NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 7, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 7, 2017

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews reacts after scoring against the New Jersey Devils.

Game recaps, injury updates, latest on Auston Matthews, Evgeni Malkin & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Four first-period goals were all the Toronto Maple Leafs needed to hang on for a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Leafs center Auston Matthews scored his 21st of the season to tie Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine for the rookie goal-scoring lead. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: And with the win, the Leafs passed the Boston Bruins and moved into third place (and a playoff spot) in the Atlantic Division.  Thanks to young guns such as Matthews, the Leafs have a real chance of reaching the 2017 postseason. 

The American-born Matthews also caught a bit of flak from some Leafs fans on Twitter after making an innocuous tweet celebrating Team USA’s gold-medal win over Canada at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships. 

Sometimes Twitter can be a pit of despair. I think I’m safe in assuming most Leafs fans don’t share the views about Matthews of those petulant few. 

Before the start of the game, the Devils made the late Dr. John J. McMullen, the club’s first owner, the first inductee into their Ring of Honor. 

Ryan Miller made 44 saves and Markus Granlund scored twice and set up another as the Vancouver Canucks doubled up the Calgary Flames 4-2. Michael Frolik netted both of the Flames’ goals. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A month ago, the Canucks playoff hopes were being given up for dead. Their recent surge up the standings, however, now has them holding a wild-card berth in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen if they can remain in playoff contention, but their recent success has silenced calls for a coaching change or significant trades. 

James Reimer replaced a sidelined Roberto Luongo and turned in a 28-save performance as the Florida Panthers edged the Nashville Predators 2-1. The Panthers also lost center Nick Bjugstad to a lower-body injury. No word yet as to how long Luongo and Bjugstad will be sidelined. 

Nathan MacKinnon scored in overtime to give the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders. With the win, the Avs snapped a five-game losing streak and picked up their first home victory in 11 games. 

Scott Darling made 39 saves while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane scored as the Chicago Blackhawks held on for a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Ondrej Kase’s overtime tally gave the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes, handing the latter their ninth straight defeat.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Center Evgeni Malkin is quietly having a big season for the Pittsburgh Penguins, leading the Penguins in points and ranking among the NHL’s leading scorers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Malkin’s on pace for 95 points, putting him on track for one of the best seasons of his career.

CSN BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic is still feeling the effects of taking a slapshot to the face a week ago. Despite the pain from “a few fractures” and “some nerves that are damaged” in his nasal/cheekbone area, he hasn’t ruled out returning to action tonight against Detroit.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher underwent surgery on his fractured left hand and is sidelined for eight weeks. 

YAHOO SPORTS: The NHL is considering the possibility of playing some future regular-season games in China. 

THE ATHLETIC: The problem of some players in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League going unpaid is a growing concern. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like those grand plans of the KHL growing to one day rival the NHL have become a pipe dream. Fading NHL players looking to continue their playing careers could end up seeking other options.