Stars, Devils, Senators, and Wild still looking to fill coaching vacancies

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The first move in this year’s coaching carrousel has been made as the Florida Panthers are officially announcing Kevin Dineen as their 11th coach in franchise history this morning. For those keeping track at home, that would be ONE coaching vacancy filled almost two full months after the end of the regular season. Maybe they were waiting to see if Claude Julien would become available after the first round? Either way, there are still job openings in four difference cities for the any potential head coaches. Some names have been floating around since the beginning of the season and some names like Saint John Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant have caught fire over the last few months. Here’s a snapshot of the four teams still looking for a bench boss.

New Jersey Devils: After John MacLean failed so spectacularly to start the 2010-11 season, Devils boss Lou Lamoriello is taking a methodical approach this time around. Jacques Lemaire proved during the 2nd half of last season that the team has enough talent to win—they’ll just need the right coach to point the team in the right direction. The three candidates who are getting the most attention are Binghamton Senators head coach Kurt Kleinendorst (played under Lamoriello at Providence College and was with the Devils organization for nine years), Montreal assistant Kirk Muller (played his first seven seasons with the Devils), and respected, defensive-minded, former head coach Ken Hitchcock.

Dallas Stars: The Stars are a little further along in the interview process. Joe Nieuwendyk has interviewed Ken Hitchcock, Peter Horachek (Predators assistant), Glen Gulutzan (Texas Stars head coach); plans to interview Kirk Muller, and one final candidate who could possibly be Saint John Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant. Since the day Marc Crawford was fired, that speculation has been that Nieuwendyk’s strong ties from his playing days with both Hitchcock and Muller would make them the leading candidates. Until both find jobs in competing cities or someone else is hired, they’ll continue to be the leading candidates.

Minnesota Wild: GM Chuck Fletcher has confirmed that he has interviewed Michel Therrien (Wild scout), Craig MacTavish, and Ken Hitchcock (asked for permission). Aside from each of those worthy candidates, Houston Aeros head coach Mike Yeo is another name that is likely to be considered as he recently lead the Wild’s AHL affiliate to the Calder Cup Final.

Ottawa Senators: Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Citizen that he started his coaching search last week. The Sens job is interesting in that so many candidates have ties to the owner or organization. Former Florida Panthers head man Peter DeBoer was in the mix for Ottawa’s job last time around, Kurt Kleinendorst is the head coach of their AHL affiliate in Binghamton, Dave Cameron is the head coach of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (owned by Eugene Melnyk), and Hamilton’s head coach Randy Cunneyworth is a former Senators captain. On top of all those names, Red Wings assistant Paul MacLean has already been given an interview.

Aside from each of the candidates mentioned for each job, Hawks assistant coach Mike Haviland, Manitoba Moose coach Claude Noel, and Thrashers assistant John Torchetti have all had their names bouncing around the rumor mill. When the music stops, there will only be chairs for four candidates; but with the Panthers kicking off the hiring season, it looks like the coaching vacancies will start to get filled.

Point gets Lightning extra point against Kane, Blackhawks

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The Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Chicago Blackhawks – barely – on Wednesday to leapfrog back over the St. Louis Blues for the top record in the NHL.

The Bolts capitalized on a power-play opportunity in overtime, with Brayden Point scoring the decisive goal in a 3-2 OT win. It was an exciting overtime period, with Point being stopped all in alone earlier in the OT, and the same happening to Patrick Kane on a breakaway.

Kane had been getting the best of the Lightning earlier in the game, scoring the first two goals of the contest in the first period. Not a lot of players can make plays like this off the rush:

Then again, few teams can score a goal this pretty, especially while shorthanded:

Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov collected assists on Wednesday, but the top line (including Nikita Kucherov) failed to score a goal, though they created quite a few chances. The best – at least in regulation – came when Stamkos seized an opportunity against the Blackhawks, but Corey Crawford was game:

Wow.

Again, both goalies made some big stops. Here’s that Kane miss in OT, with Andrei Vasilevskiy depriving number 88 from a hat trick:

So, with that, the Lightning hold a one-point standings edge (34 to 33) over the Blues in the early race for the Presidents’ Trophy, and most importantly, gives them a five-point edge in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay’s impressive start to 2017-18 is especially notable since they’ve played one fewer game than St. Louis and two fewer than the Toronto Maple Leafs (the second-ranked team in the up-and-down Atlantic).

Check out the logjam at second-to-last in the competitive Central for Chicago, as of this writing, with these three teams all at 21 games played:

Dallas Stars: 11-9-1, 23 points
Blackhawks: 10-8-3, 23 points
Minnesota Wild: 10-8-3, 23 points

It has to be a little frustrating for the Blackhawks to see a two-goal lead dissolve, but plenty of teams would struggle to secure such an edge against the powerhouse Lightning. Maybe the Blackhawks will gain some confidence in merely sticking with them (and grabbing a point for their troubles).

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.

Much-needed response from Oilers vs. Red Wings

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One win can’t cleanse the palate of a bitter 21-game start, but beggars can’t be choosers, and the Edmonton Oilers really needed a W tonight.

That’s not to say it would be easy, either, as they faced a rested Red Wings team in Detroit to close off a back-to-back after Tuesday’s humiliating loss to the St. Louis Blues. Edmonton got that sorely needed response, chasing Jimmy Howard and beating the Red Wings 6-2.

While Connor McDavid (two assists) and Leon Draisaitl (one helper) made their typical impacts, it’s especially heartening for the Oilers to see less-obvious names show up in the box score. Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira, Mark Letestu, and Drake Caggiula ranked among goalscorers, while Ryan Strome collected a pair of assists.

Any bit of confidence gained, particularly for supporting cast members, could be very important for the fledgling Oilers.

It doesn’t take long to ruin the party; now at 8-12-2, the Oilers’ 18 standings points still leave them at second-worst in the West.

Still, all the Oilers can do right now is gradually, slowly dig themselves out of the troubling hole they’ve created for themselves. This won’t be easy, and even this early on, they might need a few other teams to hit a wall.

But, hey, it’s better than the nothing this team showed last night, right?

Catch up on Edmonton’s struggles

Why they’re the NHL’s most disappointing team

The uncomfortable parallels between McDavid and Jack Eichel

These struggles are the results of some bad moves from Peter Chiarelli

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.

Scott Darling: Latest goalie beaten from center ice (Video)

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Here’s a thought: considering an 82-game regular season and about a two-month-long postseason, it’s almost a little surprising that we don’t see more center-ice goals.

Such a goal can happen in so many ways. A puck can take an odd bounce. A goalie might take his eye off the puck for a second while deciding what to do next, much like an NFL receiver who drops an easy pass while dreaming of those sweet, sweet, yards up ahead.

So, let’s not be too hard on Carolina Hurricanes goalie Scott Darling, who padded Mika Zibanejad‘s already-robust goal totals with the center-ice flub you can see in the video above.

If you prefer a GIF form, this one nails the spirit of the thing:

(Agreed, little emoticon monkey. Agreed.)

Since we’re on the subject of goals netminders would want back even more than usual, we might as well also consider Tyler Ennis beating Chad Johnson here:

Ouch. Hey, we’ve all been there (vaguely speaking).

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 LIVE: Blackhawks – Lightning, Wednesday Night Rivalry

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The latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” features a rematch of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Chicago Blackhawks.

During that competitive series, the Blackhawks were the favorites. The tide has turned now, however, as the dynamite duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have propelled the Bolts to the upper crust of the NHL. Chicago, meanwhile, strains to remain a contender.

But it’s worth noting that the Blackhawks cannot be taken lightly. They still feature Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Corey Crawford, so tonight should provide plenty of entertainment.

Along with watching on NBCSN, you can also check the action out on online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE