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Gutsy Coyotes keep playoff hopes alive, leave Wild with low ‘morale’

The Arizona Coyotes didn’t quite “ace” what’s arguably the biggest regular season weekend in franchise history,* but they deserve at least a B+.

By that analogy, maybe Darcy Kuemper is the overachieving student who’s carry a ragtag group project to a decent grade? Kuemper continued his brilliant 2019 on Sunday, pitching a 39-save shutout as the Coyotes blanked the Minnesota Wild 4-0 in a game that was huge for both teams.

This comes two days after a game against the Colorado Avalanche that inspired a mixture of emotions.

  • The letdown of falling behind 2-0.
  • Pride in being resilient once again this season, as Arizona managed to tie things up 2-2, sending the game beyond regulation.
  • Fear and tension, as while the Coyotes salvaged a point on Friday, the Avalanche increased their lead for the final West seed by a point, while both teams creeped one game closer to the end of the season.

As you can see from the Push for the Playoffs, the Wild technically needed this game even more than the Coyotes, but that’s really just a matter of semantics, as both teams really, really needed to win on Sunday.

So, the good news is that the Coyotes managed three out of a possible four points during this enormous weekend.* The bad news is that it might not matter, as Colorado was greatly emboldened by getting that 3-2 shootout win; even after today’s win, the Avalanche have more points (85 to Arizona’s 84) and more games remaining (four left for the Avs, three for the Coyotes).

* – It’s at least in the top … what, two? Three? Pipe up, Coyotes historians.

For all we know, the Coyotes might need some help, even if they win out.

But the Wild would need a small sports miracle for this to work out. It may help to see the three teams’ spot in the standings really quickly (note: a more detailed rundown of both conference playoff races will come later Sunday night):

WC 1: Avalanche: 85 points in 78 GP, 34 ROW

Coyotes: 84 points in 79 GP, 34 ROW
Wild: 81 points in 79 GP, 35 ROW

The Wild would max out at 87 points if they won all three of their games, which would already be a tough haul considering they’re closing things out against the Jets, Bruins, and Stars. Ultimately, Minnesota finishing ahead of both Colorado and Arizona is pretty tough to imagine, and the players know it.

Ouch but … yeah, those are understandable reactions.

Just to circle back, though: Sunday stands out as one of the most remarkable performances by Kuemper, and he’s been an absolute rock for the Coyotes since the calendar turned to 2019. This is Kuemper’s second shutout in his last three games (just two goals allowed overall in three games), and it’s not just about brilliant outcomes, as he’s been consistent. Kuemper got those two shutouts, allowed one goal three times, gave up two goals three times, and allowed three goals twice in his last 10 games.

Basically, Kuemper’s given the Coyotes a chance to win all of their last 10 games, and he’s stolen a few of those. If you handed out a Post-New-Year’s-MVP, he’d give Nikita Kucherov and others a run for their money.

Sadly, most people will forget about Kuemper’s run – and the Coyotes’ hard work in general – if they fail to make the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The odds remain against Arizona after this weekend, but credit the Coyotes for keeping the fight alive.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Trades: Oilers get Athanasiou from Red Wings; Ennis from Senators

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When Connor McDavid returned to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup on Sunday night and opened the game between Sam Gagner and Alex Chiasson it was painfully obvious they needed to get another winger.

They ended up getting two on Monday when they acquired Andreas Athanasiou (and Ryan Kuffner) from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Gagner and two second-round draft picks.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland drafted Athanasiou during his time in Detroit, so there is that obvious connection here.

Just about an hour after that the trade the Oilers also acquired Tyler Ennis from the Ottawa Senators for a fifth-round draft pick.

The Athanasiou one is so intriguing because it seems like it has the potential to be a strong fit. He is one of the few players in the league that actually has the speed to keep up with McDavid, and could create one of the fastest forward duos in the league. After scoring 30 goals a year ago for the Red Wings, Athanasiou has 10 goals in 46 games this season. Now he might get an opportunity to play next to the best offensive player in the world.

He is a restricted free agent after this season.

The Oilers are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division, trailing only the Vegas Golden Knights. Edmonton still has two games in hand.

This is the second trade between the two teams in less than 12 hours after the Oilers also acquired Mike Green from the Red Wings on Sunday night.

Ennis, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent after this season. In 61 games for the Senators this season he has 14 goals and 19 assists.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

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

Trade: Sabres get Wayne Simmonds from Devils

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Well, here is the most unexpected trade on deadline day (so far).

The Buffalo Sabres, who entered the day six points out of a playoff spot and with multiple teams ahead of them, sent a conditional fifth-round draft pick to the New Jersey Devils for veteran forward Wayne Simmonds.

That pick will become a fourth-round pick if the Sabres make the playoffs this season and Simmonds plays at least 10 games.

Simmonds is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

There is nothing wrong with the cost here for Simmonds. It’s probably about what his value should be in this market and given what he currently provides. Plus, a mid-round pick has very little chance of even turning into an NHL player, let alone an impactful one. But it’s still surprising to see a team in Buffalo’s position attempt to add something at the deadline.

Is it a last-minute effort for general manager Jason Botterill to try and do something to save his job? Or is it a team looking at what happened with St. Louis and Columbus a year ago and thinking, “hey, we can do that too!” If it’s the former, well, that’s understandable. The pressure is on to win in Buffalo and patience is running thin with everyone. If it’s the latter, that would simply be a gross misunderstanding of what happened with those teams (especially St. Louis).

The 31-year-old Simmonds has eight goals and 16 assists for the Devils this season. At his peak he was one of the best power forwards in the league and a true force as a net-front presence on the power play, but his production has rapidly fallen off the past two years.

Buffalo has played much better in February (7-3-1) but has only managed to gain four points in the standings during that stretch. They still have six points to make up and only 20 games to do it. They would not only need to maintain that similar level of play, but also get some help along the way.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

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

Rangers sign Chris Kreider to 7-year contract extension

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Some massive news from the New York Rangers on Monday as team president John Davidson announced a seven-year contract extension for winger Chris Kreider, removing one of the biggest names from the trade market just hours before the deadline.

Kreider re-signing with the Rangers was always a possibility, but the longer it went on without a new deal (or talks of any kind) the less likely it seemed to be. But this was clearly something the two sides wanted and they were able to find a common ground on a new deal.

It is reportedly worth around $6.5 million per season.

It is a pricey contract for sure, and with Kreider already being 28 years old there is some real long-term risk down the line. But in the short-term Kreider remains a significant part of a Rangers’ core that has made significant progress over the past couple of months. They may not be able to do enough to get in the playoffs this season, but they are certainly on track to be a serious factor in that race next season.

Kreider is in the middle of a career year for the Rangers and has always been a lock for around 20 goals and 50 points while bringing a ton of speed to the top of the lineup.

The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues were all thought to be potential suitors if he were to be traded.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

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

Rangers’ Shesterkin, Buchnevich injured in car accident

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Along with announcing a new contract extension for Chris Kreider on Monday, New York Rangers team president John Davidson said teammates Igor Shesterkin and Pavel Buchnevich were involved in a car accident in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

According to Davidson, Shesterkin was driving when a vehicle did a U-turn in front of them resulting in the collision.

Fortunately both players were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Buchnevich was “quite shaken up” according to Davidson, but will only be out of the lineup on a day-to-day basis.

Shesterkin has a non-displaced rib fracture and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Shesterkin has emerged as the Rangers’ starting goalie in recent weeks and has a 9-1-0 record with a .940 save percentage since his re-call. His performance has been one of the biggest factors in the Rangers’ recent hot streak that has seen them climb back to within striking distance of a playoff spot this season.

The Rangers are currently carrying three goaltenders, while Alexander Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist will take over the goaltending duties in Shesterkin’s absence.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

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