Get your game notes: ‘Hawks at Flyers

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers hosting the Chicago Blackhawks at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• 2010 Stanley Cup Final matchup: The Blackhawks and Flyers were opponents in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, won in 6 games by Chicago. Patrick Kane scored in overtime of Game 6 to clinch the Cup for the Hawks.

• The Blackhawks have 9 players from the Cup-winning team still on their roster today (though Kris Versteeg has played on 3 different teams, including the Flyers during part of the 2010-11 season, since the 2010 Final before his return to Chicago via trade last season).

• The Flyers, on the other hand, have just Claude Giroux remaining from that season’s Cup Final appearance (Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen were on PHI in 2010 but were just traded at the deadline).

• Chicago climbing in March: The Hawks are 7-1-1 in March, and while still 3rd in the Central Division, this stretch has now given them a legitimate chance to earn at least home ice in the First Round, if not win the Central entirely.

• The Hawks also have 2 games in hand on both Nashville and St. Louis, as well as two more matchups with the Blues (none vs. the Predators).

• Philly going the other way in March: On March 7, the Flyers played a pivotal game in Boston. Entering the game, the Flyers trailed the Bruins by 4 points for the final playoff spot. Philly was 15 seconds away from a regulation win (and pulling to within 2 pts of the B’s), but Boston scored the tying goal in the dying seconds before netting the OT winner to widen the gap in the standings.

• Less than 3 weeks later, the Flyers are on the verge of mathematical elimination.

• Dating back to the BOS loss, PHI has won just once in its last 9 games (1-4-4 record). The Flyers trail the final playoff spot by 11 points with just 8 games left.

• The Flyers enter tonight after getting swept (0-2-2 record) on a 4-game road trip through Canada. They have now lost 9 straight on the road. Philly has also lost 9 straight road games on two separate occasions this season – the first time that has happened in franchise history.

• Following the EDM loss, Flyers players addressed the outlook for the rest of the season:

“We have to pick it up. We have pride as a group, and even though the playoffs probably aren’t in the picture, we want to finish strong.” – Ray Emery

“Guys are playing for jobs next year, and motivation shouldn’t be an issue at all.” – Brayden Schenn CHI Team/Player Notes

• Thriving without Kane: After the win vs. Carolina, Chicago has now gone 8-2-1 without its leading scorer. Kane underwent successful surgery on Feb. 25 to repair his left clavicle fracture and was expected to be out 12 weeks from that time (exactly 4 weeks ago). That timetable likely puts Kane out until at least the WC Final. At the time of the injury, Kane was tied for the league lead in points with 64 in 61 games. His 27 goals were 3 shy of his career high of 30 set in 2009-10.

• Since Kane has been out, Chicago’s offense has dipped, but the Hawks’ defense has dramatically improved:

• Kane looked good on the ice last Friday, but the timetable on his return remains unchanged:

“He was skating before practice, so he was out on the ice, (and) he was actually flying out there…He’s progressing real well and he’s going to have a tough stretch of trying to keep him away from wanting to play a game right now.” – Coach Joel Quenneville, on Kane’s progress

“Yeah, nothing’s changed.” – Quenneville, on the status of his recovery

CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Jonathan Toews had an assist vs. CAR on Monday – the 500th point of his NHL career.

• In 9 games this March, Toews has 10 points (4G-6A).

• Toews is 4 points away from tying Kane for the team lead. Toews has only led the Hawks in scoring once in his career (2010-11 w/ 76 points at age 22).

• Patrick Sharp had 1 goal and 1 assist vs. CAR. Sharp had gone 19 straight games without a goal from Jan. 30 to March 12 (2nd-longest drought of career), but since scoring twice on March 14 at SJ, he now has 3 goals (and 3 assists) in his last 5 games.

• Sharp (13 goals this season) is still well below his team-leading performance of 34 goals a season ago.

• The Hawks team defense has been stellar of late. Corey Crawford stopped 43 shots against Carolina for his 30th win of the season – the 4th 30-win season of his career (all w/ CHI).

• He is just the 3rd goalie in franchise history to post 4 seasons of at least 30 wins in a Hawks uniform, joining Hall-of-Famers Tony Esposito (8 times) and Glenn Hall (also 4 times).

• Crawford has only faced the Flyers once in his career – a 4-1 home loss back in Jan. 2011, but he has never played at Wells Fargo Center.

• Antti Raanta (now in AHL) posted a 32-save shutout in the first matchup this season on Oct. 21 (4-0 win).

• Newcomers struggling: In their 9 games with CHI, trade acquisitions Kimmo Timonen (0 pts) and Antoine Vermette (2 pts) have yet to make an impact offensively.

• The 40-year-old Timonen had spent the past 7+ seasons in Philadelphia before the Flyers traded him on Feb. 27 for a 2015 2nd-round pick and a 2016 conditional 4th-round pick.

PHILLY TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Jakub Voracek is coming off a 3-assist performance vs. EDM on Saturday. He now ranks 2nd in the NHL with his 52 assists and t-3rd in points with 73.

• One point behind Sidney Crosby and John Tavares in the scoring race, Voracek could become the first Flyer to lead the NHL in scoring by himself in the 46+ seasons of the franchise (in lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, Eric Lindros shared for the NHL lead in pts w/ Jaromir Jagr, but he did not share the Art Ross Trophy title, as Lindros lost the goals scored tiebreaker to Jagr).

• Crosby led the league in assists & points last season.

• Claude Giroux scored twice vs. EDM. Now with 21 goals on the season, Giroux has scored at least 20 goals for the second straight season, and 4th time overall in his 8 NHL seasons.

• Giroux has finished 3rd in the scoring race 2 of the last 3 seasons (2014, 2012). He is t-9th in the league this season (67 points).

• Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Giroux has the most points in the NHL (294 in 280 GP).

• Giroux (22nd overall) and Toews (3rd overall) were both 1st-round picks in the 2006 NHL Draft.

• Wayne Simmonds has picked up his play since the All-Star Break as compared to his first-half numbers.

• Simmonds is 3 goals away from his first career 30-goal season. His 14 power-play goals are 3rd in the NHL and 1 shy of the career-high he set last season.

• Steve Mason (illness) was a late scratch before EDM game, but GM Ron Hextall said he has since recovered.

• Mason last played against CGY on Thursday. He was pulled during the 2nd period after allowing 2 goals on 16 shots. Mason has just 1 win in his last 7 games.

• Ray Emery, who was reportedly not told throughout game day vs. EDM that Mason might be too sick to start, allowed 4 goals on the first 12 Oilers shots he faced.

• He finished the day allowing 5 goals on 34 shots in the overtime loss.

Inside the NHL bubble: testing, what could cause postponement

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Now we wait.

After the NHL and NHLPA agreed to the Return to Play protocols and to a four-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, voting by the Board of Governors and full union membership comes next. Once ratified, we can officially say hockey will be back with training camps opening up next week.

The two hub cities will likely be Edmonton and Toronto with Rogers Place hosting the Western Conference and Scotiabank Arena the home for the Eastern Conference. As the two sides agreed to the RTP protocols, we know just how they plan to keep everyone in those “bubbles” safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For starters, there will be a lot of testing, which we’ll get to. Safety will come first and there are mechanisms on both sides to pull the plug.

Training camps should open Monday, July 13 and the Stanley Cup Qualifiers will begin August 1. Before we get there, here’s how the league will run the “bubbles” in Edmonton and Toronto.

Who can come?

According to the Phase 4 document sent out Monday evening, teams can bring a maximum 52 people, which includes no more than 31 players. Teams must submit their traveling party to the league by July 13, the expected start of training camps. As part of the traveling party, teams must include three coaches, two trainers, one doctor, one security rep, one equipment manager, one massage therapist, one ART therapist/chiropractor, a compliance officer, and one content creator/social media person.

The compliance officer will have the job to “certify, in writing, by 10 p.m. local time each day, to the League Facility Hygiene Officer, that all members of the Club’s Traveling Party remain compliant with all necessary aspects of the Phase 4 Protocol. They also report any noncompliance, and how it will be remedied.”

Tests, tests, and more tests

There will be daily COVID-19 tests for every team’s traveling party. These will be done via nasal swab and there will be temperature checks and symptom screens. That’s a whopping 1,248 daily tests across the 24 teams, not including arena and hotel workers who will also require tests.

What if someone tests positive?

Anyone who shows COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolated and consult with their team’s physician. If that person tests positive, they cannot return to their team’s facilities until they test negative twice in a 24-hour period after their symptoms have subsided.

“The individual can also return to team facilities after a minimum of 10 days in self-isolation following the onset of symptoms if they have had no fever or respiratory symptoms for more than 72 hours.”

If a person tests positive and asymptomatic, they will take a confirmatory test to verify the first positive. Asymptomatic individuals who have their initial tests confirmed by a second test will have to self-isolate until they produce two negative tests within 24 hours or have 10 days pass since the first positive test. Should the confirmatory test come back negative, the asymptomatic person will stay isolated and take another test after 24 hours. If that test comes back negative they will be able to return to their team once cleared by the team physician.

Players who test positive or develop symptoms will not be publicly identified unless approved by the league and union. Expect plenty of speculation each time a player misses practice or a game.

[MORE: NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols to resume season]

Opting out

As we’ve seen in baseball and basketball, players will have the ability to opt-out of participating, penalty-free. They just need to notify their teams in writing within three days of the agreement’s ratification.

What could cause a delay or postponement?

The league and union have the power to cancel, delay or postpone games if there are health and safety risks to players that could affect the “integrity of the competition.”

It’s unknown the specific number of positive tests that could cause a postponement or what would define an “uncontrolled outbreak of COVID-19,” according to the agreement. The union has the ability to contest any ruling coming from Commissioner Gary Bettman by way of an “expedited arbitration of a grievance” in front of an impartial arbitrator.

Not playing by the rules

Violating the protocol could lead to “significant penalties, potentially including fines and/or loss of draft picks.” If a player refuses to be tested he will be forbidden to play and could also be removed from the tournament. Once inside the “bubble” you must be tested.

Players will have their own rooms on designated floors and cannot enter the room of someone else. The bars and restaurants will be open as long as everyone follows social distancing guidelines. There will also be contactless room service and delivery/pick up available from local restaurants.

Up for a round of golf? The NHL will also have trips inside and outside the “bubble” arranged for players with transportation provided. Masks are mandatory.

Speaking of masks…

Masks must be worn at all times except when exercising, eating, or on the ice. Coaches and referees do not have to wear masks during games.

Emergencies and family situations

A number of players could become fathers during the RTP. Once authorized, a person can leave the “bubble” for medical or personal reasons. When they return they must quarantine and cannot rejoin their team until testing negative four times over a  four-day period. 

Players will not be able to have their families visit until the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final. Families can stay in their room after quarantining and undergoing testing once inside the “bubble.”

Disinfecting everything

Arena workers will disinfect benches, dasher boards, water bottle areas, and floors while players are in the dressing room. There will be dividers separating the individual water bottles.

MORE:
A look at the Eastern Conference matchups
Final standings for 2019-20 NHL season, NHL draft lottery results
A look at the Western Conference matchups

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Safety inside the NHL bubbles; impact of no home ice

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

• In case you missed it: The NHL and NHLPA have reached a tentative four-year CBA extension. Now we wait for the agreement to be ratified by the NHL’s Board of Governors, the NHLPA’s Executive Board, and then the full union membership. [PHT]

• On safety inside the NHL’s bubbles. [National Post]

• Examining how the loss of home-ice advantage will impact teams for the 2020 playoffs. [TSN]

• The four-plus months off will do wonders for Elias Pettersson. [Canucks Army]

• There are still some questions about the Canucks’ depth at center. [PiTB]

• Why the Gold Plan would be an ideal solution to replace the NHL draft lottery. [HockeyViz]

• They didn’t win the No. 1 overall pick, but later draft rounds could be where the Red Wings build a future core. [Detroit News]

• If the salary cap ceiling does not increase over the next few seasons, that will cause plenty of issues for the Blackhawks. [Second City Hockey]

• How new Sabres GM Kevyn Adams had future success lined up during his time at Miami University. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• Arizona State University forward Dominic Garcia opens up about the racist abuse he’s faced. [NHL.com]

• Taking a look at the most patriotic logos in American hockey. [Hockey by Design]

• Finally, here’s a look at Robin Lehner‘s sweet new Golden Knights pads:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL, NHLPA agree to four-year CBA extension, Return to Play MOU

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We’re another step closer to hockey resuming after the NHL and NHLPA reached a tentative agreement on a Return to Play Plan and a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Collecting Bargaining Agreement.

The deal adds four years to the current CBA and updates the league’s off-season critical dates calendar. A four-year extension means the new CBA would expire Sept. 15, 2026. The current agreement was scheduled to expire Sept. 15, 2022.

The next step is the approval process, which means the NHL’s Board of Governors, the NHLPA’s Executive Board, and then the full union membership need to sign off on it.

[MORE: NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols to resume season]

Once all approvals are in order, training camps for the 24-team tournament will begin Monday, July 13 in their home cities. On July 26 teams will then travel to their respective hub cities — likely Toronto or Edmonton — and the Qualifying Round will begin on August 1.

While the hub cities have yet to be officially announced, it’s expected that Edmonton will host the Western Conference and Toronto will serve as the main site for the Eastern Conference. Rogers Place (Edmonton) will likely be the site of the conference finals and 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

WEST
• Blues
• Avalanche
• Golden Knights
• Stars

QUALIFYING ROUND
No. 5 Oilers vs. No. 12 Blackhawks
No. 6 Predators vs. No. 11 Coyotes
No. 7 Canucks vs. No. 10 Wild
No. 8 Flames vs. No. 9 Jets

EAST
• Capitals
• Flyers
• Bruins
• Lightning

QUALIFYING ROUND
No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens
No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers
No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers
No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

The Qualifying Round series will be best-of-five, while the top four teams in each conference will play three games with points percentage used as a tiebreaker to determine seeds Nos. 1-4 in the East and West. All series beginning with the First Round will be best-of-seven and teams will be re-seeded.

MORE:
A look at the Eastern Conference matchups
Final standings for 2019-20 NHL season, NHL draft lottery results
A look at the Western Conference matchups

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL Power Rankings: Fun ways the free agent frenzy could go

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With at least some of the NHL future getting less muddy, it sure looks like the next “Free Agent Frenzy” will take place on or around Nov. 1. Unfortunately, an expected flat $81.5M salary cap could make the NHL “Free Agent Frenzy” more of a flurry.

But managing a flat salary cap — likely by shedding players they didn’t want to expel — is a job for overwhelmed GMs, particularly of big-market teams. For the rest of us, we can fill some time by daydreaming about different NHL free agent scenarios. (Some more realistic than others.)

Back in April, Adam Gretz ranked the top 20 (possible) NHL Free Agents. Being that Sean Leahy recently looked at the best destinations for assumed top 2020 NHL Draft pick Alexis Lafreniere, how about we combine those ideas?

In other words, what are the best destinations for some of the NHL’s top free agents? Actually, scratch that. Let’s go with the most fun NHL free agent situations. They occasionally might even make sense!

1. Avalanche go on one-year NHL Free Agent Frenzy with Alex Pietrangelo and Taylor Hall

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

NHL fans have watched too many “super teams” form in the NBA. In some of those cases, said NBA stars flexed their leverage by agreeing to shorter deals. LeBron James left Cleveland after getting a hometown ring. Kawhi Leonard can eat apples elsewhere if the whole Clippers thing doesn’t work out.

In the case of this hypothetical scenario with the Avalanche, it would be more of an “everybody wins” scenario — except maybe Colorado’s competition. Consider these factors:

  • Pietrangelo would just block promising young defensemen like Bowen Byram working into the mix with Cale Makar if Pietrangelo signed a long-term deal. But if it was short? He buys Colorado time and can maybe hand down some life lessons to those kiddos.
  • Taylor Hall has suffered enough. Let’s get him on a good team, which Colorado … at least has a good chance of being for the foreseeable future. Right? Possibly?
  • Let’s be honest, with all of the financial turmoil going on, Pietrangelo and Hall might not enjoy much of a market. Truly, Pietrangelo might be better off taking a one-year deal to stay in St. Louis. But that’s not as fun (unless you’re a Blues fan).
  • The Avalanche figure to have a lot of money to burn, but I’m not sure that it would be wise to risk Hall and Pietrangelo hitting the aging curve. This scenario basically buys everyone some time for longer-term solutions, while taking a big swing at a 2020-21 Stanley Cup.

Now, some will point to that time the Avalanche brought in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, and that was kind of a disaster.

To which I retort: we’d get to talk about that time the Avalanche brought in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Was it as much of a disaster as we thought? (Sounds like quality content either way.)

2. Buffy to Buffalo

Just imagine the bad puns and headlines that could come from Dustin Byfuglien reviving his career with the Buffalo Sabres.

As much as anything else, the Sabres and their fans need some joy. Adding a much-needed defenseman who’s as flat-out as unusual as Byfuglien would be pretty fun, if you ask me.

Could it be another disaster? Sure, but in that scenario, at least cruel people would have fun? I think it’s worth the risk. (<— Person not signing any of these checks.)

3. Hurricanes and Robin Lehner, an NHL Free Agency story of “Finally”

Despite putting up fantastic numbers for two seasons, Robin Lehner can’t seem to get the sort of stability he wants. Despite putting together deep and talented teams, the Hurricanes are always a few netminding meltdowns from throwing all of that shrewd team-building away.

Frankly, I was a little surprised the Hurricanes shrugged their shoulders at Lehner last summer. Sure, they’re analytics-leaning with Eric Tulsky calling a lot of shots (although I wonder if Don Waddell “went camping” by acquiring Brady Skjei and his not-particularly-fancy-stats?). But Lehner seemed like a buy-low candidate, particularly in signing a low-risk, one-year deal with the Blackhawks during the 2020 offseason.

Maybe it’s finally time for Carolina to take the plunge?

OK, so the smarter move might be to continue going shorter term. Perhaps Corey Crawford would take a shorter deal than what Lehner is clearly seeking. Jacob Markstrom might be the craftier addition, if the Canucks let him walk.

Lehner and the Hurricanes would rank as the more interesting story, though.

4. Can Braden Holtby halt the sinking of the Sharks?

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Speaking of interesting narratives that might not be as wise as they look on paper, Holtby to the Sharks would be fascinating.

Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have been disastrous for the Sharks lately. Of course, there’s a chicken-and-the-egg argument, though, as the Sharks defense often hangs its goalies out to dry.

In Holtby, you have a Stanley Cup winner whose overall body of work is highly impressive. For a Sharks team tormented by playoff letdowns, Holtby’s postseason resume shines especially bright (Stanley Cup win, .928 save percentage over 89 career playoff games).

Yet, on the other hand, things have been bumpy for Holtby for some time. His game had already been slipping, but it really dipped badly in 2019-20 with a disturbing .897 save percentage. Holtby probably will demand a hefty contract thanks to his prior work, too.

So … there are a lot of red flags here. That said, the Sharks are pretty desperate. At minimum, it would be interesting to see if that gamble would pay off for San Jose.

Assorted fun NHL free agent scenarios of varying realism

  • As interesting as it would be for Joe Thornton to ship back up to Boston, I keep going back to Thornton with the Winnipeg Jets for some reason. The Jets would actually be a sensible landing spot for someone like Torey Krug, but Thornton chasing a Stanley Cup with the Jets just feels right.
  • The Maple Leafs are going to experience an agonizing cap squeeze. If Kevin Shattenkirk took another one-year, low-dollar deal, maybe Toronto would come calling? He’s the sort of double-edged sword defenseman who could help the Maple Leafs more than hurt them. But oh, how that hockey-crazed media and fan base will overreact to those mistakes …
  • The Blackhawks seem pretty deep in a “just try to outscore their problems” phase. Is there a better defenseman for that pursuit than Tyson Barrie? I mean, probably, but that could make for a white-knuckle ride.
  • Let’s get Evgenii Dadonov to a California team. With any luck, Dad would attend a Padres game.

MORE POWER RANKINGS:

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.