Amid tough season in Arizona, Smith sets ‘pretty cool’ franchise record

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Mike Smith knew toward the end of Monday night’s game that an important milestone was within reach. As it turned out, one goal was all Smith needed from his teammates to accomplish it.

Smith set a franchise record with his 22nd shutout, making 22 saves to back Brendan Perlini‘s goal and help the Coyotes beat the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 on Monday night.

Perlini scored early in the second period and Smith made it stand, even through a flurry of activity in front of his own net in the final minute.

“To get that many shutouts with one team is a pretty cool achievement,” Smith said. “I’ve played with a lot of different teammates through my time in Arizona, a lot of special people that will be friends for a long time that deserve a lot of credit with this, too. You can’t get shutouts alone.”

Calvin Pickard stopped 34 shots for Colorado, but the Avalanche were blanked for the 12th time this season.

“Both goalies were good, but we missed the net on too many of our good chances,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.

Smith got his third shutout this season and the 33rd of his career, including five with Dallas and six with Tampa Bay. He’s been with the Coyotes since 2011 and was named an All-Star this season.

“He’s been kind of the backbone here for a long time now, so it’s fitting that he gets those accomplishments,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

The Coyotes started without captain Shane Doan, who appeared to be shaken up in a collision during warmups with teammate Jakob Chychrun. Radim Vrbata took Doan’s place on the third line until late in the first period, when Doan returned.

Doan said he got the wind knocked out of him and was checked for a concussion. The 40-year-old has played in all 68 of Arizona’s games this season. He is the Coyotes’ franchise leader in games played, goals, assists and points.

“I had no idea who it was that hit me,” Doan said. “I haven’t been hit that hard in a long, long time.”

In the first period, the teams combined for only nine shots on goal, and none in the final 9:14. Avalanche center J.T. Compher hit the post twice.

It took less than four minutes in the second for the Coyotes to get on the board. Peter Holland sent a pinpoint pass to Perlini on a rush, and Perlini’s wrist shot beat Pickard glove side.

The 20-year-old Perlini has 13 goals in 43 games this season and has scored in three straight.

“Just shooting the puck, trying to get as many pucks on net as possible,” Perlini said. “Hopefully some go in.”

Pickard kept the Avalanche in the game with several athletic saves. He stopped back-to-back point-blank shots from Jamie McGinn and Tobias Rieder just over halfway through the second period, and made the save of the night on Perlini at 14:27 of the period when he reached out to stop a shot on a 2-on-1 rush.

Pickard also deflected Max Domi‘s breakaway shot a few minutes into the third period, and thwarted another Domi breakaway try at 14:37 of the period.

Smith moved into third place on the Coyotes’ wins list with 127. His shutout total passed former Coyotes goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Nikolai Khabibulin.

NOTES: F Rene Bourque and D Patrick Wiercioch were scratched for Colorado. Bourque was a healthy scratch and had played in the last eight games. … The Coyotes killed a four-minute power play in the first period after D Anthony DeAngelo was called for holding and slashing at the 4:33 mark.


Avalanche: Return home to face Detroit on Wednesday, then on the road for the next two games.

Coyotes: At the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, the second-to-last back-to-back set of games of the season.

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: