PHT Morning Skate: The story behind Jordie Benn’s incredible beard


–If you’ve seen Canadiens defenseman Jordie Benn, you know that he hasn’t shaved in quite some time. The last time he shaved was because of a Super Bowl bet with former Stars teammate Tyler Seguin. “The Seahawks lost to the Patriots when they turned that ball over at the end. They had three shots to get it in the end zone and I thought I was for sure going to be able to keep it. They turned the ball over and I shaved my beard.” (Montreal Gazette)

–Stars owner Tom Gaglardi’s son, Wilson, was diagnosed with diabetes about five years ago, and it’s affected the entire family. The Gaglardis check on Wilson, now 11, three times per night to make sure he’s fine. They look at his blood sugar level once at 10:00 pm, again at midnight and then 3:00 am. On the positive side, Gaglardi believes a cure is within reach. (Dallas Morning News)

–Last week, the Vegas Golden Knights were officially welcomed into the NHL circle. They had an opportunity to make trades as of Wednesday, but they didn’t pull the trigger on any deals before the deadline. Expect that to change as the expansion draft gets closer. But when the GM meetings open today, general manager George McPhee isn’t expecting to make many side deals. “We’re not anxious to do many deals in advance — we’d rather see the entire universe of who’s available and who’s protected before we make a lot of decisions.” (ESPN)

–The St. Louis Blues were able to snap their five-game losing streak thanks to last night’s 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Jake Allen made 27 saves to record his third shutout of the season. You can watch the highlights by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–’s Dave Stubbs sat down with hall of famers Phil and Tony Esposito. The brothers shared some classic stories about their lives and career. If you read some of these stories, you’ll quickly realize that Phil wasn’t a big fan of school when he was growing up. “I had a Grade 12 English exam at my Catholic high school the next day. The smart [aleck] that I am, I wrote on it, ‘I don’t know nothin’,’ signed my name and went to sleep. Mother Superior brought me into the office and called me a hockey bum. That’s when I said, ‘I don’t like school, I don’t want to be in school.’ ” (

–In last year’s Clarkson Cup Final, the Montreal Canadiennes were upset, 8-3, by the Calgary Inferno. When the two teams met in this year’s CWHL championship game, Montreal was able to get their revenge. (Yahoo)

–Not much went right for the Islanders during Sunday’s blowout loss to the Calgary Flames. One of the ugliest parts for New York was when teammates Josh Ho-Sang and Travis Hamonic collided in the offensive zone. Calgary picked up the puck, went down the other way on a 3-on-1 and scored to make it 5-1 at the time. Yikes! (The Score)

Ilya Kovalchuk aiming for NHL return after 5 years away

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MOSCOW (AP) Former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk says he wants to return to the league this summer and play there for “several more years.”

Kovalchuk tells Russian state sports channel Match TV that if he doesn’t try again to win a Stanley Cup, “I won’t forgive myself for it when I get older.”

Kovalchuk, who won the Olympic gold medal last month, says he’s focused on winning the Kontinental Hockey League with SKA St. Petersburg, “but in the summer I’m going to examine offers” from the NHL.

He adds that he wants to match Russian teammate Pavel Datsyuk as a member of the so-called triple gold club of players who have won the Olympic gold medal, world championship, and Stanley Cup.

Kovalchuk walked out on the New Jersey Devils in 2013 to return to Russia, where he has since won two KHL titles.

The Buzzer: Kane nets four; Preds first to clinch

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Players of the Night:

Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: It took him 565 NHL games and three teams, but Kane now has his first NHL hat trick. Then he made sure to grab his first four-goal NHL game for the hell of it. Kane has five goals and 10 points in eight games since the trade deadline, the most of any player dealt this year on deadline day.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman had an assist in regulation and then one-timed his fifth game-winning goal of the season in overtime to help the Senators past the Dallas Stars.

Nashville Predators: For no other reason than they claimed first blood in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

Highlights of the Night:

Bravo, Johnny:

Kane’s hat trick goal:



Factoids of the Night:


Senators 3, Stars 2 (OT)

Capitals 6, Islanders 3

Predators 4, Avalanche 2

Sharks 7, Flames 4

Ducks 4, Red Wings 2

Wild 4, Golden Knights 2

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Rangers getting a good look at the future, despite playoff disappointment

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Silver linings for teams far off the playoff line are few and far between at this time of the year.

But if there is one that can be taken for any team looking at re-tooling or rebuilding for next season, it’s the ability to take a look at the future crop against NHL adversaries.

The New York Rangers are one of these teams. They declared themselves open for business prior to the trade deadline and dealt away some big names, including Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, for some younger talent.

They’re also facing a challenge with aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who, as great as he is, won’t win the battle with Father Time.

Needing to fill holes at several positions, the Rangers have been able to take a good look at a couple of promising prospects, including what may well be their future between the pipes.

New York has played rookie Alexandar Georgiev six times and owns a 3-2-0 record since he played his first NHL game on Feb. 22. Despite picking up the loss, Georgiev allowed just two goals on 40 shots for a .950 save percentage.

He’d give up four in his next start the following night, but since then has amassed three straight wins, including a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be called upon again on Saturday, another test and another chance for evaluation.

The inital analysis is promising. Georgiev is sitting on a very respectable .929 save percentage in his brief time in the NHL and he’s already turning heads around the league.’s Kevin Woodley’s wrote that Georgiev is taking after the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky — some pretty good company.

Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. took a really deep dive in Georgiev, concluding by calling him a “pleasant surprise.”

There’s a lot to like about him, his potential is visible, and the circumstances are set up in his favor for him to be able to prove himself more in an extended setting next season,” Urtz Jr. wrote.

Shifting to the men in the rearguard, Neal Pionk is making the most the big minutes he’s been getting over the past 17 games, and he’s starting to produce.

Pionk is on a three-game point streak with five assists during that span.

Also 22 and also undrafted, Pionk, like Georgiev, is showing real promise on defense.

“He competes hard and he’s got a good skill set,” Vigneault told on Friday. “He can make that good pass and there’s no doubt that in his college and prior to that, he was considered an offensive defenseman. He’d join the rush and was good on the power play, so there is some upside there with him. We need to continue to work at his game and continue to improve it.”

The Rangers appear to have some budding young talent and an array of players to build around with the likes Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey — assuming they sign the latter two who are set to become RFAs at the end of this season.

And perhaps most importantly, the Rangers, who have long held the distinction as a team where old players go to get older, seem to finally be favoring youth over past-their-prime talent.

That’s good news for Rangers fans.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ducks lose Bieksa for 2-5 weeks


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out for two to five weeks after surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand.

Bieksa is having surgery Friday, the Ducks announced.

The 36-year-old Bieksa has eight assists in 59 games this season for Anaheim, which is fighting to get into playoff position with three weeks left in the regular season.

Anaheim recalled defenseman Korbinian Holzer from its AHL affiliate in San Diego before facing the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center on Friday night.

The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and made five straight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals last season. But Anaheim (35-24-12) began this weekend out of playoff position and in fourth place in the Pacific.

More AP NHL: