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Senators’ Mark Stone takes skate to the face, somehow escapes serious injury

From Hockey News

Senators winger Mark Stone doesn’t head to the penalty box often, and he might be even more wary of committing stick infractions after a trip on Joffrey Lupul nearly resulted in Stone’s face being sliced open by Lupul’s skate.

With three minutes remaining in the first period, Lupul was battling with Stone for the puck in the neutral zone when Stone got his stick into Lupul’s skate and hauled the Maple Leafs winger to the ice. The trip of Lupul resulted in his upper body falling forward and feet kicking up into the air, with his left skate coming up and catching Stone in the face.

Stone immediately clutched his face and headed for the dressing room as referees on ice whistled the play dead because Stone had been tagged for tripping:

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The scariest part of the skate to the face in Stone’s case is how close it came to hitting him in the eyes. That had potential to be disastrous.

Stone had his penalty served by Ryan Dzingel while he went to the room for repairs, but there’s no reason for concern: Stone was able to return to the game before the first frame ended. He wasn’t really worse for wear, either. In fact, other than a knick under his nose, Stone was good to go. So good that he actually scored to kick off the third period and pushed Ottawa’s already big 4-0 lead to 5-0.

Stone likely won’t be switching to a full face shield anytime soon, but it’s hard to imagine anyone would have reason to blame him if he did.

Source: Senators’ Mark Stone takes skate to the face, somehow escapes serious injury

Report: Blues could get first outdoor game, possibly Winter Classic against Blackhawks

From Hockey News

The St. Louis Blues have never played in an outdoor game, but they could be making their outdoor debut at the Winter Classic, the NHL’s showcase outdoor contest, in 2017.

According to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford, the NHL is “finalizing discussions” to put an outdoor game in St. Louis next season at Busch Stadium, which is the home building of the MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals. Rutherford reported that details still have to be worked out, but the Cardinals are reportedly expecting to host an outdoor game at their home field on Jan. 2, which would be the first Monday of 2017.

Rutherford reported the potential opponent for the Winter Classic contest would be the Chicago Blackhawks, who are appearing in their fourth outdoor game this season against the Minnesota Wild.

News of St. Louis potentially hosting an outdoor game in 2017 comes the day after ESPN’s Scott Burnside reported Pittsburgh, which has hosted the 2011 Winter Classic, was in the running for an outdoor game next season, potentially against the rival Philadelphia Flyers.

While the Winter Classic traditionally takes place on Jan. 1, the league previously pushed the date of the game back to Jan. 2 for the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia so as to not compete with the Sunday slate of NFL games. According to Rutherford, it may actually be the NFL schedule that is putting a hold on the NHL announcing the Winter Classic venue for next season. The outdoor contest in Pittsburgh would reportedly take place at Heinz Field, where the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers play. If the field is unavailable for the Winter Classic, it could help the chances of St. Louis landing the NHL’s signature outdoor game.

An outdoor game in St. Louis would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Blues, who joined the NHL in the 1967-68 season as one of six expansion teams. he Los Angeles Kings, who were also part of that expansion, have already been awarded the 2017 All-Star Game, and an outdoor game for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh would help commemorate the event for those two franchises.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who will have their 100th anniversary next season, were long-rumored to be the frontrunners for the 2017 Winter Classic, but that may no longer be the case.

Source: Report: Blues could get first outdoor game, possibly Winter Classic against Blackhawks

Connor McDavid returns Tuesday and Calder could still be in his sights

From Hockey News

After three months on the sideline, Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid will reportedly be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and as hard as it may be to believe, the 19-year-old may still have enough time to get back in the Calder Trophy race.

Before McDavid hit the shelf following a fractured clavicle on Nov. 3, he had burst out of the gate and was the early frontrunner for the Calder. Just before his injury McDavid had gone on a seven-game point streak in which he racked up 11 points, and he was tops among all rookie scorers with five goals and 12 points in 13 games. He even earned himself the rookie of the month nod for October.

During his lengthy absence, however, McDavid has been surpassed by much of the rookie class, including Chicago’s Artemi Panarin, Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, Detroit’s Dylan Larkin and Arizona’s Max Domi. In the past three months, Panarin has widened his lead on McDavid to 34 points, Eichel now sits 22 ahead, Larkin has a 21-point margin and Domi, the last of the 30-point scoring rookies at this point in the season, is 20 points up on McDavid.

In a rookie class that’s full of bright offensive stars, the Calder race could come down to who’s atop the scoring lead when the campaign closes. With that in mind, does McDavid really have a shot at taking home the hardware at season’s end?

Before even considering McDavid’s scoring ability, there’s the matter of him adjusting back to the NHL game after being sidelined for three months. That, in and of itself, is going to be tough for McDavid to do. Beyond that, he’ll likely need to go on an absolute tear to come anywhere close to catching the top rookie scorers. However, even if he were to come back and reach a point-per-game mark upon his return, that would put McDavid at 44 points when the season closes. Given Panarin already has 46 points, it’s hard to imagine McDavid will be able to surpass the Blackhawks’ rookie, and the same goes for the other top-four rookie point-getters

If the top-four point-getting rookies were to maintain both their health and points pace, Panarin would end the campaign with 26 goals and 71 points, Eichel with 26 goals and 56 points, Larkin with 25 goals and 55 points and Domi with 22 goals and 54 points. McDavid’s pace, which is the best of any of the five rookies, would have him finishing the campaign with 17 goals and 41 points.

In order for McDavid to really make a dent in voting, he’ll likely have to get to at least 50 points this season. However, that’s much easier said than done. Getting to 50 points would require McDavid to score 1.19 points per game in the final 32 games of the campaign, which would mean his overall scoring pace would have to increase from its current .92 rate to 1.11 points per game. That would be the highest scoring rate for a 50-point rookie since Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06. That’s exclusive company and not an easy feat.

Over the past five seasons, only 21 players who’ve scored at least 50 points have had a better points per game rate than 1.10. McDavid would have to be No. 22 and the first since Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Evgeni Malkin and John Tavares managed the feat in 2013-14.

When it comes to the Calder, though, scoring isn’t all that matters. Ask Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the 2014-15 winner. How McDavid plays at both ends of the ice could factor into voting, as could his faceoff percentages and possession rates. Before going down, McDavid struggled in the circle — he had a 36.4 winning percentage over 151 draws — but he managed a 51.6 shot attempts for percentage and a shot attempts percentage nearly five percent better than his teammates.

Beyond his own personal play, though, should McDavid come back and substantially improve Edmonton’s play, it’d be hard to argue against his worthiness as one of the top rookies.

When McDavid went down, the Oilers were 4-8-0. Things definitely haven’t gotten better for Edmonton in McDavid’s absence as they’re tied with the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets at the bottom of the standings with 43 points. There’s little doubt McDavid getting back in the Oilers’ lineup will help spark Edmonton, but just how much is to be seen. If the Oilers make up the 10-point gap and catch the Pacific Division’s third-place team, the Arizona Coyotes, McDavid’s impact might factor into Calder voting. And if McDavid can return and somehow — no matter how unlikely it may sound — help the Oilers make the playoffs this season, he definitely deserves consideration for the hardware.

Fact of the matter is, though, if McDavid can find his legs quickly, continue to show flashes of brilliance and help pull the Oilers out of the league’s basement, the Edmonton faithful would take that alone. But there’s no reason not to aim a bit higher, so don’t count him out of the Calder race. McDavid has shown otherworldly talent in the past and hitting the 50-point plateau isn’t out of the question, nor is his shot at earning himself some end-of-year hardware.

Source: Connor McDavid returns Tuesday and Calder could still be in his sights

Report: New Maple Leafs logo a modernization of 1938 crest

From Hockey News

The Toronto Maple Leafs are getting set to celebrate their centennial in 2016-17, and part of doing so will be revealing a new logo to commemorate the franchise’s 100th anniversary. The logo has yet to be made public, but the Maple Leafs announced they would be showing it off for the first time during a brand new episode of The Leaf: Blueprint, which is set to air Tuesday.

Before the episode airs, however, IceThetics.co’s Chris Smith was able to get access to the logo early. And while Smith doesn’t have photos of the exact logo, he was able to provide information on what fans should expect of the new crest when it’s made public Tuesday.

Smith said the new logo is in fact a brand new design — it’s not simply a throwback — but it’s “heavily inspired by the past.” According to Smith, the template for the new logo is closest to the primary mark the Maple Leafs first used in the 1938-39 season. Fans unfamiliar with that logo may recognize it from the Maple Leafs third jersey which was used from 2001 to 2011.

Smith included two mock ups of the new logo, as well. Keep in mind, these aren’t exact, so fans should expect a few differences between the logo the Maple Leafs unveil and the one Smith has drawn up.

Toronto IceThetics logos

There are a couple of noticeable differences in the way the new logo appears to be put together. The teaser video for the logo reveal shows the font has rounded curves instead of the straight line typeface that was used in the 2011 version of this style logo. Also noticeable, and Smith shows this change in his design and preview, is the new logo removes the thicker border from the outside of the leaf. A small change, but an interesting one.

Even though the logo will be unveiled Tuesday, fans are going to have to wait a while longer to see the jerseys that will be paired with the updated look. If the logo style is any indication, though, the Maple Leafs’ new jerseys could see the return of the blue shoulder yoke on the white sweaters and a thicker color cuff, just as the uniforms had back in the late-1930s.

Source: Report: New Maple Leafs logo a modernization of 1938 crest

Getting to Know: Kings radio analyst Daryl Evans

From Hockey News

Status: Former NHL left wing from 1981-1991 with Los Angeles, Washington, and Toronto. Currently serves as radio analyst for Los Angeles.

Ht: 5-8 Wt: 185 pounds
DOB: January 12, 1961 In: Toronto, Ontario

Hockey Inspirations: “Probably to push the game on to the next generations coming. It’s been great being involved in the game on so many different levels. Now being able to give back… a lot of it is very rewarding.”

First Famous Player You Met Or Encountered: “At that time there were only six teams in the NHL. I can’t say the exact first. One of the first things that stand out to me was in ’72 watching the Team Canada play against the Russians in Maple Leaf Gardens when they played in that series in ’72 and it was a game I still remember the score. Canada won by a score of 4-2. I remember going to that game it was real special. Saw the practice in the mornings as well.”

Greatest Sports Moment(s): “Probably stepping on the ice and playing in the NHL – I think as a youngster you dream about that. And then playing in the game without a doubt the ‘Miracle on Manchester.’ Scoring the overtime goal in that game.”

Most Painful Moment: “I don’t really see anything as being painful. I guess looking at it now you’d probably say having it come to an end. But even at that different doors open up and for whatever reason I’ve been able to stay in the game. And probably more involved than I ever anticipated at this stage in my life. I don’t really have any regrets or anything disappointing about the game at all.”

Favorite Uniforms: “I think if you look at the Original Six the log that stands out the most is the Chicago Blackhawks – I still admire that logo. Also Detroit and Montreal, and the unique color combination of the purple and gold of the Kings which was a different type if uniform.”

Favorite Rinks To Play: “Going back to the Original Six – without a doubt the Canadian cities, stepping into Maple Leaf Gardens, the old Montreal Forum, Chicago creates a great environment. The way the fans get involved in Winnipeg. Even the way the game has evolved in California – the fan involvement and how much they’ve embraced the game and supported it.”

Funniest Players Encountered: “Each team has different guys. Dry sense of humor and practical jokers. I think one of the most entertaining guys I played with in the Maple Leafs organization – Jim Ralph was our goaltender down in Newmarket. He does radio with them now. Quite entertaining. Great impersonations. He was a great story teller.”

Embarrassing Hockey Memory: “I remember one where we were playing junior hockey and we had a bit of a brawl on the ice. A lot of punches being thrown and you’re just jumping from scrum to scrum going in and out of em. And I remember going into one scrum and one of my teammates – he was outnumbered by a couple of guys – So I just went in kind of throwing punches. And I think I hit my own guy [smiles]. And I remember at the end of the night he thanked me for coming in and saving his life. And I was the guy that hit [laughs]. ”

Strangest Game: “I think you look at the ‘Miracle on Manchester.’ Having the five goal deficit – definitely a strange game. When I played junior hockey there was a game that we were trailing by three goals with less than 2:00 left. Then came back and tied it and won that one in overtime. And then the very first playoff game that I played in – that was against Edmonton as well. That was a 10-8 game – and that still stands as the most goals scored in a playoff game. That was a crazy affair that went back and forth. Eighteen goals. It was fun to be on the right side of it.”

Funny Hockey Memory: “There’s so many things. All the people you come across. There’s so many different characters that you come across. Maybe watching Phil Esposito as a youngster when he came out on the ice introduced for Team Canada and he slipped on the ice. Just to kinda see – those guys are humans as well. I remember as a kid we had a chuckle about that. It brought things into perspective – even the best in the game – those types of things happen to them.”

Most Memorable Goal: “Without a doubt the ‘Miracle on Manchester.’ But I think scoring the very first goal of my career was against Chico Resch (vs Colorado Rockies). And then I remember scoring a goal in Maple Leaf Gardens. Growing up in Toronto – that was special as well.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “Just people that are honest. People that are not selfish. People that are easy-going and fun-loving. People that just enjoy life.”

Fiercest Competitors Encountered: “There’s different types. From a physical standpoint and competitiveness – just a compete level and getting involved in one on one battles on the ice. I remember playing against Wayne Gretzky and just the tenacity that he had on the puck. Harold Snepsts was a player that was hard to play against. He was a guy that didn’t have too much respect for the opposing team let alone smaller guys. He was a big enforcer type defenseman. He was a presence in front of the net. I remember taking a lot of lumber from him. Every team had all kinds of guys.”

Mark Scoop Malinowski’s latest books “Facing Nadal” and “Muhammad Ali: Portait of a Champion” are available at amazon.

Source: Getting to Know: Kings radio analyst Daryl Evans

Wings’ Larkin jets to skating record

From Hockey News

Dylan Larkin made a little history Saturday in the Music City.

Larkin, the Detroit Red Wings left winger and most recent cover boy of The Hockey News, broke a 20-year-old mark for his skating prowess at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

Larkin completed a lap in 13.172 seconds, breaking then-Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Mike Gartner’s record of 13.386 seconds back in 1996.

Gartner’s record was established six months before Larkin, 19, was even born. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Larkin became a trending topic on Twitter in Canada. His efforts also earned him some respect from another speedster, former NHLer Cliff Ronning.

However, Larkin’s record does come with an asterisk.

When Gartner established his mark 20 years ago in Boston, he was required to start from a static position at center ice. Larkin was permitted to have a skating start from the blueline. The clock only started ticking once he crossed the red line.

Still, it was an impressive performance in Nashville for the freshman, who has 15 goals and 33 points in 48 games.

Source: Wings’ Larkin jets to skating record

Los Angeles awarded 2017 All-Star Game; NHL donates $200,000 to Denna Laing; and more

From Hockey News

It was a relatively uneventful press conference for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman Saturday in the hours leading up to the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Nashville. The league unveiled a new website, the 2017 All-Star Game host and a particularly special charity donation. Other than that, Bettman more or less played tennis with reporters on site, batting down questions about expansion and John Scott, among others.

The biggest announcement of the day: it’s not like it was a secret, but it’s now official that Los Angeles will host the 2017 All-Star Game. It’s a year of anniversaries, not only the NHL’s 100th, but also the Kings’ 50th, so L.A.’s Staples Center made sense as the next host. Bettman foreshadowed “lots of centennial events in the U.S. and Canada” throughout next season.

Speaking of centennial, the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate their 100th in 2016-17, too. Does that mean a Winter Classic for the Big Smoke? Still too early to tell. Bettman said the decision hasn’t been made yet.

Another significant reveal: The league will match the Boston Bruins’ $200,000 donation to injured NWHL player Denna Laing, who suffered a significant spinal injury at the Women’s Outdoor Classic. Two of the NHL’s partners, Honda and Ticketmaster, will also donate a 2016 Honda Odyssey retrofitted to meet her special medical requirements.

It was inevitable Bettman would face questions about John Scott’s All-Star Game participation after the hoopla caused by Scott’s Players’ Tribune article, but there were no bombshells to drop.

“When John Scott won the popular vote, we announced him as the captain, and there were a number of discussions within NHL personnel or Coyotes personnel about whether or not he wanted to come,” Bettman said. “This was a campaign that was created. Maybe it was aimed at the league, maybe it was aimed at the All-Star Game, maybe it was aimed at John Scott. But he had a decision to make: did he want to be here?”

Bettman maintained his assertion that Scott was welcomed to the game the minute he decided he wanted to participate, that it was a “closed issue.”

And, really, we’ll never know whether there was a conspiracy to trade Scott and demote him. We can only speculate. Bettman didn’t budge when asked to reveal the identity of the NHL staffer who Scott claimed asked him if his children would be proud of him for participating. Bettman also said the league has not yet discussed any plan to change the All-Star Game voting process.

Expansion was an obvious hot topic Saturday. Not that the league had any significant updates to announce, however.

“The executive committee, which is the group of owners charged with making a study and going through the process and ultimately making the recommendation to the board of governors, met two weeks ago,” Bettman said. “The process is continuing, and we’re not ready to make a recommendation. That’s something for the next few months, and that recommendation can be no expansion, one team or two teams.”

The two teams currently under consideration remain Las Vegas and Quebec City. The question of Seattle was raised but quickly swatted down by Bettman, who maintains Seattle is a low priority unless the bid promises a new arena with proper hockey functionality.

“As things stand right now, there’s no prospect in the foreseeable future of a new arena in greater Seattle,” Bettman said. “It is what is is. And, frankly, right now, we’re focused on Quebec City and Las Vegas. So that’s not even on our radar screen.”

Bettman added that 2017-18 is the earliest possible expansion date for any potential franchise.

“Whatever we do, the clubs need at least a full year of figuring out how to manage their rosters and deal with the requirements of the expansion draft,” Bettman said. “So as there’s at least a year of lead time, we could make 2017-18.”

There’s no update on potential NHL Olympic participation in Pyeongchang, South Korea for 2018, either. Bettman said the NHL met with the IIHF a few months ago and was told it had a year to decide whether to send its players. The IIHF also has to work out potential expenses such as transportation and insurance for the players.

The afternoon presser also kicked off with the announcement the NHL, in partnership with Major League Baseball, is full steam ahead with a revamped NHL.com website plus an NHL app. The former will launch Sunday night, the latter Monday morning. Previews of the site revealed a clean white look, and the site and app are both geared to letting users customize their experience around their favorite teams. The opinion in this corner: the app will function a lot more like The Score’s, which is a good thing.

With the presser in the books, let’s bring on the actual hockey. The most memorable on-ice All-Star experience in many years is upon us.

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin

Source: Los Angeles awarded 2017 All-Star Game; NHL donates 0,000 to Denna Laing; and more

Rumor Roundup: Will Steven Stamkos end up in Toronto?

From Hockey News

The Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning stoked more speculation of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos joining the Leafs in the near future. Stamkos, who turns 26 in February, is eligible in July for unrestricted free agency. While he and Lightning management decline to discuss contract talks with the media, his future in Tampa Bay remains a hot topic.

While some Leafs fans are imagining Stamkos coming to Toronto via trade or free agency, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wonders if the Markham native is doing the same. The Leafs are a rebuilding club, which was painfully evident at times during that loss to the Lightning. If Stamkos was sizing up the Leafs in that game, Spector suggests he didn’t see much of a comparable to his current club.

Earlier this season, when the Lightning seemed in danger of falling out of playoff contention, there was talk suggesting Stamkos might waive his no-movement clause if still unsigned by the trade deadline. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, however, dismissed that notion, pointing to the Bolts’ recent surge in the standings.

With the Lightning looking like the club that marched to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, it makes no sense for Stamkos to request a trade now. If he leaves Tampa Bay, that decision won’t be made until the summer. Toronto fans visualizing Stamkos donning a Leafs jersey will have to wait a little longer to find out if their dream becomes reality.

CONFLICTING REPORTS ON LADD’S STATUS

Winnipeg Jets left wing and captain Andrew Ladd remains a fixture in the NHL rumor mill. His agent denied a report from earlier this week claiming contract talks had broken off, while Ladd also said he believed there was no change in the situation.

TSN’s Darren Dreger said Jets management haven’t decided to shop the 30-year-old winger, who’s eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. If Ladd does hit the trade block, Dreger believed the Florida Panthers and perhaps the Vancouver Canucks could be interested.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has a history with Ladd. As Blackhawks GM, he acquired Ladd from the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2008 trade deadline. Earlier this season, Tallon suggested he could be in the market for a scoring forward.

Since then, however, the Panthers have surged in the Eastern Conference standings. George Richards of the Miami Herald said he was told the Panthers have “zero interest” regarding Ladd, seemingly happy with their current roster. That doesn’t necessarily mean Tallon won’t be in the market for a playoff rental player or two by the trade deadline. Ladd, however, might not be one of his trade targets.

DUCKS COULD TARGET ERIKSSON

Boston Bruins right wing Loui Eriksson also remains the subject of media trade chatter. Despite his obvious value to the Bruins this season, several Boston pundits believe the 30-year-old pending free agent could be dealt for a good young defenseman if unsigned before Feb. 29.

Should the Bruins peddle Eriksson, they could dangle him to the Anaheim Ducks, who are deep in blueline depth but still lacking in experienced scoring punch up front. They could offer up defenseman Sami Vatanen, who’s a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. Currently earning over $1.2 million this season, the 24-year-old blueliner is due for a big raise, perhaps more than the Ducks can afford.

Don’t expect to see Eriksson dealt back to his former club, the Dallas Stars, by the deadline. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika, responding to a reader’s question about a possible Eriksson return, doesn’t see that happening.

MORE RUMOR ROUNDUP:

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Source: Rumor Roundup: Will Steven Stamkos end up in Toronto?

Second-half preview: 30 storylines to watch

From Hockey News

Once the all-star break is over, the race to the NHL post-season really begins and every fanbase has something to keep an eye on as the trade deadline approaches and playoff races kick into high gear.

Teams on the bubble will have to decide whether they’re buyers or sellers at the deadline, some clubs near the bottom of the standings will start selling off parts in hopes of landing the first-overall pick and a shot at 2017 top prospect Auston Matthews and some teams will stand pat with hopes that only minor moves will be necessary to take home the Stanley Cup.

We’ve already seen coaching changes and major trades, and there are some big name players who remain without contracts for next season as the Feb. 29 deadline approaches. That means they could be hot commodities on the UFA rental market. But the deadline isn’t the only major storyline. Here are 30 things to keep your eye on following the break:

ANAHEIM DUCKS: Can Ryan Getzlaf finally get going as the Ducks push for a wild-card spot or attempt to take over either the Arizona Coyotes or San Jose Sharks for a divisional berth in the playoffs? The Ducks have to find a way to get their offense clicking and Getzlaf turning his season around would have an immediate impact.

Anaheim could also be a buyer come trade deadline. If they get into the post-season, the Ducks could be a sneaky contender out of the Western Conference. Jonathan Drouin’s name has been mentioned in connection with Anaheim, and colleague Matt Larkin sees the Ducks as a potential fit for Andrew Ladd. That would be a nice fit and one that could make Anaheim a great sleeper pick.

ARIZONA COYOTES: One of the most surprising stories has been the Coyotes, and they need to keep playing at least .500 hockey down the stretch if they want to maintain their post-season position. The play of Max Domi has been inspiring, but Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been the best player on the ice on a near nightly basis for Arizona. He might not win the Norris Trophy, but he’s certainly played his way into the discussion.

It’ll be worth paying attention to the goaltending situation in Arizona down the stretch. Rookie Louis Domingue has been quite the story in the absence of starter Mike Smith. Will coach Dave Tippett go with the veteran when he returns or does Domingue’s status as the hot hand earn him starting duties?

BOSTON BRUINS: The Bruins had a mediocre offense in 2014-15, but they’re third in scoring in the NHL this season. Few would have expected that, but a big part of that turnaround has been the Bruins’ incredible play with the man advantage. Boston has had the second-fewest power play attempts with 135, yet they’ve scored the third-most goals with 35. That helps.

What could hurt Boston, though, is their blueline. Trading Dougie Hamilton in the off-season hurt, but Hamilton wanted out and there wasn’t much Boston could do. The trade deadline might be a good time for the Bruins to look at what they’re willing to give up to bring in some help on the backend.

BUFFALO SABRES: The future looks bright and the expectations weren’t that Buffalo would be challenging for a Stanley Cup this season. This season was about showing a glimmer of hope, and the Sabres have succeeded in that sense. Going forward, the Sabres will have to decide what to do with a few unrestricted free agents. Most notable is Jamie McGinn, who has had a respectable season in Buffalo.

The real story is Jack Eichel, though. He’s second in rookie scoring behind Artemi Panarin and those in the camp that Panarin has an edge on the rest of the rookie field because of his age and KHL experience may lean towards Eichel as the Calder Trophy winner. That would be a nice feather in Eichel’s cap and a nice highlight at the beginning of what looks like a promising career.

CALGARY FLAMES: The big story surrounding the Flames could have been how Karri Ramo has gone from being demoted to the AHL to Calgary’s starter. Some also would have considered Jiri Hudler’s potential as trade bait at the deadline as something to watch. Even the contract statuses Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau would have been great talking points down the stretch for the Flames. That all changed when Dennis Wideman was suspended indefinitely for making contact with linesman Don Henderson.

No one knows yet what Wideman’s fate will be, but the league announced he will have a hearing with NHL Hockey Operations Feb. 2. Had Wideman been handed a game misconduct, he could have been facing an automatic 10-game suspension. It’ll be up to the league to decide what punishment, if any, Wideman will face.

CAROLINA HURRICANES: In their final game before the all-star break, the Hurricanes beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks 5-0. Saying Carolina beat Chicago, though, is a massive understatement. The game wasn’t even close and it looked like the Hurricanes, not the Blackhawks, should have been the favorite heading into the game.

In their past 10 games, the Hurricanes are 7-2-1 and entered the break on a two-game win streak. They still sitting outside a playoff spot, though, and that leaves a number of questions. Does GM Ron Francis make a decision with regards to Eric Staal? Does Cam Ward or Eddie Lack lead the playoff push? The Hurricanes have eight roster players set to become unrestricted free agents. They’ll be a team to watch come deadline day.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: The Blackhawks are coming off of a 12-game win streak in January and sit atop the Central Division. That’s been helped along by the play of Patrick Kane, who has to be the odds-on favorite to be named league MVP, as well as the emergence of rookie Artemi Panarin as a second-line scoring threat. All seems good in Chicago, except for one thing: Kane and Panarin have accounted for almost all the Blackhawks’ offense.

Chicago’s championships in the past have been won on the backs of depth scoring. Right now, the Blackhawks appear to be a one-line team more than ever before. Chicago GM Stan Bowman hasn’t been afraid to make deadline deals before, so he might be shopping around as the Blackhawks attempt to defend their championship.

COLORADO AVALANCHE: No matter what advanced statistics say, the Avalanche just won’t go away. Colorado has been able to stay afloat in a tough Central Division and currently hold down the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Getting deep into the post-season will likely require the Avalanche to go out and get some more talent on the backend, though.

Dealing away draft picks or prospects could help the Avalanche land some talent at the deadline, but does GM Joe Sakic want to sell his future for a shot at success now? He’ll have to decide before deadline day. If he goes for it and Colorado falls from their post-season position, he could have big regrets.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: The season started out horribly and injuries derailed the rest. The Blue Jackets are so injury-riddled, in fact, that even coach John Tortorella missed two games before the all-star break with broken ribs. When’s the last time you can recall that happening?

Really, all the Blue Jackets should be hoping for is signs of a team that is starting to gel. Well, that and a prolonged period of good health for Sergei Bobrovsky. The goaltender’s past few seasons have been marred by groin injuries. It was sad to see him go down not once but twice this season when he was in the midst of really turning his campaign around. And, hey, if Columbus finishes last, maybe they land Auston Matthews. That wouldn’t be a terrible consolation prize.

DALLAS STARS: Few playoffs teams needed the break as badly as the Stars. Dallas came firing out of the gate and have looked like an offensive juggernaut all season, but the defensive issues continue to plague the Stars. Dallas is first in goals for with a whopping 162, but 18th in goals against having allowed 133.

Stars GM Jim Nill has done some great work in assembling a high-flying team that is incredibly fun to watch, but run-and-gun might not be the soundest strategy come playoff time. If Nill can find a way to acquire a solid defenseman, that could vastly improve Dallas’ chances in the post-season. That’s much, much easier said than done.

DETROIT RED WINGS: The hype surrounding Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel was off the charts entering the season, but it’s Dylan Larkin who has been one of the most impressive freshmen this season. If the season ended today, it might actually be a three-way race between Eichel, Larkin and Artemi Panarin, and it’s anybodies guess who would take home the hardware.

The Red Wings appear on their way to — surprise, surprise — yet another playoff berth. But even with the playoff streak, success in the post-season hasn’t been easy to come by. If Detroit wants to make a run in the playoffs, GM Ken Holland may want to look for offensive help. Getting a defenseman won’t hurt either, because goaltender Petr Mrazek can only do so much.

EDMONTON OILERS: Connor McDavid’s return is going to be the story of the second half of this season, and there’s no doubt about that. Before going down with a broken clavicle, McDavid five goals and 12 points in 13 games. He was starting to heat up and looked comfortable in the NHL, but the injury put a damper on everything. He’s taking contact in AHL Bakersfield and should be ready for the first game back post-break. Can he get back on track?

Fans should also watch Edmonton’s standing in the league, though. If they slip to 30th, they’ll have the best shot at landing Auston Matthews. If they get the first-overall pick, it would be the fifth time in seven seasons that Edmonton has had the top selection.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: Possibly the most lovable team in the league this season, the Panthers, led by Jaromir Jagr and, for some reason, a hoodie with Kevin Spacey’s face floating in space, are sitting atop the Atlantic Division by five points. But while Florida may look the part of a Stanley Cup contender in the standings, this isn’t a team that can afford to rest easy at the deadline.

The Panthers could use some offensive help, and Andrew Ladd’s name has been thrown around because he has connections to GM Dale Tallon from their time in Chicago. If Tallon pursues Ladd, who goes the other way? And after he has been forced to sit out the past three games, something might be in the works involving Panthers winger Brandon Pirri.

LOS ANGELES KINGS: Remember the concern about the Kings when they missed the post-season in 2014-15? Well, Los Angeles hopes you had fun while that lasted. The Kings look every bit the bruising, skillful, hope-we-don’t-play-them team they were during their past two Stanley Cup runs. The Kings are the class of the Pacific Division and the odds-on favorites to emerge from the division in the post-season.

It seems like Kings GM Dean Lombardi might be done dealing, too. He acquired Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn from Philadelphia, and Lombardi has less than $3 million to work with at the deadline. There may be an addition or two coming, but it likely won’t be major.

The Kings could very well unseat the Blackhawks as the modern-day dynasty with three Stanley Cup wins in five years to Chicago’s six.

MINNESOTA WILD: The Wild aren’t surprising anyone this season after 2014-15’s magical run to the playoffs. If Minnesota makes the post-season, it will be on the backs of their blueliners and the two-way effort that has made them one of the stingiest teams in the league.

It will be interesting to see what GM Chuck Fletcher does at the trade deadline or earlier, though. He was reportedly very interested in Ryan Johansen before a trade sent him to Nashville, and there have been rumblings of the Wild’s interest in Jonathan Drouin. That shows an interest in acquiring some scoring. Minnesota has defensive depth to spare, but who’s the odd man out?

MONTREAL CANADIENS: When does Carey Price return and how does he perform once he’s back? Those are the two biggest questions facing the Canadiens and it’s not even close. Price was in the midst of yet another MVP-type performance when he went down and his lower-body injury has plagued the Canadiens all season.

That said, even with Price healthy, the Canadiens need to do something in the interim to make sure the onus isn’t solely on Price should they make the playoffs. Does that mean gambling to acquire a big name forward? Maybe. GM Marc Bergevin has shown a proclivity for being a savvy deadline dealer. He could very well pull something off again this season.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS: Ryan Johansen has been hot in Nashville and the pairing of Roman Josi and Shea Weber might be the best defensive unit in the NHL. If the Predators are post-season bound, it appears it will be as a wild-card entrant, but they could be a sneaky team come playoff time.

The real concern for Nashville, though, is goaltender Pekka Rinne. Once considered one of the best in the league, he’s looked nothing more than average this season. Good games have been few and far between for Rinne. He needs to turn it around somehow before the post-season starts because as good as Carter Hutton has looked at times, the Predators shouldn’t be relying on him in the playoffs.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Who had the Devils on the cusp of a wild-card berth at the all-star break? For that reason alone, rookie NHL bench boss John Hynes deserves serious consideration for the Jack Adams Award. Overall, though, the Devils are in a strange position.

They could very well make the playoffs, but the team, as currently constructed, might be better off being broken up for parts. There are seven players set to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end and most of them will likely be seeking raises. There’s potential for a nice return on some of the UFAs-to-be, too, like Lee Stempniak, who is on pace for a near 60-point season. His previous career-high was 48. Ray Shero is going to have a tough time in his first trade deadline as Devils GM.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Travis Hamonic asking out of New York was one of the most shocking pieces of news of the early season, but both the Islanders and Hamonic have handled the situation incredibly well. Matter of fact, the way Hamonic has played in what is likely his final season as an Islander has probably upped his trade value.

Don’t expect him to be moved at the deadline, though. Johnny Boychuk is injured, which means the Islanders need big minutes from Hamonic during the playoff push. New York doesn’t risk losing him for nothing. The same can’t be said for Kyle Okposo, though, who is an unrestricted free agent next season. He could be a trade chip at the deadline.

NEW YORK RANGERS: The Rangers’ window of opportunity to take home a Stanley Cup with Henrik Lundqvist in goal is closing, but it’s hard to see what first-year GM Jeff Gorton can really do to shake up his roster heading into the playoffs. Keith Yandle, acquired at last season’s deadline, is an option to be moved out of town. He’ll draw interest, but the return likely won’t be close to what the Rangers gave up to acquire him.

Fear the slide, though. There are more than a few teams nipping at the Rangers’ heels. Carolina, New Jersey and Pittsburgh are all climbing the standings, and if New York falls into a wild-card spot, they could have to deal with edging out Boston, Detroit, Montreal or Tampa Bay for one of two spots.

OTTAWA SENATORS: It’s only a three-point difference between the Senators and Penguins for the final wild-card spot, but Pittsburgh has two games in hand. That doesn’t bode well for Ottawa, nor does the fact they enter the break 4-6-0 in their past 10 games.

Playoffs or not, though, Erik Karlsson’s minutes are the real story. He has played nearly a half-minute more per game than workhorse defenseman Ryan Suter, and Karlsson has almost a full minute more per game than Drew Doughty, who sits third in average ice time at 28:01 per game. As Karlsson’s ice time continues to climb, he threatens to reach the 30-minutes per game average. That would make him the first player to do so since Chris Pronger in 1999-00.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Jakub Voracek’s season has been disappointing after a breakout season in 2014-15, but there are bright spots for the rest of the Flyers. Captain Claude Giroux is still playing like one of the best two-way centers in the league, Wayne Simmonds continues to be an offensive threat and could come close to 30 goals this season and goaltenders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth have been a good duo. But, above all, Shayne Gostisbehere is one of the most fun stories of the season.

Gostisbehere has eight goals, 22 points and three overtime game-winners in 29 games. His scoring pace is up there with the Larkins and Eichels of the rookie class, and he could be a sleeper pick for the Calder Trophy. He entered the all-star break on a four-game point streak, over which time he has scored one goal and six points.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: It sure doesn’t look like anything is wrong with Sidney Crosby anymore. In his past seven games, Crosby has five goals and 10 points. After struggling to begin the season, he’s now up to 17 goals and 41 points on the year and is a near point-per-game player. Realistically, he could end the season with 80 or more points. While we watch Crosby work, though, also keep an eye on Phil Kessel.

It seemed like Kessel wasn’t fitting in with Pittsburgh, but he had three goals in three games heading into the break and is on pace to come close to 30 goals this season. He was expected to reach that mark at the very least, and it’s still in his sights.

SAN JOSE SHARKS: Early season trade rumors had Patrick Marleau asking his way out of San Jose, but those seem to have died down to the point they’ve almost been forgotten. The Sharks, led by Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns, are right in the thick of the Pacific Division post-season race.

Martin Jones hasn’t looked out of place in his first season as a full-time starting netminder, and he seems like a good fit in San Jose. If he can catch fire in the playoffs, we might be looking at a Sharks team that gets through the first round and plays for the Pacific title.

ST. LOUIS BLUES: It’s taken the entire season, but the Blues are almost entirely healthy. Jaden Schwartz is working his way back, Jake Allen could be back in a matter of weeks and no other major pieces — fingers crossed — are on the shelf. St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock might finally get a real look at what he has to work with come playoffs. That’ll be important, too, because it’s likely that Hitchcock’s future rides on the playoffs.

The Blues have been ousted from the playoffs in the first round for three straight years and Hitchcock’s job was interviewed for by Mike Babcock in the off-season. Babcock went to Toronto and Hitchcock got a one-year deal. Without a deep run, Hitchcock could be out the door at season’s end.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Things have been quiet in Tampa Bay. Nothing to see here. Well, nothing interesting, unless you deem one of the generation’s best goal scorers potentially leaving via free agency and an up-and-coming third-overall pick demanding a trade worth talking about. But who cares about that, right?

The most talked about thing surrounding the Lightning for the next few months is going to be Steven Stamkos’ free agent status, with Jonathan Drouin’s trade demand a close second. Drouin could be resolved by the end of February, but don’t expect Stamkos’ situation to have a conclusion until nearly July.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: It sounds terrible, but this season has gone just about as well for the Maple Leafs as they could have hoped. Heading into the trade deadline with eight unrestricted free agents, and most of those are playing well enough to draw at least a decent return.

James Reimer is the best bet for a big return Toronto has, but it’s hard to say if the Maple Leafs will be all right with removing Jonathan Bernier’s safety net. After that, each of P-A Parenteau, Michael Grabner and Brad Boyes could be worth a look from teams looking to stock up for the playoffs. This could all end with the Maple Leafs landing Auston Matthews, too.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS: What do you do if you’re Vancouver? Two points out of a playoff spot with an aging roster and a window that is only barely open, if open at all. The Sedin twins aren’t getting any younger and they’re not likely to be traded out of Vancouver anytime soon, so GM Jim Benning has to build around them while also planning for the future.

It’s hard to see Benning selling the farm to try and make any deep runs. If anything, he’ll stand pat, hope the Canucks have enough to make it into the post-season and continue to build through the draft with the hope that the Canucks are back to a top-tier competitor before the Sedins are too old to continue providing top-line contributions.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS: The Mike Richards reclamation project was a smart move by the Capitals, and the risk there greatly outweighed the reward. The Capitals have their issues, sure, but you’d be hard-pressed to think of any team that could realistically not only hang with but defeat Washington in a seven-game series.

Braden Holtby got a big-money deal in the off-season and he’s earned every single cent of that contract. Alex Ovechkin continues to be one of the greatest goal scorers to ever put on a pair of skates. Evgeny Kuznetsov is emerging as a star before he’s even near his prime. Things are good in Washington, but Barry Trotz has never made it to the third round of the post-season. This looks like it could be his year, though.

WINNIPEG JETS: The Jets season isn’t done quite yet, but there’s a better chance of Winnipeg missing the post-season than there is of them pulling of an incredible run to earn a wild-card or divisional berth. With that knowledge, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has to make some extremely tough choices, and that starts with captain Andrew Ladd and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

Cheveldayoff will likely need to part ways with one or the other. He’ll have to gauge the likelihood of either player re-signing in Winnipeg and go from there. If he doesn’t have a new deal for either before the deadline, though, Cheveldayoff risks losing one or both for nothing in the off-season.

Source: Second-half preview: 30 storylines to watch

Report: Los Angeles to host 2017 All-Star Game

From Hockey News

The Los Angeles Kings will be celebrating their 50th anniversary by hosting next season’s All-Star Game.

While it hasn’t been officially announced, the NHL is likely to name the Kings the host of the 2017 all-star festivities. It had been long-rumored that Los Angeles was in the running to get the game, but TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported Thursday afternoon the league is “expected” to make the announcement of the Kings as the host.

Should the Kings officially be named hosts of the game, it will be the third time in franchise history that the city and team has been the site of the weekend’s celebrations. It would also be the fourth time the game has been hosted in California, as San Jose played host in 1997. The first All-Star Game in Los Angeles happened in 1981, and the Kings hosted the game in their current arena, Staples Center, as recently as 2002. More than 18,000 fans were in attendance.

If this season’s All-Star Game format remains for the 2017 contest, it would be the third different variation of the All-Star Game the city has seen. The 1981 game featured the Campbell Conference facing off against the Wales Conference. The 2002 game pitted the World All-Stars against the North American All-Stars.

It’s impossible to know exactly which cities were in the running, but there were some reports earlier in the season that Toronto could potentially play host to the game to coincide with the Maple Leafs’ 100th anniversary. However, Toronto could still very well play host to an outdoor contest to celebrate their centennial.

Source: Report: Los Angeles to host 2017 All-Star Game