NHL Rink Wrap: DeBrusk asks Bruins for trade; Jets can’t beat Vejmelka

NHL Rink Wrap: DeBrusk asks Bruins for trade; Jets can't beat Vejmelka
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Top players from Monday in the NHL

Karel Vejmelka, Coyotes

You don’t see a goalie steal a game like this every night. Or every week, even.

The Jets fired 46 shots on goal against the Coyotes, while Arizona only managed 15 SOG and one goal in support of Karel Vejmelka.

That was all “Veggie” needed to steal that game.

This marks the first shutout of Karel Vejmelka’s young career. The 25-year-old rookie has been a thankless-workhorse for the (clearly tanking) Coyotes, appearing in 14 games with a 2-9-1 record. After this 46-save shutout (and stopping 37 out of 38 games to beat the Kings in his last start), Karel Vejmelka pushed his save percentage to a respectable .916.

Some quick Karel Vejmelka facts:

As a rebuilding team, maybe the Coyotes look at Vejmelka as something of a “sacrificial lamb.” It would be a nice story if he could make a career of this, though. Monday’s NHL action inspires a certain level of hope.

Highlights from four NHL games on Tuesday

With four NHL games on Tuesday. why not just enjoy full highlights?

The Kraken were expected to be defensive stalwarts this season, but games like these show they can light up the scoreboard here and there.

The team that lost its GM (Canadiens) fell to the team whose GM is on a very hot seat (Canucks).

Karel Vejmelka thwarts the Jets’ offense (video version).

Finally, the Flames held off the Penguins after a lengthy shootout.

Tuesday’s NHL takeaways

Canadiens’ GM/president replacement team will face a serious challenge

A day after Marc Bergevin’s firing, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson expanded upon the GM/front office changes ahead. In short, a GM will join Jeff Gorton, who joined the Canadiens as their president of hockey operations.

Obviously, it’s crucial for Montreal to get this search right. Perhaps the Canadiens will learn some lessons from Marc Bergevin’s ups and downs as a GM?

Merely look up and down the Canadiens’ Cap Friendly page, and you’ll probably notice that this won’t be the easiest job. While Bergevin is out as Canadiens GM, some of his fingerprints will be easier to remove than others.

This is a roster brimming with long-term contracts. Even if Shea Weber‘s career is over, Gorton and the Canadiens’ next GM won’t exactly have a clean slate. That said, it’s absolutely better to make this move sooner, rather than later. Would you really want a desperate Bergevin trying to save his job with ill-advised 2022 NHL Trade Deadline moves?

Whether the Habs make wise moves or not, it’s definitely a situation to watch.

Marchand suspended three games; DeBrusk asks Bruins for trade

Quite a day for the Boston Bruins.

First, the NHL suspended Brad Marchand three games for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson. It marks the seventh suspension of Marchand’s career (and the second for slew-footing, alone).

Then, multiple reports indicate that Jake DeBrusk asked the Bruins for a trade.

Year after year, there have been rumours about the Bruins possibly trading DeBrusk. But DeBrusk actually formally asking for one? Quite a development. DeBrusk, 25, has one year remaining on his contract with a $3.675M cap hit. Would a DeBrusk trade involve the Bruins merely getting futures, or would it be a dual “change of scenery?” If the latter, who would make sense for the Bruins’ end of a DeBrusk trade? Maybe the answers will surface soon.

(A trade seems like it would make sense for both the Bruins and DeBrusk, though, right?)

Evander Kane clears waivers

The AHL’s San Jose Barracuda are saying all the right things about Evander Kane possibly joining their team after clearing waivers. If Evander Kane plays in the AHL, the impression is that it will merely be a temporary thing after clearing waivers. We’ll find out (soon/eventually) if an Evander Kane trade happens, or if this situation lingers.

Should Jets be worried about a lack of offense?

When the Jets beat the Flames 4-2 on Saturday, the hope was that Winnipeg worked its way out of a funk. After all, the Jets ended a five-game losing streak, and Kyle Connor scored two goals.

Perhaps it was only a brief reprieve.

Yes, Coyotes rookie Karel Vejmelka stole that one from the Jets. Clearly, Winnipeg carried the play.

This upset loss only stirs more concerns about the Jets’ offense. During Monday’s NHL action, the Jets’ power play went 0-for-6. Despite beating the Flames on Saturday, the Jets’ offense sputtered at times on the PP there, too. They couldn’t score after Milan Lucic was whistled for a major penalty.

In going 0-4-1 during that recent five-game losing streak, the Jets offense really sputtered (five goals). They’ve now gone 1-5-1 in their last seven games.

This game against the Coyotes began a four-game homestand for the Jets, so maybe this is a chance to get back on track. That said, after facing the Devils, the Jets then host the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

Overall, it’s fair to wonder if the Jets are as improved as they looked to start the season. The excuses remain a bit lacking.

Flames are really good — but a lot’s going their way

Whether you prefer standings, analytics, “the eye test,” or some combination, the Calgary Flames look great this season.

That said, it’s only natural to ask: how good are they, really? Don’t forget, this is a team that missed the playoffs in 2020-21.

For the most part, signs point to the Flames being for real. However, there are areas where you should expect the Flames to cool off. Coming into Monday’s NHL games, the Flames easily topped all teams with a 95.04 save percentage at 5-on-5. No other team’s 5-on-5 save percentage was even at 94 (the Maple Leafs rank second at 93.84).

Among other things, you’d expect a Darryl Sutter team to be strong with a lead. That’s an area where the Flames are likely cool off, too.

Including Monday’s game against the Penguins, the Flames scored the first goal an NHL-leading 18 times (in just 22 games).

Before Monday’s NHL games, the Flames had those 17 games where they scored first, compared to second-place Washington (15). Last season, the Avalanche and Golden Knights tied for the most with 36 in 56 games. Since 2015-16, seven teams scored the first goal of a game 50+ times. (The 2016-17 Capitals lead the pack with 58. That’s also the most since the full season lockout.)

While Jacob Markstrom could end the season with a Vezina nomination, he’s unlikely to combine with Dan Vladar for goaltending this great the whole way. And the Flames might give up the first goal more than four out of every 22 games over the long haul.

All of that said, though, the Flames indeed look incendiary so far. They’re also now 13-2-3 when scoring first.

Tuesday’s big story

Hurricanes give the Stars’ surge a real test

Really, Tuesday’s big NHL story (on the ice) probably involves a clash between the Capitals and Panthers. Folks, their last two meetings served as those days’ big stories, though. Let’s mix it up?

(Or consider Panthers – Capitals the big game of Tuesday’s NHL games. That’s cool, too.)

For the sake of variety, an interesting test. For some of this season, things looked dicey for Dallas. Rick Bowness even got coffee and a hat and was a big-eyed dog surrounded by fire for a minute.

Well, maybe things are fine. The Stars enter Tuesday’s test against the Hurricanes on a four-game winning streak. Further, Dallas has also won six of its last seven games. Increasingly, the Stars look like they have a shot at a playoff berth. Beating the Hurricanes would be that much more convincing.

Monday’s NHL scores

Canucks 2, Canadiens 1
Coyotes 1, Jets 0
Kraken 7, Sabres 4
Flames 2, Penguins 1 (SO)

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.

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    Penguins plot a way forward as Letang recovers from stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang returned to the ice on Thursday, just three days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The “twirl” the longtime Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman took at the club’s practice facility was approved by team doctors, a spin designed to help Letang’s mental health and nothing else. While the 35-year-old remains upbeat, it remains far too early to put a timeline on when his familiar No. 58 will return to the lineup.

    Though Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall indicated this stroke isn’t as severe as the one Letang endured in 2014 – when a hole in the wall of his heart led to a stroke that forced him to miss two months – the six-time All-Star is continuing to undergo tests.

    There are no plans for Letang to participate in any sort of hockey-specific drills anytime soon, with coach Mike Sullivan stressing the club will “err on the side of caution” when it comes to whatever rehab Letang might need.

    While Letang – one of the most well-conditioned players in the NHL – essentially went through the motions by himself, his teammates were 30 minutes south at PPG Paints Arena getting ready for a visit from Vegas and trying to plot a way forward without one of the franchise cornerstones, at least in the short term.

    Letang made it a point to help break the news to the rest of the Penguins following a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday. Pittsburgh scratched Letang from the lineup with an unspecified illness and he spent a portion of the game watching from the press box next to Hextall.

    Afterward, Letang informed a somber locker room about his condition, a revelation that came as a shock even as he did his best to reassure those around him that he was and is OK.

    “It’s very serious health stuff,” defenseman Chad Ruhwedel said. “You hear about strokes and it’s never really good so we’re just glad to see he’s doing well and everything is good with him.”

    Sullivan understands it would be practically impossible for any of the other defensemen on the roster to replicate what Letang brings to the ice, so he’s not going to ask any one player to try. There are few players at the position in the NHL who have Letang’s mix of speed, skill and almost bottomless energy.

    The highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history is averaging a team-best 23:54 of ice time and has long been a fixture on the power play and in just about every crucial late-game situation.

    “I just think Tanger is not an easy guy to replace,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think from a tactical standpoint things change drastically. It’s just personnel based. But as you know, personnel can mean a lot in those types of situations.”

    It’s more than that, however. This isn’t a routine injury. There’s an emotional component and an unknown element to Letang’s status even as the Penguins insist they don’t believe his condition is career-threatening.

    “This is a whole different circumstance than an ankle injury or a shoulder injury,” Sullivan said. “This is a very different circumstance.”

    Letang’s on-ice presence is just one aspect of his importance to a team that has never missed the playoffs since he made his debut in 2007. He’s become a mentor to younger teammates like 23-year-old defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph, who like Letang is French-Canadian and who, like Letang, plays with a graceful fluidity.

    Joseph, who declined to get into specifics about Letang’s message to the team on Tuesday night, believes the best thing the Penguins can do during Letang’s absence is attack the game with the same passion he’s shown for 17 seasons and counting.

    “The way he plays for the team every single night and the way he puts his heart and soul into the game on the ice, it’s the least we can do is have our thoughts of him whenever we get on the ice,” Joseph said.

    Sullivan shuffled the lineup on Tuesday, elevating veteran Jeff Petry and Brian Dumoulin to the top defensive pair. Petry possesses a skillset that’s not too far removed from Letang’s, but it’s also his first year in Pittsburgh. Asking him to provide the leadership that’s innate to Letang is unfair. It’s one of the reasons Sullivan is insistent that it will take a group effort to fill in for a singular presence.

    “We have some diversity on our blue line right now,” Sullivan said. “We feel like we have guys capable of stepping in and getting the job done for us and we’re going to try and do that.”

    LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

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    LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

    Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

    Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

    L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

    For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

    The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

    “I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

    The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

    Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    “He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

    “I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

    Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

    “First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

    Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

    The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

    “The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

    Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

    “It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

    Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

    Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

    “It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

    Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

    Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

    “Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

    “I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

    Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

    Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

    “On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

    The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

    “It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

    It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

    “(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

    Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

    “It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

    NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

    UP NEXT

    Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

    Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.