Sabres forward Jeff Skinner is struggling…or is he?
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.
League commissioner Gary Bettman admits finishing the regular season might not be possible, Oilers forward Colby Cave in a medically-induced coma, plus the latest on Sergei Bobrovsky, Jeff Skinner and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman admitted finishing the regular season might not be possible, though he stressed many options are under consideration. One could see games played at neutral sites if teams aren’t allowed to play in their home arenas. It could take at least a couple of more weeks for clarity on how the pandemic affects all 31 NHL markets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While NHL fans and pundits are calling upon Bettman to cancel the season and the playoffs, the league and the NHLPA are determined to salvage the rest of the schedule. Failing that, they’ll attempt to stage the Stanley Cup playoffs in some format during the summer.
Of course, it’ll depend upon how long it takes before the pandemic has run its course and is eventually contained. If the current situation persists through the summer, Bettman and company will have no choice but to scrap the season and look toward gearing up for 2020-21.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports being told it’s very unlikely the league would consider just one neutral site because it won’t work for its purposes. Scenarios include two locations where they each had two rinks apiece that the league could use, or four locations for 16 teams, or eight locations. LeBrun indicated it’s still very early in those discussions.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers forward Colby Cave underwent emergency surgery yesterday in Toronto to remove a colloid cyst that was putting pressure on his brain. He remains in a medically-induced coma. The condition is not related to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor was it the result of an accident.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Cave makes a full recovery and resumes his playing career.
THE DENVER POST: A third Colorado Avalanche player tested positive for COVID-19. He’s in self-isolation and hasn’t had close contact with his teammates or team staff. The league has had eight players test positive for the coronavirus, including five Ottawa Senators.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland said it’s his understanding his club will keep its conditional third-round pick from the Milan Lucic-for-James Neal swap last summer if the season doesn’t resume. The Flames would’ve received the pick if Neal scored at least 21 goals this season and Lucic tallied 10-or-fewer goals than Neal. The latter had netted 19 goals when the schedule was paused.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is earning praise for his efforts to help the local community during the pandemic. Bobrovsky pledged $100K to cover the salaries of the Panthers’ home arena part-time staff. His teammates and team owner Vinnie Viola subsequently jumped on board to cover those employee losses.
Bobrovsky is also working with the Panthers’ Foundation to equip first responders and medical workers with N95 masks. “I think I just tried to do the right thing for those people, to support them and help them from my side,” said Bobrovsky.
KITCHENER TODAY: Former Kitchener Rangers winger Jeff Skinner donated $53,000 to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. The donation number is a reference to the No. 53 he wired with the Rangers and wears today with the Buffalo Sabres.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien said young center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is resting at home in Finland and suffered no setbacks in his recovering from an injured spleen suffered on March 11.
NBC SPORTS: Former NHL general managers Brian Burke and Mike O’Connell are feuding over Burke’s attempt to acquire Joe Thornton during his tenure as Anaheim Ducks GM in 2005. O’Connell, the Bruins GM at the time, eventually shipped Thornton to the San Jose Sharks. Burke is still bitter about it, believing he’d made a better offer. O’Connell, however, called Burke’s claims a fabrication.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s nothing like a pissing contest between two former NHL GMs to provide a momentary distraction from this pandemic and its effects upon the NHL season.