NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 22, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action, Pierre-Luc Dubois benched, an update on the four Capitals sidelined under COVID-19 protocols, and a lengthy list of injuries in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Tyler Toffoli scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens thumped the Vancouver Canucks 7-3 in the second game of their three-game series. With the score tied 2-2 following the first period, the Canadiens blew the game open with four unanswered second-period goals.

Montreal Canadiens winger Tyler Toffoli (NHL Images).

Montreal winger Joel Armia also scored twice but suffered a concussion late in the third period from a blindside hit by Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers, who received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Habs forward Paul Byron also left in the third after being struck in the leg by a shot from teammate Shea Weber. Canucks defensemen Travis Hamonic and Alexander Edler missed the game with upper-body injuries, while blueliner Jalen Chatfield suffered a first-period upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli now has five goals in two games against his former club this season. It’s uncertain if Myers will receive supplemental discipline for his cheap shot on Armia. The Canadiens and Canucks will play the final game of this series on Saturday, with the Habs unbeaten in regulation (3-0-2) thus far.

Jake DeBrusk tallied the only goal in a shootout to give the Boston Bruins a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Nick Ritchie had a goal and an assist while David Krejci collected two assists. James van Riemsdyk tallied twice and Jakub Voracek collected three assists for the Flyers, who gave up 43 shots in this contest. The Flyers played without forward Morgan Frost (dislocated shoulder, injured reserve) and defenseman Philippe Myers (fractured rib, week-to-week).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a big win for the Bruins, who entered this game sitting dead-last in goals for per game (1.00). A porous defense saw the Flyers blow 2-0 and 3-2 leads in this game. The injuries are piling up for the Flyers, who were also playing without Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere.

The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their third straight win by edging the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on an overtime goal by Brayden Point. Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois was benched for almost the entire game, seeing less than four minutes of ice time in the first period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bolts victory was overshadowed by Dubois’ benching. This is ramping up speculation over the 22-year-old center’s future with the Blue Jackets and his relationship with head coach John Tortorella. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

New York Islanders winger Jordan Eberle tallied twice in a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Isles center Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists. Josh Bailey returned to the Isles lineup after spending one day on the club’s COVID-19 absence list. The Devils were without starting goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who was placed on the club’s COVID list, though that doesn’t mean he’s tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and an assist to lead the Winnipeg Jets over the Ottawa Senators 4-1. The Jets took control of the game with three unanswered second-period goals. Jets winger Patrik Laine missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

The Los Angeles Kings got their first win of the season by doubling up the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. The Kings overcame a 2-0 deficit with Adrian Kempe netting the game-winner in the third period. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had a goal and an assist for the Avs.

HEADLINES

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov has tested positive for COVID-19. Samsonov, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov were placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol-related absence list on Wednesday. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov will miss at least four games while Samsonov could be sidelined longer. It remains to be seen if the other three tested positive.

Samsonov’s positive test triggered contact testing within the Capitals dressing room, leading to the NHL discovering the four players spent time socializing in the team hotel without facial coverings on multiple occasions. The league fined the Capitals $100K.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some pundits and fans questioned the NHL’s protocols when this story broke on Wednesday. The bottom line is the Capitals, and every other team in the league knew what the protocols were before this season started. The NHLPA voted for them. Every player had the opportunity to opt-out of playing this season. The players involved in this incident broke those rules and must now suffer the consequences.

The NHL’s COVID protocols were based on CDC and Health Canada guidelines enabling the 31 NHL teams to stage this season in their home arenas. They must also follow local guidelines.

Those rules have had an effect upon this season. A ban on non-essential travel at the Canada-US border has limited Canadian teams to playing among themselves during the regular season. The San Jose Sharks started this season on the road because Santa Clara County has prohibited all sports activities due to high local COVID levels.

The NHL has already postponed games involving the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes because of COVID outbreaks. They cannot risk further spread jeopardizing the season because some players won’t adhere to the rules.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola will each be sidelined several weeks with undisclosed injuries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could have Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford shopping for help. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

SPORTSNET: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson is sidelined for six weeks with an oblique muscle injury.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman John Klingberg (medical reasons) is questionable for his club’s season-opener on Friday against the Nashville Predators.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews left practice early yesterday as he wasn’t feeling great, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe. His status will be updated today. Forward Joe Thornton is expected to miss some games with an upper-body injury.

CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Dillon Dube is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

WGR550: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton will miss at least two games with a head injury. Sabres starter Linus Ullmark revealed he missed Monday’s game against Philadelphia as he was grieving the death of his father in Sweden. Ullmark returned to practice and is slated to travel with the club for their upcoming two-game series against Washington.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Ullmark during this difficult time.










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NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 9, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 9, 2021

COVID-19 strikes the Stars and Blue Jackets, plus updates on Henrik Lundqvist, Corey Crawford and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars’ training facilities are closed indefinitely and the club’s practices canceled after six players and two staff tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL is revising the Stars’ regular-season schedule with the expectation the club won’t be able to play until Jan. 19 at the earliest. That means their season-opener on Jan. 14 and their following two games (Jan. 15 and Jan. 17) will be rescheduled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars and the league haven’t revealed which players tested positive for the coronavirus. The report noted forwards Jason Robertson, Joel L’Esperance and Tye Felhaber and defensemen Joel Hanley were missing from the Stars’ last practice but it’s unknown if those absences were injury- or illness-related.

While the Stars’ facilities are closed indefinitely they could reopen soon. As the report observed, the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning had several players test positive before the start of the 2020 playoffs, but their facilities opened several days later.

Despite the NHL’s health and safety protocols, it was inevitable COVID-19 would make its presence felt. Unlike the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the upcoming regular season isn’t being held in hub cities under strict quarantine conditions.

The coronavirus also affected Major League Baseball and the National Football League this season but those leagues managed to complete their seasons. This outbreak won’t prevent the start of the NHL’s overall schedule, but it means the Stars’ 56-game schedule has become more compressed.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday held 17 players out of practice for precautionary reasons. Most were regular roster players, including team captain Nick Foligno, forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Max Domi and defensemen Seth Jones, Vladislav Gavrikov and David Savard. The Jackets didn’t indicate if any of the absent players had tested positive for COVID-19.

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll find out during this weekend if those players will remain sidelined and if the Jackets will be carrying on with their practice sessions. Their season-opener is Jan. 14. The report observed the Jackets dealt with an outbreak last month during small-group workouts that closed their practice facilities for a week.

NHL.COM: Henrik Lundqvist took to social media on Friday to report he is recovering well from his recent five-hour open-heart surgery. Lundqvist had signed with the Washington Capitals but his heart condition sidelined him for the entire season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to King Henrik for a swift and full recovery.

NJ.COM: Corey Crawford is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the New Jersey Devils for personal reasons. The 36-year-old goalie signed a two-year deal with the Devils in October. There’s no timeline for his return. The Devils are expected to turn to Scott Wedgewood as Mackenzie Blackwood’s backup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping things are okay for Crawford and his family and he returns to action soon.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Riley Sheahan to a one-year, $700K contract. Sheahan was attending Sabres’ training camp on a professional tryout offer.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brendan Guhle suffered a sprained right knee during a collision with another player. He’ll be sidelined for six weeks.

CAP FRIENDLY: Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, New York Rangers blueliner Adam Fox, Pittsburgh Penguins rearguard John Marino, Washington Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov and Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk are among several players within five games of losing their waiver-exempt status.

ESPN.COM: Long-time Pittsburgh Penguins play-by-play man Mike Lange, 72, is sitting out the start of the 2020-21 season as a precaution due to COVID-19.

TSN: The province of Manitoba has given approval for the Winnipeg Jets to stage games in their home arena.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams have the approval of their respective provinces to play in their home cities this season.

THE MERCURY NEWS: Growing number of COVID-19 cases in California’s Santa Clara County is casting doubt on whether the San Jose Sharks can return to the SAP Center early next month as scheduled. The Sharks are starting the season on the road because of the county’s current restrictions on sporting events.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 27, 2020

The latest on Anthony Cirelli, Ilya Samsonov and Alexis Lafreniere plus updates on return-to-play and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports it doesn’t appear a new contract is imminent for Anthony Cirelli. The 23-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning center is a restricted free agent. Earlier this week, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Mikhail Sergachev but Cirelli’s agent said there’s nothing new to report on a new deal for his client.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Lightning are above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.904 million following the Sergachev signing. The Bolts are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason but perhaps general manager Julien BriseBois intends to shed salary before signing Cirelli and fellow RFA Erik Cernak.

Given the uncertainty over the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, BriseBois has plenty of time to get Cirelli and Cernak under contract and shed some salary to become cap compliant when the season finally begins.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals professional development coach Olaf Kolzig isn’t worried about Ilya Samsonov replacing the departed Braden Holtby as the club’s starting goaltender. “I think Sammy has the ability to be like (Andrei) Vasilevskiy,” said Kolzig, referring to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s starter. Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy in 2019 and backstopped the Bolts to the 2020 Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As a former Vezina Trophy winner, Kolzig would know if Samsonov has the potential to play as well as Vasilevskiy. The young netminder showed considerable promise as a rookie last season, often outplaying Holtby before an injury kept him out of the 2020 playoffs. He’ll be under considerable pressure this season but that should be alleviated by offseason signing Henrik Lundqvist.

THE SCORE: Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s senior VP of national teams, suggested it’s not out of the question for Alexis Lafreniere to join Canada’s World Junior Championship roster.

Lafreniere was selected first overall by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old winger is currently in New York and would face quarantine restrictions to return to Canada but Salmond said there’s an ongoing discussion about the winger’s status.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cites a league executive having “no doubt we’re going to have a season” but he’s uncertain when that will happen. Garrioch believes an agreement to start the season on Jan. 1 will have to be made by no later than Tuesday (Dec. 1).

With negotiations between the NHL and NHL Players Association stalled, a mid-January or early February start appears more likely. The betting in league circles is Feb. 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch also said the word is the players told NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr not to pick up the phone or budge on their position not to agree to the league’s requests for increases to the escrow and salary deferral rates.

Given the importance of ensuring the league doesn’t slip off the sports radar with other leagues ongoing or planning their new seasons, the feeling is the league and the PA will eventually work out a return-to-play plan.

It could be both sides are regrouping and working on workable proposals. We’ll find out soon enough.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell recently wondered if the NHL could legally attempt to leverage the threat of suspending or ceasing the 2020-21 season if their requests aren’t met by the players because of the effects of COVID-19 upon hockey-related revenue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far there’s no indication the NHL is going down that road. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ll use that hardball gambit.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2020

As the 24 teams involved in the return-to-play plan move to their hub cities for the upcoming playoff tournament, check out the latest NHL morning coffee headlines.

TRAINING CAMP UPDATES

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford finally took part in training camp yesterday and confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19. After self-quarantining in Chicago for the past several weeks, Crawford received clearance to resume practicing and will travel with his teammates to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That explains why the Blackhawks management and coaching staff were so cryptic about Crawford’s status over the past two weeks. It’s potentially good news for the Hawks if their long-time starter can shake off the rust before they face off against the Oilers in their qualifying round series. He’ll only have a few days to try to get up to speed.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak will travel with his teammates to Toronto for the upcoming tournament after missing all but one practice due to potential exposure to someone with COVID-19. Ondrej Kase’s status, however, remains uncertain after being unfit to participate in Phase 3 training.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kase’s situation has sparked speculation he tested positive for COVID-19 because league protocols prevent the Bruins from elaborating on his condition.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: An injury suffered before Phase 3 training camp will prevent goaltender Ilya Samsonov from traveling to Toronto with his Capitals teammates. He’ll remain in Washington for treatment and is expected to be healthy for the 2020-21 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fortunately for the Capitals, long-time starter Braden Holtby had a good training camp and should be match-fit for the upcoming tournament. Nevertheless, the loss of Samsonov could become a significant factor if Holtby should be sidelined or struggles in the playoffs.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Dougie Hamilton was absent from the Carolina Hurricanes’ final training-camp session yesterday. He’s been sidelined since Wednesday after leaving the ice in some discomfort. Forward Martin Necas left the ice on Saturday but his condition isn’t considered serious.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamilton’s return would provide a big boost to an already-deep Hurricanes defense corps. They can adjust without him but they’d be much better with the mobile Hamilton patrolling the blueline.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers skated briefly yesterday but didn’t scrimmage with his teammates. He’s believed to be nursing an injury as he was held out of Thursday’s scrimmage.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse was held out of practice yesterday as a precautionary measure after tweaking something earlier in the week. Center Riley Sheahan left yesterday’s scrimmage with an apparent injury.

THE DENVER POST: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar returned to Colorado Avalanche practice yesterday.

PHILLY.COM: Flyers goaltender Carter Hart took part in a full practice yesterday and said he’ll be ready for the club’s upcoming exhibition game this week against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland has played his way back into a regular roster spot. He’ll be traveling with his teammates to Edmonton for the playoff tournament. Ferland missed most of this season and the early part of training camp dealing with head trauma symptoms.

LATEST ON CHAYKA AND THE COYOTES

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the relationship between the Arizona Coyotes ownership and general manager John Chayka apparently fell apart over the latter receiving a job opportunity with another club.

The Coyotes were approached about Chayka’s availability and permitted him to explore the offer. An NHL source said the offer wasn’t for a general manager position. When it became apparent Chayka could leave, the Coyotes resisted. The two sides reportedly discussed a transition period where he would finish out the season as Coyotes GM, but talks fell apart. 

AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan asked a Coyotes spokesperson about Chayka’s status but they declined to comment. Morgan also said the job opportunity wasn’t with another team but was another professional opportunity.

AZCENTRAL: Kent Somers and Richard Morin report the Coyotes ownership group made a contract offer to Taylor Hall during a recent dinner meeting. Chayka was not part of that meeting and learned about the offer a day or two later.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Patrick Johnston suggests Buffalo could be a destination for Chayka. Pegula Sports and Entertainment own the Sabres, the NFL Bill, and the AHL’s Rochester Americans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Morgan wonders why the Coyotes balked after granting Chayka permission to explore it. What’s apparent is the relationship between the two sides is eroding, perhaps to the point where Chayka seems to be on his way out. It’s a puzzling situation that could become an unnecessary distraction as the Coyotes head to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament.