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PHT Morning Skate: Jagr’s not done; 10 storylines heading into playoffs

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• After going through some struggles during the regular season, Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky is looking forward to getting a fresh start in the playoffs. (Columbus Dispatch)

• Stanley Cup of Chowder looks at four reasons why the Bruins should be feeling optimistic heading into the postseason. (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

Stanley Cup Playoffs streaming, schedule and more

• The New Jersey Devils had to go through five years worth of struggles before getting back to the playoffs. Here’s a look back at everything they went through leading up to this point. (All About the Jersey)

• The Leafs and Jets are the only Canadian teams to make it to this year’s playoffs, but is either one of them really Canada’s team? (Pension Plan Puppets)

• Special teams, goaltending and depth will all play a factor in the series between the Flyers and Penguins. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

• The Golden Knights have one opening up front for four players. Who will head coach Gerard Gallant use for Game 1 against the Kings? He’ll have to chose between Ryan Reaves, Oscar Lindberg, William Carrier and Ryan Carpenter. (Sinbin.Vegas)

Connor Hellebuyck‘s 44 wins proved to be a record for an American goaltender playing in the NHL. (Jets Nation)

• Craig Morgan breaks down 10 intriguing story lines heading into the playoffs, including whether or not the Pens have another cup run in them. (FanRag Sports)

• The Arizona Coyotes have three players from Saskatchewan. So Friday’s bus accident that took the lives of 15 junior hockey players and staff in the province really hit close to home for Luke Schenn, Josh Archibald and Darcy Kuemper. (AZ Central)

• Even though he was waived by the Flames and was forced to continue his career in Europe, Jaromir Jagr hasn’t thrown in the towel on playing in the NHL next season. (New York Times)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Coyotes risk spoiling their draft lottery odds

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To some extent, the Arizona Coyotes should take wins when they can get them. They’re not exactly at a point where they can afford to wave away even modest gains that might build confidence for the future.

Even so, they’re approaching an awkward point where their hot streak might be a touch self-destructive.

Last night provided almost too-perfect an example, as the Vancouver Canucks and Coyotes squared off in something of a Tank Bowl. It came down to the dying seconds with an exasperated Daniel Sedin unable to beat Darcy Kuemper, who recorded his first shutout with Arizona as the Coyotes won 1-0.

[At the other end of the spectrum, see who tops PHT’s Power Rankings.]

The Coyotes dug themselves far too deep of a hole for most to notice, but they’ve actually been on an upward trend for a while now, even if some of the wins haven’t been very pretty. They’re 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, even with Antti Raanta‘s up-and-down season continuing with a recent injury.

Last night’s shutout win began a five-game homestand for the Coyotes, one that should be fascinating to watch.

While the Canucks are another team that features a Coyotes-like mixture of players hungry to prove themselves and ones who are daydreaming about summer vacations, the next four opponents will try to avoid being spoiled by these pesky Coyotes:

Tue, Mar 13 vs Los Angeles
Thu, Mar 15 vs Nashville
Sat, Mar 17 vs Minnesota
Mon, Mar 19 vs Calgary

For the most part, this Arizona run comes down to stellar goaltending, with Raanta leading much of the way aside from last night’s shutout for Kuemper. With two games against teams already in playoff position (red-hot Predators, rising Wild) and two against teams fighting for their playoff lives (Kings and Flames), it will be interesting to see if the Coyotes’ spoiler trend continues or washes out. If intense opponents call for run-and-gun games, Arizona might not be well-suited for such squabbles.

“Luckily,” the Coyotes will then face a six-game road trip and eight of 10 games on the road to close out the 2017-18 season, so maybe this spoiler talk is really moot. It could, indeed, be a low-expectations version of having your cake and eating it too, as the Coyotes might be able to retain the best draft lottery odds while also putting together at least one stretch to build on for next year.

Race to the bottom

Coyotes: 55 points in 68 games
Sabres: 56 points in 69 GP
Senators: 57 points in 67 GP
Canucks: 59 points in 69 GP
Canadiens: 62 points in 68 GP
Red Wings: 63 points in 68 GP
Oilers: 64 points in 68 GP

It’s interesting to note that, while the Coyotes have suffered quite a few rough seasons lately, they haven’t landed the top overall pick once in Arizona/Phoenix. At minimum, there’s a very real chance the Coyotes may pass the Sabres, and possibly a couple other sinking squads.

With “tanking” in mind, their current home stretch isn’t as important as select dates against other cellar dwellers. There are two such games that stick out in that regard, as they face the Sabres in Buffalo on March 21 and then the Canucks in Vancouver on April 5. You might feel the dissonance in the air during those contests, as fan bases will likely be rooting hard against their own teams, and they’ll prefer to see such losses in regulation.

Tanking is weird.

Note: In other Coyotes news, head coach Rick Tocchet is taking a leave of absence as a family member deals with an illness.

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.

The Buzzer: Isles end eight-game losing skid; Bruins win streak stops at six

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Players of the Night: 

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks: Toews assisted on all three of Chicago’s goals. Two of his helpers were came on the power play and of the primary variety. Captain serious has picked up nine points in his last six contests.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: He scored the game-winning goal Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Bruins. He also assisted teammate Brent Seabrook‘s late tally. The 29-year-old has 25 goals and 66 points in 70 games this season. The ‘Hawks put an end to Boston’s six-game winning streak.

Johnny Boychuk, New York Islanders: The Isles blue liner finished Sunday’s game against the Flames with a great stat line. He had one goal, two assists and a plus-5 rating in 21:05 of ice time. They also managed to put an end to their eight-game losing streak.

Christopher Gibson, New York Islanders: Another day, another 50-shot performance against the Islanders. Gibson turned aside 50 of the 52 shots the Flames sent his way.

Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes: It wasn’t exactly must-see TV, but the Coyotes netminder managed to stop all 26 shots he faced in a win over the Canucks. This was his first shutout as a member of the ‘Yotes.

Highlights of the Night:

Alexander Radulov doing Alexander Radulov things:

Patrick Kane scored the go-ahead goal late:

Another mention for young Gibson:

Factoids of the Night: 

Another goal and an assist for Evgeni Malkin on Sunday. He’s rolling:

Christopher Gibson saw a lot of rubber tonight:

Patrick Kane is moving on up:

The Pens are rolling:

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Bruins 1

Islanders 5, Flames 2

Penguins 3, Stars 1

Coyotes 1, Canucks 0

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fantasy impact of 2018 NHL Trade Deadline: West

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PHT’s James O’Brien wrote the first part of this two-part fantasy series, yesterday. He broke down how the trade deadline affected teams in the Eastern Conference. You can read that story by clicking here.

Today, we’ll take a look at how the moves the Western Conference teams made will affect the fantasy world.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks made a minor move as they shipped Chris Wagner to the Islanders for Jason Chimera, who won’t be lighting the fantasy world on fire anytime soon. Anaheim will have to continue leaning on guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell and company to lead the charge offensively if they’re going to make the playoffs.

Arizona Coyotes: The ‘Yotes made a minor-league move, but nothing that will have any affect in fantasy leagues. Arizona will continue to be a graveyard for fantasy production between now and the end of the season.

Calgary Flames: Nick Shore was on the move for the second time in the month of February. The 25-year-old is a great depth piece, but don’t expect to contribute much offensively. He’s another player that won’t alter the fantasy landscape. Like Anaheim, if the Flames make it to the postseason, it’ll be because their top guns take them there (that means you Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan).

Chicago Blackhawks: Shipping Ryan Hartman to Nashville has opened up a spot on the wing. It looks like Tomas Jurco is going to get an opportunity to skate on the ‘Hawks second-ish line with Artem Anisimov and Anthony Duclair.

Trading Michal Kempny away to Washington on Feb. 19 seems to have opened up a roster spot for Carl Dahlstrom. The 22-year-old has three assists in eight games, but he’s still a little raw.

Colorado Avalanche: Outside of acquiring Ryan Graves from the Rangers, the Avs didn’t do much on deadline day. That means that Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen will continue to be the difference makers on a much-improved Avs team.

There were rumblings about Tyson Barrie potentially being on the move, but GM Joe Sakic decided to hold on to his offensive blue liner.

Dallas Stars: Jim Nill surprisingly didn’t make a move to help his team make a push for a playoff spot.

Edmonton Oilers: With Patrick Maroon now out of the picture in Edmonton, the Oilers are forcing Connor McDavid to carry Anton Slepyshev and Milan Lucic. All kidding aside, Slepyshev is a big body with some skill, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together at the NHL level yet. Assuming he continues playing with McDavid, he should get a nice little fantasy boost down the stretch. As for Lucic, not even McDavid can resurrect his fantasy stock. Sorry Connor, you’re on your own.

The Oilers were also able to land Pontus Aberg in the days leading up to the deadline. The former Predator has been skating on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Michael Cammalleri, so they’ve put him in an interesting position offensively, too.

Los Angeles Kings: GM Rob Blake made a couple of decent-sized moves earlier in February, but he didn’t do anything on deadline day. Obviously, Dion Phaneuf has fit in quite nicely since joining the group, as he’s picked up three goals and three assists in nine games with his new team.

Tobias Rieder, who was acquired in a trade with Arizona for goalie Darcy Kuemper, has had a tougher time adjusting to the Kings. He has just one goal in five games, but he’s been playing on a line with Adrian Kempe which is interesting.

Minnesota Wild: Chuck Fletcher seemed to learn from last year’s mistakes, when he made a splash for rental forward Martin Hanzal. That didn’t work out, so all the Wild did on deadline day was ship Mike Reilly to Montreal for a pick in 2019.

Nashville Predators: We talked about Hartman before, but he should get a significant fantasy boost now that he’s on the Predators. He’s been skating on a line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg, so he should be in a much better situation to produce. He racked up the game-winning goal in Tuesday’s win over the Jets and he also registered an assist against Edmonton on Thursday.

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks arguably got the best bang for their buck when they landed Evander Kane. If they don’t sign Kane to an extension, they lose a second-round pick. If they do bring him back, it’ll cost them a first-rounder in 2019. The former Sabre has been skating with Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi. It doesn’t sound like the Sharks will bring him back, but maybe he’ll change their mind. Kane has picked up three assists in his first two games with his new team. Maybe he’ll put some life into Pavelski, too.

St. Louis Blues: Well, the Blues shocked the hockey world and some of their players when they sent Paul Stastny to Winnipeg. Losing Stastny will hurt the Blues playoff chances and it’ll hurt them offensively too because they’ve lost a playmaking center.

Vancouver Canucks: Jim Benning was able to find a taker for Thomas Vanek, but they failed to get a draft pick for him. Tyler Motte is the youngster they got in the deal (they landed Jussi Jokinen too, but yeah). The 22-year-old will get every opportunity to become a regular with Vancouver, but he doesn’t augment their offense in any way.

They also sent Philip Holm to Vegas for Brendan Leipsic.

Vegas Golden Knights: The NHL’s newest team surprised some people when they traded three draft picks to land Tomas Tatar from Detroit. Tatar spent most of his first game with Cody Eakin and Tomas Hyka, but don’t be surprised if he’s thrown into more of an offensive role as the games go by.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets augmented their depth at center by adding Stastny from a division rival. On top of going to a contender, Stastny also has been slotted on a line with wingers Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers. That should help him produce a little more regularly even if he’s on Winnipeg’s third line. He had a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s loss to Nashville. Having a playmaker like Stastny should also help both youngsters he’s playing with.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Kings beat Vegas two nights in a row

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Physically and emotionally, things must have been exhausting for the Los Angeles Kings lately. They can take a breath and maybe let out a sigh of relief after Tuesday.

Just about any team will be trying to catch their breath after playing a home-and-home set with the hectic, shockingly effective Vegas Golden Knights. That’s especially true when you’re resting Jonathan Quick, thus throwing Jack Campbell into the fire because previous backup Darcy Kuemper is now in Arizona.

On Monday, they beat the Golden Knights in overtime in Los Angeles. On Tuesday, they warded off a torrent of activity to beat the Golden Knights 4-1.

Campbell and counter-punching

It wasn’t as easy as the 4-1 score would imply, even though there were no empty-netters.

The Golden Knights fired 42 shots on goal to 30 for the Kings, but Los Angeles was able to counter-punch, particularly on goals for Kyle Clifford and Tyler Toffoli.

Vegas’ hard-charging style might mean certain “live by the sword, die by the sword moments,” even if they’ve done a marvelous job of walking that razor’s edge. Jack Campbell simply outdueled them tonight.

Back during the 2010 NHL Draft, the Dallas Stars selected Campbell with the 11th overall pick. Campbell was selected shortly before Cam Fowler, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko. Being that Tuesday marked just the third NHL appearance of the 26-year-old’s career, it’s not outrageous to say that things haven’t exactly panned out as planned.

Campbell hasn’t given up on his hockey career, and Tuesday stands as a heartwarming reward. The Golden Knights fired a ton of shots on him, but only an early William Karlsson goal beat Campbell. That’s saying something, being that Vegas fired 30 SOG through the first two periods alone.

New faces

Tomas Tatar suited up wearing number 90 for Vegas. He fired plenty of shots, but it was Ryan Reaves who made more of an impression, heading to the penalty box on multiple occasions and drawing ire for hits on the likes of Anze Kopitar.

Jeff Carter isn’t technically a “new face,” but he probably almost feels that way considering how long he’s been out of commission for the Kings. After scoring his first goal of the season on the power play last night, he added another one on the man advantage to ice this win against the Golden Knights.

With Carter only at nine games played, he almost feels like a “trade deadline addition” for Los Angeles.

Promising road ahead?

There’s one other significant source of optimism for Los Angeles: the Kings’ early March schedule.

The Kings play their next five games at home, and beyond that, seven of eight contests take place at the Staples Center from March 1-17. This big win strengthens the Kings’ playoff positioning in the West’s playoff races. They moved to third in the Pacific Division with 75 points in 64 games, grabbing slim advantages over the Ducks (74 points) and Calgary Flames (73). They’re also not far behind second-ranked San Jose, who took care of business against Edmonton tonight.

While the Golden Knights face a harsh start to March, they remain in a strong position to win the Pacific, if not the West’s top seed.

Speaking of seeds … if Vegas faces Los Angeles in a first-round series, then games like Tuesday’s bout could already plant the seeds of disdain, even for a rivalry that’s just brimming.

And here we were thinking it would take a long time for this to be more fun than that weird Twitter tiff from September …

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.