NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 31, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 31, 2021

Jonathan Huberdeau enjoys a five-point performance for the Panthers, the latest COVID wave’s ongoing effect upon the schedule, and Max Pacioretty sidelined indefinitely in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Jonathan Huberdeau collected five points (one goal, four assists) as the Florida Panthers romped to a 9-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was the fourth five-point performance of Huberdeau’s career. Anthony Duclair scored two goals and Spencer Knight picked up the win with 39 saves. The Panthers (44 points) moved to within two points of the Lightning for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau (NHL Images).

The Carolina Hurricanes blanked the depleted Montreal Canadiens 4-0 with Antti Raanta making 26 saves for this first shutout of the season. Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho collected two assists for his sixth straight multi-point game while Teuvo Teravainen scored twice. Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period while Jonathan Drouin missed the game with a non-COVID-related illness.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens began this game with just three players with salary-cap hits over $1 million. That dropped to two when Gallagher was sidelined. It’s the latest lowlight in a season of suck for the hapless Habs.

A shootout goal by Gustav Nyquist lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators. Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine scored in his return to action since being sidelined by injury on Nov. 3 and the recent passing of his father. Matt Duchene collected two assists for the Predators.

Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists in his return from COVID protocol as his New York Islanders downed the Buffalo Sabres 4-1. Barzal extended his points streak to seven games. Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov kicked out 36 shots.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau had two goals as his club downed the Seattle Kraken 6-4. Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk each finished the night with three points. Kraken captain Mark Giordano also collected three points (one goal, two assists) in his first game against his former club.

The Vancouver Canucks suffered their first loss under head coach Bruce Boudreau as they dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the Los Angeles Kings with Viktor Arvidsson tallying the game-winner. Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves in a losing cause for the Canucks, who remain unbeaten in eight regulation games (7-0-1).

Tomas Hertl’s overtime goal gave the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Hertl now has points in eight straight games. Flyers goalie Felix Sandstrom turned aside 36 shots in his NHL debut. With the win, the Sharks (35 points) moved within a point of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

LATEST NHL COVID HEADLINES

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he still believes the league will complete a full 82-game schedule despite the recent outbreak of the Omicron version of COVID-19. He indicated the schedule is being revised to use what would’ve been the Olympic break in February to fill replacement dates for recently postponed games.

Daly remains hopeful that by mid-January there should be a normalization of the schedule. Nevertheless, he acknowledged it’s been a daily balancing act in recent weeks given how quickly the latest COVID outbreaks have spread around the league.

Regarding attendance restrictions for Canadian clubs, Daly said the league is trying to be as cooperative and flexible as possible when it comes to making up those games or moving them. They’re exploring all alternatives, including playing those games in empty home arenas or on the road until local restrictions are lifted.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of attendance restrictions for Canadian teams, the Ontario government yesterday announced stadium capacity will be reduced to 1,000 fans. They also announced the reduction of isolation for fully-vaccinated people with COVID symptoms from 10 days to five if those symptoms improve and all public health and safety measures are followed.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced there will be no sold tickets for Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors home games for at least the next three weeks.

TSN’s Gord Miller yesterday reported Canadian-based NHL teams are asking the league to shift their home dates to later in the season.

NHL.COM: The number of postponed games reached 81 with the league announcing Sunday’s contest between the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes will be rescheduled for COVID-related reasons.

SPORTSNET: has the latest updated list of NHL players and coaching staff in COVID protocols.

IN OTHER NEWS…

LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing wrist surgery. Pacioretty has missed 17 games earlier this season with a broken foot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could have an effect upon the Golden Knights’ possible plans for freeing up cap space for Jack Eichel’s anticipated February return from neck surgery.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers center Sean Couturier (upper body) is listed as week-to-week after being placed on injured reserve.

CBS SPORTS: New York Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri (lower body) was placed on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 16. There’s no timetable for his return.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild announced multi-year contract extensions for head coach Dean Evason and his staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Evason and his staff have done a fine job since last season turning around the Wild. They finished with last season’s ninth-best record and are just two points out of first place entering tomorrow’s Winter Classic at Target Field against the St. Louis Blues.

ESPN.COM: Canadia women’s hockey player Brigette Lacquette has been hired as a scout by the Chicago Blackhawks. She becomes the first Indigenous woman to become an NHL scout.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Lacquette, who also made history in 2018 by becoming the first First Nations woman to play for Canada’s Women’s Olympic hockey team.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 30, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 30, 2021

The Canucks remain unbeaten since their coaching change, the Flyers’ Claude Giroux reaches a milestone, changes made to COVID protocol rules, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Vancouver Canucks extended their winning streak to seven games with a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on an overtime goal by J.T. Miller. Ducks Sam Carrick opened the scoring but Tanner Pearson tied it for the Canucks. It was a costly loss for the Ducks as defenseman Cam Fowler suffered an upper-body injury in the first period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An impressive turnaround by the Canucks since hiring Bruce Boudreau as their head coach. With 32 points, they’re just four points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux (NHL Images).

Claude Giroux collected his 600th career assist as his Philadelphia Flyers picked up a 3-2 overtime victory against the Seattle Kraken. Giroux now sits second all-time among Flyers scorers with 884 career points. James van Riemsdyk scored twice including the game-tying goal that set the stage for Ivan Provorov’s game-winner. Martin Jones made 34 saves for the win.

The Washington Capitals blew a 3-0 lead but rallied to down the Nashville Predators 5-3 on third-period goals by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Carl Hagelin. Washington defenseman John Carlson finished the night with a goal and three assists. With 45 points, the Capitals moved to within one point of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the overall standings.

Third-period goals by MacKenzie Weegar, Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair carried the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky kicked out 30 shots for the Panthers as they picked up their league-leading 15th home win. Rangers forwards Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad each had a goal and an assist.

The St. Louis Blues extended their home points streak to 10 games by doubling up the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. Jordan Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko each had a goal and two assists for the Blues. With 41 points, they’re one back of the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights. Oilers goalie Mike Smith made 29 saves in his first game since being sidelined by an ankle injury on Oct. 19.

New Jersey Devils forwards Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt each had a goal and two assists to lead his club over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The win snaps a six-game losing skid for the Devils. Sabres forward Tage Thompson scored twice.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: The NHL and NHL Players Association agreed to reduce the isolation period for a positive COVID test from 10 days to five for fully vaccinated players and hockey operations staff, including coaches. That’s in line with new guidelines announced earlier this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. However, the 10-day isolation period remains in effect in Canada based on federal and provincial guidelines.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication yet if the federal and respective provincial governments in Canada will also lower their isolation guidelines or provide exemptions for the NHL.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser and Pittsburgh Penguins Kasperi Kapanen were among a handful of players added to the COVID protocol yesterday.

NHL.COM: The International Ice Hockey Federation yesterday canceled the remainder of the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship after the United States, Czechia and Russia forfeited games when players tested positive for COVID-19.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: IIHF president Luc Tardiff said the federation hopes to continue the WJC in the summer of 2022 in Canada.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A number of NHL draft picks were participating in this tournament. It was also an opportunity for fans to catch their first glimpse of notable prospects such as the Kingston Frontenac’s Shane Wright, considered the favorite to be the first-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

There’s also talk that players in this tournament who turn 20 before next summer will be allowed to participate in the IIHF’s plans for a summer event. There are also said to be plans afoot to stage other canceled tournaments this summer, including the recently canceled Women’s Under-18 Championship.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Anze Kopitar recently picked up his 673rd career NHL assist to move past Wayne Gretzky into second place among the Kings’ all-time scorers in that category. The milestone came during the Kings’ 6-3 loss on Tuesday to the Vegas Golden Knights.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 28, 2021

The NHL returns with CBA exemptions to give teams COVID roster relief, several stars lament the decision to withdraw from the 2022 Olympics, plus injury updates and much more in the morning coffee headlines.

NHL COVID NEWS UPDATES

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman provided highlights of recent CBA exemptions formalized by the NHL and NHLPA to provide COVID relief to their teams.

Teams will be allowed to add a third goaltender when two regulars aren’t available. There will be an emergency salary-cap exemption allowing clubs to make emergency recalls for teams that cannot dress two goalies, six defensemen or 12 forwards. The recalled player’s cap hit cannot exceed $1 million.

The taxi squad has returned until at least the All-Star break in early February consisting of a maximum of six players who cannot be on the squad longer than 20 days. Players cannot be on it if they were part of an NHL roster on Dec. 22, are waiver-exempt, were on the roster at least 75 percent of regular-season days or played in 16 of a team’s last 20 games through Dec. 22. Goalies who dressed but didn’t play are counted as having played.

TSN: Because of seven NHL teams based in Canada, the league cannot do blanket testing of fully vaccinated, asymptomatic players due to the rules and restrictions set up by the Canadian federal and provincial governments. A lack of widespread booster availability in Canada could also affect efforts by the NHL to make an extra dose part of being considered fully vaccinated.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league could review its COVID protocol after the US Centers for Disease Control reduced its recommended 10-day isolation period to five days.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reduction in the isolation period plus the recent CBA changes could reduce the current upheaval affecting the NHL schedule by leading to fewer postponements in the coming weeks. There have also been calls for the league and PA to allow asymptomatic players to continue playing rather than undergo any isolation period but there’s no indication if that’s under serious consideration at the moment.

NHL.COM: Three more games were postponed due to COVID concerns, bringing the full number of postponements to 70. The three games are the Chicago Blackhawks at Winnipeg Jets and the home-and-home series on Wednesday and Friday between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild are trying to avoid any positive COVID tests as their Winter Classic matchup on Jan. 1 with the St. Louis Blues at Target Field draws near.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson described the stress the players are feeling trying to play with COVID lurking in the background. “Over the last two seasons, you kind of get used to it a little bit, but it’s not really about hockey, it’s about mental health,” he said. “It tears you down a little bit thinking about it all the time when you’re supposed to be playing and be good out on the ice.” He added that the players have to try to live with that, while also saying they were fortunate that no one has gotten seriously ill and are vaccinated.

SPORTSNET: Has a daily tracker of the NHL players and head coaches currently in COVID protocol. Among the latest are Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen, Detroit’s Lucas Raymond, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, Philadelphia’s Ryan Ellis, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, Toronto’s William Nylander and Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer.

MORE REACTION TO NHL WITHDRAWAL FROM 2022 OLYMPICS.

THE SCORE: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid called for a best-on-best tournament if the 2022 Winter Olympics aren’t pushed ahead by COVID in the same way the Tokyo Summer Games were moved from 2020 to 2021. “We can’t go six, seven, eight years without playing best-on-best,” said McDavid. “I’d like to see something worked out if the Olympics don’t get pushed.”

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL owners don’t like Olympics breaks because they don’t make any money from it. They only agreed to participate to get the players on board with last year’s extension to the collective bargaining agreement. However, they would be amenable to a World Cup of Hockey. That’s an NHL-controlled event staged in September that doesn’t adversely affect the regular season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were the latest NHL stars to express disappointment over the league’s decision to withdraw from the Olympics. Bergeron indicated he would’ve gone as it would’ve been his last opportunity to experience it after having played in 2010 and 2014.

Marchand has never played in an Olympic competition and this year was likely his best chance of doing so. He criticized the decision, claiming the league doesn’t care about the Olympics because they don’t make any money from it. “It’s a business and we’re an asset. Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said he would’ve gone to the Olympics despite the potential consequences of testing positive for COVID while in Beijing. Under Chinese law, anyone testing positive while in the country must quarantine three to five weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players’ frustration is understandable but the league took the necessary action and was within its rights to do so under the CBA. The postponed games brought about by the latest spread of COVID-19 threatened to derail this season. That would’ve significantly affected league revenue, in turn affecting next season’s salary cap, which also would’ve impacted the timetable for the players to repay their hockey-related revenue debt to the owners incurred last year.

IN OTHER NEWS…

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Winger Zach Hyman returns to the Oilers lineup after being sidelined by a shoulder injury since Dec. 11. Meanwhile, goaltender Mike Smith looks ready to return to action for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on Oct. 19.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins forwards Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust took part in full-contact practice yesterday. Rust could return to action later in the week but there’s still no set time for Malkin’s return. Meanwhile, winger Jason Zucker is listed as week-to-week with a nagging lower-body injury.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken forward Bradon Tanev will require season-ending ACL surgery after suffering a knee injury on Dec. 18.

TSN: A lawsuit filed against the Chicago Blackhawks for a former high school student who claimed he was sexually assaulted by former video coach Bradley Alrich has been dismissed. Rick Westhead reports the withdrawal of the suit indicates a settlement has been reached.

THE PROVINCE: Former NHL coach Bob McCammon passed away on Dec. 23 at the age of 80. He served two stints as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers (1978-79, 1981-82 to 1983-84), two stints as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers (1985-86, 1995-96 to 1997-98) and was head coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 1987-88 to 1990-91.

DAILY DEMOCRAT: Former NHL player and coach Jim Wiley died Sunday at age 71. He spent five seasons as a player with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks from 1972-73 to 1976-77, finishing with four goals and 14 points in 63 games. He went on to become a minor league coach from 1984-85 to 2007-08, except for one season as head coach of the San Jose Sharks in 1995-96.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the families and friends of both men.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2021

The NHL & NHLPA withdraw from the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Lightning beat the Golden Knights in the final game before the extended holiday break, the Flames ownership walks away from its arena deal, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: Multiple reports indicate the NHL and NHL Players Association intend to withdraw from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing amid concerns over rising COVID-19 cases among NHL clubs which forced the postponement of a number of games. A formal announcement, however, has yet to be made.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the delay in the announcement is the PA had to do its own internal process involving a number of calls to players. The league and PA also have to talk to the International Olympic Committee before it becomes official.

**UPDATE** 

The NHL and NHLPA officially announced this morning they will not send players to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The adverse effect upon the NHL schedule by the recent COVID outbreak is the reason behind the decision. LeBrun indicated the league scheduler is already at work to determine how to make up those postponed games and fill dates during that three-week period in February that was scheduled for the Olympic break.

Chris Johnston indicates there is no ability for individual players to take a leave of absence in February to participate in the Games. He also said this decision will not affect the 2022 All-Star Game scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 5.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Withdrawing from the Olympics is a disappointment for the players who would’ve been selected to represent their countries and for hockey fans looking forward to the tournament. Nevertheless, the league and the PA had no choice.

Those postponed games have to be made up in a timely fashion without derailing the schedule or pushing it further into the spring, which would’ve meant another postseason going deep into the summer. Neither side has any intention of shortening the schedule because that would adversely affect hockey-related revenue.

NHL.COM: Steven Stamkos scored the winning goal as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in the only game remaining on the schedule before the NHL’s extended holiday break that takes effect today and runs to Dec. 26.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

Stamkos’ goal was his 65th game-winner, surpassing Martin St. Louis for the most in Lightning history. Golden Knights winger Mark Stone scored twice but left the game in the second period after tweaking a previous injury.

The Lightning played without head coach Jon Cooper, who entered COVID protocol before the games. Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and winger Evgenii Dadonov also entered the protocol yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet has a full list of players and coaches currently in COVID protocol that is updated daily.

CALGARY SUN: The owners of the Flames released a statement yesterday indicating they’re walking away from its multimillion-dollar plan with the city of Calgary to replace the aging Saddledome. Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corps cited the growing price tag of the planned new arena, which would’ve been built under a cost-sharing agreement with the city.

The sticking point is reportedly less than $10 million (1.5 percent of the projected $634 million) for infrastructure and climate change mitigation that the city is asking the Flames ownership to pick up.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This seems like a squabble over a pittance when factoring in the total cost of the arena plan. The Flames will reportedly continue to use the Saddledome but they can’t stay there forever.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman got involved in smoothing things over when the plans for constructing Rogers Place in Edmonton threatened to derail several years ago. Perhaps he’ll have to do the same in Calgary.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TSN: Boston Bruins defenseman Jakub Zboril will miss the remainder of this season with a torn ACL in his right knee. He underwent surgery last week.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek could be sidelined for a while. He was spotted wearing a sling on his arm following an injury suffered during their 7-4 loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday.

SPORTSNET: The province of Alberta has announced restrictions on the capacity for sporting events that limits attendance at Flames and Oilers home games to 50 percent. Those restrictions also apply to the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton and Red Deer.

DAILY FACEOFF: Speaking of the World Juniors, Montreal Canadiens prospect Kaiden Guhle was named captain of Team Canada while Ottawa Senators prospect Jake Sanderson will captain Team USA.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2021

The NHL and NHLPA agree to begin its holiday break on Wednesday as COVID cases continue to spread among the teams, the three stars of the week are revealed, an update on the Coyotes arena dispute, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league and the NHL Players Association agreed to commence its holiday break on Wednesday, Dec. 22, as COVID cases continue to spread among its 32 teams.

The two remaining games on the schedule will be played today as the Washington Capitals face off against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Vegas Golden Knights.

Players will report back to their teams on Sunday, Dec. 26, for testing, practice and/or travel only. No individual in a team’s traveling party shall enter team facilities (other than for testing purposes) until they have a negative test result.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rapid spread of the coronavirus and the resultant multiple game postponements left the league and the PA with no choice but to commence its holiday break two days earlier than planned. The hope is it will slow the spread and allow players emerging from mandatory 10-day quarantine more time to return to their respective lineups.

This move casts further doubt over the NHL’s participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. An announcement is expected in the coming days.

SPORTSNET: provides a daily updated list of players currently in COVID protocol and the number of games postponed.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames reopened their practice facility yesterday after a third straight day without a positive COVID test. The club was the hardest hit by the latest wave with 19 players, three coaches and 10 support staff in COVID protocol.

NHL.COM: Jamie Benn and Miro Heiskanen each had a goal and an assist as the Dallas Stars downed the Minnesota Wild 7-4 in the only game on Monday’s schedule as the other four were postponed. Kiril Kaprizov had a goal and two assists for the Wild, who’ve lost four straight games.

Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin, St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko, and Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 19, 2021.

SPORTSNET: cites reports indicating the Arizona Coyotes met the deadline for paying the remainder of its outstanding bills (totaling $930K) with the city of Glendale. The city council had threatened to lock the club out of Gila River Arena for the remainder of the season unless it paid off its outstanding debts for this year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes will remain in Gila River Arena for the remainder of 2021-22. However, the city of Glendale announced it will not renew its lease with the club following this season.

The Coyotes have submitted a bid to build a new arena in Tempe, Arizona. Assuming they receive approval it will take several years before they’ll be ready to move into the new venue. It’s believed the club is exploring local alternatives.

THE SCORE: cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting that the Buffalo Sabres sought a high asking price from the Anaheim Ducks for Jack Eichel. He said the Sabres wanted Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale and two first-rounders but the Ducks didn’t want to give up that much. Eichel was subsequently traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Alex Tuch, prospect Peyton Krebs, a first-round pick and a second-rounder.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. Zegras and Drysdale are two promising youngsters playing key roles in the Ducks’ surprising improvement this season.

TSN: The Los Angeles Kings placed defenseman Alex Edler (left ankle fracture) and Sean Walker on long-term injury reserve and called up center Quinton Byfield.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Jacob Zboril recently underwent knee surgery. He’s been sidelined since Dec. 2 and there’s no word as to how long he’ll be on the shelf.

NHL.COM’s Dave Stubbs reports former NHL goaltender Curt Ridley has passed away at age 70. He played 104 games over six seasons from 1974-75 to 1980-81 with the New York Ranger, Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Ridley’s family, friends and former teammates.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2021

Cross-border games are postponed until after the upcoming holiday break as the number of teams shut down by COVID outbreaks reaches seven while Olympic participation is in question. Details and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CROSS-BORDER GAMES POSTPONED, OLYMPIC PARTICIPATION IN JEOPARDY

NHL.COM: The league announced yesterday all cross-border games between Canadian and American clubs have been postponed through the upcoming holiday break period (Dec. 24-26) over COVID-19 concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: 16 teams (Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets) won’t be playing this week for COVID-related reasons.

Despite the increasing number of positive COVID tests among players, the league and the NHL Players Association agreed to continue the 2021-22 schedule. That decision was based on advice by medical experts on both sides who point to the low number of cases among the players with concerning symptoms or serious illness.

Given the rising number of postponed games and its potential effect upon the schedule, the league and the PA are discussing whether players will participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last night reported there’s a “real sense” the players won’t be taking part in the Olympics but there’s nothing official yet. A further announcement is expected in the coming days.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Robin Lehner made 29 saves to backstop the Vegas Golden Knights to their fifth straight win by beating the New York Islanders 4-3. Shea Theodore and Nicolas Roy scored in the shootout to give the Golden Knights the win. Theodore also scored twice in regulation. The Golden Knights have won five straight and taken over first place in the Pacific Division with 40 points. Vegas captain Mark Stone missed the game with an upper-body injury while the Islanders placed Matt Martin and Robin Salo on COVID protocol before this match.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was Lehner’s first game back on Long Island since he last played for the Islanders in 2018-19. He credits Isles fans for helping him battle bipolar disorder and addiction as he got his career back on track.

Paul Stastny scored twice and collected his 500th career assist and Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and three assists as the Winnipeg Jets doubled up the St. Louis Blues 4-2. Earlier in the day, the Jets announced captain Blake Wheeler (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve.

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their win streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, who’ve now lost six straight.

Three unanswered goals lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Washington Capitals 3-2. Garret Sparks made 33 saves for his first NHL win since 2019 as the Kings have won four of their last six contests. Capitals forwards T.J. Oshie and Michael Sgarbossa and Kings center Phillip Danault missed this game as they were placed on the COVID protocol list. Earlier in the day, the Capitals placed winger Tom Wilson (upper body) on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 10.

IN OTHER HEADLINES…

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said he was hit hard by COVID-19 symptoms during the first two days after he tested positive on Dec. 2 and went into the mandatory 10-day quarantine. He’s since recovered and rejoined his teammates during practice on Sunday.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets canceled practice yesterday after Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Gabriel Carlsson were placed on the COVID protocol list.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning center Brayden Point is expected to make his return to action from a shoulder injury on Dec. 28 against the Canadiens. He’s been sidelined for a month.

NHL.COM: The department of player safety suspended Chicago Blackhawks forward Brett Connolly for four games for interference against Dallas Stars forward Tanner Kero on Saturday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kero was stretchered from the ice and taken to a hospital for observation following the hit by Connolly. He’s reportedly been released and is resting at home.

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes senior director of hockey development Matt Shott passed away Sunday following a 10-month bout with liver cancer. He was 34.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Shott’s family, friends and the Coyotes organization.