2020 NHL All-Star Game

Sharks lose Hertl for season, get push to be trade deadline sellers

The San Jose Sharks received awful news on Thursday, as Tomas Hertl is out for the season. If there’s any silver lining that comes from this … well, it comes down to how the Sharks process things.

Let’s get to Hertl’s unfortunate news first, though.

Highs and lows for Hertl

Hertl raised his profile during the 2020 NHL All-Star weekend. Donning the Justin Bieber mask ranked as the highlight, but Hertl also put in MVP-worthy performances during the games proper.

Considering how disappointing the Sharks’ season has been, it was tempting to paint Hertl’s All-Star weekend as an oasis in a hockey desert. This development only makes that comparison more pertinent, and unfortunate.

The Sharks announced that Hertl suffered a torn MCL and ACL. Not surprisingly, the injury sidelines Hertl for the “remainder of the season.” It will be interesting to see how it all affects his 2020-21 campaign, too.

NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil shared the moment of injury from Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Ducks:

Losing Hertl should drive point home: Sharks need to sell

Speaking of losses, the Sharks have dropped four of five to slip to 22-26-4. Even amid a weak field, that’s pretty bleak.

In all honesty, there really is a silver lining in what is otherwise undeniably bad news. With Logan Couture also out and the Sharks nine points out of the West’s second wild-card spot, GM Doug Wilson has little room for delusional thoughts. The Sharks should be trade deadline sellers.

Now, it’s still fair to ask: “To what extent?”

Some of that will come down to serious soul-searching, both from the team and its players.

Patrick Marleau lacks a no-trade or no-movement clause. Would the state of this team prompt him to want a trade? If not, would the Sharks risk the PR hit by moving him anyway?

On the other hand, Joe Thornton has an NMC, so it would be his call. In the latest edition of “31 Thoughts,” Elliotte Friedman mentioned that Thornton opened the door to trade talks, yet Friedman guessed that the Sharks would only consider it if Jumbo Joe made the request. Could this bad break change things?

Look, loyalty is great, but Thornton is 40, and frankly must be eager to win that elusive Stanley Cup. The Sharks risk being overly sentimental here, and Wilson’s profited from pulling off the Band-Aid before. The Sharks traded away Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe during the 2013 deadline, netting nice picks for players who quickly faded — and the Sharks made the playoffs anyway.

Making the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs is a far-flung dream, but this team is locked down with big contracts and a short-term focus (for better or worse). So, a similar logic could apply: by trading Marleau and/or Thornton, the Sharks can ease some of the agony of seeing the Senators luxuriate with their 2020 first-rounder.

(Ouch, though.)

Signs point to less prominent players like Brenden Dillon being moved anyway, but in what could be a weak trade market, the Sharks could yield nice returns for players who aren’t part of the longer term solution. Maybe a hurt Hertl pushes them to that next level of aggressive selling?

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Seattle leaves door open for Kraken; Flyers vs. Disney

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.

• John Hoven of Mayor’s Manor caused a stir during a Mayor’s Minutes Segment on NHL Network Radio, claiming that Seattle settled upon Kraken as the name. Russian Machine Never Breaks ranked among the outlets who amplified that report. (Mayor’s Manor.)

• NHL Seattle played coy (fish?) about the rumors, puffing up for this silly tweet:

• The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker did a deep dive on the subject of the team possibly using the name of a sea monster. There’s some vivid stuff in there, including details about Seattle Sockeyes not working because of a series of romance novels. Oh, and then Jami Davenport (author of said Sockeyes series) claimed that she wasn’t the holdup. It’s a lot. (Seattle Times)

• Shifting gears to the Bruins, Joe Haggerty discusses Charlie McAvoy‘s struggles this season. (NBC Sports Boston)

• Red Wings forward Givani Smith details how he used his father’s lessons to combat racism on his road to the NHL. (Detroit Free-Press)

• Sam Carchidi provides a fascinating report on the Flyers meeting with the league’s schedule-makers to address concerns. After all, they lead the NHL with 17 back-to-back sets this season, and also appear to play a lot of “tired” games. The Flyers’ biggest hurdle: Disney on Ice? (Philadelphia Inquirer)

• An argument for the Senators waiting closer to the trade deadline to move Anthony Duclair. To me, it’s all about what they’re being offered, as his value will never be higher. Actually, attentive teams might already notice Duclair’s game cooling off; he only has an assist in his last eight games, and scored his most recent goal on Dec. 21. (Sportsnet)

• Read up about Martin Frk and that 109.2 mph slapshot. (Sports Illustrated)

• If you’re of a certain (my) age, you’ll feel that much older learning that Chris Drury is the GM of the 2020 U.S. Men’s National Team. (USA Hockey)

• Hard-hitting and soft-snuggling stuff about how the Canucks are going to hug their way to glory. (Vancouver is Awesome)

• Adam Gretz provides a long-term outlook for the Penguins’ promising, term-packed defense after the Marcus Pettersson extension. (Pensburgh)

• There’s a remarkable crossover between hockey and pro wrestling fans. With that in mind, that significant portion of hockey fans will enjoy this bit about New Day Star Xavier Woods’ NHL All-Star experience. It’s a fun story, yes it is. (ESPN)

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.

Our Line Starts podcast: All-Star reactions, handicapping the Pacific Divison

Liam McHugh, Anson Carter, and Keith Jones give their impressions of All-Star Weekend, including rave reviews on St. Louis as a host city. Pierre McGuire interviews Dallas GM Jim Nill, and Anson tells you what Rodney Dangerfield and Ben Bishop have in common. Plus, the guys handicap the uber-tight Pacific Division entering the stretch run.

Start-1:50 Intros
1:50-8:00 Reaction to All-Star Weekend
8:00-14:45 Battle of Alberta heats up again
14:45-26:30 Pierre interviews Jim Nill
26:30-32:35 How far can Stars go?
32:35-end Handicapping the Pacific Division

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Ovechkin sits as Caps return to ice against Canadiens

The Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals own a one-point lead over the Boston Bruins in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy as they return from a nine-day break to face the Canadiens in Montreal on Monday night.

The Capitals, who went into their bye week and the All-Star Game break on a three-game win streak, will be without Alex Ovechkin for the contest. Ovechkin must serve a mandatory one-game suspension for skipping the All-Star Game in St. Louis to rest up for the second half of the season.

Ovechkin was red-hot before the break, scoring eight goals over a three-game span, including back-to-back hat tricks in a 5-2 win over New Jersey and a dramatic 6-4 come-from-behind victory at the New York Islanders on Jan. 18 in their final game before the layoff.

Washington trailed 4-1 after two periods against the Islanders before exploding for five third-period goals, with Ovechkin scoring two of them — including an empty-netter to seal the win.

Ovechkin is tied with Toronto’s Auston Matthews for second place in the NHL in goals with 34, three behind Boston’s David Pastrnak (37). His last goal was the 692nd of his career, tying Steve Yzerman for ninth place on the NHL’s career goals list.

“It’s something special,” Ovechkin said. “It’s history. It’s pretty cool.

“I just left out there everything I had because I have a week off. Now it’s time to regroup and get ready for the second half of the year.”

Montreal also will be playing its first game in nine days and brings in a two-game winning streak. The Canadiens entered the break off a 5-4 shootout victory over the Vegas Golden Knights with leading scorer Tomas Tatar (17 goals, 26 assists) scoring the winner in the fourth round of the shootout.

Montreal is tied for fifth place in the Atlantic Division with the Buffalo Sabres with 51 points, 10 points behind third-place Florida and also 10 points behind Carolina for the second wild-card spot.

“A little reset here for the mental side of things and also the physical side of things, and now it’s time to hunt,” center Max Domi told NHL.com. “We believe in each other as a group, and we want to win some hockey games. We proved it time and time again and we know we can do it. We’ve just got to find ways put the right foot forward here.”

One Canadien who didn’t get the whole eight days off was All-Star defenseman Shea Weber, who won the hardest shot competition on Friday night with a blast registered at 106.5 mph. Washington defenseman John Carlson was second at 104.5 mph.

“Obviously, the fun’s kind of over with,” Weber said. “It’s time to get back to work in Montreal.”

This is the second of three meetings between the two teams. Montreal, behind a goal and three assists by Tatar and 26 saves by goaltender Carey Price, won the first one, 5-2, in Washington on Nov. 15.

The Capitals enter Monday night’s game with a 18-6-1 road record, best in the NHL. No other team has won more than 14 games away from home.

NHL players in favor of ‘international flavor’ All-Star idea

ST. LOUIS — Nathan MacKinnon enjoyed when the NHL All-Star Game featured North America against the World in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Something similar could be coming back next year, but with a twist.

The league is in talks with players to bring what Commissioner Gary Bettman called a ”distinct international flavor” to 2021 All-Star Weekend in South Florida. Not quite North America versus the World but more like a miniature 3-on-3 tournament with players representing the U.S., Canada and other top hockey countries.

It’s not a replacement for the Olympics, but players are largely in favor of spicing up All-Star festivities and playing for more than divisional pride.

”Ooh, that would be cool,” Canada-born Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin said. ”I wonder if that would get it even more competitive. I’m not sure. It would be interesting.”

Think about MacKinnon, Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby playing for Canada against Americans Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane and Jack Eichel, or Sweden’s Victor Hedman, Elias Pettersson and Filip Forsberg facing off against Finland’s Patrik Laine, Aleksander Barkov and Mikko Rantanen.

”I think any time you get some country rivalries going, there’ll be a little more aggressiveness,” U.S.-born Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. ”It would be cool.”

The NHL is five years into holding a 3-on-3 All-Star tournament by division. The winning team gets to split $1 million, and the wide-open ice has proven more entertaining than the old format.

”I like the 3-on-3 the most,” said Seguin, who has made six All-Star appearances. ”I played in a couple of the 5-on-5 games and they were fun, but I think the 3-on-3 is the best.”

Given the success of the 3-on-3, it would be silly to abandon it now. But after the league and players couldn’t come to an agreement on holding a World Cup of Hockey in the winter of 2021, an international All-Star tournament would be a consolation prize.

”I don’t think anything really means as much as the Olympics, to be honest with you,” Kane said. ”But I think it’s always an honor to play for your country.”

After the International Olympic Committee didn’t give the NHL the same insurance, travel and accommodations benefits in 2018 as the previous five games, the league ended its streak of participating. And despite significant investment in and fascination with the Chinese market, there’s no guarantee NHL players go to Beijing in 2022.

”I can’t say that with certainty – not to give people false hope,” Bettman said. ”From our standpoint, we believe and our experience both with going to five Olympics and then not going to Pyeongchang tells us that going is extraordinarily disruptive to the season.”

Because the 2016 World Cup of Hockey featured a Team North American with the best age 23 and under players from the U.S. and Canada, Crosby, McDavid and MacKinnon have never played together, and neither have Matthews, Kane and Eichel. Doing so at All-Star Weekend would provide some entertainment, but Kane is still holding out hope that it can happen for real in Beijing.

”I think sometimes (NHL executives) portray that view on the Olympics and then there’s always I think some room to maybe try and figure it out,” he said. ”It’s becoming pretty close to that date where you probably need to decide if we’re going or not. It would be fun. I think we could put a pretty good American team together. Obviously some other teams would have some good young players, as well, but it would be fun to play with some of those guys.”