Five Aging NHL Players Exceeding Expectations This Season
Recaps of Tuesday’s games, the stars of the month, plus injury updates, game postponements and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Joe Pavelski scored twice and collected two assists as the Dallas Stars defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3. Stars captain Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists while Patrik Laine was held scoreless in his first game with the Blue Jackets since getting traded last month from the Winnipeg Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 36-year-old Pavelski is off to a strong start, with 14 points in his first seven games of the season.
Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber collected an assist as his 1000th career NHL game ended in a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Habs winger Tyler Toffoli continues to terrorize his former club by scoring twice while Josh Anderson also tallied two goals. The Canadiens (16 points) vaulted over the idle Toronto Maple Leafs into first place in the North Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eight of Toffoli’s nine goals this season have been against the Canucks.
The Carolina Hurricanes edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on a shootout goal by Andrei Svechnikov. Jordan Staal and Warren Foegele each had two points for the Hurricanes. Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Nicolas Beaudin rejoined the lineup after being on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.
Vince Dunn scored and set up another as the St. Louis Blues hung on to nip the Arizona Coyotes 4-3. The Blues have won four straight games. Christian Dvorak tallied twice for the Coyotes, who played without forwards Christian Fischer (upper-body injury) and Lawson Crouse (upper body).
The Winnipeg Jets tallied three first period goals and held on to down the Calgary Flames 3-2. Matthew Tkachuk scored two goals for the Flames.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves backstopping his club over the Minnesota Wild 2-1. The Avalanche were playing with superstar Nathan MacKinnon, who’s listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon left this game with an upper-body injury. No post-game update was provided on his status.
The Anaheim Ducks snapped a three-game losing skid with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Nicolas Deslauriers scored and added an assist while Kings rookie Arthur Kaliyev tallied his first career NHL goal.
Jesse Pulujaarvi scored his first two goals of the season as the Edmonton Oilers doubled up the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Connor McDavid and Tyson Barrie each collected two assists while Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle netted his third goal of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have dropped nine straight games since their season-opening win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. They weren’t expected to be a playoff contender but it was assumed they would be more competitive after a busy offseason shoring up their roster with some veteran additions. None of those moves, however, have improved the Senators, who are on track for one of their worst seasons in franchise history.
NHL.COM: Pavelski and McDavid were among the NHL’s top stars for the month of January 2021, joining Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk.
WGR 550/NEW YORK POST: The Buffalo Sabres’ scheduled games against the New York Islanders on Tuesday and Thursday were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Sabres forward Taylor Hall and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen were added to the protocol list following the club’s recent series of games against the New Jersey Devils.
NJ.COM: Speaking of the Devils, they now have 14 players on their COVID-19 protocol list. Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, Damon Severson, Ty Smith and Matt Tennyson were added to the list yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind this doesn’t mean those players have all tested positive for COVID-19. Players can be added to the list if they’re a suspected close contact.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers forward Morgan Frost will undergo potentially season-ending shoulder surgery later this week. Center Sean Couturier (costochondral separation) is expected to return within seven-to-10 days.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forwards Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne will rejoin their teammates today after missing several games on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list. Sam Gagner, Jon Merrill and Filip Zadina are also off the protocol list.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Several sticks ordered by the Capitals for defenseman Zdeno Chara were instead delivered to a New Jersey man. The total order was worth over $5,000.00.
Start times for the upcoming season released, former Oilers coach John Muckler passes away and updates on Alex Ovechkin, Brad Marchand, Gabriel Landeskog, Joe Pavelski, Sergei Bobrovsky and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines,
NHL.COM: The league officially announced start times for the upcoming 2020-21 season. The schedule opens on Jan. 13 with five games on the slate. The Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the Philadelphia Flyers at 5: 30 pm ET, the Montreal Canadiens tangle with the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 pm ET, the Chicago Blackhawks meet the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at 8 pm ET, the Vancouver Canucks square off with the Edmonton Oilers at 10 pm ET, followed by the St. Louis Blues meeting the Colorado Avalanche at 10:30 pm ET.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former Oilers coach John Muckler passed away Monday at age 86. Muckler was assistant and associate coach during the Oilers’ first four Stanley Cup runs and was head coach during their fifth and final championship in 1990.
Before joining the Oilers, Muckler did stints in various positions with the Minnesota North Stars, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers. After leaving the Oilers in 1991, he served as head of hockey operations and head coach with the Buffalo Sabres, went on to become head coach of the Rangers, followed by becoming general manager of the Ottawa Senators.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Muckler had a long, distinguished career in the NHL. My condolences to his family, friends, former associates and players, and the Oilers organization.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Contract talks between the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin have yet to begin but the superstar winger isn’t concerned. He pointed out there’s no rush and plenty of time to get a deal done. The Capitals captain is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. “Whatever is done is done. If it’s not done, we’re gonna talk and we’ll see,” said Ovechkin, who is acting as his own agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin wants to stay in Washington and the Capitals want to keep him. Unless his salary demands become exorbitant, I expect they’ll reach an agreement that keeps both sides happy.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Brad Marchand is hoping to be ready in time for the club’s season-opener on Jan. 14. He underwent sports hernia surgery on Sept. 14 and the recovery period was expected to be four months.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting one of their two sidelined top-line forwards back for the start of the season (or soon afterward) will provide a big boost to the Bruins’ offense. David Pastrnak is also on the shelf (hip surgery) and isn’t expected to return until sometime in February.
NHL.COM: Gabriel Landeskog is among several members of the Colorado Avalanche to miss the first day of on-ice activities. Winger Brandon Saad, defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Philipp Grubauer joined the Avs captain on the sidelines. All were listed as “unfit to play” with no timetable as to when they’re return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under league guidelines, teams are not allowed to comment if players are sidelined during training camp due to COVID-19 testing or contract tracing. However, the league will announce if players test positive during the regular season.
This could be a testing issue in which they received false positives and have to be re-tested again. This was commonplace among several NHL teams during the 2020 playoffs. We’ll learn more about their status as the week progresses.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars center Joe Pavelski is listed as day-to-day pending further results from medicals. Meanwhile, immigration issues has delayed goaltender Anton Khudobin’s efforts to report to training camp. He’s fulfilling his mandatory seven-day quarantine and it’s expected he’ll be on the ice at some point during training camp.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Sergei Bobrovsky and Patric Hornqvist were among several Florida Panthers declared “unfit to play” yesterday.
TSN: Mathew Barzal is at New York Islanders training camp and underwent his team physical. However, the young center remains without a contract and cannot practice with his teammates until he’s signed.
TWINCITIES.COM: Winger Kevin Fiala missed on-ice practice yesterday for precautionary reasons. He returned to the ice after practice to skate with assistant coaches Brett McLean and Darby Hendrickson.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: James Neal and Dominik Kahun are among four Oilers declared unfit to play yesterday.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators defenseman Erik Brannstrom is in quarantine for seven days after coming in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19.
CBS SPORTS: The Chicago Blackhawks placed forward Zack Smith on waivers.
SPORTSNET: The Winnipeg Jets placed forward Marko Dano on waivers.
TSN: The province of Quebec is the third province to approve NHL games this season in Canada. Manitoba and Ontario have yet to make a final announcement, though Manitoba is showing support for the league’s plan.
THE AHL: 28 teams will participate in the AHL’s 2020-21 schedule.
The NHL will not introduce a blanket quarantine period for players recalled from the American Hockey League this season. Instead, each case will be judged by its own circumstances.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 5, 2021