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The Buzzer: Kucherov’s five point night; Bergeron, Kovalchuk with big returns

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Three Stars

1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. The Tampa Bay Lightning look unstoppable right now. After their 6-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night they are still averaging more than four goals per game on the season and are 11-0-1 in their past 12 games (and also 16-2-1 in their past 19 games). Leading the way on Saturday night was Nikita Kucherov with a five-point night to give him 57 points in 37 games this season. That is a 126-point pace over 82 games. The five points is a new season-high for him and already the eighth time this season he has recorded at least three points in a game. He is now just two points back of Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen (59 points) for the league lead in the scoring race.

2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. What a difference he makes when he is on the ice. Patrice Bergeron returned to the Boston Bruins’ lineup on Saturday afternoon for the first time since November 14 and it was like he never left. He finished with a four-point performance (two goals, two assists) in a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators and was his usual dominant self in all phases of the game. He is now up to 31 points in 20 games this season for a Bruins team that has been trying to stay afloat despite some brutal injury luck this season. Getting a healthy Bergeron back will obviously be a huge boost to that lineup.

3. Phillip Danault, Montreal Canadiens. Entering play on Saturday Montreal Canadiens forward Phillip Danault had not scored a goal in 11 consecutive games, had just one in his past 30, and just two for the entire season. He topped that season total with three goals in a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Given that he had scored just 10 goals since the start of the 2017-18 season, and only 27 in 223 career games, he is probably one of the most unlikely players to net a hat trick this season.

More big performances from Saturday

Jeff Skinner scored his 26th goal of the season for the Buffalo Sabres. That total is good enough for second place in the NHL behind only Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin. He continues to play his way toward a huge contract in the coming months.

Roberto Luongo turned aside 33 shots for the Florida Panthers in a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Cam Atkinson scored two more goals for the Columbus Blue Jackets to help lift his team to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, handing rookie goalie Carter Hart his first NHL defeat.

Pheonix Copley, Laurent Brossoit, Matt Murray, and Linus Ullmark all recorded shutouts on Saturday.

David Perron had two points for the St. Louis Blues in a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames.

Alexander Radulov had two points, including the game-winning goal with just 10 seconds to play in overtime, to help lift the Dallas Stars to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Mark Scheifele‘s 22nd goal of the season, which came with just under 1:30 to play in regulation, helped lift the Winnipeg Jets to a 1-0 win in Vancouver. It is his fifth game-winning goal of the season.

— Mitch Marner thought he had a hat trick for the Toronto Maple Leafs until one of the goals was awarded to Andreas Johnsson. He instead had to settle for two goals and an assist in a 5-3 win over the New York Rangers. Johnsson also had three points in the win.

— The Arizona Coyotes allowed a three-goal third period lead to slip away against the Colorado Avalanche but were able to rebound for a 6-4 win thanks to a pair of late goals from Brad Richardson — the game-winner with less than four minutes to play, and then an empty net goal to secure the win.

Steven Stamkos scored two goals for the Tampa Lightning and hit the 20 goal mark for the 10th time in his career. He is one of the best players in the league and is only the third leading scorer on the Lightning, a testament to how good and deep the Lightning roster currently is.

Highlights of the Night

This is what the Los Angeles Kings had in mind when they signed Ilya Kovalchuk over the summer. It has not worked out as planned so far, but he had his bet game of the season on Saturday afternoon in a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks by scoring two goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime.

The Sidney Crosby to Jake Guentzel connection is rolling in Pittsburgh. Guentzel scored two more goals on Saturday night in a 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, while Crosby picked up an assist on all three Penguins goals. The passing on Guentzel’s second goal was crisp.

Speaking of crisp passing, this John Tavares to Mitch Marner play is pretty great, too.

Factoids

Rasmus Dahlin scored a goal in the Buffalo Sabres’ 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night and is off to an incredible start to his career.

More on Ilya Kovalchuk’s big game for the Los Angeles Kings.

A perfect time for Pheonix Copley to record his first NHL shutout.

The Tampa Bay Lightning head to the holiday break as the best team in the NHL at the moment.

His team did not get the win, but Connor McDavid is still having yet another incredible season.

Scores

Boston Bruins 5, Nashville Predators 2

Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Philadelphia 3

Florida Panthers 2, Detroit Red Wings 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, Vegas Golden Knights 3

Los Angeles Kings 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (OT)

St. Louis Blues 3, Calgary Flames 1

Arizona Coyotes 6, Colorado Avalanche 4

Buffalo Sabres 3, Anaheim Ducks 0

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, New York Rangers 3

Washington Capitals 4, Ottawa Senators 0

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Carolina Hurricanes 0

Dallas Stars 2, Minnesota Wild 1 (OT)

Winnipeg Jets 1, Vancouver Canucks 0

Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Edmonton Oilers 3

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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The Pro Hockey Talk NHL Trade Deadline Tracker is your one-stop shop for all completed deals. The 2020 NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.

NHL Trade Deadline candidates
Non-UFAs who could move
Teams that need to be most active at trade deadline

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2020 first-round pick, Nolan Foote
Tampa Bay Lightning: Blake Coleman

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2021 second-round pick, David Quenneville
New York Islanders: Andy Greene

Feb. 10, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Jason Zucker
Minnesota Wild: Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison, conditional 2020 or 2021 first-round pick

Feb. 5, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Toronto Maple Leafs
: Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
Los Angeles Kings: Trevor Moore, 2020 third-round pick, conditional third-round pick in 2021

Jan. 17, 2020
Dallas Stars:
Oula Palve
Pittsburgh Penguins: 
John Nyberg

Jan. 7, 2020
Nashville Predators: Michael McCarron
Montreal Canadiens: Laurent Dauphin

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Michael Frolik
Calgary Flames: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Montreal Canadiens: Marco Scandella
Buffalo Sabres: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020
Ottawa Senators: Mike Reilly
Montreal Canadiens: Andrew Sturtz, 2021 fifth-round pick

Avalanche injuries: Grubauer out with lower-body injury; Calvert to miss ‘weeks’

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After being injured in the 2020 Stadium Series game on Saturday, Colorado Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer will not be in the lineup on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning due to a lower-body injury.

Even more concerning for the Avalanche, there is no current timetable for his return.

“I don’t really have a timeline on it,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar on Monday, via NHL.com. “He’s still getting evaluated, he’s still going through some testing or training room or whatnot. I’ll have a better answer probably later in the week. Right now he’s day to day and could miss some time.”

Grubauer is 18-12-4 this season for the Avalanche with a .916 save percentage.

He was injured on Saturday during a collision with teammate Ian Cole.

You can see the play here.

Pavel Francouz, who has been outstanding this season, will take over the main goaltending duties for as long as Grubauer is sidelined.

Hunter Miska will serve as the backup.

Even if Grubauer only misses time this week that could still be as many as four games. The Avalanche’s standing as a playoff team is secure, but they are still in a fight for the top spot in the Central Division as well as home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. It doesn’t seem to be serious enough at this point to force a trade to add some depth, but it’s still an injury worth watching. The Avalanche should still be in good hands with Francouz as their starter in the short-term, but things could get a little complicated when it comes to potential playoff seeding if it is an injury that lingers.

In other Avalanche injury news, forward Matt Calvert is also expected to be sidelined for a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury of his own.

In 50 games this season Calvert has 12 goals and 25 total points. He played 12:47 of the Stadium Series game on Saturday.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Power Rankings: Lightning keep getting stronger

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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings the Tampa Bay Lightning climb back to the top spot thanks in part to yet another 10-game winning streak.

Yes. Another 10-game winning streak.

Their current streak entering play on Monday is their second 10-game winning streak since Dec. 22. During that time they are 22-2-1, have 10 more points than any other team in the league, and own a .900 points percentage. No other team in the league has a points percentage better than .762 during that stretch.

What makes this particular run even more impressive is that they have recently been hit hard by injuries with Ryan McDonagh, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Anthony Cirelli all missing some time in recent games, while each of their past seven wins have come against teams currently in a playoff spot. That includes two wins against a Pittsburgh team that has the second-best record in the league since the middle of December.

As if that is not enough, they went out on Sunday and added Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils, giving them another 20-goal scorer, an outstanding penalty killer, and steal against the salary cap through next season.

They are easily in the top spot entering the week.

Where does every other team sit?

To the rankings!

1. Tampa Bay Lightning. They paid a lot to get Blake Coleman but if he helps them bring the Stanley Cup back to Tampa Bay no one is going to care.

2. Boston Bruins. The race between the Lightning and Bruins for the top spot in the East — and the Presidents’ Trophy — is going to be great. They play each other twice during a four-game stretch in early March.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins. Jim Rutherford finally acquired Jason Zucker, and he should be a great fit for both this season and future seasons.

4. Colorado Avalanche. The superstars at the top of the lineup are the foundation, while the added scoring depth over the summer is what makes them a Stanley Cup contender. All of the salary cap space they have to play with could help put them over the top.

5. Washington Capitals. Their lead in the division is quickly disappearing, but they still have three games remaining against the team they are competing with (Pittsburgh).

6. Dallas Stars. They enter the week tied for first place in the Central Division with St. Louis, and while Colorado is just two points back with two games still in hand, they have made this a three-team race.

7. New York Islanders. A defenseman may not have been my first choice for their trade deadline acquisition, but they really did need a replacement for Adam Pelech on the blue line. Andy Greene fits that. Now, go get a forward that can score.

8. Edmonton Oilers. It would be really something if, after Connor McDavid lost out on winning the MVP award the past two years because his team was not any good, that the Oilers return to the playoffs this year and McDavid again loses the MVP, this to his teammate, Leon Draisaitl.

9. Philadelphia Flyers. The Metropolitan Division is insane. The Flyers have one the 10 best records in the league, have won 10 of their past 16 games, and are still probably only about 50-50 shot to make the playoffs right now.

10. Carolina Hurricanes. Everything we just said about the Flyers? Yeah. The same thing applies here.

11. St. Louis Blues. Maybe you think this is too low for the defending champs — who are still one of the top teams in the West, I might add — but they enter the week with just two wins in their past 12 games, and one of those wins was a shootout win over Calgary. They are struggling right now in a big way.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs. Jack Campbell went into Toronto with huge expectations and a ton of pressure on him for a backup goalie, but he has handled it well so far.

13. Columbus Blue Jackets. Maybe the injuries are starting to catch up to them a little bit. Seth Jones is going to be impossible to replace. They have lost five in a row (three in overtime or shootout) and just gave up a point on Sunday to a bad Devils team that is in the process of getting rid of everything that is not nailed to the floor.

14. New York Rangers. They are playing in the wrong division to make a serious playoff push at this point in the season, but they are 11-6-0 in their past 17 games and on a 90-point pace for the season. They are not far away.

15. Vegas Golden Knights. The coaching change has not really changed much in terms of their results. It probably will not until they add to their blue line and get better goaltending.

16. Nashville Predators. They open the week just a point out of a playoff spot with multiple games in hand. They will be a problem for teams if they get in.

17. Vancouver Canucks. There is not a more underrated goalie in the NHL right now than Jacob Markstrom. He may not be one of the elites, but he has been a well above average goalie and stabilizing presence for the Canucks since taking over the job.

18. Minnesota Wild. A coaching change seemed inevitable at some point, but the timing is weird just as the Wild were starting to make a push.

19. Winnipeg Jets. They are sticking with Paul Maurice beyond this season, but with all due respect to him and his job behind the bench the Jets’ ability to stay in the playoff race is entirely on the shoulders of starting goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

20. Florida Panthers. They are trending in the wrong direction, which has to be a massive disappointment given the investment they put into this season.

21. Calgary Flames. Goaltending was probably the biggest question on this team entering the season and, quite honestly, it has been fine. That is what makes their overall performance such a letdown. Everyone else has disappointed.

22. Arizona Coyotes. They are hanging onto a playoff spot by a thread after winning just four out of their past 16 games.

23. Buffalo Sabres. They have won four out of five, and Sunday’s win against Toronto had to be especially satisfying. Not enough to fix the mess this season has become, but it is at least something.

24. Chicago Blackhawks. Honestly can not think of a good reason why this team would not sell players like Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson before the trade deadline.

25. Montreal Canadiens. The recent Shea Weber injury timeline has been a roller coaster of emotions and updates.

26. San Jose Sharks. It would be for the best if the Sharks could just pretend this season never happened. Bad, disappointing team and significant injuries to some of the team’s best players. Adding to the misery: Their lottery pick belongs to the Ottawa Senators. Yikes.

27. Anaheim Ducks. The lack of offense on this team is staggering. They desperately need some of their young players to make a big leap next season.

28. New Jersey Devils. Taylor Hall, Andy Greene, and Blake Coleman are already out the door. Who is next?

29. Ottawa Senators. Anthony Duclair was the one pleasant surprise on this team this season and even that has disappeared. He has not scored a goal since Dec. 23, a stretch of more than 20 games entering Monday.

30. Los Angeles Kings. It seems to be a broken record at this point in the season but the Kings are facing a key stage of their rebuild.

31. Detroit Red Wings. Not a stretch to say this is the single worst team of the modern era. Excluding first-year expansion teams it might be one of the worst teams the NHL has ever seen.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canadiens say Shea Weber could return Tuesday

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Maybe his injury isn’t as severe as initially feared. Or maybe it’s the last act of a desperate team trying to do anything it can to salvage its season before it continues to spiral down the drain. Whatever the reason, there appears to be a very real chance that defenseman Shea Weber could return to the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.

Coach Claude Julien announced on Monday that Weber — along with injured forward Paul Byron — could be in the lineup on Tuesday.

Keep in mind we are just five days removed from the Canadiens announcing that Weber would be sidelined 4-6 weeks due to a sprained ankle.

Weber added (via Sportsnet’s Eric Engels) on Monday that doctors have told him he can not do any more damage to his injured ankle, and that while he is obviously not 100 percent he still feels good to go.

He has been sidelined since Feb. 4, a stretch that has seen the Canadiens win just two of their past six games to continue to fall out of playoff contention.

They enter the week nine points out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are eight points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Adding to their current deficit is they have also played more games than every team ahead of them in the standings. In other words: The playoffs are more than a long shot.

When you combine that with Weber’s age, as well as the way injuries have piled up for him over the years it’s a little bit of a surprise to see his timeline accelerated that way it has been. Weber is having an outstanding season and is still an excellent player when healthy, but injuries have already sidelined him for 90 games during his Canadiens’ tenure over the past four years. That’s more than 30 percent of the possible games.

Hockey’s culture loves to glorify the warrior mentality of a player playing through pain for the good of the team. And it is hard to tell a player that they shouldn’t — or can’t — play. But at some point you have to wonder when it is no longer worth the risk. Even if doctors are pretty sure he can’t do anymore damage to this particular injury by playing, you’re still talking about a 34-year-old player (who you still owe a TON of money to over the next several years), with a lengthy injury history, playing on a bad ankle for a team that probably has less than a 5 percent chance of making the playoffs at this point. Aside from legitimate questions as to how impactful he might be given the circumstances, who is to say that playing on a bad ankle couldn’t lead to a different injury? At some point you have to wonder when it’s no longer worth the risk and just let the guy rest and get healthy and realize there is still a bigger picture at play here than a futile attempt to salvage a lost season.

Related: Canadiens’ Shea Weber expected to miss 4-6 weeks due to ankle injury

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin’s chase for 700 continues against Vegas

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin is still searching for goal no. 700. Since scoring a hat trick against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 4 (those three goals got him to 698), he hasn’t been able to find the back of the net since. Can he reach the milestone against Vegas tonight?

Ovechkin’s goal drought is at a season-long four games. Clearly, the offense was bound to dry up at some point because he couldn’t keep rolling at the pace he was on. The Capitals captain had scored 14 goals in his previous seven games before the slump. This is still unfortunate timing with the entire hockey world watching and waiting though.

Eventually, he’ll become the eighth player to hit the 700-goal mark. He’ll be joining: Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito and Mike Gartner.

If it doesn’t happen against Vegas, he’ll have an opportunity to get it on home ice against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. If that doesn’t work out, he’ll get a road game in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon and a primetime NBC matchup on Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

All we, as hockey fans, can do is wait patiently for him to get going offensively again.

By comparison, let’s see how long the other members of the 700-goal club waited to hit that mark:

• Wayne Gretzky:

He scored his 700th career goal while he was a member of the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 3, 1991. In a game against the New York Islanders, Gretzky managed to beat Glenn Healy with a backhander in the first period.

Gretzky’s 699th goal was scored against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum on Dec. 29, 1990. He only had to sit on 699 for two games before he finally hit the milestone.

• Gordie Howe: 

Howe scored his 700th goal of his career on Dec. 4, 1968 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Getting boxscores from the 60’s is a little difficult, but thanks to this Sports Illustrated article, we know that Howe scored no. 699 on Thanksgiving night in 1968 (Nov. 28) against Glenn Hall and the St. Louis Blues. So in all, it took him two games to score no. 700 (he was held scoreless against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 1).

• Jaromir Jagr: 

Jagr scored his milestone marker on Mar. 1 2014, while playing for the New Jersey Devils. He scored no. 700 against the New York Islanders on a Sunday. The goal, which was assisted by Travis Zajac and Andy Greene, was his 19th of that season. Goal no. 699 came against Columbus in the previous game, which means Jagr didn’t drag out the process at all.

• Brett Hull: 

Hull reached the 700 goal on Feb. 10, 2003 when he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings. The hall-of-fame sniper was going through a bit of a dry spell when he scored no. 700, as he was in the middle of a seven-game goal drought when he finally found the back of the net. That can’t be fun.

• Marcel Dionne:

On Oct. 31, 1987, Dionne beat New York Islanders goalie Kelly Hrudey from a very difficult angle to score his 700th career goal. Sure, the Rangers ended up losing the game 8-2, but that doesn’t really matter. Dionne’s goal came with just 33 seconds remaining in the game and it wasn’t the prettiest one he had ever scored. Dionne scored no. 699 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 23, 1987. It took him almost four full games to reach the milestone.

• Phil Esposito: 

Esposito was in the exact same position Ovechkin is in right now. He was two goals away from 700 heading into a game against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 2, 1980. Esposito, who was with the Rangers at the time, scored no. 699 on the power play in the second period. Early in the third frame, he managed to find the back of the net again. The difference between Esposito and Ovechkin is that Esposito scored his 698th goal in the previous game. He wasted no time getting no. 700 out of the way.

• Mike Gartner: 

Gartner, like Ovechkin and Esposito was two goals away from no. 700 on the night he reached that incredible mark. He did it against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 14, 1997. Gartner opened the scoring in the first period for 699 and he added the game-tying goal on the power play in the third frame. But like Esposito, Gartner didn’t waste any time once he hit 698, as he scored that one in the previous game.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.