Riding the Zamboni – February 8th; Dirty hits dominate nightly discussion

Columbus 4 – Pittsburgh 1

A tough and ugly night for the Penguins in Pittsburgh as the Jackets jumped out quickly in the first with Rick Nash’s 24th goal of the year and only saw things get worse in the second when Samuel Pahlsson and Jakub Voracek tallied to put the Jackets up 3-0. Steve Mason stopped 32 shots to earn the win for Columbus. Tyler Kennedy had a power play goal for the Penguins but it wasn’t close to enough.

Making matters worse was yet another reckless and awful hit by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke. Cooke boarded defenseman Fedor Tyutin in the first period putting Tyutin down on the ice and sparking a brawl that had Jackets center Derick Brassard squaring off with Cooke for the hit. Cooke was given a five-minute major for charging as well as five for fighting but was not kicked out of the game. This makes two games in a row where Cooke has made a highly questionable and dirty hit on a player. On Sunday, Cooke caught Alex Ovechkin with a knee-on-knee hit that had the Capitals in an uproar. Cooke has a disciplinary meeting with the NHL tomorrow as he’ll be facing some brand of action from the league for the hit.

New Jersey 3 – Carolina 2 (F/OT)

A night filled with rookies scoring saw Mattias Tedenby score twice for New Jersey including the game-winner in overtime as the Devils continued to stay hot. Jeff Skinner scored two power play goals for Carolina while Nick Palmieri also had a goal for New Jersey. Johan Hedberg held strong with 20 saves to get the win in goal while Martin Brodeur is out of action. Cam Ward made 31 stops in the loss.

Anton Volchenkov drew the ire of both the Hurricanes and his own coach. Volchenkov picked up three minor penalties which upset his coach Jacques Lemaire. One of those was an elbow to the head of Zach Boychuk that earned him an elbowing minor. The shot to the head is a virtual textbook violation of Rule 48 and the NHL will be meeting with Volchenkov about it to determine what action to take against him.

Buffalo 7 – Tampa Bay 4

At one point in this game, Tampa Bay was up 3-1 in the second period. Thomas Vanek’s second period goal to cut the lead to 3-2 set the tone for what was to come in the third as the Sabres rattled off five goals in a row to go ahead 7-3 and ultimately win 7-4. Drew Stafford had his third hat trick of the season while Vanek finished the game with two goals.

The wheels came off when Jordan Leopold scored to tie it early in the third. Dwayne Roloson was knocked down when Stafford was bumped into him by Marc-Andre Bergeron. Roloson tumbled to the ice and Leopold fired it over the prone goaltender. The Lightning protested to no avail and the Sabres rolled after that. Bergeron finished the game with a -4 rating by the way. Sean Bergenheim had two goals while Vincent Lecavalier had two goals and an assist for the Lightning in defeat. The Sabres are now four points behind Carolina for eighth in the East.

San Jose 2 – Washington 0

Toronto 5 – NY Islanders 3

The game turned into a must-win one for the Leafs before things even started when Islanders would-be starting goalie Kevin Poulin was injured in warmups leading to Mikko Koskinen making his first NHL start. The Leafs made the rookie’s night an unmemorable one by having five different goal scorers light him up on the way to the win. Colby Armstrong had a goal and two assists while Tomas Kaberle  had a goal and an assist. James Reimer had another outstanding effort in goal for Toronto stopping 31 shots in the win. Koskinen stopped 21 shots in the loss while Michael Grabner scored his 17th goal of the season for New York. Not a bad waiver pick up for the Isles there. Shame they can’t get any goaltending help there.

St. Louis 2 – Florida 1

A great chance for the Panthers to eke closer to the Eastern playoff race was blown as they weren’t able to crack through a healthy and rested Jaroslav Halak. Halak stopped 30 shots to pace the Blues to victory. Matt D’Agostini scored the game-winner with four minutes to play in the third period to give the Blues a sorely needed victory. David Backes also scored for the Blues while Dennis Wideman had Florida’s lone goal. Tomas Vokoun was steady in the loss stopping 26 shots.

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.