Around the rink – February 9; Habs visit Boston, Preds and Wings clash

7:00 p.m.

Montreal @ Boston

These Original Six teams renew an age old rivalry and this time the Habs have a chance to get even with the Bruins for first in the Northeast Division with a win in regulation. The Bruins are slumping a bit of late and the Habs have been playing strong meaning that this game will be about as feisty as every other one involving these two. For the Canadiens, serving notice to Boston that they’ve got company in a race for the division title could be the sort of motivation they both need to play their best hockey. How the Bruins cope mentally with the loss of Marc Savard for the season will be important.

San Jose @ Columbus

The Sharks are on fire going 8-0-1 in their last nine games and going up a motivated Columbus team coming off a big win for them over a depleted Penguins squad. For the Jackets, it was their third win in a row and while their streak isn’t as impressive as San Jose’s, they’re playing good hockey of late. How the goaltending holds up in this game will be the real test as both teams are on the back end of back-to-back games.

7:30 p.m.

Nashville @ Detroit

An important battle in the race for supremacy in the Central Division. Detroit is hoping to keep Nashville at bay while the Predators would like to do what they did over the weekend in shutting out the Wings. One difference in this one should be that the Wings won’t have Joey MacDonald in goal this time around and Jimmy Howard will get a chance to play as strong as he did on Monday against the Rangers. Meanwhile, the Predators are looking to forget about being shutout by the Oilers 4-0 on Monday night. Detroit holds a seven point lead on Nashville for now. A Wings win would be a tough psychological blow to the Predators as they’ve been playing hard of late.

8:00 p.m.

Colorado @ Minnesota

And so they meet again. Last week saw the Wild edge the Avalanche 4-3 and the Wild will be hoping that home ice is good to them. These two teams have split their four games so far this season. The Wild have won six of their last eight games and have jumped three points ahead of the Avs in the standings. The Avs have lost six of their last seven games and are in the middle of a four game road swing. A win would give them a lift as they head to Nashville and Columbus after this game.

8:30 p.m.

Phoenix @ Dallas

It the Stars aren’t careful they’ll find their lead in the Pacific Division has totally disappeared after this game. The Coyotes are just two points behind Dallas in the division and the Stars are spiraling out of control of late losing five of their last six games. Phoenix has won their last two games heading into this one and the difference between these two of late is goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov earned shutouts in their last two games while the combination of Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft has been poor.

9:30 p.m.

Ottawa @ Calgary

The Flames hope to keep the good times rolling against Ottawa. The Senators are hoping the Flames from the start of the season show up for this one as they look to snap their 10-game losing streak. With the Flames playing tough hockey of late that makes for a tall order for the Sens. With both Brian Elliott and Robin Lehner unable to make the stops they need to win, expect Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla to shine.

Chicago @ Edmonton

With the Blackhawks being frustrated and slipping back in the West, you’d think that facing the worst team in the conference would be the way to go. You’d be wrong though as the Oilers have done well against the Hawks this year going 2-1-0 with them. Luckily for Chicago this is the last time they’ll have to see the Oilers. The Oilers will be hoping that Devan Dubnyk stays hot after shutting out Nashville on Monday. If the Blackhawks can’t put their inner squabbles behind them against the West’s worst team, perhaps things in the Windy City aren’t as peachy when defending a title.

10:00 p.m.

Anaheim @ Vancouver

The Canucks roll through the West has been something else to watch. Their ability to play top-level hockey and not showing the mental breakdowns of the past has been impressive. They take a six game win streak into tonight’s game with Anaheim which sees the Ducks come in winners of three of their last four games. Curtis McElhinney will have to do his part to hold off the Canucks and if he wanted to show Ducks management why he should stick around instead of bringing in Ray Emery, stuffing Vancouver on their ice would do the trick.

End of an era: Coyotes part ways with Tippett days after Doan departure

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The Arizona Coyotes will look different in 2017-18, and not just because longtime captain Shane Doan won’t be back. The team confirmed that they’re parting ways with head coach Dave Tippett late on Thursday.

Tippett spent eight seasons as head coach of the Coyotes, peaking with a run to the 2012 Western Conference Final. Early on, he distinguished himself as being able to coach a sound enough defense to help the team correct for a low-budget roster.

In recent years, he hasn’t been able to conjure that same magic. The Coyotes missed the playoffs in the last five seasons of Tippett’s tenure.

“On behalf of the entire Coyotes organization, I would like to sincerely thank Tip for all of his hard work and the many contributions he made to our organization,” Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway said. “Tip is a man of high character and we are very grateful for his leadership during his tenure as our head coach. Ultimately, we have some philosophical differences on how to build our team. Therefore, we mutually agreed that it is in everyone’s best interest to have a coaching change in order to move our franchise forward.”

Along with Doan and Tippett, Mike Smith is also out of town, and the ownership situation has come into focus. Former GM Don Maloney was fired last summer, so this franchise has been making big changes for some time, even ignoring the perennial arena drama.

The Coyotes announced that a new coaching search would kick into gear “immediately.” They might not have scored points with potential candidates considering the last week or so …

It’s a true changing of the guard out in the desert. This is also a time of stability heading into Friday, the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

More on the changes

Coyotes receive criticism for the way they handled Doan’s departure.

Mike Smith traded to Calgary, “no consolation prize” for Flames.

Oilers reportedly might spend Eberle savings on signing Russell

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Optimistic Edmonton Oilers fans who didn’t like the Jordan Eberle trade could at least rationalize the savings, as Ryan Strome comes at a $3.5 million salary-cap discount. Surely that money will be focused squarely on locking up the future – aka sorting things out with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid – right?

After all, that was the spin from GM Peter Chiarelli: moving Eberle for Strome was all about “long-term thinking.”

Well, about that …

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Oilers are nearing a deal with defenseman Kris Russell that could carry approximately a $4 million cap hit over a four-year term. The dollar amount can change, but that would put the shot-blocking defenseman’s cost at around $16 million overall. (There are rumblings that it might be $18M with a no-movement clause.)

Now, before we criticize (er, discuss) the move, do note that McKenzie reports that it isn’t a done deal. If it happens, it might not be announced until Friday, anyway.

If it does go through, the move inspires comparisons to last summer. To refresh your memory, the Oilers made a polarizing (but money-saving) move by sending Taylor Hall to the Devils for Adam Larsson. Shortly after that trade, the Oilers essentially used those savings to sign Milan Lucic.

Results were … mixed, and Lucic’s contract seemingly stands as a barrier to accrue other assets.

Could the same thing happen here? Russell has his proponents, yet his possession stats indicate that his stature has been inflated, at times, around the NHL. One thing that’s undeniable is Russell’s age: he’s 30.

Will a 30-year-old defenseman fall apart during a four-year deal? Not necessarily, although his shot-blocking tendencies inspire some concern; just look at how Dan Girardi aged in New York.

Either way, it’s difficult to defend giving Russell about $4 million a year when you’re trying to sign Leon Draisaitl (RFA this summer) and Connor McDavid (RFA next summer, but eligible for an extension as early as July).

Recent rumblings don’t inspire a ton of confidence, either. For one thing, Chiarelli made a strange semi-challenge regarding Draisaitl and offer sheets.

There are also rumors about McDavid’s potential contract demands.

Again, the parameters of a Russell deal could change; the Oilers might not even bring him back at all. TSN’s Darren Dreger also notes that McDavid wouldn’t necessarily receive that big payday he’d possibly ask for.

Still, Oilers fans have experienced the worst-case scenario far more often than not in recent years, and these developments could inspire some doom and gloom … even if all three players are kept in the fold.

Report: Vegas isn’t interested in trading defensemen Theodore, Schmidt

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The Vegas Golden Knights enjoyed another busy day on Thursday, moving the likes of David Schlemko and Trevor van Riemsdyk. That doesn’t mean that all their defensemen are necessarily for sale, even with some pressure to trade away a few more.

Now, it’s plausible that someone merely hasn’t found the right price to entice Golden Knights GM George McPhee, but TSN’s Pierre LeBrun indicates that he’s shooting down offers for especially enticing young defensemen.

Specifically, McPhee gave a hard “No” to at least three teams regarding Shea Theodore and also stonewalled offers for Nate Schmidt, according to LeBrun.

It’s probably not fair to say that McPhee hasn’t been willing to move younger players altogether. After all, Trevor van Riemsdyk is 25, much like Schmidt.

Even so, one could infer that McPhee would be quicker to trade away a veteran whose value may not ever be higher, such as Marc Methot or Alexei Emelin.

For what it’s worth, let’s break down the Golden Knights’ current defensemen in two camps (30-and-under, 30-and-older) along with their contract situations, with help from Cap Friendly.

Under 30

Luca Sbisa, 27, $3.6 million cap hit through 2017-18
Brayden McNabb, 26, $1.7M through 2017-18
Jon Merrill, 25, $1.138M through 2017-18
Colin Miller, 24, $1M through 2017-18
Theodore, 21, $863K through 2017-18
Griffin Reinhart, 23, RFA
Schmidt, 25, RFA

30 and older

Methot, $4.9M through 2018-19
Jason Garrison, $4.6M through 2017-18
Emelin, $4.1M through 2017-18
Clayton Stoner, 32, $3.25M through 2017-18
Deryk Engelland, 35, $1M through 2017-18

Considering the options at hand, it’s still feasible that someone might convince McPhee to ship Schmidt and/or Theodore over, anyway. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been connected to Schmidt and Colin Miller in rumors, though it’s unclear how likely such moves might be. Vegas isn’t tied to many players beyond this coming season, so they have plenty of flexibility to change their minds.

The Golden Knights may also view the trade deadline as a more fruitful time to move a veteran such as Methot.

Even so, it sure sounds like McPhee would at least prefer to build around his youngsters, and Theodore might be the clearest keeper of them all.

NHL may punish failed offside reviews with penalties next season

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It wasn’t a good look for the league, and it wasn’t captivating television, particularly for casual hockey fans intrigued by a fresh Stanley Cup Final matchup.

P.K. Subban seemed to score the first goal of the Penguins – Predators series, only for the 1-0 tally to be overturned after a lengthy offside review. Plenty of people in Nashville were never convinced that the league made the right call, and even if it was correct, Filip Forsberg would have been offside by a tiny margin. The fact that it came mere hours after Gary Bettman praised the process only exacerbated the issue.

(You can watch that agonizingly minute discussion in the video above. Predators fans might not want to re-live it.)

Colin Campbell presented an interesting question for next season on Thursday: would a team like Pittsburgh make such a marginal challenge if a failed review would result in a minor penalty?

It’s something the executive will bring to the competition committee and then the Board of Governors; Campbell believes such a tweak has a strong chance of being instituted in 2017-18.

Previously, a coach would lose his timeout if an offside goal review failed. If this change is implemented, a team would keep that timeout but suffer a minor penalty.

Campbell notes that this tweak would apply to offside challenges, not goalie interference reviews.

Ultimately, for Campbell, it comes down to the spirit of the offside rule. (TSN has video of his full comments.)

Amusingly, the Predators also suffered from an infamous offside goal that would have benefited from an obvious review, as this Matt Duchene goal from 2013 inspired the NHL to admit that a mistake was made.

The logic is pretty simple. If a goal was glaringly offside, then a team will view a challenge as worth the risk of possibly being penalized. If it’s a matter of inches or some other marginal question, a penalty would – ideally – deter a team from making a flimsier challenge. Specifically, Campbell pointed to offside reviews in which goals came long after the infraction had a significant impact on play.

Now, sure, you could make some wise cracks about the idea, especially considering how the NHL’s suffered from a painful roll-out of a change here and there. And perhaps some coaches will still believe that it’s worth the risk to flip that coin.

Still, the league’s heart is in the right place, and it could very well succeed in two goals: getting things right and not boring everyone to tears.

Related

NHL might crack down on slashes, too