Roundtable: Vegas’ playoff hopes; who needs NHL lottery win the most?

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The Vegas Golden Knights. Do they get in? If not, how do you envision their offseason going?

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: At this point I do not see a path for them unless they beat Dallas tonight, win out, and get some help. That is probably asking a lot.

If they do not get in? I envision chaos. They operate this team like maniacs and with a sense of unpredictability even when they win. Who knows what happens here when they badly underachieve like this. The salary cap situation is a mess, goalie situation is a mess, and they will probably be getting a new head coach.
So I envision chaos. Major changes.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: They pretty much have to win out and that begins tonight against the Stars and would end against a very good Blues team. They no longer control their destiny and with the way this season has gone, it doesn’t appear as if they have a miracle in them this week.

What should happen if they miss? While the first thought might be some cutthroat chaos, I have a suspicion this organization will chalk this up to some bad injury luck and not make many drastic changes in the summer. There will be some change, of course, given their salary cap situation, but I don’t expect GM Kelly McCrimmon to take a scalpel to this roster and make major moves heading into next season.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: I think they miss. At this point, the most realistic way into the playoffs is to pass Dallas, and the Stars have an easier remaining schedule. Even if Vegas were to beat Dallas, I still like the Stars’ odds given they close at home against Arizona and Anaheim, whereas the Golden Knights finish on the road against Chicago and St. Louis (who could still be playing for home ice in the First Round).

Looking ahead to the offseason, if history is any indication, it should be another turbulent offseason for the Golden Knights. They will finally have to come to grips with the many salary cap challenges they’ve created for themselves, so more significant player movement is likely on the horizon.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Now that the Kings look back on track, there’s not much of a lane for the Golden Knights. I don’t think they can make it.

We’re at the point where it’s fair to ask: if the Golden Knights are going to be so ruthless in trading away players, shouldn’t Kelly McCrimmon and/or George McPhee face the same level of accountability?

Yes, injuries are a valid explanation for this season. A more patient team would take a step back and say, “We probably shouldn’t overreact.”

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, keep hitting the red button so often that it’s fallen off. Also, there’s making your own luck, and maybe making your own bad luck.

With the exception of 25-year-old Jack Eichel, this Golden Knights core is quite old. The downside to acquiring battle-tested veterans like Max Pacioretty (33) and Mark Stone (29) is that they bring their battlescars with them. (Obviously, Eichel’s also coming off major neck surgery.)

For all of the Golden Knights’ smashing successes, they haven’t developed a ton of younger difference-makers. As such, they’re a top-heavy team that was less capable of dealing with injuries. Also, some of those splashy moves didn’t work out as well as expected.

The Golden Knights would be better off just taking a breather and letting things settle — for once. I can just as easily see any (or all) of Peter DeBoer, Kelly McCrimmon, and/or George McPhee being shown the door.

And, in a sense, that might only be fair.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The Vegas Golden Knights are in big trouble as they really have to win out to get into the playoffs. The big game is Dallas (they finish the season with three straight road games) and if they don’t win in regulation, I really cannot see them getting a wild card spot.

If they do not make the playoffs, look for Kelly McCrimmon and Peter DeBoer to be shown the door. McCrimmon had a great thing going in Vegas but his constant tweaking and getting rid of players who signed long-term deals with the Golden Knights only to be dealt elsewhere when a ‘better’ player became available, hurt the team as they lost players such as Nate Schmidt and most importantly Marc-Andre Fleury.
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Looking at the NHL draft lottery picture, who needs to get the No. 1 pick and Shane Wright the most?

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: The answer to who needs the No. 1 pick the most is absolutely the Arizona Coyotes. This rebuild is going to be major, the arena situation is again a mess, and they badly need somebody to build this thing around and something to give the fan base something to latch on to. Is it the perfect spot for the NHL? Probably not. But Arizona badly needs that pick.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: For all that’s gone wrong with the Coyotes, they’ve mostly done a great job steering into a rebuild, rather than ignoring reality. That reality is what it is, though: this team is largely bereft of talent.

If you read through a variety of takes on Shane Wright, excitement’s dimmed a bit. Many write-ups pump Wright up more for being a heady two-way player than an elite scorer. Superficially, that sounds a lot like what Matty Beniers brings to the table, so it would be kind of boring if the Kraken landed Wright instead.
So, let’s give the Coyotes someone to build some hope around, whether he helps fill a rinky dink rink right off the bat in 2022-23, or he parallels Owen Power by not making an immediate NHL jump.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Buffalo. You might be thinking “why do the Sabres deserve the No. 1 pick again?” The answer is hockey karma. After surviving the Jack Eichel saga, and actually playing some decent hockey towards the end of the season as Vegas sputtered with Eichel, this would be the perfect ending to what was (is still?) one of the strangest rebuilds in hockey history. It would only be fitting if Shane Wright led Buffalo to the playoffs next season to end this epic drought.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The Montreal Canadiens need to get Shane Wright as they desperately need another center to go with Nick Suzuki. The Habs are lacking in talent up front and while the rest of the bottom-dwellers in the NHL will wait for the 2023 Draft which will feature Connor Bedard, the Canadiens cannot afford to wait another year. Wright may not have the cache he did two seasons ago but he will still be a welcomed  addition in the Montreal lineup.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Only one of the bottom 11 teams will have a shot at the No. 1 overall pick thanks to the new lottery rules. It would be another boost of positive momentum for the Sabres if they should take their smallish percentage chance and get the lucky ball. Adding Shane Wright to a young roster that showed plenty of promise in the second half of this season would be just what they need. That market is screaming for a good hockey team again and to end their decade-plus-long playoff drought.

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    LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

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    LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

    Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

    Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

    L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

    For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

    The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

    “I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

    The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

    Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    “He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

    “I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

    Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

    “First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

    Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

    The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

    “The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

    Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

    “It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

    Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

    Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

    “It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

    Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

    Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

    “Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

    “I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

    Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

    Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

    “On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

    The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

    “It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

    It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

    “(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

    Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

    “It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

    NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

    UP NEXT

    Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

    Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

    Deal for Coyotes’ proposed arena approved by Tempe council

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    TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council has unanimously approved a proposal for a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, clearing the way for a public vote on the project next year.

    The City Council approved the proposal 7-0 after a lengthy meeting that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

    The $2.1 billion project would include a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater. Approval of the project was the final step before it goes to referendum on May 16.

    The team is currently playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest arena.

    The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.