Adam Henrique, Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder

East update: Leafs fall, Devils jump to ninth


It was a busy Saturday for the NHL in general and the Eastern Conference bubble race in particular. With a wave of important games ending in succession, it’s probably most convenient to look at the night overall. Here’s a quick rundown of where all the teams sit, beginning with the bubble squads:

  • The Detroit Red Wings erased a 3-0 third-period deficit against the Montreal Canadiens, but the Habs responded to that, scoring twice to end the Red Wings’ winning streak at four games. Detroit still seems fairly comfortable in the first wild card spot with 88 points, but another win might have allowed the Red Wings to at least approach the kind of room that would allow them to rest a player or two. They have four games left.
  • Life isn’t perfect for the Columbus Blue Jackets on an idle evening, yet they remain in the final wild card spot with 85 standings points and five games left.
  • By beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1, the New Jersey Devils jumped to the ninth spot in the East. That might be surprising for some, yet the Devils are finding ways to grab points (even when they can’t win a shootout), as the Devils now have a seven-game point streak going (4-0-3). They have 84 points with four games left.
  • The biggest letdown of the day might go to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Evander Kane didn’t play and Dustin Byfuglien’s night was cut short, yet the Winnipeg Jets bested them 4-2. Time is running out for the Buds as they have 84 points and just three games left.
  • As noted earlier, the Washington Capitals managed a shootout win, giving them 83 points with four games left.
  • Moving to the higher rankings (sorry, Ottawa and Carolina), the Boston Bruins clinched the East’s top seed while the Canadiens now have a four-point lead over the Bolts for the second spot in the Atlantic. The New York Rangers lost in regulation to the Ottawa Senators, yet the Philadelphia Flyers fell to the Boston Bruins before in regulation as well, so New York’s lead for second in the Metropolitan Division remains at four points. The Blue Jackets could overtake Philly, however.

Is that too much for one sitting? Don’t worry, this standings update should help you out:


Tim Leiweke could play role in redevelopment of Seattle’s KeyArena

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Tim Leiweke is best known as the former president and CEO of sports empires AEG and MLSE. (And also for calling out the “just terrible” character of the Toronto Maple Leafs.)

But Leiweke has a new gig now, and according to the Seattle Times, he may end up playing a key role in Seattle’s long-running arena saga.

A powerful, new Los Angeles-based company headed by sports executive Tim Leiweke and concert kingpin Irving Azoff wants to renovate KeyArena and make it compatible for NBA and NHL use.

“We believe in the KeyArena location,” Leiweke, CEO of the 11-month-old Oak View Group, told The Seattle Times in an interview Thursday night. “We believe that the studies have proven — and we will continue to do additional studies as we go through this process — that there is a chance to renovate and make that arena work for music and sports.”

We wrote yesterday about the potential renovation of KeyArena. It’s worth noting that Leiweke’s new company was formed in partnership with MSG, which owns the New York Rangers. Leiweke’s old company, AEG — which owns the Los Angeles Kings — is also interested in the KeyArena project.

Seattle mayor Ed Murray confirmed yesterday that the city will issue a request for proposals in early January “to solicit specific plans from private parties interested in the redevelopment of KeyArena. Proposals would be centered around developing an entertainment facility that can host meetings, concerts and sporting events.”

Where that leaves Chris Hansen’s SoDo project remains to be seen. Hansen started this week’s avalanche of news by offering to build his arena without public financing.

Murray did note in his statement that any KeyArena proposals would “join the recently-revised proposal from the group led by Chris Hansen as possibilities for the development of an arena in Seattle.”

Related: Is the NHL just waiting for Seattle?

Rantanen to debut on Colorado’s ‘kid line’ with Grigorenko, MacKinnon

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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It’s not often a 22-year-old is the elder statesmen on his line, but that’s exactly what Mikhail Grigorenko will be on Friday night.

Grigorenko’s the resident greybeard on Colorado’s “Kid Line,” one that features 21-year-old Nathan MacKinnon and, for the first time this season, 19-year-old Mikko Rantanen.

Rantanen, taken 10th overall by Colorado in 2015, will make his season debut tonight against Winnipeg, after missing time with an ankle injury and fulfilling a rehab stint in AHL San Antonio.

Needless to say, the Avs are glad to have him back.

Rantanen had a terrific ’15-16 campaign. He split AHL Rookie of the Year honors with Providence’s Frank Vatrano, and helped Finland capture gold at the World Juniors. Rantanen also became the second-youngest player (18 years old) to participate in an AHL All-Star Game and earned a late-season recall to Colorado, where he made his NHL debut and appeared in nine games.

At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, Rantanen has the size and physique to be a real force alongside Grigorenko and MacKinnon.

And he’s hoping he can be a force at the NHL level for a long time.

“I want to do what I do best, bring my strengths to our team,” he said, per the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I want to do everything I can to stay here. I would like to stay here for a while.”

It’s fair to suggest head coach Jared Bednar made this move in the hopes of providing a spark. The Avs are 3-2-0 to start the year, but have lost two of three and haven’t played since last Saturday.

MacKinnon is tied for the team scoring lead with five points through five games, while Grigorenko sits tied for second in assists, with three.

McIlrath clears waivers, which may surprise a few people

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25:  Dylan McIlrath #6 of the New York Rangers takes the puck as Matt Moulson #26 of the Buffalo Sabres defends at Madison Square Garden on January 25, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Alain Vigneault got his wish. Dylan McIlrath has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Hartford.

McIlrath, 24, was placed on waivers yesterday after getting into just one game for the New York Rangers through their first seven.

“Selfishly, I hope he clears waivers and goes to Hartford and plays,” the Rangers’ head coach said. “But if somebody would pick him up and give him an opportunity, I’d be very happy for him.”

Many speculated that McIlrath, a right shot, would get claimed, perhaps by a team like the Boston Bruins. But the emergence of rookie Brandon Carlo, combined with the return of Adam McQuaid from injury, made a claim less likely for the B’s. Carlo and McQuaid both shoot right, as does regular Colin Miller. (Ditto for Kevan Miller, though he’s on injured reserve with a broken hand.)

And so McIlrath remains a member of the organization that drafted him. Hartford plays tonight and tomorrow at home to Lehigh Valley and Utica, respectively.

Pastrnak suspended two games for ‘unnecessarily’ launching into Girardi headshot


The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has come down on B’s forward David Pastrnak, suspending him a pair of games for his headshot on Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.

“Rather than staying low and hitting through his opponent’s body, Pastrnak unnecessarily extends up and into this hit, picking the head and making it the main point of contact,” the DoPS explained.

Pastrnak was whistled for a minor penalty on the play, which occurred in the second period of Boston’s 5-2 loss at MSG on Wednesday night.

Girardi left the contest momentarily, but was able to return and finished with 16:15 TOI.

“I don’t really know it makes contact with my face at first, but it is what it is, I’m kind of vulnerable,” Girardi said of the hit, per the New York Post. “He’s going to try to make a hit. He just hit me in the front of the face, so it wasn’t like it was the side-of-the-head hit or something.

“As soon as I got up, I was fine.”

Pastrnak, who previously had no history of supplemental discipline, will now miss Saturday’s game in Detroit and Tuesday’s game in Florida. He’s eligible to return on Nov. 3, when the B’s take on the Bolts in Tampa Bay.

The 20-year-old will also forfeit $10,277.78 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.