Jason Brough

Not what they needed: Jets place Scheifele on IR with concussion

Eight points back of a playoff spot, the Winnipeg Jets have been forced to place center Mark Scheifele on injured reserve with what they originally called an “upper-body injury.” In a related move, they’ve recalled forward Adam Lowry from AHL Manitoba.

Scheifele was hurt yesterday in practice. According to the Winnipeg Sun, his “head accidentally collided with teammate Andrew Ladd during a drill at MTS Centre. He was bleeding and looked woozy as a couple of teammates eventually escorted him off the ice.”

It’s a big loss for the struggling team. The 22-year-old has 12 goals and 10 assists, his 22 points good for fourth in team scoring.

Winnipeg went into the Christmas break with a 15-17-2 record and just two wins in its last six.

The Jets host Pittsburgh tonight and Detroit Tuesday, before embarking on a five-game road trip.

Update:

Jets coach Paul Maurice confirmed today that it’s a concussion:

Related: Here are the five most disappointing teams in the NHL

The race for the Atlantic Division title is wide open

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 26:  Marcus Johansson #90 of the Washington Capitals congratulates his teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 after he scored against Mike Condon #39 of the Montreal Canadiens during the first period at Verizon Center on December 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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A 2-10-0 record in December has cost the Montreal Canadiens top spot in the Atlantic Division.

The Detroit Red Wings leapfrogged the Habs on Saturday with a 3-2 win in Nashville.

And there could be another lead change today, which could finish with either the Bruins (who play in Ottawa) or Panthers (who host Columbus) on top.

Here’s how the standings look as of this morning:

Atlantic

Here’s how they looked at the beginning of the month:

Atlantic2

The Canadiens held a players-only meeting after yesterday’s 3-1 loss to Washington.

“It’s a matter of will,” coach Michel Therrien told the Montreal Gazette. “We need guys who are willing to go to the dirty areas. We have one guy who’s doing that and he (Daniel Carr) scored a goal tonight.”

In a related story, the Habs could really use winger Brendan Gallagher. It’s possible they could get him back for the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day against the Bruins, but he’s only just been cleared to handle the puck after having hand surgery in November.

Swiss forward suspended three games for ‘violently checking Nylander in the head’

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The disciplinary panel at the World Juniors has suspended Swiss forward Chris Egli three games for Saturday’s hit that injured Swedish forward William Nylander.

From the IIHF:

The hit in question occurred near centre ice with just over five minutes remaining in the first period. Nylander had just gained possession of the puck and was turning to move up the ice when Egli came in and delivered a check to the head to Nylander, who dropped to the ice and then had to leave the game.

The Panel confirmed that Egli’s hit is in violation of rule no. 124 Checking to the Head or Neck. The Panel also determined had Egli had ample time to alter his approach to avoid violently checking Nylander in the head, that his actions endangered the safety of his opponent and that supplemental discipline is applicable.

Egli is eligible to return to either the playoff round or relegation round depending on where Switzerland finishes in the standings.

As for Nylander, the 19-year-old Leafs prospect is feeling better, but his return to the tournament remains in doubt:

Video: Kopitar’s ‘power move’ beats Coyotes in OT

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) After a wild third period, all Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar thought about in overtime was making sure the game’s final shot slid all the way into the net.

Kopitar scored 36 seconds into overtime to lift the Kings over the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 on Saturday night in a game that featured five third-period goals.

Kopitar skated past Viktor Tikhonov, faked goalie Louis Domingue to the ice with a forehand deke and backhanded the puck into the vacated right side of the net.

“I knew I was going to see some net there,” Kopitar said. “I just wanted to make sure it went in. The ice never is good in overtime.”

“It was just a power move,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “I think a lot of guys have that move, but Kopi has the patience few players have to wait it out.”

That saved the Kings on a night when Los Angeles rallied from a one-goal deficit only to squander a two-goal lead.

Drew Doughty, Tanner Pearson and Dustin Brown scored for the Kings, and Los Angeles won for the second time in six games.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored twice and Antoine Vermette added a goal for the Coyotes. Arizona lost for only the second time in its past 10 home games.

Jonathan Quick made 23 saves for the Kings.

The Kings scored three goals in the first 6:23 of the third period for a 3-1 lead, but then the Coyotes took advantage of a match penalty against Jake Muzzin and score twice during the subsequent 5-minute power play.

Muzzin got the penalty for a blind hit on Boyd Gordon with 6:40 left. Gordon was on his knees just inside the blue line when Muzzin drove a hip into Gordon’s head, leaving the Coyotes center face down on the ice.

“It looked pretty nasty,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

Asked what he saw on the play, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said “Muzzin’s (rear) on Gordon’s face. It was a hockey play. It’s not even a penalty.”

A delay of game call on Alec Martinez 2:33 later led to a 2-minute 5-on-3 advantage, and the Coyotes capitalized on Vermette’s redirection of a shot by Michael Stone with 3:53 remaining.

Ekman-Larsson tied the game 30 seconds later when his shot from the high slot trickled between Quick’s pads for Arizona’s second goal on eight shots during the extended power play.

The Coyotes were aided by an undisciplined opening period from the Kings that led to three power plays. The first came when Milan Lucic cross-checked Connor Murphy behind the Coyotes net shortly after being checked off his feet by Murphy and led to Arizona’s first goal.

Ekman-Larsson took a pass from Mikkel Boedker just outside the right faceoff circle and scored on a wrist shot that sailed over Quick’s right shoulder at 9:43 of the first.

Los Angeles took advantage of a delay of game penalty on Brad Richardson with 14 seconds left in the second period, pulling even on Doughty’s goal 37 seconds into the third.

The Kings took the lead 3:40 later, 2-1, with help from Ekman-Larsson. The defenseman tried to bounce a pass off the boards just outside the Coyotes’ zone but instead sent the puck directly to Pearson, whose shot deflected off Murphy’s stick and past Domingue at 4:17 of the period.

Brown made it 3-1 with 13:37 left, one-timing Nick Shore‘s pass from just below the left circle for the Kings’ second power-play goal.

NOTES: Gordon left the ice under his own power. It wasn’t certain whether he would join the team for their game Sunday in Colorado. … Kings center Jeff Carter left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury. Carter was sent back to Los Angeles after the game for further evaluation. … Arizona defenseman Zbynek Michalek returned to the ice after missing the past four games with a lower-body injury. … Coyotes center Martin Hanzal was out for the sixth time in seven games with a lower-body injury. … Lucic was playing in his 600th career game. … Brown has 16 goals and 31 points in 64 career games against the Coyotes.

Merry Christmas! Here are PHT’s mid-season Hart Trophy picks

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 19: Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks reacts after scoring a goal against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on December 19, 2015 in Buffalo, New York.  Kane's goal tied the Blackhawks 2-2 late in the third period. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
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PHT is spending Christmas listing the best teams, the most disappointing teams, and making our mid-season awards picks. Because what better day than Christmas to infuriate readers with our opinions!

Hart Trophy

Jason Brough: It’s obviously Patrick Kane. He leads the NHL with 50 points. He’s on pace for 114, which would shatter last year’s Art Ross-winning mark of 87 by Jamie Benn. I doubt Kane will finish with 114 points, but remember, even 100 is a massive accomplishment in today’s game. So is getting a point in 26 straight games. That he’s done it all with two new linemates, one of them a rookie, makes it all the more impressive. There is nobody playing better hockey than he is right now.

Mike Halford: For sake of argument, I guess I’m picking the best of the runners-up because, as Brough so eloquently stated, Kane’s the obvious choice. So, let’s see here…there’s Kane-lite in Johnny Gaudreau, who willed the Flames back into playoff contention with his overtime heroics, and there’s also Benn, sitting right behind Kane in the scoring race.

My pick, though, is Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues have been decimated by injury, especially at forward — Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz, all skill guys, have combined to miss 81 games. By any logic, the Blues should’ve struggled, but Tarasenko was the great equalizer: 22 goals (tied with Benn for the league lead) and 38 points (fifth overall). He’s the main reason St. Louis went into the break sitting third in the NHL.