NHL Rink Wrap: Avalanche push winning streak to 10 games

NHL Rink Wrap: Avalanche push winning streak to 10 games
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Top players from Sunday in the NHL

Tyler Seguin, Stars

With three points during the NHL action on Sunday, Tyler Seguin is now … better than a point-every-other-game player this season. It’s pretty painful to ponder such a decline for Seguin.

Ideally, for Seguin and the Stars, maybe he just needs time to overcome the issues that basically ruined his 2020-21 season.

Sunday’s two-goal, one-assist surge pushed Seguin to 22 points (14G, 8A) in 42 games this season. It must have been especially sweet for Seguin to enjoy such a big game against his long-ago former team in the Bruins.

At 29, Seguin could already be beyond his physical prime. But the Stars have to hope that he can rebound quite a bit, as Seguin carries a 9.85M cap hit through 2025-26.

Because, lately, Seguin’s play sounds more like Super Mario shrinking down to size than getting that star of invincibility.

Tyler Seguin 2021-22 RAPM so far Evolving Hockey
via Evolving Hockey

NHL highlights from Sunday

How would you grade this post-Torts Blue Jackets season for Patrik Laine? After two goals on Sunday, he’s at least producing when available: eight goals and 19 points in 23 games this season. The buzz has worn off alarmingly quickly for Laine in recent years, but goals like this will likely entice someone to give him a decent contract next season:

You’re not going to believe this, but the Avalanche beat the Sabres during the NHL action on Sunday.

Two Trevor Moore goals (after two great breakout passes) helped the Kings beat the Penguins:

Between a nice K'Andre Miller game-winner, Igor Shesterkin making 40 saves, and a great Mika ZibanejadArtemi Panarin connection, it just makes sense to post highlights of the Rangers’ win over the Kraken:

Sunday NHL Takeaways

Avalanche push winning streak to 10 games in a row

With the Sabres both undermanned and also very much the Buffalo Sabres, it’s no surprise that the Avalanche pushed their winning streak to 10 games.

It’s already getting tougher to find new ways to express the obvious: the Colorado Avalanche are red-hot. And they might just be shoving their way to Stanley Cup favorite status after maybe fumbling it a bit earlier in the season.

(Even the bad times have been mainly bad compared to the lofty standards we can’t help but hold the Avs to.)

Maybe chalk it up to all of that firepower and high elevation, but the Avalanche also extended their home winning streak to 18 games.

So, who might end that Avalanche winning streak? The safest answer is that it can end any night. But let’s try to forecast a bit.

  • If the Avalanche beat the Coyotes on Tuesday, they host the repeat defending champion Lightning a week later. That could be a fun and interesting test, especially if Nathan MacKinnon ends up available. (The way they’re winning, maybe not worth the risk. But NHL teams sometimes go for it anyway.)
  • They face the puzzling Stars in a home-and-home set on Feb. 13 and Feb. 15.
  • The Avalanche also face those pesky Golden Knights twice in Vegas in the near future (on Feb. 16 and 26).

A whole lot of uncertainty in Carey Price press conference

In his first press conference of the season, Carey Price touched on plenty of questions. He didn’t really have any concrete answers about his future, though, noting that he’s “not a fortune teller.”

While Price said his “objective” is to play this season, he also didn’t rule out the possibility that his lingering knee issues may force him into retirement. (Price did say that he’s hoping to know more over the next month or so. Even then, he didn’t indicate what specific form of clarification he’s seeking.)

Feel free to try to parse any implications beyond what he said, but the general takeaway from Sunday’s Carey Price press conference is “to be determined.”

 

Golden Knights sign Brayden McNabb to three-year extension

Considering the Golden Knights’ addiction to The Next Big Thing (usually in trading for a big contract, or trading then signing a big extension), it’s refreshing to see the occasional holdover from their Cinderella first season. Frankly, their salary cap expenditures may eventually push the likes of Reilly Smith out.

But it sounds like Brayden McNabb won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon. (Although, again, you rarely really know with Vegas.)

The Golden Knights announced a three-year contract extension for McNabb, which will carry a $2.85M cap hit from 2022-23 through 2024-25. It’s a slight raise for McNabb, and falls in line with the extension the Golden Knights handed to fellow lesser-discussed defensemen Zach Whitecloud ($2.75M from 2022-23 through 2027-28).

With all the money going toward top players, it’s tough to imagine the Golden Knights spending much on defensemen beyond the quartet of McNabb, Whitecloud, Alex Pietrangelo, and Shea Theodore.

By certain metrics, Brayden McNabb could be considered quite underrated.

Seems like a good enough bet by Vegas. The main concern is probably age, as McNabb is already 31. But you can argue “the main concern is probably age” with a startlingly large number of players for Vegas, overall.

Who are these Stars, really?

In a parity-packed NHL, there are teams who are so in the middle, they’re hard to “place” in the league’s hierarchy. Is that the case with the Dallas Stars?

Personally, they’ve been a riddle for while, really. Broadly, you can chart that shoulder shrug feel by the Stars following a surprise Stanley Cup Final appearance with not even making the playoffs last season. Now in 2021-22 … well, it truly depends where you look.

Gander at how streaky they’ve been, flipping and flopping from hot to cold.

  • From Oct. 25 to Nov. 10, they lost six of seven games.
  • Then, from Nov. 13 through Dec. 6, the Stars won nine of 10 contests.
  • They followed that with a five-game losing streak, all in regulation. The Stars entered the new year winning four in a row, and five of six.
  • Finally, they lost three in a row, and then answered with a four-game winning streak.

(Scratches head in continued confusion.)

Big swings continued in the past three games. They beat the Devils 5-1, lost 5-0 to the Capitals, then blew the Bruins out 6-1 during the NHL action on Sunday.

Ultimately, the Stars stand with (anyone’s guess) odds of making the playoffs, and tough questions surrounding the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Should they trade John Klingberg rather than risk him walking for nothing? Instead, would an extension be worth it, or should they treat Klingberg like a “rental.”

What kind of damage could this version of the Stars create in the playoffs? Just a lot of “I dunno.”

Monday’s big story

Another look at the Oilers with Evander Kane

If there’s one optimal part of the Oilers signing Evander Kane, it might be the timing.

In his first game with the Oilers, Evander Kane scored a goal against the crumbling Canadiens. For the most part, the Oilers trotted out Kane with Connor McDavid and Kailer Yamamoto (at least at 5-on-5). The table was very much set for a successful debut.

For the most part, the story should be the same on Tuesday. While the Senators can pull off the occasional upset, they’re still just 13-21-4. The truer test is how Evander Kane performs over the rest of the season (and how he conducts himself both on and off the ice).

NHL scores from Sunday

Rangers 3, Kraken 2
Kings 4, Penguins 3
Hurricanes 2, Sharks 1
Blue Jackets 6, Canadiens 3
Stars 6, Bruins 1
Wild 4, Islanders 3
Avalanche 4, Sabres 1

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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    Panthers offer Sarah Nurse deal to lead girls hockey program

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are trying to sign a high-scoring forward who has an Olympic gold medal and two world championships, with hopes of getting the deal done in the coming days.

    If it happens, she won’t be playing for the Panthers.

    Sarah Nurse, the Canadian forward who had a highlight-reel goal against the New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin during the NHL’s All-Star Skills Competition, has the chance to run the Panthers’ new program designed to get more girls playing hockey.

    Florida president Matthew Caldwell offered the job to Nurse publicly – very publicly, at a lectern, with a microphone, before a crowd of onlookers. And he was serious.

    “I’m going to embarrass you, but we’re going to offer you a job today,” Caldwell told Nurse, who was seated in the crowd. “We want you to be the face of our girls program at the War Memorial. So, are you in? On the spot? We don’t deal with agents, OK. I’m a tough negotiator.”

    The idea to hire Nurse was first floated to Caldwell by Melissa Fitzgerald. She’s the general manager for the War Memorial, which is the two-rink facility being refurbished by the team and will become its practice headquarters.

    “We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks,” Caldwell told The Associated Press. “Our youth hockey team kind of brought it up as a joke to me, but I said, `Let’s think big. We’re building this huge facility. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.”‘

    The only part Caldwell was less than serious about with Nurse was how the Panthers don’t deal with agents. He spoke with Nurse’s representative, Thomas Houlton, after the event.

    Houlton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He and Caldwell spoke for about 15 minutes after the event, which was attended by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Panthers stars Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk, and dozens of kids who got to play ball hockey afterward.

    Nurse played for Canada’s world-champion teams in 2021 and 2022, along with Canada’s Olympic gold winners at the Beijing Games last year.

    She was one of five women’s players from USA Hockey and Team Canada – the two most dominant women’s national teams in the world – who were part of the skills events. She wore custom skates highlighting Black History month and the Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit focused on getting more Black girls and women into the sport.

    She used a move made famous by Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg when he helped Sweden win gold at the 1994 Olympics against Shesterkin, a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie.

    U.S. star Hilary Knight didn’t think Nurse’s goal should have surprised anyone, saying, “she’s a top scorer.”

    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    “I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

    “It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.