Devils coach John MacLean says it was his call to scratch Kovalchuk

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Who knew that drama would follow Ilya Kovalchuk everywhere he went? Tonight, drama found him thanks to being listed as a healthy scratch for the Devils game against the Buffalo Sabres. The Devils went on to get embarrassed out of their own rink, losing 6-1 to the Sabres. Starting goalie Johan Hedberg gave up four goals on the first 13 shots he saw and was pulled from the game just eight minutes into the second period.

After the game, Devils head coach John MacLean faced the media to discuss why Kovalchuk was bounced out of the starting lineup, and for Devils fans hoping there would be answers to be had as to why their $100 million man wasn’t on the ice, they’d end up being left frustrated there as well as Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice finds out.

MacLean would not reveal the specifics behind the decision to sit Kovalchuk, but said it was his decision and no one else’s.

“That’s between him and I,” MacLean said. “That was my decision.”

When asked if it was his decision or management’s decision, MacLean, said “No, it was my decision.”

MacLean said he did not regret that decision, which he made “probably mid-day.”

“I take responsibility for all my decisions that I make. That’s including that decision and including responsibility for games.”

MacLean said he would decide “in the morning” if Kovalchuk will play Sunday night against the Rangers.

When I asked if Kovalchuk was healthy enough to play tonight, MacLean replied, “I’m not getting into it one way or the other. I told you it was a coach’s decision.”

MacLean would not say if the decision was hockey related.

“I’m not discussing it,” MacLean said. “It was my decision. I made it. He knows. I spoke to him and that’s where it’s going to stay.”

Yikes.

The Devils are off to a bad start for the season. Hopes are high in New Jersey for a run at the Stanley Cup, and since the Devils haven’t fared well in the playoffs the last few years, the pressure is on the first-year head coach MacLean. Having to deal with this kind of circus now only amps up the insanity level to a hysterical proportion. Having to deal with a game tomorrow against the Rangers, who are coming in off a 3-2 win over Boston, doesn’t help settle things down at all.

The Devils are a somewhat notoriously secretive team when it comes to dealing with just about any sort of internal news and with such a high-profile player being involved here it’s not a surprise the Devils aren’t talking about what’s going on. That said, after the summer the Devils had in getting things figured out with Kovalchuk, being a little forthcoming with the fans might be a good idea. Keeping things under wraps is just insulting.

Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

via Getty

Weird, but OK then.

Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

Also

In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sadly, Capitals aren’t selling this collection of Christmas songs

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Let’s be honest, virtually any time a team gets its players to embrace a holiday theme, it’s in the name of goofiness. And bless NHL teams for this.

When it comes to Movember, you get the fantastic combination of mustaches and charitable contributions.

The holidays are rapidly approaching (hey, I see that Amazon tab open), so we’ll start to see various New Year’s/Christmas/Festivus/etc.-themed fun. Even with that in mind, the Washington Capitals will be tough to top with their collection of Christmas tunes.

Sadly, there’s no Volume 1:

Question: which performance stood out to you the most? While Braden Holtby was fantastic (with a Tomas Plekanec-level turtleneck game), the simple entertainment of watching Alex Ovechkin sing is tough to top.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

 

Video: Michael Grabner totally meant to do this for Rangers

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Depending upon how things go for each team, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins may very well grapple for a wild-card spot in the East.

Thankfully, it won’t come down to Michael Grabner‘s deeply weird, memorable, and fun goal against Tuukka Rask, a “bank” goal that Grabner totally meant to do. Right?

(Watch that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

That was Grabner’s 16th goal of 2017-18, which isn’t half-bad for a guy carrying a $1.65 million cap hit this season. Prediction: the speedy winger will cost quite a bit more than that in 2018-19.

As you can see in this video, Alain Vigneault points to Grabner gathering steam in his second season with the Rangers as part of the reason this team is turning things around:

J.T. Miller added a beauty of a goal to make it 2-0, but the Bruins dug deep to tie it 2-2, so we’ll see how the rest of that game goes.

Update: The Rangers ended up edging the Bruins 3-2 in overtime thanks to Mats Zuccarello‘s patient, OTPPGWG.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH NHL 100 CLASSIC LIVE: Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators

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PROJECTED LINES

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards

Pacioretty – Danault – Byron

Galchenyuk – Drouin – Shaw

Hudon – Plekanec – Gallagher

Deslauriers – Froese/de la Rose – Carr

Defense

Alzner – Petry

Benn – Weber

Schlemko – Jerabek/Morrow

Starting Goalie: Carey Price

[NHL On NBCSN: Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators Meet In NHL 100 Classic]

Ottawa Senators

Forwards

Ryan – Duchene – Stone

Dzingel – Brassard – Hoffman

Smith – Pageau – Pyatt

Burrows – Thompson – Dumont

Defense

Oduya – Karlsson

Phaneuf – Ceci

Claesson – Chabot

Starting goalie: Craig Anderson