Report: Kovalchuk "close" to signing with KHL team, Nabokov to join him?

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A report from a Russian publication called Sport Express is reporting that Ilya Kovalchuk is close to signing a deal with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg. Oh, you’re not stopping me? All right then. Rich Chere at the Newark Star-Ledger gives us the details.

SKA general manager Andrey Tochitsky told Sport Express that “it’s hard to judge whether talks with Kovalchuk’s agent are close to finish. We discuss terms of the agreement, but it’s hard to say when they finish”.

It has been rumored that SKA’s offer of $9 million per season trumps what the Devils have offered — somewhere in the range of $8.5 million per season over the course of a multi-year contract. Among NHL teams, the Devils are considered the favorite to land Kovalchuk.

To give you a clearer translation of what’s going on here, it appears to be more politicking. This time it’s coming from a league desperate to get a big win over the NHL as far as talent acquisition goes.

UPDATE: Helene Elliott of the LA Times tweets that the Los Angeles Kings are now back in the hunt for Kovalchuk. Welcome to Public Negotiations 101 folks.

Kings and Kovalchuk are “re-engaged” Lombardi
says. Kovy to make first counter-offer today. This gets stranger and
stranger…

That said, there is one piece of information from Chere that gets intriguing, mentioning that former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has a lot of interest from the same team in Russia and that he’s actually considering going there. Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov reported via Twitter that money isn’t the issue with Nabokov.

Nabokov’s Russian agent said the negotiation with the KHL is over concerns of Evgeni’s family & his children. The next round is set for Wed.

Perhaps we’ll get news of our first major player move to Russia since Jaromir Jagr left to join Avangard Omsk, but I wouldn’t expect it to be from Ilya Kovalchuk.

PHT Morning Skate: Jagr doesn’t understand why Peyton Manning would retire after winning the Super Bowl

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Jaromir Jagr doesn’t believe Peyton Manning should retire. (ESPN)

Victor Hedman wrote about “How We Play Hockey in Sweden” for The Players’ Tribune.

–Did the Senators make a smart move by acquiring Dion Phaneuf? (Sportsnet)

–And if you have a Maple Leafs jersey with Phaneuf’s name on the back, the Sens want to dispose of it:

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Rangers and Penguins. (Top of the page)

–A Zoolander tribute to Coyotes center Martin Hanzal. (Puck Daddy)

Steven Stamkos had a run-in with the paparazzi in Montreal. (Bardown)

Sidney Crosby‘s confidence could be dangerous for the rest of the league:

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
Getty Images
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 9.02.42 PM
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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.