Mikko Koskinen

McDavid MacKinnon illness injury PHT Buzzer
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The Buzzer: McDavid and MacKinnon miss time; Kings’ royally surprising streak

Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon miss time; unclear if they will be out longer

As of this moment, it’s unclear if anything serious happened to McDavid or MacKinnon. Yet, consider the star power of both centers, the situations are both worth monitoring.

In McDavid’s case, he missed Monday’s significant game against the Golden Knights because of an “illness.” Despite waves of coronavirus jokes splashing around, the specifics remain unclear.

Speaking of unclear, it’s not immediately obvious how badly Nathan MacKinnon is hurt. He left the Avalanche’s loss to the Kings with a lower-body injury and did not return. Injuries are really piling up for Colorado, so the Avs have to hope this is only a minor setback.

“He leaves the game, I’m concerned right away. I have no idea (of the severity),” Jared Bednar said in his postgame press conference, via the Denver Post’s Mike Chambers. “Honestly, I just went (into the coach’s room) and came out here. I know he wasn’t good enough to come back in the game tonight. So, yeah, there’s some concern.”

Here’s hoping that neither this illness for McDavid nor this injury for MacKinnon costs either star much time.

Coronavirus causes disruptions for Sharks, media

Monday’s most noteworthy bits of information often didn’t revolve around Monday’s games.

Santa Clara County called for a ban on meetings involving 1,000 people or more, which puts the Sharks in a pickle. The Sharks provided a statement on the matter, with the basic takeaway being “TBD.”

On a related note, the NHL joined other sports leagues in prohibiting media and other “nonessential” people from locker rooms in hopes of limiting the chances of the virus spreading.

Three Stars

1. Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets

Ehlers spearheaded a spirited comeback after the Jets fell behind 2-0 to the Coyotes. Ehlers generated one goal and two assists to help Winnipeg earn a crucial win against Arizona, and in regulation to boot.

After failing to score a point in three straight games, Ehlers now has one goal in each of his last two contests, and five points during that two-game span. With 25 goals and 57 points, Ehlers could match or exceed career-highs (29G, 64P).

Cody Eakin (GWG, 1A) and Tucker Poolman (1G, 1A) were also instrumental in the win, while Nick Schmaltz scored two goals in a losing cause for Arizona.

2. Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers must have groaned heading into Monday’s game. They didn’t have McDavid in the lineup with a Pacific Division lead on the line against the Golden Knights.

Vegas did indeed dominate Monday’s game, and they ultimately won after Shea Theodore scored the overtime game-winner. Even so, Koskinen made 45 saves to secure a useful standings point for Edmonton. Considering McDavid’s absence and the Golden Knights’ 48-24 shots on goal edge, the Oilers should be thankful.

3. Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres

Dahlin generated two assists despite pretty brief-for-overtime usage (17:16 TOI) and then generated a shootout goal as the Sabres beat the Capitals. You could definitely give some of the credit to Linus Ullmark, too, as he made 33 saves.

Alex Ovechkin was productive in defeat, scoring his 48th goal and adding his (heh) 19th assist to improve to 67 points in 68 games. Ovechkin is right in the thick of the Maurice Richard Race, but it wasn’t enough to get the Capitals a win or Ovechkin a third star nod.

Highlight of the Night

The Kings beat the Avalanche on Monday, giving Los Angeles a most-unexpected six-game winning streak. They aren’t just knocking over (other?) tomato cans, either. The Kings defeats the Avs, Penguins, Wild, Maple Leafs and Golden Knights for five of those wins. Yes, the Devils do account for one of those wins, but even New Jersey’s been scrappier lately.

Jonathan Quick didn’t need to be all that busy as the Avs were shorthanded with MacKinnon out on Monday, but this was quite the sequence:

NHL Standings update

East (after significant win for Panthers)

West (after Jets beat Coyotes in regulation, etc.)

Scores

BUF 3 – WSH 2 (SO)
WPG 4 – ARI 2
FLA 2 – STL 1
VGK 3 – EDM 2 (OT)
LAK 3 – COL 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.

Push for the Playoffs: Blue Jackets need results

NHL Playoffs
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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dropped another key game in the Stanley Cup Playoff race on Saturday night by losing a 4-1 decision to the Edmonton Oilers.

It certainly was not for a lack of effort or chances.

They peppered Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen with 47 shots on goal, but were unable to beat him until late in the third period when the result was all but decided. With that loss they have just two wins in their past 14 games over the past month, and are barely clinging to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The past month — and this entire season — has been a tale of bad luck in Columbus.

The injury situation has been a never-ending run of madness and robbed them of some of their best players for significant stretches. Even with that, they have done an admirable job hanging in the race. Overall, their process has not been terrible despite the lack of results. They are on the positive side of the numbers when it comes to the possession game and scoring chances, and they have been in pretty much every game with a chance to win on most nights. Six of their 12 losses during this most stretch have come in overtime or a shootout (1-6 in games beyond regulation during that stretch).

As frustrating as it might be, there are a lot of positives to take from that. But that’s not going to be enough. They need wins, and they need them now.

Even though the Blue Jackets enter Sunday occupying a playoff spot, their current points pace and the number of games they have remaining (only 13; every team in competition with them has at least 15 games remaining) leaves their current playoff probability under 30 percent.

Assuming it takes at least 96 points to secure a playoff spot in the East, Columbus would need to go at least 8-4-1 in its remaining games to reach it. Only five of their remaining games are at home, and each of their next six games overall are against Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Boston, Washington, and Toronto. That is a brutal stretch they have to get through.

It all has to start tonight in Vancouver against the Canucks.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Bruins vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Islanders
Flyers vs. Penguins
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Blues vs. Predators
Oilers vs. Canucks
Avalanche vs. Stars
Golden Knights vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS 

Penguins vs. Hurricanes, 1:30 p.m. ET
Lightning vs. Red Wings, 5 p.m. ET
Golden Knights vs. Flames, 7 p.m. ET
Blues vs. Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. ET
Wild vs. Ducks, 9 p.m. ET
Blue Jackets vs. Canucks, 10 p.m. ET
Avalanche vs. Sharks, 10 p.m. ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Boston Bruins — 100 percent
Tampa Bay Lighting — 100 percent
Washington Capitals — 100 percent
Philadelphia Flyers — 100 percent
Pittsburgh Penguins — 97 percent
Toronto Maple Leafs — 75.3 percent
Carolina Hurricanes — 70.4 percent
New York Islanders — 65.2 percent
Florida Panthers — 38.7 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 28.3 percent
New York Rangers — 23.9 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 1.2percent
Buffalo Sabres — Out
Ottawa Senators — Out
New Jersey Devils — Out
Detroit Red Wings — Out

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

St. Louis Blues – 100 percent
Colorado Avalanche – 99.9 percent
Dallas Stars – 97.9 percent
Edmonton Oilers: 96.9 percent
Vegas Golden Knights – 93.7 percent
Calgary Flames – 77.3 percent
Vancouver Canucks – 76.0 percent
Nashville Predators — 46.4 percent
Winnipeg Jets – 40.4 percent
Minnesota Wild — 40.2 percent
Arizona Coyotes – 26.0 percent
Chicago Blackhawks 5.3 percent
Ducks – Out
Sharks – Out
Kings – Out

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE

Detroit Red Wings — 18.5 percent
Los Angeles Kings — 13.5 percent
Ottawa Senators — 11.5 percent
Ottawa Senators* — 9.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 8.5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 7.5 percent
New Jersey Devils — 6.5 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 6 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 5 percent
New Jersey Devils** — 3.5 percent
Minnesota Wild — 3 percent
Winnipeg Jets — 2.5 percent
Florida Panthers — 2 percent
New York Rangers 1.5 percent
Carolina Hurricanes — 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

ART ROSS RACE

Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 110 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 96 points
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins — 94 points
Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers — 93 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche — 90 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins — 48 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 47 goals
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs — 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 43 goals
Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers — 39 goals

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Hats off to Dustin Brown; Saros shuts out Stars again

NHL Scores
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Three Stars

1. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have nothing to play for at this point, they traded several key players before the NHL trade deadline, and they are all of a sudden playing their best hockey of the season. With Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Minnesota Wild they are now 8-2-1 in their past 11 games and have won five games in a row. Those wins during that stretch have come against Calgary, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Florida, Vegas, Toronto, and Minnesota. All teams either in a playoff spot or competing for one. The big star for them on Saturday was veteran winger Dustin Brown who scored three goals, an assist, and five shots on goal

2. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators. The Predators picked up back-to-back massive wins against the Dallas Stars in their past two games, and it was Saros leading the way in both with consecutive shutouts. After stopping all 33 shots he faced in a 3-0 win on Thursday, he was even better on Saturday by turning aside 37 shots in a 1-0 win. Ryan Ellis scored the only goal for Nashville on Saturday. With the Predators fighting desperately for a playoff spot, Saros turned aside all 70 shots he faced in two games against one of the league’s best teams. That is called coming through when your team needs you most.

3. Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers. Koskinen was nearly flawless for the Oilers on Saturday, stopping 46 out of 47 shots from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-1 win. The win moved the Oilers back into first place (by tiebreaker ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights) in the Pacific Division as they have won four out of their past five games.

Other notable performances from Saturday

  • The Philadelphia Flyers extended their winning streak to nine games thanks to two goals from Claude Giroux and another huge game from Carter Hart. Read all about it here.
  • Nic Dowd scored two goals for the Washington Capitals as they dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • The New Jersey Devils played spoiler on Saturday by beating their arch-rivals, the New York Rangers, thanks to two-goal efforts from Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri.
  • The Florida Panthers kept their playoff hopes alive with a big 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Highlights of the Night

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins had a lot of chaos, including this stretch where they scored two shorthanded goals in 62 seconds. You can read more about the chaos from this game right here.

Blooper of the Night

Sabres goalie Carter Hutton had a bad time on this play.

Controversial play of the Night

The Carolina Hurricanes snapped their losing streak with a huge overtime win against the New York Islanders. It was not without its controversy. It sure looked like Andrei Svechnikov set up the game-winner with a high-stick, but after review it was ruled that he did, in fact, make contact with the puck below his normal shoulder level. Do you agree?

Playoff Push

Scores

Carolina Hurricanes 3, New York Islanders 2 (OT)
Washington Capitals 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
Nashville Predators 1, Dallas Stars 0
Los Angeles Kings 7, Minnesota Wild 3
Ottawa Senators 2, San Jose Sharks 1 (OT)
Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Boston Bruins 3
Florida Panthers 4, Montreal Canadiens 1
New Jersey Devils 6, New York Rangers 4
Philadelphia Flyers 3, Buffalo Sabres 1
Edmonton Oilers 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Hockey community rallies for Nashville tornado relief

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• People are stepping up to help those affected by the Nashville tornadoes. That includes the Predators’ Alumni Association donating $20K, but not just that team. Both the Wild and current Wild owner/former Predators owner Craig Leipold are donating $25K apiece in tornado relief efforts. The NHL announced that it is matching that $50K for tornado relief as well. Fantastic stuff stemming from that terrifying natural disaster. (The Tennessean)

• How did the Lightning turn their season around? Can this season’s team compare to the 2018-19 version that stomped through the regular season, and what about the playoffs? (ESPN)

• Some of the Lightning’s turnaround boils down to Andrei Vasilevskiy getting on track. This post looks at a similar trajectory for Mike Smith, who is heating up while Mikko Koskinen stays steady. Between the two, the Oilers have enjoyed reliable goaltending lately. (Oilers Nation)

Bryan Rust‘s breakout season boils down to combining his talent with the Penguins giving him a better opportunity to succeed. (Pensburgh)

• The Maple Leafs look better by a lot of metrics since Sheldon Keefe took over, but goaltending hasn’t been panning out. How much might it help to lighten Frederik Andersen‘s burden? (Rotoworld)

• Speaking of underlying numbers, these smile upon the chances for both the Wild and Hurricanes making late-season playoff pushes. (NHL.com)

[HURRICANES FACE FLYERS ON NBCSN ON THURSDAY; WATCH IT LIVE]

• Now, while goaltending has been letting the Leafs down lately, GM Kyle Dubas views defense as a “long-term need.” (TSN)

• Are the Flames on the verge of a goalie controversy? (Sportsnet)

• In standing firmly behind Claude Julien going forward, Habs GM Marc Bergevin is also gambling on himself. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• No, Valeri Nichushkin hasn’t generated the kind of offense that was expected of him as the 10th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. Nichushkin has, however, become a useful play-driving forward as he settles into a still-fairly-new niche as an Avalanche supporting cast member. (The Hockey News)

I mean, look at these almost-off-the-charts Evolving Hockey RAPM charts for Nichushkin:

Kevin Fiala continues to be a catalyst for the Wild’s surge. (Pioneer-Press)

• Breaking down the Flyers’ elite penalty kill. (Broad Street Hockey)

• What’s been different about Cory Schneider during his latest return back with the Devils? (NJ.com)

• Hm, it’s been a while since the Senators experienced some drama … (The Score)

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.

Oilers’ McDavid, Draisaitl trying to join rare club

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After back-to-back disappointing seasons the Edmonton Oilers are finally in position for a return trip to the playoffs.

They enter Thursday’s game (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN) against the San Jose Sharks in second place in the Pacific Division and just three points out of first with a game in hand. They’re still probably not where they want to be, but the overall quality of their division has given them an opportunity to not only get in the playoffs, but potentially go on a deep run once they get there as nobody in the Pacific is clearly better than them.

At the center of the Oilers’ success is, of course, their two-headed monster of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

After both finished in the top-four in the scoring race a year ago, they have a chance to take their offensive dominance one step further and literally finish as the top-two scorers in the NHL this season.

That is where they enter play on Thursday, with Draisaitl pacing the league with 83 points in 53 games (127 point pace) and McDavid sitting just behind him with 79 (122-point pace).

The only other player in the NHL currently on pace for more than 115 points this season is Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon (117 point pace).

So they have a pretty sizable lead.

If they are able to hold that lead it would put them in some pretty exclusive company as teammates to finish first and second in the league in scoring.

Here are the only players to do it in the post-Original Six era.

  • 2012-13 (48-game season): Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
  • 1995-96: Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • 1991-92: Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • 1986-87: Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri (Edmonton Oilers)
  • 1984-85: Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri (Edmonton Oilers)
  • 1983-84: Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey (Edmonton Oilers)
  • 1974-75: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
  • 1973-74: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
  • 1971-72: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
  • 1970-71: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
  • 1969-70: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)

That would be a pretty impressive list to be a part of, especially since only three of those have happened since the start of the 1990 season (and only two of those duos were over an 82-game season).

As they have for the past four years, McDavid and Draisaitl still represent a significant portion of the Oilers’ offense. At least one of them has been on the ice for 124 of the Oilers’ 170 goals this season (73 percent), while both of them have been on the ice for 81 of those goals (48 percent of the goals). While they both have 79 points individually and are each on pace for more than 120 points, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the only other forward on the team that currently has more than 30 points and is on pace for more than 50 points.

So, yes, they still have some depth concerns that need to be addressed.

Even so there are still some positive developments around McDavid and Draisaitl that have made a difference this season.

James Neal has cooled off considerably from his great start in October, but still provides another goal-scoring presence on the power play when he is healthy.

After missing 15-plus games in each of the past two seasons, top defenseman Oscar Klefbom has been healthy this season, while rookie Ethan Bear has made a really nice impact on the blue line.

Mikko Koskinen has also bounced back and played well enough to help justify the bold contract extension he received from the team a year ago.

Randy Hahn and Jamie Baker will call the action from Rogers Place in Edmonton. Kathryn Tappen hosts studio coverage on Thursday with Anson Carter and Colby Armstrong.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.