Coyotes endgame in Glendale approaching? Winnipeg waits on deck

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Threats, law suits, insults, big money being thrown around. If you didn’t know better it sounds like the plot line to a new drama on network TV. Instead it’s just all a part of what’s going on lately in the ongoing saga of the Phoenix Coyotes, Matthew Hulsizer, the City of Glendale, and the Goldwater Institute.

If you’re not caught up on things, the watchdog group Goldwater Institute says they will sue the City of Glendale before they go through with a bond sale in order to raise the money they’re looking to give to prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer control of the team and keep the Coyotes in Glendale. This means that if the sale is delayed the interest rate on the bonds go up thus making it a lot harder to pull it off, if at all.

Making matters more fun is the City of Glendale threatening a countersuit against the Goldwater Institute, a scare tactic that likely would keep the courts tied up for a long time and end up forcing the team to be sold to the highest bidder virtually regardless of where the new owner wanted to have the team play.

Today, the City of Glendale did not file paperwork to sue the Goldwater Institute. In this game of chicken, Goldwater stood firm while Glendale backed down as they knew they’d have to do. Glendale may still move to do that, but if matters get tied up in court while the NHL sweats out another financial loser of a season in Arizona (reported to be $40 million in losses just this season) there’s virtually no doubt the NHL Board of Governors will seek to sell the team to David Thomson and True North based out of Winnipeg.

As with everything having to do with this story, there’s a lot to believe and not believe with lots of heated opinions and angled takes on matters. Wading through the reports you get that are both pro-Glendale and pro-Winnipeg we can cut through to the heart of the matter and see that things appear to be at their darkest hour in the struggle to keep the Coyotes in Arizona.

After all, the Goldwater Institute’s contention is that the bond sale is an egregious misuse of public funds. They feel that  their job is to make sure the city doesn’t go bankrupt and lose out on basic civic functions to help pay off a millionaire to help him buy the team. It’s understandable that the fans in the desert would think the group is just acting like a bunch of spoil sports out to ruin their fun and chase away the Coyotes back to Winnipeg.

That said, there’s something to be said for a community of 250,000 people committing the initial $25 million earlier this year to pony up for the team’s potential losses and then another potential $100 million in the bond sale to keep a hockey team that has the second worst attendance in the NHL. While the city would expect that parking revenues would help them eventually get that money back, that’s like hoping a lottery ticket might pan out and win you money to help pay the bills in the future.

Making the reality of the situation look a little worse for Arizona is the projected revenue the team could see if they moved to Winnipeg. Yahoo’s Nicholas Cotsonika reported today that while NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly doesn’t think a Goldwater Institute law suit will hamper the sale, the amount of money to be made in Winnipeg would likely turn out to be more than what the Coyotes make in Glendale and even more than what the Thrashers make in Atlanta.

Take into consideration here that Winnipeg is the eighth largest market in Canada while Phoenix/Glendale is the 12th largest in the United States. The potential future home of the Coyotes, the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, would also be the NHL’s smallest venue with just over 15,000 seats. The NHL doesn’t want to be in a position to make more with less, they’d like to make more money with more fans but if the courts get factored into matters too heavily in the coming days and weeks in Arizona, Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL might not have another choice than to sell the team to True North and send the Coyotes back to Winnipeg.

Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

“It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

“That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

“We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

STREAKING

Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

UP NEXT

Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

UP NEXT

Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

“The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

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DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

The team announced the news on social media.

MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.