NHL Rink Wrap: Bruins bounce back; Wheeler’s 5 point game

NHL Scores
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Top player in the NHL on Saturday

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

If the Winnipeg Jets are going to make the Stanley Cup playoffs this season they are going to need to start stacking some wins. They got a significant win on Saturday night with a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators. The star of the game was Blaker Wheeler with a five-point effort, scoring two goals and adding three assists to have a hand in all of the Jets’ offense. He also had eight shots on goal.

Highlights from around the NHL on Saturday

Patrik Laine continued his recent hot streak for the Columbus Blue Jackets with a game-winning goal with only 7.5 seconds to play in regulation against the Montreal Canadiens. Read more about his recent play here. Martin St. Louis is still looking for his first NHL win as head coach of the Canadiens.

The Detroit Red Wings are really building something special here for the future and defenseman Moritz Seider is going to be a major, significant part of that. He is having an absolutely sensational rookie season and he continued it here with an absolutely beautiful shot for his fifth goal of the season. You can not place this shot anymore perfectly.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Saturday

Bruins needed a game like this

It has been a tough stretch here recently for the Boston Bruins. They entered Saturday’s game having lost five out of seven games, lost Patrice Bergeron to an injury, lost Brad Marchand to a suspension, watched Tuukka Rask retire, and were coming off of back-to-back losses that saw them lose a 2-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins and then get routed 6-0 by the Carolina Hurricanes. They were able to bounce back for a much-needed win on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators by winning a 2-0 decision. They got some depth scoring from Trent Frederic and Curtiz Lazar (something they have been lacking all season) and a 30-save shutout from goalie Jeremy Swayman, his second shutout of the season. Also from this game is the news that Senators forward Austin Watson will be facing a disciplinary hearing on Sunday for interference, which could result in a suspension. Read about that here.

Semyon Varlanov enters COVID protocol

The NHL’s COVID testing policy has changed for asymptotic players since the All-Star break but they still need to be tested for cross border travel into Canada. That resulted in New York Islanders goalie Semyon  Varlamov testing positive on Saturday. He was removed from the lineup after taking part in warmups before their game against the Calgary Flames.

Wild get impressive win over Hurricanes

If you are not thinking of the Minnesota Wild as Stanley Cup contenders it is time to start doing so. They have one of the best records in the NHL, have a superstar in Kirill Kaprizov, and excellent depth. On Saturday they were 3-2 winners against another of the NHL’s top teams in the Carolina Hurricanes.

Sunday’s big story

Sidney Crosby will be trying to score his 500th career goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins, becoming just the 46th player in NHL history to accomplish that, when they visit the New Jersey Devils. Evgeni Malkin is also expected to be back in the lineup for the Penguins. It is also possible that Alex Ovechkin could be back in the lineup for the Washington Capitals when they host Ottawa Senators. Also on Sunday the Colorado Avalanche look to extend their current point streak to 19 games when they visit the Dallas Stars. The Avalanche are 16-0-2 in their most recent 18 games and are also 29-3-3 since starting the season 4-5-1 through their first 10 games.

Saturday’s NHL Scores

Detroit Red Wings 4, Philadelphia Flyers 2

Boston Bruins 2, Ottawa Senators 0

Columbus Blue Jackets 2, Montreal Canadiens 1

Winnipeg Jets 5, Nashville Predators 2

Vancouver Canucks 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

St. Louis Blues 5, Chicago Blackhawks 1

Minnesota Wild 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2

Calgary Flames 5, New York Islanders 2

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    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.