NHL Rink Wrap: Kraken get first shutout; Ugly day for Blackhawks

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Top players in the NHL on Wednesday

Philipp Grubauer, Seattle Kraken

It has been a tough debut season for the expansion Seattle Kraken, and starting goalie Philipp Grubauer especially. Grubauer was supposed to be one of the main pieces of the Kraken roster this season and one of the players that was supposed to help them be competitive. It has not worked out as planned as Grubauer, and by extension the Kraken, has struggled this season. On Wednesday he made some more first year history for the Kraken when he recorded his first shutout of the season, and the first shutout in Kraken franchise history, when he stopped all 19 shots he faced in a 3-0 win against the New York Islanders.

Highlights from around the NHL on Wednesday

Vince Dunn scored an absolutely beautiful goal for the Kraken in their win over the Islanders. Great move and shot here.

Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello continued their fantastic seasons on Wednesday night with this beautiful goal against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored two goals for the Edmonton Oilers in their 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals, including this shorthanded goal late in the third period for the game-winning goal.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Wednesday

Flames keep rolling

About a week ago the Calgary Flames put 62 shots on the board in a 6-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. On Wednesday night they put more than 50 on the board in a 4-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes. They are starting to turn into a machine right now in the Western Conference and are 6-2-0 in their past eight games. Blake Coleman scored two goals and added an assist in the win. By points percentage they have the second best record in the Pacific Division and are just one percentage point (.620 to .619) behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the best mark.

Ugly night for Blackhawks

Just a brutal night for the Chicago Blackhawks organization in every possible way. Team chairman Rocky Wirtz derailed a town hall gathering with fans and media, and then the team went out on the ice and got embarrassed by the Minnesota Wild by a 5-0 margin, resulting in starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury getting benched late in the third period. The Blackhawks have the third-worst record in the Western Conference (ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes and Seattle Kraken) and one of the worst overall records in the league. The Wild, meanwhile, are one of the league’s best teams and have now won six games in a row and are 9-0-1 in their past 10 games for a 10-game point streak.

Capitals power play struggles without Alex Ovechkin

The Washington Capitals were without Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday night after he was entered into the league’s COVID protocols earlier in the day, also keeping him out of the All-Star Game. They struggled on the power play without him. Not only did they go 0-for-3 in a 5-3 loss, they allowed a shorthanded goal and did not even record a single shot on goal. The Capitals’ power play has been a bit disappointing at times this season, but this was probably its worst showing of the season.

Thursday’s big story

The NHL All-Star break has now arrived with the conclusion of Wednesday’s games. The big stories to watch on Thursday are going to be the continued fallout from the Rocky Wirtz comments on Wednesday night, as well as the continuation of the Women’s Hockey Tournament at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The tournament opened on Wednesday night with Canada defeating Switzerland, while the United States team begins play on Thursday against Finland.

Wednesday’s NHL Scores

Seattle Kraken 3, New York Islanders 0
Edmonton Oilers 5, Washington Capitals 3
Los Angeles Kings 5, Detroit Red Wings 3
Calgary Flames 4, Arizona Coyotes 2
Minnesota Wild 5, Chicago Blackhawks 0

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.