NHL Rumor Mill – May 18, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 18, 2022

Check out the latest on the Leafs, Penguins and Predators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON CAMPBELL, NYLANDER AND GIORDANO.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said his assistant GM will be meeting soon with Jack Campbell’s representatives for contract negotiations. The 30-year-old goaltender is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Campbell professed his love of playing for the Leafs and the city of Toronto but is leaving contract details up to his agent and Leafs management.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman doesn’t believe there have been many negotiations between those two sides. Nevertheless, I believe the Leafs will re-sign him given how thin this summer’s market will be for goaltenders. They know what they have in Campbell.

Koshan also reports William Nylander acknowledged his name frequently surfaces in Leafs trade rumors. However, he doesn’t want to be moved. Koshan pointed out that general manager Kyle Dubas has indicated he has little appetite for making big changes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nylander’s not going anywhere. He carries the more affordable contract among their foursome of top forwards plus he elevates his play in the postseason.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes there have been talks with defenseman Mark Giordano about bringing back the 39-year-old defenseman at a lower salary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Giordano’s current AAV is $6.75 million. How much lower is he willing to go to finish his career in Toronto and for how long? Time will tell if they can get something done before the free-agent market opens on July 13.

MALKIN AND LETANG HOPE TO REMAIN WITH THE PENGUINS

TRIBLIVE.COM: Seth Rorabaugh reports the Pittsburgh Penguins’ long-time core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang hope to remain together for a few more years. Crosby has three years remaining on his contract while Malkin and Letang are due to become UFAs in July.

Malkin said he’s leaving his contract business to his agent. He also dismissed a report out of Russia claiming he would return to his hometown of Magnitogorsk next season, stating he wants to stay in the NHL.

Letang declined to discuss his contract citing an agreement with GM Ron Hextall not to talk publicly about the matter.

Meanwhile, fellow UFA Bryan Rust said he felt he’s taken his play to a higher level than the salary he’s been earning the past few years. He indicated he’s seeking a fair and reasonable new deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Elliotte Friedman cited The Athletic’s Rob Rossi recently tweeting that the Penguins’ best offers to Malkin and Letang were three years and $15 million. Friedman said he’s heard the Penguins and the Malkin camp have discussed a three-year term to line up with Crosby’s contract but they’re far apart on salary. Letang, meanwhile, is apparently seeking a four-year deal for slightly less than his current $7.25 million annual average value.

As for Rust, it doesn’t look like he’s interested in a hometown discount. He earned $3.5 million annually on a four-year contract. He could seek around $5 million per season.

PREDATORS

THE ATHLETIC: Making a decision on Filip Forsberg’s future topped Adam Vingan’s recent list of offseason issues the Nashville Predators must address. The 28-year-old left winger is due to become a UFA in July. They must also decide if they’ll pick up the option year in head coach John Hynes’ contract and find a competent backup for starting goaltender Juuse Saros.

Vingan cited Evolving Hockey’s contract project model indicating Forsberg could get $8.5 million annually on an eight-year extension with the Predators or $9.5 million on a seven-year deal on the open market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forsberg has stated his goal is to remain with the Predators. As I’ve noted before, the concern for GM David Poile is he already has two forwards earning $8 million annually in Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. He might not be keen to have another in his lineup. We’ll find out by July 13 which direction Poile wants to go.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2022

Are significant offseason changes in the cards for the Predators? Could the Senators and Islanders shop their 2022 first-round draft picks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CHANGES COMING FOR PREDATORS?

THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan believes Nashville Predators’ ownership must react after getting eliminated from the opening round of the 2022 playoffs by the Colorado Avalanche. It’s the first time the Predators have been swept from a postseason series in franchise history.

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).

The subdued atmosphere in Nashville during Games 3 and 4 of that series has to be a concern. So is a club getting outclassed despite carrying two 40-goal scorers in Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene, a 90-point defenseman in Roman Josi, an All-Star goaltender in Juuse Saros and the rookie goal-scoring leader in Tanner Jeannot.

Vingan believes the blame lies with David Poile, suggesting it might be time to hire someone to work in tandem with Poile but has the final say over personnel decisions. He noted the club faces some critical decisions this off-season, including new contracts for pending free agent Forsberg and head coach John Hynes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators ownership could surprise us by following Vingan’s advice or perhaps even firing Poile. However, he started a “competitive rebuild” last summer with the club exceeding expectations when they weren’t considered a playoff contender to start the season. Those factors probably ensure there won’t be any shakeup in the general manager’s office this summer.

NHL.COM: John Glennon reports Forsberg said he wants to return with the Predators. He said there’s been a progression in contract talks throughout the season, adding there will be ongoing discussions. “We’ll just have to see where we end,” he said. Those talks were paused at the March 21 trade deadline but he said they’ll resume soon.

Forsberg is coming off a career-high 42-goal, 84-point performance. The 27-year-old winger said he likes the direction of the Predators and believes they can be a Stanley Cup champion in the future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Poile wants to keep Forsberg but the latter’s asking price will be an issue. The Predators are already carrying two forwards (Duchene and Ryan Johansen) each carrying annual average values of $8 million. Forsberg will likely seek something comparable if not more.

COULD THE SENATORS OR ISLANDERS SHOP THEIR FIRST-ROUND PICKS?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch noted the Senators will have the opportunity to add another promising talent to their roster with the seventh-overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft. However, he noted there’s a belief GM Pierre Dorion could be willing to part with that pick if a rival club offers up a player who can help the Senators compete for a playoff spot. It’s unlikely any decision will be reached until the first round of the draft on July 7.

NYI HOCKEY NOW: Stefen Rosner wondered if the New York Islanders might use their pick (13th overall) to address more immediate needs. He pointed out GM Lou Lamoriello has talked about making hockey trades during this offseason.

This year’s draft isn’t considered a deep one. Rosner suggested that the pick could be used to acquire a top-four defenseman or a top-six forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There will be some cap-strapped teams attempting to shed salary or rebuilding clubs looking to stockpile first-round picks in this year’s draft. Perhaps the Senators or Islanders can find some suitable trade partners among those clubs.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 9, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – May 9, 2022

The latest on John Klingberg’s contract talks with the Stars, a difficult postmortem could face the Predators if they’re swept by the Avalanche, and the Blue Jackets’ offseason focus in today’s NHL rumor mill.

STARS GM STILL HOPES TO RE-SIGN KLINGBERG

NHL.COM: Tracey Myers reports Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill would love to re-sign John Klingberg. However, he understands the 29-year-old defenseman has to look out for himself as he approaches eligibility for unrestricted free agent status this summer. Nill said he intends to speak with Klingberg’s representatives once the playoffs are over.

Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg (NHL Images).

Klingberg felt underappreciated by Stars management and expressed his frustration over the lack of progress in earlier contract discussions during an interview in January. However, he’s now indicated he refocused on his game since the All-Star break and has been happy with his performance. Nill is also happy with Klingberg’s play, claiming he’s had many discussions with the blueliner and the two have “a great relationship.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the two sides have patched things up from where they were in the first half of the season. However, it will still come down to what Klingberg seeks on his next contract and whether the Stars are willing to meet his expectations.

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek last fall indicated Klingberg sought an eight-year deal worth between $62 million and $68 million. That’s between $7.75 million and $8.5 million annually.

THE TENNESSEAN: Gentry Estes believes the Nashville Predators could face “a tough postmortem” if they’re swept by the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night in Game 4 of their first-round series. They face losing the fifth consecutive postseason series.

The Predators opted not to trade Filip Forsberg in hopes of a playoff run. The 27-year-old left winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Considering how overmatched the club has been against the Avalanche, it should mean more questions for the roster beyond Forsberg.

Head coach John Hynes’ contract expires at the end of this season. Estes suggested he could be retained given the Predators exceeded expectations this season but wondered why it hasn’t been announced yet. He also doubted a healthy Juuse Saros would’ve significantly altered the course of this series with the Avalanche.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators GM David Poile last summer indicated his club was undergoing a “competitive rebuild”. If he meant remaining in playoff contention while making changes to his roster with a long-term goal of returning to Cup contender status, then it’s mission accomplished for this season.

Whether Forsberg will be part of that process beyond this season remains to be seen. He’s completing a six-year deal with an annual cap hit of $6 million and is coming off a career-best 42-goal, 84-point performance in 69 games. That could push the annual average value of his next contract to well over $8 million per season.

There were reports prior to the March trade deadline that there wasn’t much progress in contract talks between the two sides. Unless that changes, we could be seeing the last of Forsberg in a Predators jersey.

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE BLUE JACKETS THIS SUMMER?

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline believes the Columbus Blue Jackets face heightened expectations for next season after overachieving in 2021-22. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen must get restricted free agent winger Patrik Laine under contract and shed some salary to make room for the younger players set to join the lineup next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine is completing a one-year, $7.5 million contract and has arbitration rights this season. Portzline indicated the 24-year-old winger wants to stay with the Jackets. However, Kekalainen will have to pony up some big bucks to keep him in the fold long term.

The Laine camp could seek over $9 million annually on a seven- or eight-year deal. They could also prefer a short-term deal to take their client up to UFA eligibility and a shot at a major contract on the open market.

Laine’s new contract will also bite deeply into the Jackets’ cap space. Cap Friendly shows them with over $54 million committed to 15 players.

A likely trade candidate is Gustav Nyquist. The 32-year-old winger has a year remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. He enjoyed a bounce-back performance this season with 53 points. Perhaps a playoff contender seeking offensive depth on the wing would be interested in his services.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 30, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 30, 2022

The regular season ends for all but two teams, the opening-round playoff matchups are set, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Carey Price made 37 saves for his first win of the season as his Montreal Canadiens thumped the Florida Panthers 10-2. Montreal rookie Cole Caufield scored his first career NHL hat trick. The Canadiens finish last in the overall standings and have the best odds heading into the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery in May. The Panthers clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with the best overall record and rested several of their best players from this contest.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

Speaking of hat tricks, Steven Stamkos picked up the 10th of his career to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning over the New York Islanders 6-4. The Lightning finished the season with 110 points and third place in the Atlantic Division. Zdeno Chara scored for the Islanders in what could be his final NHL game.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander tallied two goals in a 5-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. The Leafs have secured second place in the Atlantic Division with 115 points. Craig Smith had two assists for the Bruins (107 points) as they finish with the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth.

The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3. Marcus Pettersson had a three-point game while Evgeni Malkin and Brian Boyle each had a goal and an assist. The Penguins finish the season in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 103 points.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov scored his 47th goal of the season in a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Jordan Greenway tallied twice for the Wild, who finished second in the Central Division with 113 points and hold home-ice advantage in their upcoming first-round series with the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche, meanwhile, finish atop the Western Conference with 119 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wild head coach Dean Evason was unhappy with Avalanche defenseman Kurtis MacDermid for a knee-on-knee hit that knocked Wild winger Marcus Foligno from the game. He also chided Avs forward Logan O’Connor for cross-checking Wild defenseman Dmitry Kulikov into the boards. MacDermid received a game misconduct.

The Blues, meanwhile, dropped a 7-4 decision to the Vegas Golden Knights. Jack Eichel scored twice for the Golden Knights, who were eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the week. Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals and added an assist as the Blues finish third in the Central Division with 109 points.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 32 saves to backstop his club over the Calgary Flames 3-1. Matthew Tkachuk scored his 41st goal of the season as the Flames finished in first place in the Pacific Division with 111 points.

The New York Rangers beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Dryden Hunt’s game-winning goal in the third period. Kaapo Kakko and Braden Schneider each had two assists for the Rangers, who finished in second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals lost their final four games of the regular season but hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 100 points.

A shootout goal by Devin Shore gave the Edmonton Oilers a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers finished in second place in the Pacific Division with 104 points and rested superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl from this contest. Conor Garland had a goal and an assist for the Canucks while teammate J.T. Miller scored to finish the season with a team-leading 99 points.

Dallas Stars sophomore winger Jason Robertson scored his 41st goal of the season as his club clinched the first Western Conference wild-card spot with 98 points in a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks pressed emergency backup Thomas Hodges into action when goalies John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz both went down with injuries. Hodges, a 28-year-old insurance salesman by day, stopped two of the three shots he faced in the third period and received praises from his teammates and the Stars following the game.

The Nashville Predators finished the season in the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 97 points after blowing a 4-0 lead to fall 5-4 to the Arizona Coyotes. Shayne Gostisbehere scored twice and Harri Sateri got the win in relief of Coyotes starter Karel Vejmelka by stopping all 27 shots he faced in the game.

Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt’s overtime goal lifted his club to a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Following the game, the Sabres and their fans honored long-time play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret as he signed off for the final time as he retires after 51 seasons with the club.

Seattle Kraken goaltender Chris Driedger finished the season with a 24-save shutout to blank the San Jose Sharks 3-0. Yanni Gourde, Adam Larsson and Victor Rask were the goal scorers.

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Magnus Hellberg made 20 saves to win his first NHL game in five years by downing the New Jersey Devils 5-3. Michael Rasmussen had a goal and an assist for the Red Wings.

Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk scored his 30th goal of the season as his club doubled up the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. Tkachuk’s teammate Josh Norris netted his 35th.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NHL.COM: The opening-round series of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs are now set and will begin on Monday, May 2.

In the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers will face off against the Washington Capitals, the Toronto Maple Leafs will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes tangle with the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers square off against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Western Conference sees the Colorado Avalanche face the Nashville Predators, the Minnesota Wild take on the St. Louis Blues, the Calgary Flames going up against the Dallas Stars and the Edmonton Oilers battling the Los Angeles Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow the link above for the dates, timings and broadcast networks for each series.

NHLPA: The NHL Players’ Association executive board has voted in favor of forming a search committee to lead the search for a new executive director to eventually replace Donald Fehr. The committee will provide a progress report to the executive board during its summer meeting in Toronto in July.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This comes in the wake of an independent investigation that cleared Fehr and his staff of fault over their handling of Kyle Beach’s allegations that he was sexually assaulted by the former video coach of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.

It’s uncertain at this point if those findings – and the questions and criticism that were subsequently raised – played a role in this decision by the board. There had been previous reports raising concerns over the 73-year-old Fehr’s succession plan before the next round of collective bargaining in 2026. The results of the Beach investigation may have hastened things.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 29, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 29, 2022

The Panthers win the Presidents’ Trophy, Hurricanes goalie tandem Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta win the Jennings Trophy, Dustin Brown announces his retirement following the playoffs and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history by blanking the Ottawa Senators 4-0. With 122 points, the Panthers hold the NHL’s best record this season. Spencer Knight turned in a 27-save shutout performance while Carter Verhaeghe tallied twice.

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen (NHL Images).

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta kicked out 27 shots while Jesperi Kotkaniemi had a goal and two assists in a 6-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils. The Hurricanes have won six straight. Raanta and Frederik Andersen won the William M. Jennings Memorial Trophy for allowing the fewest goals (202) this season. Earlier in the week, the Hurricanes clinched first place in the Metropolitan Division. Devils winger Andreas Johnsson missed the game with a non-COVID illness.

Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser scored twice, including the overtime winner, as his club overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Before the game, Los Angeles winger Dustin Brown announced he’ll retire following the playoffs. The Kings clinched a playoff berth several days ago, sitting third in the Pacific Division with 99 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brown captained the Kings to two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. A versatile and physical forward, he’s spent his entire 18-season career with the Kings, scored 325 goals and 387 assists for 712 points in a franchise-leading 1,296 regular-season games.

Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron tallied a hat trick while Linus Ullmark stopped 37 saves to shut out the Buffalo Sabres 5-0. Bergeron also became the fourth player in franchise history to score 400 career goals. The Bruins hold the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 107 points.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov’s 46th goal of the season came in overtime to snuff out the Calgary Flames 3-2. Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau scored his 40th of the season, joining teammates Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm in the 40-goal club. The Flames clinched first place in the Pacific Division earlier this week (111 points) while the Wild sit two points ahead of the third-place St. Louis Blues with 111 points. Both clubs will face each other in the opening round of the playoffs next week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaudreau, Tkachuk and Lindholm are the first Flames trio to reach 40 goals in a season since Theo Fleury, Robert Reichel and Gary Roberts did it in 1993-94.

A shootout goal by Matt Duchene lifted the Nashville Predators to a 5-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Predators defensemen Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm each had a goal and an assist while David Rittich made 42 saves for the win. The Predators (97 points) hold a one-point lead over the Dallas Stars for the first Western wild-card berth with both clubs having one game left. The Avalanche hold first overall in the Western Conference with 119 points.

The Edmonton Oilers nipped the San Jose Sharks 5-4 on an overtime goal by Zach Hyman. Edmonton captain Connor McDavid collected an assist for his league-leading 123rd point while Noah Gregor scored two goals for the Sharks. The Oilers recently clinched a playoff spot and sit second in the Pacific Division with 102 points.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand had a goal and an assist as his club upset the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2. With the loss, the Lightning (108 points) failed to clinch third place in the Atlantic Division, sitting one point ahead of the Bruins with both clubs having a game remaining.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal collected three assists as his club upset the Washington Capitals 5-1. The Capitals (100 points) recently clinched the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock missed this game with a non-COVID illness.

IN OTHER NEWS…

SPORTSNET: Hundreds of hockey fans, hockey personalities and journalists paid their final respects to Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Bossy yesterday during a funeral service north of Montreal. Bossy passed away from lung cancer on April 14 at age 65.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rest in peace, Mike Bossy. He was one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history and a key part of the New York Islanders Stanley Cup dynasty from 1980 to 1983.

WINNIPEG SUN: TSN broadcaster Dennis Beyak will retire from his role as the Jets play-by-play man. He held that job since the club relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks hired Jeff Greenberg as their associate general manager. Greenberg, 36, is an assistant general manager with MLB’s Chicago Cubs.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 27, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 27, 2022

Auston Matthews tallies his 60th goal of the season, Steven Stamkos reached 100 points, the Hurricanes clinch the Metropolitan Division, the Predators and Kings secure playoff berths, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Auston Matthews scored twice to reach the 60-goal plateau as the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the Detroit Red Wings 3-0. Matthews is the first player to score 60 goals in a season since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12. He’s also the first American-born player to reach that mark. John Tavares also scored and Jack Campbell made 20 saves for the shutout. Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin returned to the lineup after missing six games with an undisclosed injury. With the win, the Leafs (113 points) secure second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage for the opening round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Speaking of Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning captain reached the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career in a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Stamkos scored twice and collected two assists while Nikita Kucherov also had a four-point performance. The Lightning have won four straight games and sit in third place in the Atlantic with 108 points. Before the game, the Blue Jackets confirmed Boone Jenner and Sean Kuraly will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the season ended today, the Leafs and Lightning would face each other in the first round. We’ll find out for sure by week’s end.

The Carolina Hurricanes (114 points) clinched first place in the Metropolitan Division by holding off the New York Rangers 4-3. Sebastian Aho scored to reach his 400th career point, Vincent Trocheck and Brady Skjei each collected two points and rookie goalie Pyotr Kochetkov got the win with a 31-save performance. Rangers winger Chris Kreider tallied his 52nd goal of the season. His teammate, Andrew Copp, returned to action from a lower-body injury but left the game in the second period. So did winger Artemi Panarin but it appears both were held out of this contest for precautionary reasons. The Rangers sit second in the Metro with 108 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes were hopeful that sidelined starting goalie Frederik Andersen would be ready to return to action for the opening game of the playoffs next week. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reports the current expectation is he’ll miss the Hurricanes’ first few games of the first round.

An overtime goal by Elias Lindholm gave the Calgary Flames a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators, but the latter still secured a playoff spot in the Western Conference with 95 points. Matthew Tkachuk scored in the final second of regulation to tie the game and set the stage for Lindholm’s winner. Both players have 41 goals on the season. Filip Forsberg scored twice for the Predators to reach 42 goals while teammates Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund each had three points. The Flames (110 points) recently clinched first place in the Pacific Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators goaltender Juuse Saros left the game in the third period with what appeared to be an injured left leg. An update on his condition could come on Wednesday.

The Dallas Stars moved closer to clinching the final playoff berth in the Western Conference after downing the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on a shootout goal by Miro Heiskanen. Jason Robertson scored twice to reach 40 goals on the season while Jake Oettinger kicked out 33 shots. The Stars hold the final wild-card spot with 95 points. With 91 points, the Golden Knights’ playoff hopes now hang by a thread while the Stars’ victory means the idle Los Angeles Kings have clinched a postseason berth with 96 points. They will face the Edmonton Oilers in the first round.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights still have a slim chance if they win their final two games and the Stars lose their last two in regulation, thus ensuring they’d take the wild-card berth on the basis of regulation wins. The Stars, however, need just one to qualify for the postseason.

Speaking of the Oilers, they secured second place in the Pacific Division with 100 points by dropping the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1. Oilers captain Connor McDavid had a goal and three assists to reach a career-high 122, widening his lead in the scoring race by seven points over the Florida Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau. Mike Smith kicked out 33 shots for his 10th straight win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins winger Jason Zucker left the game in the first period with an undisclosed ailment. The Penguins (101 points) have already secured a playoff berth but hold a one-point lead over the Washington Capitals for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

As for the Capitals, they failed to overtake the Penguins after falling 4-1 to the New York Islanders. Ilya Sorokin made 32 stops for the Islanders. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin missed this game as he’s listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

The Colorado Avalanche gained ground on the Florida Panthers for first place in the overall standings with a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues, snapping the latter’s 16-game points streak. Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves for the win while Valeri Nichushkin had a goal and an assist as the Avalanche (118 points) moved within two points of the Panthers. Blues center Ryan O’Reilly scored twice and collected an assist. The Blues remain in third place in the Central Division with 109 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews returned to the lineup after sitting out the last four games dealing with undisclosed minor injuries. Sidelined teammates Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen are both expected to return in time for the playoffs next week.

Meanwhile, the Panthers dropped a 4-2 decision to the Boston Bruins. Brad Marchand, Tayler Hall and David Pastrnak each collected two points as the Bruins (105 points) sit three points behind the Lightning for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers sit first overall with 120 points.

The Minnesota Wild remains tied with the Blues with 109 points following a 5-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Karel Vejmelka got the win with a 35-save performance while Shayne Gostisbehere collected three assists. Kirill Kaprizov had two assists for Minnesota, who holds second place in the Central over the Blues with a game in hand. Wild forward Marcus Foligno returned to the lineup after missing the past four games due to a bout of COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild and Blues will face each other in the opening round of the playoffs. The outcome of their final games will decide which one gets home-ice advantage in their upcoming series.

Quinn Hughes set a single-season record for Vancouver Canucks defensemen by reaching 66 with a goal and two assists in a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken. The Canucks were officially eliminated from playoff contention by the Stars’ win over the Golden Knights. Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko missed this game as he’s listed as day-to-day with an unspecified injury.

Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson scored twice, including the winner in overtime, to down the New Jersey Devils 5-4. Tim Stutzle had two goals and two assists and Brady Tkachuk picked up three helpers for the Senators. Nolan Foote tallied twice for the Devils.

The Anaheim Ducks beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2. Max Comtois and Sonny Milano each had a goal and an assist for the Ducks.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is traveling with his teammates to New York, where he has a medical appointment concerning his surgically repaired knee. He’s listed as day-to-day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s sparked speculation in Montreal over whether Price will play in the Canadiens’ final game of the season on Friday against the Panthers as well as concerns about whether he can continue his playing career. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Price still plans on being in net for Friday’s game and he wants to play next season. Nevertheless, we can expect questions about Price’s future to carry over into the offseason.