NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 17, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 17, 2020

The NHL hopes to return to action by mid-May at the earliest, rumors of a 24-team postseason format and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league yesterday allowed its players to return to their homes outside their NHL cities. They also indicated the players’ self-quarantine should continue through March 27. After that, and depending on world developments regarding the COVID-19 virus, consideration will be given to opening club facilities to small groups of players for voluntary training. The league also indicated its objective is to open training camps 45 days into the 60 days as recommended by the CDC directive.

THE DENVER POST: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there is an “outside date” beyond which saving the 2019-20 season would be unfeasible. “We haven’t ruled anything in or anything out — other than it’s got to be the right thing in terms of the well-being of our players and our fans.”

Could there be a 24-team format for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the league’s best-cast scenario is returning to action by May 15. However, Bettman’s comments suggest they’re prepared for the possibility of canceling the season.

SPORTSNET: The NHL also implemented a roster freeze effective at 5 pm ET yesterday.

SPORTING NEWS: The league is said to be considering a 24-team playoff format among its options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would mean clubs with slim playoff hopes, such as the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks, would qualify. I prefer a 20-team format involving clubs jockeying for wild-card berths at the time the schedule was paused. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes defenseman Aaron Ness tested negative for COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Glad to hear Ness is okay. As of this posting, no NHL players tested positive for the virus. Here’s hoping none of them get it. For that matter, here’s hoping all of you stay safe and healthy.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara sent a message for Bruins fans to “stay safe, disciplined and clean” during this troubling time.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets captain Blake Wheeler urged fans to stay home and “limit your exposure to keep yourself and those in your community safe.”

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets fans might not soon forget the club’s seeming reluctance to compensate their part-time arena employees affected by the COVID-19 shutdown on major events.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt there will be a lingering backlash toward any club seen as foot-dragging when it comes to compensating its part-time arena staff. It will be largely forgotten whenever hockey returns, be it mid-May or in the fall if this season gets cancelled.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators yesterday announced its part-time staff affected by the pause in the NHL schedule will receive compensation.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets also revealed it would aid its hourly game-day workers.

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens players also intend to financially assist team and arena staff. The club announced Sunday it would “pay employees eligible for employee insurance the maximum amount allowed (approximately 40 percent) and employees ineligible for employee insurance 75 percent of the salary for the 12 home games remaining between the Canadiens and AHL’s Laval Rocket.” The players will help those employees make up the difference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams that appeared slow to compensate employees, like the Senators, were publicly dragged on social media. Some, like the Jets, whose ownership publicly doubled down on its refusal to assist those workers before caving to public pressure, deserved the backlash. In other cases, however, the criticism was unwarranted. Some clubs took a little more time because they were exploring all options to determine the best one for everyone involved.

SPORTSNET: The AHL will maintain suspension of its season until May.

THE SCORE: Former NHL goaltender Jonas Hiller announced his retirement. He spent nine seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames, totaling a record of 197 wins, 140 losses, and 37 overtime losses, with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He spent the past four seasons in Switzerland.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hiller in his retirement.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2020

Another milestone for Marc-Andre Fleury, hat-trick performances by James Neal, Zach Werenski, and Kyle Connor, Jake Guentzel sidelined for months, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 455th career victory as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. He moves into sole possession of sixth place on the all-time wins list. Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Golden Knights, who move atop the Pacific Division standings with 50 points.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury moves into sixth place on the NHL’s all-time wins list (Photo via NHL Images).

A hat trick by James Neal and a four-point effort by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins helped the Edmonton Oilers hold off the New York Rangers 7-5. The Oilers ran up a 6-0 lead before the Rangers made it interesting with four third-period goals. Rangers winger Artemi Panarin picked up four points. The Oilers (46 points) hold a one-point lead over the Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski tallied his first career hat trick and Elvis Merzlikins picked up his first career NHL victory in a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers, spoiling former Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s return to Columbus. Earlier in the day, the Jackets announced goalie Joonas Korpisalo will be sidelined four-to-six weeks following surgery on his right knee.

Kyle Connor’s second career hat trick carried the Winnipeg Jets to a 7-4 win over the slumping Colorado Avalanche. Mark Scheifele collected four points while Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Jack Roslovic each had three-point performances. Nathan MacKinnon tallied twice for the Avs, who’s lost five of their last six games. Jets center Mathieu Perreault returned to the lineup following a six-game absence with a concussion.

Alex Killorn scored two goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 6-4. Killorn and Tyler Johnson each finished with three points, as did the Sabres’ Conor Sheary. With 46 points, the Lightning move into third place in the Atlantic Division.

Patrick Kane scored twice and set up two others as the Chicago Blackhawks doused the Calgary Flames 5-3. Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner had a 41-save performance.

The St. Louis Blues’ eight-game win streak ended in a 3-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Antti Raanta made 38 stops while Phil Kessel netted the game-winner. Earlier in the day, the Coyotes placed defenseman Aaron Ness on waivers.

The New Jersey Devils overcame a 2-0 deficit to upset the Boston Bruins 3-2 on a shootout goal by Damon Severson. Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 42 saves in a losing cause, but the Bruins did pick up a point to extend their streak to eight games.

New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov kicked out 38 shots (18 in the third period) as his club edged the Washington Capitals 4-3. Casey Cizikas scored twice for the Isles while Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied two goals for the Capitals.

The Toronto Maple Leafs picked up their seventh win in their last eight contests by beating the Minnesota Wild 4-1. Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and William Nylander each had a goal and an assist. Earlier in the day, the Leafs re-signed defenseman Justin Holl to a three-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $2 million.

The Montreal Canadiens dropped their third straight game, falling 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes. They also lost winger Brendan Gallagher to a possible concussion after being accidentally kneed in the head by teammate Ben Chiarot. Hurricanes forwards Erik Haula and Teuvo Teravainen each had two points.The Habs have fallen to 12th overall in the Eastern Conference.

The Detroit Red Wings snapped a six-game losing skid by blanking the San Jose Sharks 2-0. Jonathan Bernier made 34 saves for the shutout while Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Hronek were the goal scorers.

A four-goal first period powered the Los Angeles Kings over the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3. Jonathan Quick made 32 saves while Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe each collected two points.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel will be sidelined four-to-six months following surgery on his right shoulder after Monday’s game against the Ottawa Senators. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was fined $5,000.00 and Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau $2,500.00 for their late-game scrum.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guentzel’s absence is a big blow to the injury-ravaged Penguins. With 20 goals and 43 points in 39 games, he had been selected to participate in the 2020 All-Star Game later this month in St. Louis. His lengthy absence could provide an opportunity for struggling Penguins winger Alex Galchenyuk, who was the subject of frequent trade speculation in recent weeks.