Travis Zajac

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

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.

The Buzzer: Zucker finding rhythm with Penguins; Kreider’s trade value soaring

Jason Zucker #16 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his second goal
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Three Stars

1) Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby has always excelled when one of his wingers could skate like the wind. General manager Jim Rutherford tried to capitalize on this strategy and acquired Jason Zucker to fill the void. The winger cashed in twice in the Penguins’ 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens, while Crosby assisted on both tallies. If Zucker thrives on Crosby’s wing, his contract will start to look like a bargain for the next couple of years. The Penguins have survived an extraordinary amount of injuries this season, but Zucker’s emergence would provide a necessary boost.

2) Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

On one hand, Jeff Gorton has to be pleased that Kreider is acting as his own salesman ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. However, the thought of trading a premium talent instead of re-signing the forward is dangerous for any general manager. Kreider picked up a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York collected its fourth consecutive win. The Blueshirts are not ready to take the next step but the upcoming decision about Kreider could shape the next few years in a positive or negative way.

3) Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets came up one goal short against the San Jose Sharks Friday, but Connor’s second-period tally was a thing of beauty. The 23-year-old received a pass to the left of the Shark’s goaltender then slid the puck and his stick between his legs to even the game at 1-1. Connor is one goal shy of scoring 30 for the third consecutive season and continues to be one of the more underrated forwards in the NHL. The Jets will continue to rely on their high-powered offense as they look to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.

Highlights of the Night

Described above, Connor stole the show with this impressive maneuver.

Nikita Gusev stepped around Jaccob Slavin and Travis Zajac set up Mirco Mueller for the easy tap-in.

Kreider scored the go-ahead goal when he hammered a one-timer from the slot.

Stats of the Night

Scores

New York Rangers 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
San Jose Sharks 3, Winnipeg Jets 2
Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Montreal Canadiens 1
Carolina Hurricanes 5, New Jersey Devils 2


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NHL Trade Deadline: Non-UFAs who could move

NHL Trade Deadline
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The NHL trade deadline is just a few weeks away and we already have a pretty good idea as to which players are a good bet to be traded based on their contract situation (pending unrestricted free agents) and their current team’s place in the standings (out of the playoff picture with little hope of playing back into it).

Ottawa is almost certainly going to trade Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

The New York Rangers are probably going to trade Chris Kreider.

The Los Angeles Kings seem like a good bet to deal Tyler Toffoli.

Montreal should absolutely try to see what it can get for Ilya Kovalchuk following his brief offensive resurgence with the Canadiens.

These are the near-locks, as many pending UFA’s are on non-playoff teams. But every year there is always that surprising trade, usually one that involves in a player that still has term remaining on their contract. Last year it was Los Angeles trading Jake Muzzin and Minnesota trading Mikael Granlund.

Let’s take a look at some potential options this season.

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

Contract remaining: Three more full seasons (through 2022-23 season) with a $5.5 million per year salary cap hit.

Why he could be moved: The already tried to move him (and very nearly did) on two different occasions over the past year. To be fair, that was a different general manager pulling those strings and it’s possible that Bill Guerin has a long-term vision that includes Zucker. But barring some kind of dramatic second half turnaround the Wild seem destined to miss the playoffs for a second straight year and shouldn’t be opposed to listening to offers on any player. One team that apparently has a lot of interest: Guerin’s former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have a need for a top-six winger with Jake Guentzel sidelined, Zucker would be a fit with their style of play, and they were one of the teams that nearly acquired him when Paul Fenton seemed hellbent on trying to trade him.

What he might cost: Zucker’s not a star, but he is a fast, two-way player that is going to score 20 goals and 50 points every year while helping out on the defensive end. With still three years remaining the Wild should easily be able to get two or three assets for him if they decide to move on: First-round pick, a good prospect or young NHL player, and one lesser “throw in” asset (late round pick, fringe prospect).

(UPDATE: Zucker has been dealt to the Penguins for a package of Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison, and a conditional first-round pick.)

Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with $5.3 million salary cap hit

Why he could be moved: The Canadiens are going nowhere this season and it could be a good opportunity to sell high on Tatar who has been simply outstanding in his season-and-a-half with the team. Since joining the Canadiens he has 43 goals and 104 points in 132 games, while also posting some of the best possession numbers in the entire league. Of the more than 660 players that have played at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey since the start of the 2018-19 season, Tatar ranks in the top-five in shot attempt share, scoring chance share, high-danger scoring chance share, expected goals share, and goal differential. Even going back to his Detroit days he is a near lock for 25 goals and is an outstanding possession driver.

What he might cost: We have some idea here because Tatar has been traded twice on this very same contract, including once at the deadline when a bad Detroit team traded him to a contender (Vegas) in 2017-18. Vegas gave up a first, second, and third round pick for him. Three assets. It was viewed as an overpayment at the time — and still is — but that’s not entirely fair. Had Tatar worked out in Vegas they would have had a top-line talent for what amounts to three low-ceiling lottery tickets. Unfortunately he got off to a slow start, never had a chance to prove himself over a full season, and was traded for Max Pacioretty (a trade that has worked out for Vegas).

Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with a $4 million salary cap hit.

Why he could be moved: The Kings are one of the worst teams in the league and need to re-tool rapidly. Martinez is one of the few players on the team that might bring a decent return.

What he might cost: Los Angeles traded Jake Muzzin last season under almost the exact same circumstances — A bad Kings team trading a veteran defenseman with one year remaining with a $4 million salary cap hit. The only big difference is that Muzzin was 29 (vs. Martinez at age 32) and was having a better season. The Kings received a first-round pick and two prospects (Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi) for Muzzin. Given Martinez’s age and somewhat down season they probably shouldn’t expect quite as much, but the framework should be similar (draft pick and a prospect).

(UPDATE: Martinez has been dealt to the Golden Knights in exchange for second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.)

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with a $4.65 million salary cap hit

Why he could be moved: The Devils have been a spectacular disappointment this season, still seem to be several pieces away from contending, and outside of their pending free agents don’t really have many realistic trade options that can bring a return. Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are the untouchables. P.K. Subban‘s value has to be at an all-time low given his performance this season and remaining contract. Travis Zajac and Andy Greene have complete no-trade clauses, with Zajac reportedly declining a trade already this year.

Palmieri is a really good player, but turns 29 on Saturday, will be 30 when he starts his next contract, and only has a limited no-trade clause, making it easier to deal him. As good as he is, he might have more trade value to the Devils right now than he does as a player for them beyond this season. They’re probably not a playoff team next season whether he plays for them or not.

What he might cost: Very similar to the Zucker/Tatar price. Tatar and Zucker are both probably better overall players, but there is a lot to be said for Palmieri’s ability to put the puck in the net. He’s averaged a 30-goal pace per 82 games with the Devils (a lousy offensive team during his time with the team) and still has another full year remaining on his deal. A first-round pick and a good prospect seems like a must-have starting point for the Devils.

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: Coleman’s special birthday carries Devils

Blake Coleman of New Jersey Devils shoots on Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price
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Three Stars

1) Blake Coleman, New Jersey Devils

When your birthday is in late November, it usually falls on American Thanksgiving once in a while. Coleman celebrated with his first career four-point game in the Devils’ 6-4 win against the Canadiens. He scored his eighth of the season when he opened the scoring at the Bell Centre at 7:19 of the first period. Nikita Gusev faked a shot then slid a pass through Shea Weber as he and Coleman executed a two-on-one opportunity. Coleman would go on to add two more assists and an empty netter to seal the 6-4 victory late in the third period.

2) Nikita Gusev, New Jersey Devils

The Russian winger collected three assists and recorded his first multi-point game of his NHL career. Gusev has 11 points in 21 games this season and has effectively made a smooth transition to North America after playing the previous four seasons in the KHL. The Devils have not gotten the goaltending needed to have a realistic shot at reaching the postseason, but Gusev’s ability to adapt to new surroundings has been a minor bright spot in a bleak season.

3) Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils

Zajac wonderfully batted a bouncing puck past Carey Price as the alternate captain collected his third goal of the season to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Gusev picked up his second assist of the night when he sent a fluttering puck toward the net. Zajac darted toward the cage and got behind Jesperi Kotkaniemi before the beautiful finish.

Highlight of the night

Price has been under a lot of scrutiny due to his inconsistent play in recent games. At the end of the second period, Price reminded Kyle Palmieri and the audience why he is one of the best goaltenders of this generation with this stellar glove save.

Factoids

  • The Canadiens set a franchise record by allowing 20 goals in their last three home games [Sportsnet Stats].
  • The Devils improved to 7-0-2 in their last nine games against the Canadiens dating back to February 27, 2017 [NHL PR].
  • The Devils/Rockies/Scouts franchise earned a win on U.S. Thanksgiving for the third time in its history [NHL PR].
  • On this date 40 years ago, Billy Smith of the New York Islanders became the first goalie in NHL history to be credited with a goal [NHL PR].

Scores

Devils 6, Canadiens 4

Wednesday Night Hockey: Devils searching for first win of season

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After failing to make the playoffs last season, the Devils made some significant changes to their roster during the summer. First, they drafted Jack Hughes number one overall. Second, they swung deals with the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights for P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev. Third, they signed Wayne Simmonds to a one-year contract. That’s some significant movement.

So, it’s only natural that general manager Ray Shero would be disappointed by his team’s 0-1-1 start. They dropped their home opener, 5-4 in a shootout, to the Winnipeg Jets and they also proceeded to get pounded 7-2 on the road in Buffalo. Giving up 11 goals in the first two games is less than ideal and they need to find a way to fix their issues.

“We’re playing soft and light, and we’re playing like we want to have an easy game,” Devils coach John Hynes said after the loss to the Sabres, per NHL.com. “We can talk about it nine different ways; that’s the reality of where we’re at right now, so we’ve got to fix it.”

Of course, the lack of stability between the pipes is also an issue. Cory Schneider was forced to leave Thursday’s game against Winnipeg because of cramps. Mackenzie Blackwood, who entered the game in relief, gave up two goals on nine shots and then lost in the shootout. Blackwood was forced to play the next night and he gave up seven goals on 36 shots.

It sounds like Schneider will be available for tonight’s clash against the Flyers, but the players in front of him need to make life a little easier for whoever is in their goal.

“Defensively, we haven’t been hard enough in any plays, and we’re allowing teams too much time and space,” forward Travis Zajac said. “We know what we have to do and what’s our identity and what’s expected of us as a team, and we just haven’t been able to get to our identity.”

Hynes had the benefit of not having a game for three full days (Sunday through Tuesday), so his team had time to work on things on the practice rink. They better have found a solution to their issues because their upcoming schedule will be tough, as they’ll play in Philly tonight, at home against the Oilers tomorrow night, in Boston on Saturday and at home against the Panthers on Monday afternoon.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

Tonight, the Devils face a Flyers team that’s making their season-debut in North America. Philadelphia took down the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague last week. They’ll now look to keep the ball rolling against a struggling divisional opponent.

The Flyers will go head-to-head against a familiar face, as they’ll welcome Wayne Simmonds back to Philadelphia for the first time since they traded him to Nashville last season.

“Hopefully I get some cheers. I was pretty deep-rooted in that community,” Simmonds told NJ.com. “I spent eight years there and had a great time. I enjoyed Philadelphia thoroughly. So I was proud to be a part of that franchise and don’t regret anything I did in a Flyers uniform.”

On Wednesday night’s season debut of Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN, NHL fans will be able to get a sneak peek to a yet to be released Green Day song called “Fire, Ready, Aim”. The song will serve as the opening theme song of Wednesday Night Hockey throughout the 2019-20 season and will be featured on NHL on NBC Sports broadcasts throughout the season.

Produced by NBC Sports, the high-energy show open features the band playing their new song on a hockey rink interspersed with action shots of more than a dozen NHL players, including Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, P.K. Subban of the New Jersey Devils, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, among others.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.