Five Surprises So Far From the NHL East Division
Recaps of Thursday’s action, Jeff Skinner’s status with the Sabres concerns his agent, updates on Auston Matthews and Henrik Lundqvist, some notable injury news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders tallied five unanswered third-period goals to upset the Boston Bruins 7-2. Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves while teammates Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders. The Bruins have dropped three of their last four games.
Three straight third-period goals lifted the Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller each had a goal and an assist. Tom Wilson tallied the game-winner and also received a two-minute minor penalty for injuring Penguins forward Mark Jankowski with a late hit in the first period. Earlier in the day, the Penguins placed winger Jason Zucker (lower body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a history of questionable hits but it doesn’t appear as though he’ll receive supplemental discipline for this one.
The Tampa Bay Lightning scored twice in the third period in a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Yanni Gourde netted the game-winner as the Lightning won their third straight over the Hurricanes, moving into second place in the Discover Central Division with 27 points.
A three-goal third-period rallied the Florida Panthers over the Dallas Stars 3-2. Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves while Aleksander Barkov, Anton Stralman and Frank Vatrano tallied for the Panthers, who sit atop the Discover Central Division with 28 points. Stars forward Roope Hintz missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
Patrick Kane tallied his 399th career goal and Malcolm Subban made 26 saves for his first shutout with the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-0 blanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carl Soderberg also scored for the Hawks, who sit third in the Central with 26 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks keep finding ways to win thanks in part to Kane’s production and leadership. He’s moved into a tie with Toronto’s Auston Matthews (31 points) for third place in the NHL scoring race and continues to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
The Ottawa Senators are on their first three-game win streak of the season after upsetting the Calgary Flames 6-1. Matt Murray made 29 saves, Colin White scored twice and Drake Batherson scored for the fourth straight game.
Earlier in the day, the Senators placed center Derek Stepan on injured reserve among reports he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. They also placed little-used forward Filip Chlapik on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. Meanwhile, the Flames placed goaltender Jacob Markstrom (upper body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators’ improvement throughout February is due in part to giving more ice time to their younger players. They still have more rebuilding to do but they’ve served notice in recent weeks that they’re no longer an easy two points. The Flames, meanwhile, have dropped five of their last six.
An overtime goal by Pavel Zacha lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The Sabres made winger Jeff Skinner a healthy scratch for the third straight game, prompting his agent to contact general manager Kevyn Adams to express his concern over his client’s status. Sabres captain Jack Eichel was a late scratch with a lower-body injury while goalie Linus Ullmark left the game following the first period with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s poor production this season is cause for concern for the Sabres but critics question if he’s being properly utilized by head coach Ralph Krueger. It’s yet another issue for a team whose playoff hopes are fading while raising questions about Eichel’s future in Buffalo.
Sam Gagner tallied his third career hat trick as the Detroit Red Wings downed the Nashville Predators 5-2. Jonathan Bernier made 37 saves for the win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The mounting losses for the Predators continue to stoke speculation they’ll become sellers at the Apr.12 trade deadline. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor section.
Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists while Kyle Connor scored twice as the Winnipeg Jets overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3. The Habs dropped their fourth straight, spoiling the debut of interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game in the first period after an apparent slew foot by Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo. He’ll undergo more tests but Ducharme said his injury isn’t considered to be too serious.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme declared a clean slate for his players before this game. What he got was a strong start undone by more shaky goaltending from Carey Price, sloppy defensive play and a collapse of confidence as the game rolled along. The Habs (22 points) still hold a playoff spot in the Scotia North Division only because the Flames and Vancouver Canucks are playing worse than they are. Speaking of the Canucks…
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith turned in a 32-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Canucks. Alex Chiasson, Jesse Puljujarvi and Connor McDavid were the goal scorers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have only two victories in 13 games this month.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said center Auston Matthews has been dealing with a wrist injury for most of this season. Matthews appeared to aggravate the injury during Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Flames but Keefe feels it hasn’t gotten worse.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews was scoring at a goal-per-game pace prior to Wednesday. He has a shot at becoming the first player since Brett Hull in 1991-92 to score 50 goals in 50 games.
NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist returned to the ice earlier this week after undergoing open-heart surgery seven weeks ago. However, the 39-year-old goaltender said it will be months before he can reach a decision on whether he’ll continue his playing career.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Saturday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will continue as scheduled after the Sharks announced no new positive COVID-19 tests. Thursday’s game between the two clubs was postponed after Sharks forward Tomas Hertl tested positive. He’s expected to miss some time as he remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
TSN: The number of players on the league’s protocol list shrunk to seven players with three of those being members of the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets are preparing to increase the number of fans attending their home games after Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced indoor sports and entertainment events in the state to 25 percent capacity. The Jackets currently have a plan approved by the state that allows 10 percent capacity.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins will soon welcome fans back to TD Garden as the state of Massachusetts will allow 12 percent capacity starting on March 22.
Recaps of Monday’s action, Artemi Panarin takes leave of absence amid assault allegations levied by his former Russian coach, stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Despite a 49-save effort by goaltender Anton Khubodin the Dallas Stars fell 3-1 to the Florida Panthers. Defensemen Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad provided two of Florida’s goals as the Panthers (26 points) sit in first place in the Discover Central Division. The Stars have dropped six straight games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning remains within three points of the Panthers after doubling up the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2. Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning while Jesper Fast tallied twice for the Hurricanes, who sit one point behind the Panthers and two up on the Lightning.
A third-period power-play goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau lifted the New York Islanders past the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Sabres winger Jeff Skinner was a healthy scratch. The Sabres also announced defenseman Jake McCabe will require season-ending surgery to repair a knee injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich turned in a 34-save shutout as his club blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0. Rittich got the nod as Flames starter Jacob Markstrom was day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Leafs star Auston Matthews was held without a point for the first time in 17 games. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen (upper-body injury, day-to-day), forwards Joe Thornton and Zach Hyman (undisclosed, day-to-day) and defenseman Jake Muzzin (broken facial bone) also missed this game. It’s uncertain when Muzzin will return.
Jonathan Quick picked up his 54th career shutout backstopping the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Dustin Brown scored twice as the Kings picked up their fifth straight win to remain in fourth place in the Honda West Division with 19 points. Blues forward Sammy Blais returned to the lineup following a false positive test for COVID-19.
The Arizona Coyotes overcame a 3-0 deficit to nip the Anaheim Ducks 4-3. Christian Dvorak scored twice and Clayton Keller collected two assists for the Coyotes.
Mats Zuccarello had a goal and three assists as the Minnesota Wild thumped the San Jose Sharks 6-2. Victor Rask had a goal and two assists while Marcus Foligno had a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a goal, an assist and a fight.
NEW YORK POST: Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the Rangers after his former KHL coach alleged the winger beat up an 18-year-old woman in a bar following a 2011 game in Riga, Latvia. Panarin released a statement through his agent denying Andrei Nazarov’s allegation, calling it a fabrication. The Rangers also expressed their support for their winger, indicating he “unequivocally and vehemently” denied the charge.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panarin is an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Post reporter Larry Brooks cites a source indicating this isn’t a direct retaliatory measure by the Putin government toward the Rangers star but rather Nazarov “going rogue”. He suggests Nazarov, a Putin supporter, is attempting to sully Panarin’s reputation to curry favor within the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.
Brooks points out Latvian journalist Aivis Kalnins reported a spokesman for the hotel where the alleged incident took place claims it never happened. None of Panarin’s former KHL teammates support Nazarov’s allegation.
Nazarov claimed Panarin was detained by police and there was a criminal case and trial but the incident was covered up by bribing local officials with 40,000 euros. However, Brooks pointed out Panarin at that time was not a high-profile player and had been passed over in two previous NHL drafts. He suggests there would’ve been little reason to engage in bribery and a cover-up for someone who at that time was a run-of-the-mill player.
NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 21.
New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac played in his 1000th NHL game during Sunday’s contest against the Washington Capitals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A Devils fan contacted me yesterday to point out I missed this during yesterday’s morning coffee headlines. I regret the oversight. Congratulations to Zajac on reaching this noteworthy career milestone.
TSN: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list has shrunk to nine players. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks announced center Dylan Strome has been placed in concussion protocol and defenseman Lucas Carlsson is on injured reserve with a strained groin. Blueline Connor Murphy has been activated from IR after missing six games with a hip injury.
THE ATHLETIC: Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau is interested in becoming the Seattle Kraken’s bench boss.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken aren’t believed to have started interviewing potential coaching candidates yet. Boudreau could be among the contenders given his years of NHL experience.
Recaps of Sunday’s action featuring a hat trick for Bruins winger David Pastrnak plus injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: David Pastrnak tallied a hat trick to lead the Boston Bruins to a 7-3 romp over the Philadelphia Flyers in the Honda NHL Outdoors Sunday at Lake Tahoe. It was Pastrnak’s second hat trick of the season and the 10th of his career. James van Riemsdyk had a goal and two assists for the Flyers, who pulled goaltender Carter Hart after the second period. Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon left the game early in the first period with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Any lingering concerns over the effects of offseason hip surgery on Pastrnak’s performance must be alleviated by now. He’s picking up where he left off last season and climbing up the NHL stat board. Hart, meanwhile, appeared to have trouble tracking the puck in the outdoor environment.
Winnipeg Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois scored twice, including the winner in overtime, in a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Dubois also added an assist in his first game since being sidelined by a muscle injury 10 days ago. Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele also each collected three points. Elias Pettersson scored twice for the Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets moved Dubois to left wing on the top line alongside Wheeler and Scheifele while moving Kyle Connor down to the second line. It’ll be interesting to see if that becomes a permanent change.
The Washington Capitals got two power-play goals from T.J. Oshie and another from Alex Ovechkin to hold off the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Kyle Palmieri and Andreas Johnsson each had two points for the Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin now has 712 career NHL goals, putting him five back of Phil Esposito for sixth on the all-time goalscoring list.
Brady Tkachuk’s overtime goal lifted the Ottawa Senators over the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Senators’ goalie Matt Murray made 30 saves for the win while Habs netminder Jake Allen made 36 stops. Montreal winger Jonathan Drouin left the game in the first period with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens were lucky to escape with a point as they were outplayed by the lowly Senators. The Habs bolted from the gate this season with a 7-1-2 record, leading the league in scoring and jockeying with the Toronto Maple Leafs for first place in the overall standings. They have since dropped five of their last seven games, managing just 13 goals during that stretch and slipping to fourth in the North Division.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner could become a healthy scratch in their upcoming game against the New York Islanders. He’s hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games this season.
THE ATHLETIC: John Vogl reports there’s concern Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe may have suffered a season-ending knee injury on Saturday. The results of his examination are expected today and a source said they’re bracing for ligament damage.
TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins suffered an upper-body injury during Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators. He’s listed as week-to-week.
THE ATHLETIC: Multiple sources tell Jeremy Rutherford St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko has a back injury. It’s not known if he’ll require surgery. The club intends to rest him for now and see how he responds.
OILERS NATION: Edmonton Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek suffered a broken collarbone during the club’s 7-1 win on Saturday over the Calgary Flames.
NHL.COM: The Department of Player Safety fined Los Angeles Kings defenseman Austin Strand over $3,100.00 for cross-checking Arizona Coyotes forward Conor Garland on Saturday.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Anaheim Ducks have recalled top prospect Trevor Zegras from their AHL affiliate in San Diego. The young prospect had nine points in eight games in the AHL.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zegras was the MVP of the 2021 World Junior Championship as he led Team USA to a gold medal in the tournament. The Ducks hope the youngster will provide a boost to an anemic offense with a league-worst 1.83 goals per game average.