NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2021

Panthers, Avalanche games postponed by COVID past Christmas, Paul Maurice steps down as Jets coach, games recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST NHL COVID-19 NEWS

NHL.COM: Rising COVID numbers have forced the league to postpone the Colorado Avalanche’s and Florida Panthers’ games past the upcoming Christmas holiday break (Dec. 24-26). The Calgary Flames’ postponements have been extended to Dec. 23.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on Saturday has been postponed due to the Bruins having seven players on the COVID protocol list.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom joined teammates Evgeni Kuznetsov and Garnet Hathaway in COVID protocol.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs forwards John Tavares, Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds and Alex Kerfoot went on the COVID protocol list yesterday.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defenseman Duncan Keith joined teammates Ryan McLeod and Devin Shore and head coach Dave Tippett on the COVID protocol list.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte became the fifth player on his club to enter COVID protocol.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes forward Alex Galchenyuk joined Lawson Crouse and Jay Beagle in COVID protocol.

Defenseman Nick Borowiecki is the seventh Nashville Predators player to enter COVID protocol.

THE PROVINCE: Capacity at Rogers Place (the Canucks home arena) has been reduced to 50 percent until the end of January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fans and pundits are taking to social media wondering if/when the NHL will pause its schedule because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the league and NHLPA are in constant communication taking a team-by-team, case-by-case approach as they attempt to get through this wave of infections following medical guidelines. They’re hoping to avoid a league-wide pause which is considered a last resort.

Paul Maurice stepped down on Friday as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets (NHL.com).

MAURICE RESIGNS AS JETS HEAD COACH

WINNIPEG SUN: In a surprising move, Paul Maurice yesterday stepped down as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. He’d been in the job for nearly eight years. During his press conference announcing the decision, Maurice felt the struggling Jets were a good team but needed a new voice behind the bench.

Assistant coach Paul Lowry takes over from Maurice on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics will suggest Maurice jumped before he was pushed out of his job by management. Regardless, he handled himself well during his announcement yesterday. He praised the players and never felt they quit on him. Maurice acknowledged the club’s struggles on the ice this season and expressed his belief they could be reversed with someone new as head coach.

Maurice leaves with a solid record as Jets coach (315-223-62), guiding them to the playoffs five times and reaching the 2018 Western Conference Final.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Speaking of the Jets, they lost their first game with Lowry as coach by falling 5-2 to the Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin scored to extend his points streak to seven games while goalie Vitek Vanecek picked up the win with a 40-save performance. Ovechkin is tied with Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid atop the scoring leader board with 47 points while the Capitals (43 points) regained top spot in the overall standings. The Jets (31 points) remain three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Jets players were still coping with the surprising news of Maurice’s resignation earlier in the day. It could take a little time to adjust to their new coach.

An overtime goal by Tanner Jeannot lifted the Nashville Predators to their seventh straight win by downing the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. The COVID-depleted Predators (39 points) were a perfect five-for-five on the penalty kill and sit one point behind the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild.

Jeff Carter’s overtime goal gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Kris Letang picked up two assists as the Penguins have won six straight. Sabres goalie Malcolm Subban kicked out 45 shots.

St. Louis Blues goalie Charlie Lindgren (26 saves) picked up his fifth straight win as he backstopped his club over the Dallas Stars 4-1. Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals as the Blues (39 points) also moved within one point of the conference-leading Wild. The slumping Stars, meanwhile, have lost five straight contests.

The Arizona Coyotes squeaked past the Anaheim Ducks 6-5. Clayton Keller scored twice, including the winner in overtime. Hampus Lindholm tallied twice for the Ducks (39 points), who remain one point out of first in the Western Conference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hands up everyone who thought the rebuilding Ducks would be jockeying for first overall in the conference at this point in the season. OK, put your hands down, you fibbers!

Seriously, though, I’m becoming more convinced to take this club seriously as a playoff contender with each passing game. Their special teams have been terrific thus far, sitting fourth overall on the power play and penalty kill.

Jonathan Marchessault’s shootout goal gave the Vegas Golden Knights a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. The Golden Knights have won four in a row. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider each had two points for the Rangers.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TORONTO SUN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reduced the six-game suspension of Leafs forward Jason Spezza to four games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza would’ve been able to return against the Vancouver Canucks tonight but he’s in COVID protocol.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2021

The Rangers and Wild extend their respective win streaks, the Islanders snap a long winless skid, Jason Spezza suspended for six games, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The New York Rangers picked up their seventh straight win by dropping the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2. Artemi Panarin reached 500 career points with two goals and two assists as the Blueshirts (37 points) moved within a point of the first-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. Blackhawks forward Jujhar Khaira was stretchered from the ice in the second period following a hit by Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba. Khaira was taken to a hospital for further testing but Blackhawks coach Derek King said he was up and responsive and wanted to return to the game before he went to the hospital.

New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (NHL Images).

Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot made 38 saves backstopping his club to their seventh straight victory with a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers, handing the latter their third straight loss. Joel Eriksson Ek had a goal and an assist for the Wild, who sit atop the Western Conference with 37 points.

The New York Islanders snapped a 12-game winless skid by beating the Ottawa Senators 5-3. Anders Lee tallied twice for the Islanders while Oliver Wahlstrom had a goal and an assist. Alex Formenton had a goal and an assist for the Senators.

Morgan Rielly collected four assists and Auston Matthews scored twice to extend his goal streak to seven games as the Toronto Maple Leafs held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored two goals for the Jackets. The Leafs played without Jason Spezza after he received a six-game suspension by the NHL department of player safety for kneeing Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk. Winger Mitch Marner (shoulder) and defenseman Rasmus Sandin (knee) also missed this game. Marner is sidelined for three-four weeks. Sandin’s knee suffered no structural damage but will need time for the swelling to subside.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza had no history of fines or suspension in his NHL career. He reportedly intends to appeal his suspension. He deserved punishment for his dangerous retaliatory hit on Pionk but this seemed unduly harsh given his previously unblemished record.

The Carolina Hurricanes blew a 2-0 lead but rallied to double up the Winnipeg Jets 4-2. Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes. Carolina defenseman Ian Cole was ejected for a knee-on-knee hit on Jets center Mark Scheifele, who was uninjured. The Jets played without defenseman Neal Pionk, who received a two-game suspension by the NHL department of player safety for kneeing Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin. Pionk is also in concussion protocol.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pionk had no history of fines or suspensions before this. Leafs fans are wondering why he got just two games while Spezza got six. The fact he was sidelined by a concussion from Spezza’s hit probably factored into it though Sandin was injured by Pionk’s hit in the first place.

Pavel Buchnevich’s overtime goal lifted the St. Louis Blues over the Florida Panthers 4-3. It was a costly win for the Blues as goalie Ville Husso left the game with a lower-body injury and defenseman Jake Walman suffered an upper-body injury. The Blues were already playing without starter Jordan Binnington, who is in COVID protocol. Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov scored in his first game since being sidelined on Nov. 16 by a knee injury.

The Anaheim Ducks got a 25-save shutout by Anthony Stolarz to blank the Buffalo Sabres 2-0. Ducks forwards Trevor Zegras made a lacrosse-style pass from behind the net to Sonny Milano for the game-winner. The Sabres have lost five straight while the Ducks (33 points) move within two points of the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific Division.

Speaking of the Flames, they blew a 3-1 lead to fall 5-3 to the San Jose Sharks. Tomas Hertl led the way for the Sharks with a hat trick while Adin Hill made 40 saves for the win. Struggling Sharks forward Kevin Labanc was a healthy scratch from this game.

Roman Josi, Ryan Johansen and Dante Fabbro each had a goal and two assists to power the Nashville Predators over the Detroit Red Wings 5-2, snapping the latter’s five-game win streak. The Predators played without goaltender Juuse Saros and defenseman Mattias Ekholm as both are sidelined by a non-COVID illness.

Two late third-period goals by Corey Perry and Ondrej Palat lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. The Lightning has won four straight games. Nick Suzuki had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens did almost everything right in this game except win. That’s the way this season is going for the hapless Habs. They rarely win even when they play well.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE WASHINGTON POST: The Capitals have canceled today’s practice as part of their extra precautions after three players (Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway and Trevor van Riemsdyk) wound up on COVID protocol. No players tested positive yesterday.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers claimed defenseman Kevin Connauton off waivers yesterday from the Florida Panthers.

SPORTSNET: The Tampa Bay Lightning claimed forward Riley Nash off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers placed forward Brendan Perlini on waivers.

Former NHL goaltender Devan Dubnyk has signed a professional tryout offer with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 7, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 7, 2021

The Canucks get their first win following their coaching change, the Flyers lose again despite their shakeup behind the bench, plus the stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Vancouver Canucks picked up their first win under new head coach Bruce Boudreau by blanking the Los Angeles Kings 4-0. Thatcher Demko made 31 saves for the shutout, Brock Boeser tallied his first goal in 14 games and J.T. Miller had a goal and an assist. The Canucks hired Boudreau on Sunday after firing Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Happy Canucks fans serenaded Boudreau with “Bruce, there it is!” to the tune of “Whoomp, There It Is.”

The Philadelphia Flyers replaced bench boss Alain Vigneault with Mike Yeo yesterday morning but they still fell 7-5 to the Colorado Avalanche to extend their winless skid to nine games (0-7-2). Avs rookie goalie Justus Annunen made 27 saves for his first NHL win, Mikko Rantanen and Erik Johnson each had two points and Cale Makar went end-to-end to score his 11th goal of the season. Claude Giroux scored twice for the Flyers.

Jake Guentzel extended his points streak to 13 games (two goals, one assist) as the Pittsburgh Penguins trounced the Seattle Kraken 6-1. Jeff Carter also scored twice and Danton Heinen had a goal and two assists. Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer got the hook after giving up three goals on four shots in the first period.

Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn scored twice and set up another to lead his club over the Arizona Coyotes 4-1. The Stars tied a franchise record with their seventh straight victory while the Coyotes dropped their third straight. Coyotes winger Loui Eriksson played his 1,000th career NHL game.

John Carlson netted the winner in overtime as the Washington Capitals nipped the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 to move into first place in the overall standings with 38 points. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin collected two assists while Ducks forwards Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano each had two points. The Capitals played without Garnet Hathaway as he joined Nic Dowd and Trevor van Riemsdyk on the COVID protocol list.

The Ottawa Senators picked up their third straight victory by downing the New Jersey Devils 3-2, handing the latter their fourth straight defeat. Josh Norris netted the winner in a shootout while Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson each had a goal and an assist.

HEADLINES

Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 5.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets defenseman Neal Pionk was suspended for two games for kneeing Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin. Meanwhile, Leafs center Jason Spezza has an in-person hearing today via Zoom for attempting to knee Pionk in retaliation for the latter’s hit on Sandin. Spezza’s teammate Wayne Simmonds was fined $2,250.00 for crosschecking Jets forward Jansen Harkins.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Ben Bishop begins a conditioning assignment with the club’s AHL affiliate Texas on Thursday. It will be his first game since the 2020 playoffs. He missed all of last season recovering from knee surgery in October 2020.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This brings Bishop one step closer to rejoining the Stars lineup. They’re already carrying three goalies in Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger. They could end up sending the waiver-exempt Oettinger to the minors and trade Holtby or Khudobin to make room for Bishop in their crease and their salary-cap payroll.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price isn’t expected to return to the lineup before Christmas. Defenseman Joel Edmundson suffered another setback in his recovery from a back injury but won’t require surgery. The already injury-depleted Habs got more bad news as Tyler Toffoli is expected to miss some time with an upper-body injury while Jeff Petry (upper body) and Joel Armia (undisclosed) aren’t expected to play in tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Price has been skating on his own for a couple of weeks but he’s yet to begin workouts with full equipment. Don’t expect to see him until sometime in 2022.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Former Bruin Tuukka Rask served as an emergency backup for the club in yesterday’s practice with goalie Linus Ullmark among several players sidelined by a non-COVID illness. An unrestricted free agent, Rask continues to work out at the Bruins’ practice facility as he works toward returning to NHL action in January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was also an opportunity for the Bruins to get an early look at Rask’s conditioning and performance. It’s expected they will sign him once he’s cleared for game action next month.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues forward Robert Thomas has been sidelined by a lower-body injury that could keep him out of tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2021

The Canadiens tied their semifinal series with the Golden Knights, the Leafs re-sign Jason Spezza, the Blue Jackets made some organizational changes, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Carey Price made 29 saves as the Montreal Canadiens held off the Vegas Golden Knights for a 3-2 victory in Game 2 of their semifinal series. The Canadiens took a 3-0 lead on goals by Joel Armia, Tyler Toffoli and Paul Byron while Alex Pietrangelo tallied both Golden Knights goals. Habs defenseman Jeff Petry returned to the lineup for the first time since being sidelined by a hand injury in Game 3 of their second-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. The series shifts to Montreal for Game 3 on Friday evening tied at a game apiece.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid effort by Montreal following their usual template of taking a lead and relying on Carey Price to help them maintain it. The Canadiens enjoyed a strong first period and got to Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with two first-period goals. Byron gave them breathing room with the eventual game-winner late in the second.

Price was outstanding after the first period as Vegas outshot the Habs 27-11, including robbing Alec Martinez of what looked like a certain goal in the second period. His teammates maintained their physical style, outhitting the Golden Knights 53-45. They also blocked more shots (26-18) and were strong in the faceoff circle, winning 58 percent of the draws.

Kevin Hodgson is the 2021 winner of the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. He’s the executive director of HEROS (Hockey Education Reaching Out Society).

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs re-signed Jason Spezza to a one-year, one-way contract worth the league-minimum $750K.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good depth signing by the Leafs. The 38-year-old Spezza played well this season with 30 points plus five in the postseason skating mostly in a fourth-line role. He could’ve gotten more on the open market but wanted to stay in Toronto. Spezza indicated he would’ve taken less if he could. Having earned over $88 million in his career, he really doesn’t need the cash at this stage of his career.

Speaking of the Leafs, Martin Marincin’s NHL career appears to be over as he signed a contract with Czech club HC Ocelari Trinec. The 29-year-old defenseman spent most of this season on the Leafs’ taxi squad, appearing in just nine games. He played five seasons with the Leafs and two with the Edmonton Oilers before that, netting 34 points in 227 career games.

CBS SPORTS: Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook underwent surgery on his right knee this week. He’s expected to be fully recovered for the start of next season in October.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets promoted former captain Rick Nash to director of player development and hired former Jackets players Derek Dorsett and Mark Letestu as development coaches. Former minor-league goalie Brad Thiessen replaces Jim Corsi as their goaltending development coach.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Blackhawks have filed a motion to dismiss a former player’s lawsuit alleging he was sexually harassed by Bradley Aldrich, the club’s former video coach. 










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