. He believed Cheveldayoff wasn’t in a position to speak out because he didn’t have access to the information about the situation.

Reporters questioned Bettman about the Blackhawks’ fine when the league fined the New Jersey Devils $3 million for violating salary cap rules in signing Ilya Kovalchuk and in docking the Arizona Coyotes two draft picks last year for violation of the draft combine rules. “Different context, different facts,” Bettman replied.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That press conference was certainly not Bettman’s shining moment. He was roasted in the media and on social media for his responses and actions in dealing with this scandal. His answers were beyond disappointing.

Daily Faceoff’s Scott Burnside believes the league seems more concerned with rationalizing their criticized responses rather than having a frank and open discussion about the problems the scandal unveiled. The Athletic’s Sean Gentille felt Bettman’s goal was protecting the league, its owners and its money. “Doing the right thing…is somewhere down the list”, he wrote.

Gentille also took note of Bettman’s response when asked if the league would reach out to Sheldon Kennedy, a former player, sexual assault survivor and advocate against abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination in hockey. “Sheldon’s experience was not at the NHL level,” replied the commissioner. Kennedy told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun the league and the NHLPA has never reached out to him over his two decades of tireless work that has earned him several honors, including the Order of Canada.

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox summarized Bettman’s performance: “Manage the situation. Cloud it with lawyer-speak. Move forward.” He also reported deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league had closed its investigation of Bill Peters and had been in touch with the representatives of former player Akim Aliu, who was the victim of alleged racial taunts by Peters years ago. Aliu’s representative Ben Meiselas denied the league has contacted him.

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reported NHL players voted for an independent investigation by outside legal counsel in response to the NHLPA’s mishandling of the alleged sexual assault suffered by Beach. PA executive director Donald Fehr made the recommendation for the investigation. While Fehr is reportedly under fire for his handling of Beach’s allegations and concerns, Seravalli said there was little discord among the 80 players who took part in the call yesterday.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Leon Draisaitl had two goals and two assists as the Edmonton Oilers rolled to a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken. Draisaitl (17 points) is tied for the scoring lead with Connor McDavid, who picked up an assist to extend his points streak to eight games.

Patrick Kane tallied a hat trick as the Chicago Blackhawks downed the Ottawa Senators 5-1 to pick up their first win of the season. Jonathan Toews collected three assists and Brandon Hagel scored twice for the Blackhawks (1-7-2).

The Tampa Bay Lightning got 31 saves by Andrei Vasilevskiy to hold off the Washington Capitals 3-2. Anthony Cirelli had two points for the Lightning, who snapped the Capitals’ eight-game points streak.

HEADLINES

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed Adam Fox to a seven-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $9.5 million. Fox, 23, became just the second sophomore defenseman to win the Norris Trophy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox left some money on the table. His Norris Trophy win last season gave him ample justification to seek over $10 million annually considering the $9 million AAV Cale Makar accepted this summer with the Colorado Avalanche.

This move ensures the Rangers have their best blueliner under contract through the prime years of his career. It also leaves the Blueshirts with a bit of a salary-cap crunch for next season. The Post indicates they’ll have about $11.6 million available under a projected $82.5 million cap for 2022-23. They’ll need to re-sign or replace second-line center (and pending UFA) Ryan Strome and backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Meanwhile, promising winger Kaapo Kakko is in the final season of his entry-level contract.

NHL.COM: Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson, and Lightning winger Alex Killorn are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Oct. 31, 2021.

NBC SPORTS: Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson will be sidelined for about six weeks with a broken foot. The Golden Knights have already lost forward Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Alex Tuch and Nolan Patrick to injuries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could affect the Golden Knights’ rumored trade talks with the Buffalo Sabres for Jack Eichel.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Max Domi is quarantined in New York after a positive COVID-19 test.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Domi can’t catch a break. He returned sooner than expected from offseason shoulder surgery and from a fractured rib suffered earlier in the season.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks added Kevin Labanc to the COVID-19 protocol list. Currently, seven Sharks players, including Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, are on the list along with head coach Bob Boughner.

It was a busy day for the Montreal Canadiens. They sent struggling winger Cole Caufield to the minors, announced defenseman Joel Edmundson suffered a setback in his recovery from an undisclosed injury and is 10 -14 days from returning, and learned Cedric Paquette received a two-game suspension for boarding Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Caufield entered this season considered a favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year following his strong performance in the 2021 playoffs. He and his teammates have struggled to score thus far. The Habs are hoping the 20-year-old winger can regain his scoring touch with their AHL affiliate in Laval.

THE PROVINCE: Travis Hamonic has returned to the Vancouver Canucks lineup after missing training camp and the start of the season dealing with a personal issue. He’s expected to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the near future.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 23, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 23, 2021

Recaps of Monday’s action, Artemi Panarin takes leave of absence amid assault allegations levied by his former Russian coach, stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Despite a 49-save effort by goaltender Anton Khubodin the Dallas Stars fell 3-1 to the Florida Panthers. Defensemen Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad provided two of Florida’s goals as the Panthers (26 points) sit in first place in the Discover Central Division. The Stars have dropped six straight games.

The Tampa Bay Lightning remains within three points of the Panthers after doubling up the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2. Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning while Jesper Fast tallied twice for the Hurricanes, who sit one point behind the Panthers and two up on the Lightning.

A third-period power-play goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau lifted the New York Islanders past the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Sabres winger Jeff Skinner was a healthy scratch. The Sabres also announced defenseman Jake McCabe will require season-ending surgery to repair a knee injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich turned in a 34-save shutout as his club blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0. Rittich got the nod as Flames starter Jacob Markstrom was day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Leafs star Auston Matthews was held without a point for the first time in 17 games. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen (upper-body injury, day-to-day), forwards Joe Thornton and Zach Hyman (undisclosed, day-to-day) and defenseman Jake Muzzin (broken facial bone) also missed this game. It’s uncertain when Muzzin will return.

Jonathan Quick picked up his 54th career shutout backstopping the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Dustin Brown scored twice as the Kings picked up their fifth straight win to remain in fourth place in the Honda West Division with 19 points. Blues forward Sammy Blais returned to the lineup following a false positive test for COVID-19.

The Arizona Coyotes overcame a 3-0 deficit to nip the Anaheim Ducks 4-3. Christian Dvorak scored twice and Clayton Keller collected two assists for the Coyotes.

Mats Zuccarello had a goal and three assists as the Minnesota Wild thumped the San Jose Sharks 6-2. Victor Rask had a goal and two assists while Marcus Foligno had a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a goal, an assist and a fight.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin (NHL Images).

HEADLINES

NEW YORK POST: Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the Rangers after his former KHL coach alleged the winger beat up an 18-year-old woman in a bar following a 2011 game in Riga, Latvia. Panarin released a statement through his agent denying Andrei Nazarov’s allegation, calling it a fabrication. The Rangers also expressed their support for their winger, indicating he “unequivocally and vehemently” denied the charge.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panarin is an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Post reporter Larry Brooks cites a source indicating this isn’t a direct retaliatory measure by the Putin government toward the Rangers star but rather Nazarov “going rogue”. He suggests Nazarov, a Putin supporter, is attempting to sully Panarin’s reputation to curry favor within the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.

Brooks points out Latvian journalist Aivis Kalnins reported a spokesman for the hotel where the alleged incident took place claims it never happened. None of Panarin’s former KHL teammates support Nazarov’s allegation.

Nazarov claimed Panarin was detained by police and there was a criminal case and trial but the incident was covered up by bribing local officials with 40,000 euros. However, Brooks pointed out Panarin at that time was not a high-profile player and had been passed over in two previous NHL drafts. He suggests there would’ve been little reason to engage in bribery and a cover-up for someone who at that time was a run-of-the-mill player.

NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 21.

New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac played in his 1000th NHL game during Sunday’s contest against the Washington Capitals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A Devils fan contacted me yesterday to point out I missed this during yesterday’s morning coffee headlines. I regret the oversight. Congratulations to Zajac on reaching this noteworthy career milestone.

TSN: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list has shrunk to nine players. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks announced center Dylan Strome has been placed in concussion protocol and defenseman Lucas Carlsson is on injured reserve with a strained groin. Blueline Connor Murphy has been activated from IR after missing six games with a hip injury.

THE ATHLETIC: Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau is interested in becoming the Seattle Kraken’s bench boss.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken aren’t believed to have started interviewing potential coaching candidates yet. Boudreau could be among the contenders given his years of NHL experience.