Pre-game reading: Which coach is on the hottest seat now?


— Up top, Bob McKenzie discusses whether Lindy Ruff is on the hot seat in Dallas. Ruff’s contract is up at the end of the season, and the Stars, after winning the Central Division last season, are most likely going to miss the playoffs.

— In a related story, Ruff is the favorite in the next-coach-to-be-fired category at online bookmaker Bovada. Other candidates include Paul Maurice in Winnipeg, Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay, and Michel Therrien in Montreal. (MLive)


— Therrien is certainly an interesting name on that list. Nobody was expecting him to be fired a month ago when the Canadiens were 25-9-6. But the Habs have been slumping lately, and now comes word that GM Marc Bergevin met with Max Pacioretty, Carey Price and Shea Weber on Wednesday, without Therrien present. Bergevin then reportedly met with Therrien, without the players present. What to make of that? Maybe nothing. But the Habs could sure use a win tonight in Arizona. (Yahoo Sports)

— Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is trying to ignore the trade rumors. “My whole mentality is that when it happens, it happens. I can’t control when or where it’s going to be. I have to focus on my everyday responsibilities here. Looking at Twitter, that’s not going to help me by any means. It’s not going to be good for me.” Shattenkirk is a pending unrestricted free agent. It’s possible he could get traded prior to the March 1 deadline, especially if the Blues can’t continue their winning ways under coach Mike Yeo. (ESPN)

— An update on the arena situation in Seattle, with a statement from the mayor, Ed Murray. “Over the last four years, the SoDo arena group and the City have worked to determine whether SoDo would be the best place to build a new NBA and NHL arena. Given the continued uncertainty of when the SoDo group can secure a team and with multiple partners with strong ties to the NBA and NHL interested in the renovation of KeyArena without requiring a team, the City will continue the RFP process to evaluate KeyArena as an option to bring the Sonics back to Seattle. City Council will determine the path forward on the proposed street vacation in SoDo, while we continue to look at all the options, including the SoDo arena, and consider what is best for the public and what will bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle.” (Seattle Times)

— An interview with Vegas GM George McPhee, who talks about trying to predict which players will be available in the expansion draft. “It’s not hard to identify the top players on each team and know who’s going to be protected. There are typically three or four guys on the bubble that are people we have to focus on and that all the GMs around the league will have to make difficult decisions on. Every club is going to lose a player. I think they’ve all accepted that.” (Yahoo Sports)

Enjoy the games!

Coyotes still ‘pretty confident’ of finding an arena solution


Anthony LeBlanc admitted today that it was a “blindside” when the Arizona Coyotes’ plans to build a new arena in Tempe fell through late last week.

But LeBlanc, the Coyotes’ ever-optimistic president and CEO, also reiterated his confidence that the team would be in Arizona for years to come. It’s just a matter now of finding another site and another partner, and then striking the right deal so that the team can move out of its current arena in Glendale.

“We feel pretty confident — and this is where I am going to sound like a politician, and I am absolutely becoming one through osmosis through this process — but we really do believe that we will come up with a solution in the relative short term. When I say ‘relative short term,’ that could be six months, that could be a year,” LeBlanc told Arizona Sports radio.

The Coyotes still have no intention of calling Gila River Arena home for any longer than they have to.

“We’re okay staying in Glendale if we know that there’s certainty of a new facility coming online and shovels in the ground,” said LeBlanc.

Hence, the challenge. Because, so far, shovels haven’t come close to shoveling anywhere, which is why there continues to be speculation that the Coyotes will eventually just give up and move to Seattle or Portland.

As for that Glendale Star report that the Coyotes so vehemently shot down this morning — the one that said representatives of the team had recently toured arenas in the Pacific Northwest — LeBlanc attempted some topical humor to dismiss it.

“Well, I have big news for you guys, because I found out who the source is,” he said. “It’s Kellyanne Conway.”

Related: The Coyotes are ‘leaving Glendale as soon as practicable’

Markov will bring sons to Montreal after death of their mother


Andrei Markov will bring his twin sons to Montreal following the death of their mother in Russia.

According to The Journal de Montréal, Markov will use the Canadiens’ bye week next week to fly to Moscow to collect his sons. The boys, Andrei and Mark, are just five years old. Their mother, Natalia Streckova, passed away just before Christmas from ovarian cancer. They’ve been living with their maternal grandmother in the days since.

Markov, 38, will raise his sons with his current partner, Sonya Sonechka.

“We know that she cannot replace Natalia,” said Markov, per the Montreal Gazette. “We only have one mother. But we hope that with them and our 10-month-old daughter, we will be able to form a great happy family.”

The Canadiens play Sunday in Boston and then don’t play again until Saturday.

Sharks expecting an energetic Bruins team tonight

Motivation shouldn’t be a problem tonight in snowy Boston, where the Bruins will have a new coach and the Sharks will try to shake off Tuesday’s blown lead in Buffalo.

It will be the first game for the B’s under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, after Claude Julien was fired Tuesday.

Julien was the longest-tenured head coach in the league before his dismissal. The Bruins haven’t played for anyone else since 2006-07 when Dave Lewis was behind the bench.

“There’s always a big jump in energy when a new guy goes in and that’s probably the biggest thing we’re preparing for,” said San Jose coach Pete DeBoer, per The Mercury News.

Read more: Julien gives thanks for ’10 unforgettable years in Boston’

It remains to be seen if the Bruins will have Zdeno Chara in their lineup tonight. The 39-year-old defenseman has been “under the weather” and did not attend practice Tuesday or Wednesday. He’ll be a game-time decision, according to Cassidy.

The B’s are only one point out of a wild-card spot, and only two points back of third place in the Atlantic Division. That being said, they only play three games between now and Feb. 19, meaning the deficit could grow a lot bigger over the next two weeks, especially if the losing continues.

Veteran winger David Backes called the coaching change a “wake-up call.”

“It’s that message that whatever is going and whatever we’ve been doing to this point just isn’t good enough,” said Backes, per CSN New England. “If there’s not enough incentive to earn your job every day and keep your job every day then the message has been sent that we need to do more, have better efforts from everybody and better results.

“It certainly hit me square in the forehead, and there are a lot of guys in here with the same kind of mentality. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future, prepare better and play better. That’s our focus at the moment.”

The Sharks, meanwhile, will try to bounce back after blowing a 4-1 lead two days ago, when they fell 5-4 in overtime to the Sabres.

From the Associated Press’s game recap:

The Sharks appeared to have the game in hand when Pavelski one-timed in Burns’ pass on a power play to make it 4-1 at 6:07 of the third period.

“It’s just one of those games that for them to come back, everything worked out just perfect,” Pavelski said. “Doesn’t matter how perfect it works, though. You can’t give up that kind of lead.”

San Jose had a four-game road winning streak snapped and dropped to 22-2-2 when leading after two periods.

It was the Sharks’ second loss in a row, after dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to Arizona on Saturday.

Coyotes accuse newspaper of making up story about arena tour


The Arizona Coyotes released a strong statement today, reaffirming their commitment to their market while accusing the Glendale Star newspaper of making up a story.

“Recent reports by the Glendale Star that the Coyotes ownership group has explored arena options outside the Arizona market are completely false,” said team president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. “The Star referenced an anonymous arena source and an anonymous Coyotes source, and these are a fabrication.

“The Coyotes are focused on creating one of the most taxpayer friendly facilities in the country here in the Valley. This new arena will pay for itself, create jobs and generate millions of dollars of revenue for the state, county and municipality where it’s built. We are fully committed to Arizona.”

The Star reported that representatives of the Coyotes had toured arenas in Seattle and Portland in the past three months.

The report came just days after the Coyotes’ plans to build a new arena in Tempe fell through.

LeBlanc told Arizona Sports earlier this week that the team has since renewed talks with other potential arena sites in the Valley.

“When we made the decision to go with the Tempe site in the fall, it was just that, a decision made by the Coyotes,” LeBlanc said. “Admittedly, we felt it was the best site and best path, but it isn’t the only path. We are re-engaging with other potential sites, and that process began in earnest [Friday] evening.”

Related: So… what do the Coyotes do now?