NHL Rink Wrap: Scheifele, the natural; Eichel makes Golden Knights debut

NHL Rink Wrap: Scheifele, the natural; Eichel makes Golden Knights debut
Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

Top players from Wednesday in the NHL

Mark Scheifele, Jets

What’s cooler that a hat trick? (Cheats.) Why, a natural hat trick is cooler.

After the Wild generated a 1-0 goal lead, Mark Scheifele scored three consecutive goals (two in the second period, one in the third) to nab that natural hat trick. The Jets center ended up adding an assist on an empty-netter to make it a four-point night.

Scheifele was already on a hot streak, so this natural hat trick really brings it up a notch. Scheifele extended his point and goal streak to five games (7G, 4A). Blake Wheeler‘s been hot on his own right, and it’s worth noting that he assisted on all three of Scheifele’s goals for that natural hat trick. Wheeler also got in on that empty-netter, so both players enjoyed four-point games.

Thanks to this run, Scheifele is very close to a point per game on the season (40 points in 41 games). It’s unclear if a keyed-in Scheifele + Wheeler combo can fuel a Jets playoff run, but this is impressive either way.

Wednesday NHL highlights

Two great highlights from Hurricanes vs. Panthers alone. First, quite the “save” from Lucas Carlsson.

Here’s a tough call. Was that Lucas Carlsson “save” better than this outstanding Aleksander Barkov goal? Not sure about you, but I might give the Barkov goal a slight advantage. Maybe the answer can change based on your mood?

Watch Scheifele generate that natural hat trick:

Heck of a shot by Gabriel Landeskog, but my goodness, what a keep-and-pass by Cale Makar:

Wednesday NHL Takeaways

Jack Eichel debuts with Golden Knights; MacKinnon hit on Patrick

At the start of his Golden Knights debut, Jack Eichel lined up with Max Pacioretty and Evgenii Dadonov. Personally, those linemates tickle, because people likely floated both as players the Golden Knights might trade to clear cap space for Eichel. (Dadonov more than Pacioretty, but still.)

To reiterate, the most interesting Eichel – Golden Knights debate will probably need to wait until the postseason. Do you load up with Eichel, Pacioretty, and Mark Stone? Or do you keep Pacioretty and Stone with Chandler Stephenson — capitalizing on something that’s worked quite well — and hope Eichel can carry another line?

The best highlight might just be this fan sign:

Colorado Avalanche v Vegas Golden Knights
“Mr. Eichel” really ties it together, and might be a good starter nickname for his time with the Golden Knights. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

As far as how Eichel performed for the Golden Knights, well … it’s a work in progress. Eichel took two penalties, finished with a -1 rating, and was unable to score. He fired one shot on goal with 15:53 TOI.

Another thing to watch from Eichel’s first game with the Golden Knights: Nathan MacKinnon delivered this hit on Nolan Patrick:

Considering Nolan Patrick’s struggles, this is especially concerning. Hopefully Patrick is OK, and very much unnecessary from Nathan MacKinnon.

Panthers pull off win in final regular season matchup vs. Hurricanes

If the Panthers and Hurricanes face each other again in 2021-22, it would be in a playoff matchup. You can bet that if a Panthers – Hurricanes series happens, it will be great.

For much of their latest game, it seemed like the Hurricanes might squeeze out a tight win against the Panthers. Tony DeAngelo scored a 2-1 goal 3:13 into a third period. The Panthers really showed their relentless style during that frame, though, outshooting the Hurricanes 11-2. Sam Reinhart ended up breaking through with less than a minute to go, and then Aaron Ekblad scored the overtime game-winner for a Florida W.

“The better team won tonight,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the Panthers win.

Might as well soak in those full highlights:

No rest advantage for Flames vs. Ducks? No problem, apparently

Honestly, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the Flames tired themselves out from clobbering Columbus on Tuesday, to the point that they struggled against the Ducks.

Um, nope.

The Ducks needed this one much more (see Thursday’s big story), but the Flames made no mistake about this. Most remarkably, the Flames didn’t even really slow down in the third period of a back-to-back closeout that they were leading.

Thursday’s big story

Pacific Division, West wild-card implications in Ducks vs. Oilers

Amid a three-game winning streak (and a 7-2-1 mark in their last 10 games), the Oilers appear about as stable as they’ve been in some time. At least at the moment.

As embattled Oilers GM Ken Holland said, this team’s season keeps going up and down … like, um, a toilet seat? Anyway, the Oilers appear to be in a better position, but that can change quickly, thanks to games like Thursday’s vs. the Ducks.

With players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in tow, it’s no surprise that the Oilers draw so much attention with their highs and lows. (A swirling soap opera, if you will.) Yet, the Ducks also find themselves struggling to stay in the West/Pacific Division playoff races. Losing to the Flames despite a rest advantage on Wednesday won’t make matters easier.

Both the Ducks and the Oilers have plenty of incentive to win this one, and to do so during regulation. Being that the Ducks played the Flames on Wednesday, the Oilers also have a rest advantage. If they don’t exploit that edge, they’ll hear about it.

NHL scores from Wednesday

Jets 6, Wild 3
Panthers 3, Hurricanes 2 (OT)
Flames 6, Ducks 2
Avalanche 2, Golden Knights 0

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

    avalanche injuries
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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.