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.
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 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.