The Hurricanes snuff out the Flames, the Blues defeat the Capitals, plus the latest COVID news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes extended their winning streak to five games by dousing the Calgary Flames 6-3. Brady Skjei had a goal and two assists while teammate Andrei Svechnikov scored twice. With 49 points, the Hurricanes vaulted over the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals into first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flames have lost three straight and sit third in the Pacific Division.
St. Louis Blues winger Pavel Buchnevich (NHL Images).
Pavel Buchnevich scored two goals and set up another as the St. Louis Blues rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Washington Capitals. Goaltender Ville Husso kicked out 26 shots for his first win since Nov. 27. The Blues (45 points) move to within one point of the first-place Nashville Predators in the Central Division. Earlier in the day, the Capitals placed Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie on injured reserve.
SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Alexandre Texier and Edmonton Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto were among the players placed on the COVID protocol list on Friday.
NHL.COM: Two Ottawa Senators games have been postponed. The first is tonight’s match against the Vancouver Canucks and the second is their Jan. 15 contest against the Winnipeg Jets.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets have backed off their suggested plan to play some of their home games in Saskatoon where arena capacity restrictions aren’t as strict as in Manitoba. A survey of the idea among their season-ticket holders found 40 percent against the idea with 30 percent neutral and 30 percent in approval.
Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov will miss tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals after suffering an upper-body injury on Thursday against the Boston Bruins. There is no timetable for his return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kaprizov is enjoying a strong sophomore campaign, sitting among the top-10 scorers with 40 points. A lengthy absence from the lineup could be devastating for the Wild.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres announced they will be raising a banner to long-time broadcaster Rick Jeanneret during “RJ Night” on Apr. 1 honoring his career. Jeanneret is retiring following this season and will call his final Sabres game on Apr. 29.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fitting tribute to a fine play-by-play man who’s been part of the Sabres’ history since 1971-72.
Bryan Rust had his third straight multi-point game as the Penguins get their 10th straight win, Nathan MacKinnon has a five-point performance, Joe Thornton and Jakub Voracek reach milestones and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Bryan Rust had his third straight multi-point game (two goals, one assist) as his Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-2 to pick up their 10th straight win. Jake Guentzel also tallied twice while Kris Letang collected three assists. With 45 points, the Penguins have a comfortable hold on the first wild-card berth in the very tight Eastern Conference playoff race. The Flyers (32 points) have lost three straight and sit four points behind the Boston Bruins for the final wild-card spot.
Speaking of the Bruins, they failed to gain ground on the Penguins by dropping a 3-2 decision to the Minnesota Wild, who snapped a five-game losing skid. Matt Boldy scored what proved to be the game-winner in his NHL debut while teammate Kirill Kaprizov left the game in the second period following what Wild coach Dean Evason called a “predatory hit” by Bruins forward Trent Frederic. Minnesota (42 points) holds the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference but sits just five points out of first in the Conference. Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy missed the game with a lower-body injury.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images).
The Colorado Avalanche’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog combined for 12 points in a 7-1 drubbing of the Winnipeg Jets. MacKinnon had a goal and four assists, Landeskog tallied a hat trick and collected an assist while Rantanen has a goal and two helpers as the Avs (42 points) picked up their third straight win to move into third place in the Central Division.
Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov picked up two assists in his first game since Oct. 16 to help his club defeat the Calgary Flames 4-1. Tampa Bay forwards Corey Perry, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn were the goal scorers as the Lightning sits atop the overall standings with 51 points. The Flames (40 points) are third in the Pacific Division.
The Vegas Golden Knights tallied four unanswered goals to down the New York Rangers 5-1, spoiling the return of Rangers coach Gerard Gallant and winger Ryan Reaves to Vegas. Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Golden Knights, who sit atop the Western Conference with 47 points.
Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros kicked out 46 shots as his club doubled up the Los Angeles Kings 4-2. Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi each had two points on the night as the Predators sit one point behind the Golden Knights.
Shootout goals by Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson lifted the Dallas Stars to a 6-5 win over the Florida Panthers. It was the Stars’ first game in 16 days. Aleksander Barkov scored twice for the Panthers while Joe Thornton played in his 1,700th NHL game. The Panthers (49 points) sit second in the Eastern Conference while the Stars (34 points) are four points out of a wild-card spot in the West.
New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes extended his career-high points streak to five games with a goal and two assists in a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. MacKenzie Blackwood made 31 saves for the win. Blue Jackets winger Jakub Voracek played in his 1,000th NHL game. With the win, the Devils (33 points) are just three points out of a wild-card spot in the East.
The San Jose Sharks (37 points) moved within one point of a Western Conference wild-card spot by holding off the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist while goalie Adin Hill turned aside 37 shots.
A hat trick by Johan Larsson carried the Arizona Coyotes to a 6-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Travis Boyd collected a goal and two assists for the Coyotes. Earlier in the day, the Coyotes announced forward Jay Beagle is out “long-term” with a lower-body injury and claimed forward Riley Nash off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
SPORTSNET: St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko and New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin were among the latest players placed on the COVID protocol list.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens have extended their break from all activities until Saturday due to COVID-19. Twenty-two of their players are currently on the COVID protocol list.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Tuukka Rask signed a professional tryout contract with the Bruins AHL affiliate in Providence in the latest step toward his eventual return with the club. The 34-year-old goaltender is working his way back from offseason hip surgery and is expected to be back with the Bruins by sometime next week.
TSN: Seattle Kraken winger Jaden Schwartz is out four to six weeks with a hand injury.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs placed winger Nick Ritchie on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas’ gamble on Ritchie failed to pay off. However, his other affordable offseason additions (Michael Bunting, Ondrej Kase and David Kampf) are working out rather well for the Leafs.
CTV SASKATOON: The Winnipeg Jets are looking into the possibility of playing some of their home games in Saskatoon due to strict COVID-19 capacity restrictions in Manitoba.
The Penguins get their ninth straight win after making a minor trade, the Leafs hand the slumping Oilers another loss, plus the latest COVID updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their ninth straight win by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Blues 5-3. Bryan Rust scored twice and set up another while Sidney Crosby and Evan Rodrigues each had a goal and an assist. Brayden Schenn also had a goal and an assist for the Blues. Earlier in the day, the Penguins made a minor trade by shipping Sam Lafferty to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Alex Nylander.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins were apparently concerned about losing Lafferty via waivers as they attempt to make room for Evgeni Malkin’s return. By trading him to the Blackhawks they get an asset in return who is exempt from waivers this season.
Nylander, 23, is the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs winger Wiliam Nylander. A former first-round pick (eighth overall) with the Buffalo Sabres in 2016, he’s struggled to play up to lofty expectations. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and has spent this season in the minors. He’s expected to be sent to the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they doubled up the Edmonton Oilers 4-2, handing the latter their fifth straight loss. Ilya Mikheyev broke a 2-2 tie in the third period and Alex Kerfoot put the game away with an empty-netter. The Oilers played without Connor McDavid, who entered COVID protocol yesterday.
SPORTSNET: McDavid, teammate Tyson Barrie and Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson were among the latest players to enter COVID protocol.
NHL.COM: The league has postponed three more home games involving Canadian clubs. Those games are the Jan. 15 contest between the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens, the Jan. 17 matchup between the Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Jan. 18 games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers.
TSN: The NHL and 20 of its teams are suing five of their insurance providers over rejected COVID-19 claims citing losses of $1 billion. The suit was filed in California last June.
THE SCORE: Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen doesn’t appreciate bearing the brunt of the criticism from head coach Dave Tippett and the media for the club’s struggles. “It’s not nice being thrown under the bus,” he told a Finnish media outlet. “I have to be better, but at the same time, we scored seven goals in my last six losses. I can’t score goals.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Koskinen’s shaky goaltending is a factor in the Oilers’ recent swoon but he has a good point about the lack of goal production he’s received of late.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens yesterday announced the hiring of Chantal Machabee as their new vice-president of communications. She’s spent the past 32 years with the Quebec-based sports network RDS covering the Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Machabee’s hiring was met with universal acclaim by her peers throughout the NHL media. She was a pioneer for women hoping to break into sports media.
TVA SPORTS: Speaking of the Canadiens, they’re currently meeting with potential candidates for the role of general manager. Among them is Patrick Roy and they’re expected to meet with him at the end of this week.
SPORTSNET: Eric Staal’s agent said his client is interested in playing for Team Canada at the Beijing Winter Olympics next month.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Arizona Coyotes announced a sports betting partnership with SaharaBets.
The Rangers move into first place in the overall standings, the three stars of the week are announced, the latest COVID protocols updates, the Flames new arena deal is dead and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Rangers (48 points) moved into first place in the overall standings by dropping the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Ryan Strome had a goal and two assists, Adam Fox collected two assists, Chris Kreider tallied his 20th goal of the season and Alexandar Georgiev picked up the win with 33 saves. The Oilers (38 points) have only two wins in their last 12 games and are clinging to the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
New York Rangers center Ryan Strome (NHL Images).
Last night’s game between the Ottawa Senators and Seattle Kraken was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns affecting the Senators. Thomas Chabot, Zach Sanford and Chris Tierney entered COVID protocol yesterday, bringing the total number of Senators players in protocol to eight.
SPORTSNET: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski and Florida Panthers forward Sam Reinhart were among those who also entered COVID protocol yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The total number of players going on or coming off the protocol list changes daily. For example, 10 Dallas Stars players (including Miro Heiskanen, Roope Hintz, Esa Lindell, Jason Robertson and Ryan Suter) were removed from the list yesterday.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and assistant coach Dean Chynoweth missed practice yesterday after submitting positive rapid COVID-19 tests. Both are asymptomatic and are awaiting the results of their PCR tests.
Meanwhile, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he doesn’t expect many more Canadian franchises will have games postponed due to attendance issues because the league is running out of time to make up games already postponed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the seven Canadian franchises had asked for their home games in January to be rescheduled for later in the season when attendance restrictions in their respective provinces are lifted when the Omicron COVID variant fades. Those clubs will see a significant reduction in their hockey-related revenue (HRR) under the current capacity limitations which will have an adverse effect upon the league’s overall revenue, in turn affecting the salary cap down the road.
NHL.COM: St. Louis Blues center Jordan Kyrou, New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes, and Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau are the league’s three stars for the week ending Jan. 2.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis recently started skating after being sidelined for weeks with a lower-body injury. However, there’s still no timetable for his return to action. Acquired last summer from the Nashville Predators, the 31-year-old Ellis appeared in just four games and hasn’t played since Nov. 13.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ellis’ absence is one reason why the Flyers are struggling to stay in the hunt for the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot is nursing a lower-body injury suffered during Saturday’s Winter Classic. Winger Jordan Greenway entered COVID protocol.
CBC SPORTS: The City of Calgary’s deal with the owners of the Calgary Flames for a new downtown arena is officially terminated due to “unresolved issues.” It’s estimated the two sides had already spent between $20 million and $25 million on the $600 million project.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This doesn’t mean the Flames will be relocating to another city. The club’s ownership group indicated it intends to remain in the Saddledome. However, they’ll be looking at investing millions in updating and upgrading the building.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars hired former Buffalo Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley as their new director of hockey strategy/scouting and development.
It was a day of hat tricks for the Penguins and Rangers, Nathan MacKinnon extends his points streak, the three stars and rookie of the month for December are revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their eighth straight win by holding off the San Jose Sharks 8-5. Penguins forwards Evan Rodrigues and Bryan Rust led the way with three goals each as the club played its first game in 13 days due to COVID postponements. Rust also collected two assists to finish the game with five points. Sharks forward Timo Meier picked up three assists while James Reimer got the hook after giving up six goals on 17 shots.
Speaking of hat tricks, Mika Zibanejad tallied three times as the New York Rangers blanked the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0. Igor Shesterkin made 38 saves for the shutout while Lightning goalie Andre Vasilevskiy gave up four goals on 21 shots in his first game since returning from COVID protocol.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon extended his points streak to 10 games with three assists in a 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Linemate Mikko Rantanen also had three points with a goal and two assists as the Avs played their first game in 16 days. Ducks forward Max Comtois and defenseman Cam Fowler returned to the lineup from recent injuries.
A three-point performance by Johnny Gaudreau (one goal, two assists) powered the Calgary Flames to a 5-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Jacob Markstrom turned aside 30 shots for the Flames.
The Boston Bruins scored five straight goals to beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-1. Charlie McAvoy and Tomas Nosek each had a goal and an assist as the Bruins (34 points) vaulted over the Wings into the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Kyle Connor’s overtime goal lifted the Winnipeg Jets over the Vegas Golden Knights 5-4. Playing their first game in 13 days, the Jets blew a 4-2 lead as Mattias Janmark scored two unanswered third-period goals to force the extra frame.
The New Jersey Devils blew a 3-1 lead but still managed to upset the Washington Capitals 4-3 on an overtime goal by Nico Hischier. It was Hischier’s second goal of the game as his Devils picked up their third straight victory. The Capitals, however, moved past the Lightning into first place in the Eastern Conference.
SPORTSNET: Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf and Rangers winger Artemi Panarin were among the latest players to enter the NHL’s COVID protocol list.
NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko were the NHL’s three stars for December 2021. Ducks forward Trevor Zegras was named the rookie of the month.
The NHL department of player safety suspended Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett for three games for an illegal hit to the head of Montreal Canadiens forward Cedric Paquette during Saturday’s game between the two clubs.
TSN: Speaking of the Canadiens, their search for a new general manager is reportedly underway. Pierre LeBrun reports they’ve been reaching out to NHL clubs to seek permission to speak with potential candidates. Roberto Luongo, Mathieu Darche and Daniel Briere are believed among the Habs targets.
Alex Ovechkin becomes the all-time power-play goal leader, the Blues and Wild prepare to meet in the 2022 Winter Classic, plus the latest COVID updates and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of the New Year.
NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin became the NHL’s all-time power-play goal leader as his Washington Capitals defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1. The Capitals captain tallied his 275 career power-play goal to pass Dave Andreychuk in what also proved to be the game-winner. Ovechkin added an empty netter to seal the win for the Capitals (47 points), who moved into first place in the overall standings.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 754 career goals, Ovechkin is now just 12 behind Jaromir Jagr for third place on the all-time goal list.
New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes scored twice, including the winner in overtime, in a 6-5 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Hughes finished with three points for the second straight game. Connor McDavid and Kailer Yamamoto each tallied twice for the Oilers (37 points), who moved one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Mika Zibanejad’s shootout goal lifted the New York Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Former Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow scored twice against his former club. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist.
The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their 10th win in their last 12 games by dropping the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. The Golden Knights sit atop the Western Conference with 44 points and three ahead of the Ducks in the Pacific Division. Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 42 saves in a losing cause.
NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild are preparing to meet in the 2022 Winter Classic at Target Field commencing at 7 pm ET today. It’s the first Winter Classic to be staged in Minnesota and could be the coldest outdoor game in league history as temperatures could reach between minus-3 and minus-9 Fahrenheit. The Blues and Wild enter this game jockeying for first place in the Central Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could prove to be a more competitive game compared to some of the previous Winter Classics. The extreme cold, however, will affect the players’ performance and test the hardiness of the anticipated 40,000 fans in attendance.
COVID-19, meanwhile, continues to affect the regular-season schedule as the league postponed nine more games yesterday, bringing the total of deferred games to 90. Eight of those games were postponed due to current attendance restrictions in some Canadian cities.
SPORTSNET: NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell said the league will try to preserve as many full-capacity home games for Canadian teams as possible. All seven Canadian teams currently have reduced capacity due to recent provincial restrictions introduced to reduce the spread of the COVID Omicron variant.
A number of Canadian home games have been postponed. The league hopes to reschedule those contests as restrictions are eased or lifted over time.
Alberta and British Columbia joined Ontario in reducing its isolation requirements from 10 days to five for fully vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators will get players who test positive back sooner than the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens, whose home provinces of Manitoba and Quebec still have mandatory 10-day self-isolation periods.
United States-based teams are also now under the five-day rule after the US Centers for Disease Control reduced their isolation requirements earlier in the week.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Jeff Carter, New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff and St. Louis Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn were among the latest to enter COVID protocol.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher (lower-body injury) is questionable for today’s game against the Florida Panthers.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Avalanche winger Valeri Nichushkin has been sidelined with an upper-body injury.
CBS SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian missed yesterday’s game against the Rangers with a lower-body injury.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Patrick Marleau’s wife Christina said the second of the couple’s four sons was nearly kidnapped during a family trip earlier this week. An unnamed couple attempted to coax 11-year-old Brody into coming with them after he returned to the hotel pool to collect the sunglasses he’d left behind. A good samaritan family intervened and alerted hotel security.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thank goodness for the other family stepping in when they did. Christina also said she saw the woman who attempted to lure away Brody and informed him the police had been called, hotel security was watching her and she had to leave. The report didn’t indicate if that woman and her partner were detained.