NHL Rink Wrap: Marner rages on; Matthews reaches 30 before injury scare

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Top players from Monday in the NHL

Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs

During the NHL action on Monday, player of the night candidates waxed and waned. Auston Matthews scored two goals to reach 30+, but there were scares after he left with an injury. Anthony DeAngelo collected two points, while Frederik Andersen looked like he might help beat his former teammates.

You could even make a feel-good argument for Matt Murray stopping 32 out of 33 shots for a win in 2022.

Eventually, Mitch Marner emerged as the clear player of the night for Monday in the NHL (just two games).

Marner scored the goal to send Hurricanes – Maple Leafs to overtime, then scored the overtime game-winner. He also collected an assist, so it was a three-point night for Marner, who reached 40 points in 34 games overall.

Most impressively, Marner’s now on a five game multi-point streak (7G, 7A). Marner’s on an eight-game point and goal streak (10G, 9A for 19 points in 8 GP). He’s scored multiple points in seven of eight contests. Goodness.

Monday NHL highlights: Hurricanes – Maple Leafs, Senators – Devils

Two strong NHL teams battled it out on Monday, as the Maple Leafs hosted the Hurricanes in front of a condensed Canadian crowd. (You might have heard Gary Bettman complaining about that.)

If this was a playoff preview for the Hurricanes and Maple Leafs, then fans are in for a treat:

When the Devils play the Senators, are the highlights for the winners, or the losers?

Monday NHL Takeaways

NHL injury, COVID updates returning from All-Star break

With Monday representing something of a soft return to NHL action (Senators – Devils, Maple Leafs – Hurricanes being the only games played), there were some injury and COVID updates out of the break for 2022 NHL All-Star weekend.

Did Jack Hughes contract COVID after participating in NHL All-Star weekend? Perhaps, and it makes you wonder if the events brought on unnecessary risks.

Either way, Jack and his brother Quinn Hughes entered NHL COVID protocol, as did Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. Three Winnipeg Jets also entered NHL COVID protocol around Monday: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Neal Pionk, and Austin Poganski. In brighter NHL COVID news, Alex Ovechkin may play as early as Tuesday if he’s cleared after missing a game and the All-Star festivities.

As far as NHL injury news goes, Jack Eichel is closing in on his Golden Knights debut after being cleared for contact. Tuukka Rask won’t practice this week, while Jake Muzzin and Teuvo Teravainen are getting healthier.

Matthews third in NHL to 30 goals, stays in Maurice Richard race … unless he got injured?

It’s likely easy to forget, but Auston Matthews began the season on a cold streak individually. Through six October games, Matthews was limited to one goal and one assist.

Since Nov. 1, Matthews ranks among four players who’ve scored at least 50 points, and his 30 goals lead everyone during that span. With that goal on Monday, Matthews stayed strong in the Maurice Richard Trophy race overall, becoming the third player in the NHL to reach 30 goals this season. What seemed like a William Nylander goal was switched to Matthews, so Matthews ended the night at 31 goals.

All due respect to Alex DeBrincat as a 26-goal cutoff, here’s how Matthews and the rest of the Maurice Richard Trophy frontrunners look after the NHL action on Monday:

Updated look at Matthews in the Maurice Richard Trophy race

Chris Kreider: 33 goals in 47 games played (Rangers: 47 GP), 147 shots on goal, 22.5 shooting percentage
Leon Draisaitl: 32 goals in 42 GP (Oilers: 42 GP), 149 SOG, 21.5%
Auston Matthews: 31 goals in 40 GP (Maple Leafs: 43 GP). 180 SOG, 17.22%
Alex Ovechkin: 29 goals in 46 GP (Capitals: 47 GP), 213 SOG, 13.6%

As remarkable as Kreider has been, this is the first 30-goal season of his career. Going forward, both Kreider and Draisaitl are likely to see at least a bit less puck luck.

Ovechkin, meanwhile, as been slowing down — though he’s still shooting a ton, and hasn’t really even been living off of the power play as much this season.

All three of those snipers could outlast Matthews in the Richard race. That said, it certainly wouldn’t be shocking if Matthews makes it two straight goal-scoring titles in a row.

Naturally, that’s all contingent upon Auston Matthews not being injured. Once again, a Maple Leafs star was shaken up by an unlucky fall where an opponent accidentally kneed them in the head/neck. While it wasn’t nearly as scary as the Corey PerryJohn Tavares accident, Matthews took quite some time to leave the ice after his collision.

Naturally, PHT will stay posted on the injury status for Matthews. Hopefully it’s not as bad as it looks? He was shaken up late in the third, and then Marner ended the contest quickly in OT, so it’s not clear if he was unable to return, or just didn’t have enough time.

Can Hischier do more to help Devils improve?

If you were to grade Devils captain Nico Hischier for his play last season, you’d probably just give him an “Incomplete.” Injuries and all-around bad luck really doomed Hischier in 2020-21.

Generally speaking, injuries haven’t been as much of an excuse this season. Following the NHL action on Monday, Hischier appeared in 40 of the Devils’ 46 games.

Yet it’s tempting to still grade Hischier as an “Incomplete,” or for the Devils to hope that his true value is TBD.

[No surprise, Devils aren’t killing it in latest PHT Power Rankings]

By deflecting in a power-play goal against Ottawa, Hischier scored his ninth goal and 25th point of the season. He also broke a painful six-game pointless streak where he accrued a -7 rating* and went two games without a shot on goal.

Thankfully for the Devils, this slump doesn’t tell the whole story about Hischier. The 23-year-old’s season has mostly been solid, peaking with 10 points in 13 November games.

But the highs and lows cancel each other to readout that’s mostly … OK. His Hockey Viz heat map radiates “fine.”

For the Devils, the dream would be to hold big advantages at 1C (Jack Hughes) and 2C/maybe a wing spot (Hischier). Hughes is increasingly holding up his end of the bargain, making that $8M per year look like a bargain in the making. But can Hischier be a difference-maker? At this point, he’s arguably not worth his $7.25M cap hit (The Athletic puts his current “market value” at around $5.9M).

Considering his age, at least Hischier has time to flip that script.

* – Plus/minus is largely a dreadful stat, but players still care about it. And it can be decent shorthand for “player enduring a bad time,” even if it’s foolish to put too much weight in how that reflects a player’s performance.

Tuesday’s big story

Golden Knights serve as an interesting test for Oilers in Evander Kane era

Through three games with Evander Kane as a controversial addition, the Oilers won twice and gathered at least a point in each contest (2-0-1). Kane’s been productive, too, scoring a point per game (2G, 1A in three GP).

That said, the Capitals were the only game on the Oilers’ schedule that hasn’t been a “gimme” so far, and Washington was without Alex Ovechkin. To some, beating the Canadiens and dropping an OT loss to the Senators may qualify as the minimum.

Starting with Tuesday’s game against the Golden Knights, the Oilers get truer tests during the Evander Kane era. They play their next three games at home, and four of six in Edmonton. Time to collect standings points, whether Evander Kane remains productive or not.

NHL scores from Monday

Maple Leafs 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Senators 4, Devils 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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    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.