PHT Morning Skate: Jonathan Toews has to wear a team USA jersey


— Team USA took home the World Junior Championship this past week with a shootout win over Canada in the gold medal game (featured in the video above).

That result meant Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a regular on the Canadian national team over the years and a two-time gold medal winner at both the World Juniors and Olympics, had to pay up on his bet with teammate Patrick Kane and put on a Team USA jersey.

He does not look thrilled about it.

— The Colorado Avalanche made a waiver claim this week when they picked up forward Matt Nieto from the San Jose Sharks.

There was apparently at least one other team that had an interest in adding Nieto. That team: The Ottawa Senators. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Citizen the Senators put in a claim on Nieto in an effort to add some forward depth to their roster but lost out on getting him because the Avalanche had the top waiver priority. Nieto has zero goals and two assists in 17 games this season with the Sharks and Avalanche. [Ottawa Citizen]

— St. Louis Blues goaltender Carter Hutton found a new and very interesting use for the batting cages at Busch Stadium. [St. Louis Blues]

— Another look at the declining number of enforcers in the NHL. [Associated Press]

— Former Boston Bruins great Milt Schmidt passed away this past week at the age of 98. At the time of his passing he was the oldest living former NHL player. That title now belongs to Chick Webster, a former member of the New York Rangers. He is 96. [The Hockey News]

— After not playing in an NHL game since the 2014-15 season Liam O’Brien might get an opportunity to play for the Washington Capitals against the Montreal Canadiens. His strong play in Hershey (18 points — five goals, 13 assists — in 28 games) earned him a call-up to the NHL. [Washington Post]

— The California Golden Seals were honored in San Jose over the weekend on the 50th anniversary of their entrance into the NHL at the start of the 1967-68 season. They were one of six teams to enter the league that year along with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars. [NHL]

— The Minnesota Wild were 2-1 winners over the Ducks in Bruce Boudreau’s return to Anaheim. Check out the highlights.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers


The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.