FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson ran the gamut of emotions starring for the Vancouver Canucks.
Playoff highs. Crushing defeats. And a miserable 2022-23 season.
Despite this week's stunning news one would be moving on from the West Coast, they will get a few more chances to skate alongside each other.
Traded to the New York Islanders in Monday's blockbuster deal, Horvat is still set to suit up for the Pacific Division as part of the NHL's all-star festivities.
"It's gonna be fun and weird and awesome at the same time," Vancouver's former captain said Thursday at the league's sun-kissed media day accented by Florida's Atlantic Coast serving as a postcard backdrop. "I don't really know how to approach it or how to talk about it."
"The last ride, I guess," said Pettersson, seated a few metres to his ex-teammate's left. "It is what it is."
There were plenty of rumours surrounding Horvat's future with the club that picked him ninth overall at the 2013 draft as the Canucks' disastrous campaign lurched forward.
The 27-year-old is putting in a banner year, having already matched his career-high for goals (31) set last season and chugging along at a 90-point pace.
Vancouver felt it went as far as it could with a contract offer for the pending unrestricted free agent.
Horvat, meanwhile, felt he was worth a lot more.
A trade seemed inevitable, but when it was announced the Canucks had shipped their leader to New York for forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty — plus a first-round pick — the news still came as a shock.
"You never think about getting a trade call — ever," said Horvat, who has his wife and young family with him in South Florida. "To actually get one, it was definitely weird. I really didn't know how to take it."
The London, Ont., native signed his first Islanders jersey sporting his new digits — No. 14 instead of No. 53 — for a fan Thursday afternoon.
"Had to really concentrate to write 14 instead of 53," Horvat said with a grin.
Pettersson, less enthusiastic a few metres away, said the rumblings surrounding his now-former teammate's future prepared him for what was to come.
"It's nothing I can control," said the 24-year-old Swede. "Obviously, everybody thought things would play out differently, but (it didn't).
"Now you can just look ahead and not think of what could have happened."
Horvat will lace up his skates for the Pacific Division against the Central in Saturday's first all-star semifinal. If they make the final, they could face a couple members of Horvat's new club should the Metro Division also advance. He'll also take part in Friday's skills competition
"It still hasn't really sunk in yet," Horvat said of the trade. "It's been tough, but I'll obviously cherish my time in Vancouver.
"It's sad, but I'm really excited for this new adventure."
He's also a little uneasy at the prospect of walking into a new locker room after getting traded for the first time in his life.
"Really anxious to meet the guys and get my bearings,” Horvat said. "(All-star week) is great, but I kind of want to get back it."
"I'm so nervous," he added. "Really, I am. It's a city that I don't know a ton about yet. I know a couple of the guys, but just meeting all the new players and getting used to the new systems and just everything — the culture there. It's really nerve-racking, I'm not gonna lie. This is different for me."
Horvat said Henrik and Daniel Sedin — the Canucks legends who mentored him and passed the leadership torch after their retirements — reached out after the deal to Long Island.
"They were very complimentary of me and thanked me for all my time there," Horvat said. "And I thanked them for everything that they've done for me. They groomed me to be the player and person I am."
And he'll will get a few more chances to skate alongside Pettersson.
"Unless we join teams again later down in our careers," Horvat said. "Really excited to see him."
There was a sense from both players it wasn't supposed to end this way.
"Tough to see it happen,” Pettersson added. "But business is business.
"At least we get one more game — and hopefully two more games."
MCDAVID LOOKS BACK
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid was asked to reminisce about the 2015 NHL draft in Florida when he was selected No. 1.
"Full circle … eight years later," said the NHL's leader in goals and points. "My draft day, we actually rented Sea-Doos and we were bombing around out there with my family."
Toronto's Mitch Marner (fourth overall), Colorado's Mikko Rantanen (10th overall) and Anaheim's Troy Terry (148th overall) are the other 2015 draftees taking part in this year's all-star game.
Dallas Stars head coach Peter DeBoer, who's leading the Central Division this weekend, got his NHL start in Florida with the Panthers in 2008 before getting fired after three seasons.
"First NHL job, kind of flamed out after three years," he said before adding with a laugh: "When I hit the edge of town, I'm not sure many people here thought I'd be back coaching an all-star game."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Kim Davis sees a change in hockey from when she was a girl growing up in Chicago. Back then, she said, the sport didn’t seem like a place for Black girls like her.
“There were no intentional messages that said the sport was for me, or for us,” said Davis, the NHL’s executive vice president of social impact, growth and legislative affairs.
That is slowly changing, Davis said.
She was hired in 2017 to lead diversity and inclusion initiatives in a league that has been criticized for its efforts in those areas. As the NHL prepares for its All-Star celebration in South Florida, its attempts to increase diversity continue to attract attention, not all of it positive.
Some have questioned the NHL's commitment to change, and others have resisted some of its diversity efforts. Davis said the league hopes to combat criticism by holding itself accountable and “proving people wrong.”
“We don't mind the hard questions being asked,” Davis said, “as long as the assessment is fair."
As the start of Black History Month coincided with the All-Star events, the NHL debuted a mobile museum that highlights minority and underrepresented contributors to the game, from Angela James, who was the first Black woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, to Kevin Weekes, the former NHL goalie who became the first Black former player to be a hockey analyst on national television.
“Inclusion is what’s most important because you can be diverse, but if you’re not inclusive, what’s the point of having diversity?” said Jeff Scott, the NHL’s vice president for community development and growth, who helped with the museum’s creation. “What we’re showing here with this experience is the representation of access and opportunities.”
Scott, who is Black, mentioned that hockey did not appear to be an option for him growing up. The goal of the museum, which is set up inside a bus that the league plans to bring to all 32 NHL markets, is to help eliminate some of the same barriers to entry into the sport that existed when he was young.
"Had I known that there was an option, or there were people out there that look like me," Scott said, “I may have been more inclined to do that.”
The league in October released an internal demographic study of its staff and 32 teams. The report found that the NHL’s workforce is 83.6% white with men making up 62% of the total, based on the 4,200 people who participated in a voluntary and anonymous survey (about 67% of all employees). More than 90% of the league’s players and nearly all of its coaches and officials are white.
Davis said the league plans to update the survey every two years to mark its progress.
“We knew our demographics would be controversial at best,” Davis said, “but we wanted to be transparent because we are holding ourselves, first of all, accountable to the change.”
By the time the next report is released, Davis said she hopes both fans and employees feel more welcomed by the league.
“The word I like to use is intentionality,” Davis said. “We’re being intentional about making sure that people who otherwise have not seen the sport of hockey as something that was accessible to them, see it as accessible.”
One of those ways is through the NHL's “Pathway to Hockey" summit, which encourages newcomers to learn about hockey and consider careers in the NHL by telling the stories of people who work for the league.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and potential presidential candidate, criticized the league's original advertisement of the summit, calling it discriminatory. The ad noted that participants must identify as female, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+ and/or disabled.
“We do not abide by the woke notion that discrimination should be overlooked if applied in a politically popular manner or against a politically unpopular demographic,” Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary, said in a statement. “We are fighting all discrimination in our schools and our workplaces, and we will fight it in publicly accessible places of meeting or activity. We call upon the National Hockey League to immediately remove and denounce the discriminatory prohibitions it has imposed on attendance to the 2023 ‘Pathway to Hockey’ summit.”
The NHL, after revising the post, held the summit in Fort Lauderdale as planned, with more than 120 attendees, Davis said. She estimated that the participants had an average age of 25.
As recently as five years ago, Davis added, the league likely wouldn't have been able to attract a diverse pool of people in that age group.
“When you're not visible, a lot of times you're nonexistent,” Scott said. “We as a league are hyper-focused on what the future and growth of our game looks like while also sustaining and maintaining our current fan base."
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — There have been 296 players listed as defensemen who have appeared in the NHL so far this season.
Only six are All-Stars.
Such is the reality for those who play hockey’s most thankless position, one where a player is rarely called upon to score and usually gets noticed only for screwing up. The format of the NHL All-Star Game — where teams will play 3-on-3 in a tournament between teams representing divisions — doesn’t really spark an overwhelming need for defensemen.
It’s about scoring, flair, finesse, getting to open space and making the world’s best goaltenders sometimes look like sieves.
There are some gritty guys in Sunrise, Florida, this weekend, sure. But at the All-Star Game, especially under these rules, grit need not apply.
And that means a bunch of All-Star-caliber players who play on the blue line might be on a beach somewhere this weekend, but not the beach events for All-Stars in South Florida.
“It's just part of it," said Chicago defenseman Seth Jones, now a five-time All-Star selection. “I think you've seen a lot of defensemen have success in the 3-on-3. Obviously, some of the more electric players overall are forwards."
The six defenseman picks this year — and it was five, until an injury replacement was named Thursday — is, based on the lists of past rosters provided by the NHL, an all-time All-Star low. There were seven last year, 10 in 2019 and 2020, 11 in 2018 and 12 in both 2016 and 2017.
“I didn't know that, first off," said defenseman Cale Makar of the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. “But I think it's tough. Obviously, there could be 10 to 12 defensemen here. It's just the way the voting is now. That's how it goes. It's very cool to be recognized."
There wasn't going to be any defenseman standing out on the Atlantic Division team on Saturday — because there wasn't going to be any defenseman on the Atlantic Division roster.
That would have been an NHL first, an All-Star team without an All-Star defenseman. But the league fixed that Thursday, when Buffalo's Rasmus Dahlin was announced as the replacement for injured Sabres teammate Tage Thompson. Dahlin certainly earned the nod, with 55 points in 49 games, 24 of those points on the power play. No defenseman has more this season.
“It's fun to watch him," Makar said. “He's so smart."
Adam Fox of the New York Rangers is the lone defenseman from the Metropolitan Division, getting his trip to All-Star weekend through a fan vote. San Jose’s Erik Karlsson — by far the leading scorer among those at his position with 66 points so far this season — is the only defenseman from the Pacific Division.
The Central Division at least has some real representation. It has three defensemen on the 11-player roster — Jones, Makar and Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey.
“It's a huge honor, first and foremost, for me," Morrissey said. “I look at the names that are here — defensemen, forwards, goalies — and it's pretty cool to be in that company. There's a lot of players who could be here, too, that aren't here. The league's so talented and there's so many good players, so many good defensemen too, who aren't here. But it's a big honor to be one of those guys and enjoy my first All-Star game."
Morrissey is an avid stick collector. A neat perk of his All-Star trip: He's going to take another shot at getting a stick from Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby. He's been unsuccessful in past attempts.
“I'll try it," Morrisey said.
The numbers show how defensemen get the short end of the hockey stick when it comes to being able to tout being an All-Star. Out of all the players who have logged at least one game in the NHL this season, 9.2% of the goaltenders are All-Stars, 5.5% of the forwards are All-Stars — but only 2% of the defensemen.
All-Star weekends have never exactly been geared toward showcasing great defensemen. They’ve handed out an All-Star MVP award 51 times and it’s been won by a defenseman exactly twice – Ray Bourque in 1996 and Bobby Orr in 1972.
Wayne Gretzky has three MVP awards by himself. So does Mario Lemieux. And Makar was asked if he'll have a shot at being the leading scorer Saturday — which would likely give him a chance at MVP honors.
“Yeah, that won't be happening," Makar said. “I think I can almost guarantee that."
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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — New Jersey Devils players watch from the bench often and marvel at some of the things Jack Hughes can do on the ice.
“Every game, at least a couple times, I’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, that guy’s amazing,'” forward Michael McLeod said. “He just gets it done every night.”
The same goes in Buffalo, where Rasmus Dahlin described Sabres teammate Tage Thompson's development as “a ticking time bomb.” And in Dallas, where coach Peter DeBoer lay awake dreaming of coaching Jason Robertson with the Stars.
While being an All-Star is old hat for the NHL's old guard of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and even unquestioned best player in the world Connor McDavid, the festivities this weekend in South Florida are a showcase for the league's next generation of stars, led by Hughes and Robertson now that Thompson is out with injury and replaced by Dahlin. Hughes is an All-Star for the second consecutive season and Robertson for the first time, and their emergence could upend the way the standings — and leaderboards — look for years to come.
“Once you establish yourself as an NHL player, the next step is how you figure out how to try to win,” said Hall of Famer, two-time MVP and six-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Messier. “It’s been fascinating to me to see these players going through that process of becoming not only NHL players but bona fide superstars, but more importantly how they’re trying to figure out how to win in this league.”
With Thompson, Robertson and Hughes all in the top 10 in goals and points, it's no coincidence each player's respective team is in the playoff race at the break. So are the surprising Seattle Kraken, the only team without an All-Star after rookie Matty Beniers was injured, but they'll need him more down the stretch to make it in their second season of existence.
The Devils are on pace to play playoff hockey for the first time since 2018 and just the second in 11 years thanks in large part to Hughes, who trails only McDavid, Boston's David Pastrnak, Colorado's Mikko Rantanen and Thompson in the goal-scoring race. Mike Rupp, who won the Cup with New Jersey in 2003, expected Hughes to produce at a 100-point pace but did not anticipate his scoring to become so meaningful this season.
“He’s scoring in big moments,” said Rupp, an NHL Network analyst who will see Hughes up close this weekend in Sunrise. “It’s the way he’s doing it. He’s carrying his team at certain times. He’s pushing his team along, Jack and Tage, (too). And I think that is the incredible part is they’re not just great talents: They’re great talents, and they seem like they’ve got nerves of steel.”
Thompson's nerves and playmaking ability could be on display in the playoffs if Buffalo can finish strong and knock either Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins or Ovechkin's Washington Capitals out of a wild-card spot. The Sabres have by far the league's longest playoff drought at 11 seasons, and if they snap it, Thompson will be a big part of it, even before starting a $51 million, seven-year contract he was rewarded with last summer.
Messier credited Thompson for getting stronger in the offseason, augmenting the hands that made the now-25-year-old a 38-goal scorer in 2021-22 and putting him on track for more than 50 this season. Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban, who experienced Thompson's growth firsthand from playing against him several times the past five years before retiring and joining Messier as an ESPN analyst, sees him as a taller version of Hughes with the same level of skill.
“What separates him from a lot of players in the league, and is going to separate him from a lot of players in the league going forward, is his ability at that size to do everything at top speed (with) his range, his skill with the puck, his skating ability,” Subban said. “He has all the tools to be a dominant player in this league for a long time.”
So does Dahlin, who probably should have been an All-Star in the first place. The Swede who was the top draft pick in 2018 a year before Hughes went first ranks second among defensemen in goals and points this season.
Like Thompson, Robertson got a lucrative extension before opening night. The 23-year-old from California, who is Filipino American and hopes to be a role model for players of Asian descent, has a big personality that matches his play and could soon be one of the faces of the league.
Coming off a breakout 41-goal season, Robertson has put on a show this season with 66 points in 51 games.
“You kind get used to it, and you almost have to sit and think about it after about how special it is what you’re witnessing,” DeBoer said. “It's unbelievable. He’s making it look easy.”
And, along with Hughes and Thompson, he's making it easier for the NHL not to lean on Crosby and Ovechkin, both of whom broke in more than 15 years ago.
"Obviously they're all-time greats, but it was kind of just them,” Rupp said. “It was a couple guys that had to really carry the league. (Now) there’s a ton of guys carrying it, so I think that puts the league in a very healthy spot with superstars.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Stefan Noesen had a goal and an assist to help lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
Sebastian Aho, Brent Burns, Derek Stepan and Jordan Martinook also scored for the Hurricanes, who have won seven games in a row. Antti Raanta made 29 saves.
Alex Tuch scored the lone goal for Buffalo. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 29 saves.
“We’ve played pretty consistently,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Our guys work really hard and that’s the cornerstone of our group, contributions up and down the lineup.”
The Hurricanes completely dominated the Sabres out of the gates, taking control of the game and jumping out to an early 3-0 lead.
“It felt like that was huge for us,” Aho said. “It was almost the game right there.”
Aho opened the scoring on the power play 2:35 into the game, finishing a pass through the crease from Teuvo Teravainen for a tap-in. Aho extended his hot streak and has goals in six consecutive games.
Noesen had a tap-in of his own midway through the first period on a feed from Martin Necas.
Burns made it 3-0 with 7:13 left in the first, shooting at an open net following a terrific setup by Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Tuch got the Sabres on the board with 5:15 left in the first on a wrist shot from the right circle. It was his 24th goal of the season.
Things went from bad to worse late in the second period for Buffalo. Sabres leading scorer Tage Thompson left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. Thompson had been trying to play through injury in recent days and missed practice on Monday. Thompson has 34 goals and 68 points in 50 games. The injury puts his status for this weekend’s NHL All-Star Game in jeopardy.
“Never got in a rhythm and obviously we played a very good hockey team and a capable hockey team,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “It didn’t matter who we played tonight. That result was going to be not a favorable one for lots of the reasons that were well within our control.”
Buffalo outshot Carolina 8-1 to open the third period but was unable to get on the board before Stepan made it 4-1. Stepan picked up his fifth goal of the season with a deke around Luukkonen at the top of the crease.
Martinook added an empty-net goal with 1:41 remaining.
Sabres forward Jeff Skinner played in his 900th career game. He’s the 63rd active NHL player to play in 900 or more games. Skinner originally entered the league with Carolina after being chosen seventh overall by the Hurricanes in 2010.
Hurricanes: After the All-Star break, travel home to play the New York Rangers on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Sabres: After the All-Star break, host the Calgary Flames on Saturday, Feb. 11, before heading across the country on a three-game road trip.
Bruce Boudreau will have a piece of the Vancouver Canucks with him in his home after a Canucks fan sent him a custom “Bruce, there it is” jersey.
Boudreau may have only been the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks for a little over 13 months, but he made a unique impact on Canucks fans.
Typically when an NHL coach gets fired, fans are all too willing to boot that coach out the door, as it usually comes after an extended period of falling short. In fact, the fans are normally the ones calling for the coach to get fired in the first place.
Not this time.
Canucks fans fell in love with Boudreau partly because he kicked off his coaching tenure in Vancouver with a seven-game winning streak and nine-game point streak but also because of his genial and gregarious personality. He cracked jokes in post-game interviews, gleefully discussed his love of professional wrestling, and was willing to make ludicrous Cameo videos for Canucks fans.
Boudreau became so beloved so quickly that fans came up with a chant just for him at Canucks games: “Bruce, there it is!” to the rhythm of Tag Team’s 90’s hit “Whoomp! (There it is).”
That led to one Canucks season ticket holder with a passion for jerseys embracing the “Bruce, there it is” chant and getting his own custom jersey made with the slogan, with the number “15” taking the place of the word “is” in the popular chant.
“I figured it was a funny ‘positive’ follow up to the ‘Thank you Jim’ jersey,” said Chester. “I originally got it last Christmas during the initial seven-game winning streak.”
Chester even got the jersey signed by Boudreau at the final home game of the 2021-22 season, with the Canucks’ cameras catching the moment.
Though Boudreau initially said he didn’t like the “Bruce, there it is” chant, it was primarily because he didn’t want to pull focus away from the players as they went on a phenomenal run under Boudreau in the 2021-22 season.
Boudreau came to appreciate it, particularly at the end of his time in Vancouver, as fans serenaded him with the chant during his final games as head coach of the Canucks.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve only been here a year, but it’ll go down in my memory books, out of the 48 years I’ve played and coached, as the most incredible thing I’ve experienced on a personal level — other than winning championships, of course. It’s very touching.”
After Boudreau’s wife, Crystal, shared a message on Twitter thanking Vancouver, Chester reached out, wondering if Boudreau wanted the jersey.
“I asked if it would mean anything if I wanted to gift this to them,” said Chester. “I figured it might mean a lot more to them than me at this point.”
Crystal Boudreau happily accepted the offer and the jersey arrived at their home on Wednesday.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced Wednesday.
The Knights termed the procedure Tuesday as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”
This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.
But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.
Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.
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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (AP) — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested early Wednesday morning in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.
Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff's Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released later Wednesday on $500 bond.
The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette's arrest and gathering additional information.
According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette's illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.
The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.
Online jail and court records didn't list an attorney for Brunette.
Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.
The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.
The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.
NEW YORK — New Jersey centre Jack Hughes, Boston right-wing David Pastrnak and Seattle defenceman Vince Dunn have been named the NHL’s three stars for January.
Hughes led the league with 13 goals and 23 points in 13 games and ranked second with 67 shots on goal to propel the Devils to a 9?2-2 January.
He had at least a point in 12 of 13 games, including each of his last eight to close the month (seven goals, eight assists).
Hughes recorded nine multi-point games, including four straight to end January, four multi-goal performances and two three-point efforts.
Pastrnak shared the league lead with 13 goals and placed third overall with 21 points in 14 games to power the Bruins to a 10-3-1 January en route to becoming the fastest team in NHL history to reach the 80-point milestone (47 games).
Dunn topped defencemen with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 15 games and tied for the league lead among all skaters with a plus-18 rating to lift the Kraken from fifth to first place in the Pacific Division on the strength of an NHL-best 11-3-1 January.
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was named January's rookie of the month with six wins in nine starts (6-2-1), a 3.05 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.
TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs feel like they can keep up with the NHL-leading Boston Bruins. They just need to do it for three consecutive periods.
Pavel Zacha scored twice in the third as Boston surged past the Maple Leafs 5-2 on Wednesday. After a scoreless first period, Toronto trailed 2-1 at the second intermission before the Bruins blew the game open.
"I thought we were with them nearly the whole way," said Leafs forward Mitch Marner, who had a power-play goal in the second. "Just in the third, I don't know if I'd call it cheating but we were pushing hard and gave up a couple of odd-man chances and it cost us."
Calle Jarnkrok had a goal in the third to keep Toronto (31-13-8) in the game. Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said that although Boston is 13 points ahead of his team heading into the all-star break, he feels that in a head-to-head matchup, the Atlantic Division rivals are close.
"The margins are thin," said Keefe, who noted that the Bruins' goal differential is 41 goals better than the next best team in the league. "It's a significant gap between them and the rest of the league when you look at the season in its entirety to this point.
"But when you're in the game, you're right there. That's what's tough."
Ilya Samsonov stopped 24 shots in his eighth consecutive game in net for Toronto. He said he has been a little sick recently but Keefe was confident the all-star break would do Samsonov good.
"It's February in Ontario," said Keefe. "Everybody's battling something."
Derek Forbort and Brandon Carlo both had goals in the second as Boston (39-7-5) snapped a three-game winless streak. A.J. Greer's goal early in the third stood as the winner.
Goaltender Linus Ullmark made 33 saves for the win in net.
Of the four Bruins scorers, only Zacha has double digits in goals this season, with his two on Wednesday lifting him to 11. Carlo said it's important for Boston to count on its depth players for offence too.
"We all want to contribute in that aspect when we can," said Carlo, who has two goals on the season. "It's great when you do get the result from it. I think it gives the rest of the guys a boost as well.
"We want to be a great support system to the guys who are scoring all the time and occasionally do our part too."
After a scoreless first period, Forbort snapped home a short-handed goal 6:57 into the second.
Marner replied 2:28 later. After a long leading pass off the boards from Samsonov, Marner skated through the faceoff circle and snapped a shot past Ullmark to tie it 1-1.
Carlo re-established Boston's one-goal lead a little over three minutes later, deflecting a pass by Samsonov from a wide angle.
Early in the third, Toronto centre David Kampf had his arm around a hard-charging Greer and let go of his own stick to avoid taking a penalty. Greer took advantage of the opening and snapped a shot past Samsonov to make it 3-1.
"We've got to be dialed in in every little detail and just a lot of execution is needed," said Leafs captain John Tavares.
Jarnkrok swatted in a rebound off of Ullmark's pads after a shot from Mark Giordano deflected out to the slot at 8:38.
Jarnkrok's goal was still being announced over the public address system when Zacha shed his defender and wired a shot from the point past Samsonov to restore Boston's two-goal lead.
Zacha put away his second of the night 3:11 later. Standing just a few feet from Samsonov's crease, he dropped to a knee to one-time a pass from David Krejci into the net.
"I think that line is very dynamic," said Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. "It's one of the most creative lines in the league.
"(Zacha's) a little bit of a glue guy that has to do a lot of the dirty work, so to speak, drive the middle lane, be the first guy on the forecheck, first guy in the back check."
TAVARES PUNK'D — Tavares celebrated his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday with two assists in Toronto's 5-1 win over Washington. Timothy Liljegren decided to have a little fun at his captain's expense after the game, awarding the team's MVP belt to Giordano instead of Tavares. Giordano said on Wednesday he had intended to give a long speech to really rub salt in Tavares's wound but when he looked around the room he knew he had to give the belt to its proper recipient.
"The joke got a few guys and they were already pretty upset that we didn't give it to John so I had to turn it over pretty quick," laughed Giordano.
UP NEXT — It was both teams' final game before the all-star break.
Toronto won't play again until Feb. 10 when the Maple Leafs travel to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.
The Bruins won't play again until Feb. 11 when Boston hosts the Capitals.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.
Jay Woodcroft is in a unique position.
The Edmonton Oilers head coach has a front-row seat — and behind-the-scenes access — to the daily process of greatness going to work.
And even in a season where Connor McDavid looks poised to reach statistical heights not seen in nearly three decades, Woodcroft concedes there are times hockey's best is taken for granted.
"Top of his field," the Oilers' second-year bench boss said of Edmonton's captain. "You almost become numb to the great things that he does because he just does it every day. I would compare that to someone who lives at the foot of Mount Everest.
"You don't appreciate the magnificence that you're seeing."
McDavid has certainly been magnificent this season.
The 26-year-old heads into the NHL all-star break with a league-leading 92 points in 50 games — 16 more than teammate Leon Draisaitl, a distant second in the overall scoring race.
McDavid is on pace to register 151 points in 2022-23, the most since Mario Lemieux's 161 in 1995-96 and two better than Jaromir Jagr's total from the same season.
He's also on course for 67 goals — two short of Lemieux in the mid-1990s and two better than Alex Ovechkin's 65 put up in 2007-08.
But despite McDavid's name dotting the scoresheet almost every time the Newmarket, Ont., product hits the ice, there's a sense his bar-raising performance isn't getting the appropriate level of attention.
"If he was that dominant in the NFL, NBA or MLB, he'd be talked about way more," New York Rangers forward Barclay Goodrow said. "I don't think there's another player in the four major sports leagues as dominant."
Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk remembers cringing at the thought of having to play the Oilers nine times during the NHL's division-only 2020-21 season shortened by COVID-19.
Twice in 82 games is enough.
"To just see how far ahead he is of the pack, I think we need to talk about it more," Tkachuk said. "I feel like everybody's just saying, 'Oh, that's what we expect.'"
John Tavares said McDavid's 41 goals — three off his career-high set last season — is what really pops off the page.
"A type of player the league hasn't seen before," said the Toronto Maple Leafs captain.
Tavares added that earlier in his career, McDavid was a pass-dominant centre capable of scoring because he saw so much of the puck, thought the game at a different level, and was always around the net.
"Now he's really putting defenders and goalies on their heels with his release, his shot, his confidence, the type of goals he's scoring," Tavares said. "That clearly has taken a step for him. Really impressive how he continues to get better."
Nashville Predators defenceman Roman Josi said McDavid quite simply isn't getting the accolades he deserves.
"Because he's Connor McDavid," Josi said. "There's really no words for what he's doing. Like, it's crazy. He should get a lot more credit for what he's doing. But because he's so good, I guess he doesn't."
Tavares said a lot of the hockey he watches is on TV late at night.
McDavid is often the star attraction.
"Every shift you're waiting on him to do something," Tavares said. "He has the puck that much. The skating is so dominant. He had 105 points in the shortened (56-game) COVID season — unbelievable to think someone could do that.
"He's pushing that envelope of what that pace was."
Woodcroft said that push has been accented by added layers to McDavid's game — namely a willingness to shoot more and accepting a more vocal role in Edmonton's locker room.
"He's leading the NHL in goals for a reason," Woodcroft said. "He's doing it in different ways."
Goodrow, who grew up in the suburbs north of Toronto and heard McDavid's name uttered inside local rinks long before he was the NHL's brightest light, said trying to contain the top pick at the 2015 draft is now next to impossible.
"So much faster than everyone else," Goodrow said. "You can do your job, you can keep him to the outside. But if he has that step on you, if he has that chance … it's tough.
"Fun to watch. Horrible to play against. But it's great for our league."
Brady Tkachuk will be joined by older brother and Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk on the Atlantic Division team at Saturday's NHL all-star game. They will become the 11th set of brothers in league history to play on the same all-star squad, and the first since Henrik and Daniel Sedin in 2012.
Friday's all-star skills competition will have the classics like the fastest skater, hardest shot, shooting accuracy and breakaway challenge. There will also be some South Florida wrinkles, including a "splash shot" event that will see players attempt to hit targets and send opponents into a water-filled dunk tank.
-With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.
Joshua Clipperton's weekly NHL notebook is published every Wednesday.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Sebastian Aho scored on a power play with 53.8 seconds left in overtime and Carolina rallied to beat Los Angeles, 5-4.
Brent Burns, Paul Stastny, Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen also scored for the Hurricanes, who trailed 4-1 entering the third period. Andrei Svechnikov had two assists and Frederik Andersen stopped 17 shots.
Adrian Kempe scored twice and Kevin Fiala and Anze Kopitar added goals for the Kings, who scored all four of their goals in the second period. Kopitar and Drew Doughty each had two assists, and Pheonix Copley made 26 saves.
The Kings wrapped up play prior to the All-Star break by going 3-2-1 on a season-high six-game trip.
CAPITALS 4, BLUE JACKETS 3, OT
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 26 seconds into overtime, and Washington extended its lead over Pittsburgh for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.
Trevor van Riemsdyk scored twice, Garnet Hathaway added a goal and Kuznetsov also contributed an assist. Charlie Lindgren stopped 31 shots.
Andrew Peeke, Eric Robinson and Johnny Gaudreau scored for Columbus, which has lost three straight and seven of its last nine to remain in last place in the NHL. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 30 shots.
OTTAWA 5, CANADIENS 4
MONTREAL (AP) — Brady Tkachuk scored at 18:41 of the third period and Ottawa extended its winning streak to four.
Tim Stutzle scored two goals and added two assists, while Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux also found the back of the net for the Senators. Anton Forsberg made 28 saves.
Rafael Harvey-Pinard kept the Canadiens in the game with two third-period goals. Kirby Dach and Mike Hoffman also scored for Montreal, which dropped its fourth in a row. Jake Allen made 24 saves for the Canadiens.
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