Auston Matthews skated for about 35 minutes this morning in Edmonton, but didn’t shoot the puck. Toronto’s top-line centre will miss tonight’s game and is still considered day-to-day with a hand/wrist injury.
“It’s not new for us,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “We’ve already played a game without Auston and against the Oilers.”
With Matthews sidelined, the Leafs beat the Oilers 4-2 on Jan. 22 in Toronto.
“We just played hard,” Keefe recalled. “We were resilient. Our power play was good for us. You know, everybody just steps up and plays a little bit more and a little bit better. Whether we had Auston or not that was going to be a requirement in a game like this here tonight with an Edmonton team that’s playing very well and is very confident.”
The Oilers have won 11 of 13 games. The hot streak started with an overtime victory against the Leafs on Jan. 30.
“They’re a team that’s firing right now,” said defenceman Jake Muzzin, who returns to the Leafs lineup after missing two games with a facial fracture. “They’ve got good goaltending, the defence is playing well and the stars are playing hard so it’s going to be a challenge.”
When Matthews was out in that game last month, John Tavares and Mitch Marner were reunited and that will be the case again tonight with Joe Thornton slotting in on left wing.
“Just three really good players,” Keefe said. “Putting John and Mitch together, they got a lot of history, have played together well. They’ve done it this season and done it in previous seasons. And having Joe available today will give our whole group a boost.”
Thornton missed the last two games with a lower-body injury.
With Matthews out, Alexander Barabanov is in line for a big opportunity. He skated with Alexander Kerfoot and William Nylander on the second line at Friday’s practice and also got reps on the power play.
“He just looks way more confident with the puck,” observed Keefe. “He’s getting out of our zone and through the neutral zone a lot better … when we look at scoring-chance generation, he’s been among the leaders for us in the last couple games so we want to look to see if he can continue to build upon that.”
The KHL import produced just two shots in his first seven games and sat as a healthy scratch for two weeks earlier this month. Barabanov has fired seven shots on net in the last two games.
“Continued development we’re looking to see from him are in those areas where the puck comes up the wall and he has to make a play in the defensive zone,” said Keefe.
“Bears has had a great attitude the whole time,” said veteran forward Jason Spezza. “I think you’ll see him slowly adapt as the year goes along. It’s not an easy transition.”
Matthews isn’t the only key Leafs forward, who’s been playing through an injury. Zach Hyman has missed two of the last four games following some painful shot blocks off his foot.
“It’s not easy,” Keefe acknowledged. “I know he’s been going through a lot of discomfort and has missed a little bit of time here and there, but he has been able to get through it and will be fine to play today.”
Hyman didn’t take any reps during the special teams drills yesterday at practice remaining on the bench to chat with assistant athletic therapist Jon Geller.
“We all know when he puts the jersey on he plays the same way no matter what and that’s what we’ve come to expect,” said Keefe.
Hyman’s ability to play effectively through the pain – he logged 21 minutes and picked up an assist Wednesday – has allowed Keefe to build a third line that has the makings of a strong energy unit. Hyman skated with Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev at practice yesterday.
“It’s a lot of speed, a lot of tenacity on the puck,” Keefe said. “We like it on the road especially where match-ups are difficult … It was effective for us in Montreal.”
The Matthews-less Leafs beat the Oilers last month thanks to two power-play goals including the game winner from Tavares. But Toronto’s power play enters this game on a cold streak having gone 0/11 in two games against Calgary this week.
“I don’t think we’ve been as sharp and as deliberate in delivering pucks to the net,” said Spezza. “We’re playing the same teams over and over so similar to a playoff series you’re going to see teams adapt. It’s up to us to be dynamic in changing things up, but also maintaining that structure that gives you success. It’s a little bit of a tightrope where you don’t want to change too much, but you have to adapt night to night.”
Connor McDavid scored a highlight-reel goal on the power play during the Leafs last game in Edmonton. The end-to-end rush left the Leafs shaking their heads.
“We could’ve defended it better,” Hyman said after that game. “I was the first guy up, I got to take away his speed a little bit.”
“I could push him a certain direction better,” defenceman Justin Holl said that night.
McDavid has three goals and four assists in four games against Toronto this season. What’s the key against the NHL’s points leader tonight?
“It’s more of a five-man effort on the ice and everyone’s trying to stay above him and not give him as much space as he wants,” said Holl. “I think that’ll be a major key tonight and try to stop him before he gets going.”
With McDavid and Leon Draisaitl anchoring different lines, Holl is guaranteed a tough match-up any time he steps on the ice tonight. Draisaitl, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, has really beaten up on the Leafs of late with points in eight straight against Toronto (six goals and six assists in that stretch).
“I try and look at the times I’ve had success against really any elite player in the past and it comes down to doing what I do well, which is keeping tight gaps, first and foremost,” Holl said of his preparation. “It’s easier said than done against dynamic players like this, but that’s going to be the major key for me and trying to kill plays before they begin.”
Jack Campbell will be making his first start since sustaining a leg injury on Jan. 24.
“I was looking over his shoulder on the plane yesterday, because he was watching some film, and I was laughing because on every clip he makes the save and he tapped someone that’s close to him,” said Holl. “Like, it doesn’t even matter, it could be me and I didn’t even do anything on the play, but he gives you a shin tap, which is funny. It’s fun to play in front of someone like that. He does exude positivity.”
Campbell has made one previous appearance against the Oilers on March 26, 2019 allowing three goals, one to McDavid and two to Draisaitl, in relief.
Frederik Andersen skated again this morning and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Mike Smith missed the previous games against the Leafs this season due to injury, but is expected to get the start tonight. His ability to handle the puck is a point of emphasis for Toronto.
“It’s huge,” said Spezza. “Forechecking is a big strength of our group. We feel that on nights that we forecheck well we generate a lot. I’ve played with Smitty at Team Canada stuff and it’s a huge factor. He can break you out quick and leaves the other team getting frustrated and chasing so it’s important we have good dumps on him today and really try and keep the puck out of his hands because he can be like a third defenceman back there.”
The Leafs have loaned recently-acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk to the Marlies.
“Part of our plan here is to get him playing,” Keefe explained. “It was an easy decision to keep him [in Toronto] and get him playing in an environment where he can just really look to find his game, get comfortable in our surroundings and our systems and things like that and in a place where he can find his confidence and not be so concerned about his place in the lineup.”
Defenceman Martin Marincin was also sent to the American Hockey League. Forward Kenny Agostino and defenceman Timothy Liljegren were called up to join the taxi squad.
Projected Leafs lines for Saturday’s game in Edmonton:
Thornton – Tavares – Marner
Barabanov – Kerfoot – Nylander
Mikheyev – Engvall – Hyman
Petan – Boyd – Spezza
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian
Coyotes trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland to Canucks – Arizona Sports
Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at Gila River Arena on October 30, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Canadiens defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Arizona Coyotes traded captain and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the Vancouver Canucks, as well as forward Conor Garland, the team announced Friday.
Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro first reported talks of the deal.
In return, the Coyotes will get forwards Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel and the 9th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft that was used to select Dylan Guenther. Arizona also receives a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 seventh-round selection.
“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Oliver for everything that he has done for the Coyotes the past 10 years,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said in a press release. “He is a tremendous player and person and we wish him and Conor the best of luck in the future.
“We are very pleased to acquire the ninth overall draft choice in this year’s NHL Draft along with Loui, Antoine and Jay. Loui and Jay are both Stanley Cup champions and along with Antoine, they are all solid veterans who will provide us with great leadership and experience.”
Ekman-Larsson, 30, has spent the entirety of his NHL career with the Coyotes after being selected sixth overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. The defenseman has 128 goals and 260 points over his Arizona career, for a total of 388 points.
Last season, Ekman-Larsson recorded three goals and 21 assists in 46 games. He has been the captain of the team for the last three seasons.
The Coyotes signed Ekman-Larsson to an eight-year, $66 million extension in the summer of 2018, a deal that has six more seasons left on it for $8.25 million each year. According to Gambadoro, Arizona will pay for roughly $1.2 million of that salary each of the next six years.
The 25-year-old Garland has been one of the Coyotes’ primary goal scorers in the previous two seasons. The winger had a team-high 22 goals in the 2019-20 season and 12 last season.
Garland is a restricted free agent this offseason.
Beagle, 35, had five points in 30 games last season while the 31-year-old Roussel contributed four points in 35 games. Lastly, the 36-year-old Eriksson played in only seven games.
Roussel is on an expiring deal worth $3 million next year, as are Beagle ($3 million) and Eriksson ($6 million).
The 2021 NHL Draft takes place on Friday.
Sabres select Owen Power with No. 1 pick in 2021 NHL Draft – Sportsnet.ca
The NHL draft turned Michigan maize and blue Friday night. And there’s a Hughes sibling reunion set to happen in New Jersey.
The Buffalo Sabres opened the draft by selecting Wolverines defenceman Owen Power with the top pick, and were immediately followed by the expansion Seattle Kraken choosing Michigan centre Matthew Beniers at No. 2. It marked the first time since 1969 that teammates went with the first two selections.
Three picks later, the Wolverines became college hockey’s first program to have three teammates go in the first round after the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Michigan winger Kent Johnson fifth.
“Extremely excited for Owen, Matty and their families. Its’ already a great night for Michigan Hockey. Go Blue,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson texted to The Associated Press after the Kraken made their selection.
That’s not all, however. Luke Hughes, who is committed to playing at Michigan, was chosen fourth overall by the the Devils, where the defenceman is united with brother Jack, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.
Hughes watched the draft on his family’s living room couch with both of his NHL-playing brothers, rounded out by Quinn, who was selected seventh overall by Vancouver in 2018. Jack Hughes immediately jumped up and began hugging Luke upon hearing Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald announce the pick.
Ontario junior centre Mason McTavish was the only player without Michigan ties to round out the top five, after he was selected third overall by Anahiem.
The draft was held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with commissioner Gary Bettman hosting the draft in New Jersey, where he introduced teams to make their selections from their home arenas.
On a day the Sabres traded Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers, general manager Kevyn Adams continued his offseason bid to overhaul a struggling franchise by choosing the stalwart defenceman’s heir apparent. Power is listed at six-foot-six and 213 pounds and was the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American prospect. After scoring three goals and adding 13 assists in 26 games during his freshman season at Michigan, the 18-year-old Power cemented his draft stock by helping Canada win the world hockey championships.
From Mississauga, Ontario, Power is leaning toward returning to school for his sophomore season, something Adams has said would not play a factor into his selection.
“Not thinking about it too much right now, trying to enjoy the night. That’s something I’ll worry about later,” Power said of his future, while surrounded by his family and friends in his backyard.
As for a message to Sabres fans, he said: “I’m super excited to be part of the franchise and ready to get going.”
Power was the third player drafted first directly out of college, joining Michigan State forward Joe Murphy in 1986 and Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro in 2000. And he became the 16th defenceman to go No. 1 since 1970, and first since the Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin at No. 1 in 2018.
Power and Dahlin have similar two-way, play-making skills, and will have the opportunity to form the backbone of a retooled defensive unit for years to come.
Beniers was ranked sixth overall among North American prospects. He had 14 goals and 24 points in 24 games for the Wolverines.
In 1969, Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif were Montreal Junior Canadiens teammates, who were selected with the first two picks by Montreal. In 1963, Garry Monahan and St. Michael’s Juveniles teammate Peter Mahovlich were selected first and second.
The Sabres made a splash earlier by adding a second first-round pick, 14th overall, and defenceman Robert Hagg in dealing Ristolainen to Philadelphia.
The trade is part of Adams’ bid to rebuild through youth after Buffalo finished last in the overall standings for a fourth time in eight seasons and extended its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th year.
The acquired pick from Philadelphia is actually 13th in the draft order after the NHL stripped the Arizona Coyotes of their first-round pick, 11th overall, for testing players in violation of league’s combine policy.
The Coyotes, however, moved back into the first round by acquiring the Canucks’ pick, ninth overall, in a five-player trade that sent Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver earlier in the day.
The first European players selected were from Sweden in back to back selections. Defenceman Simon Edvinsson went sixth to the Detroit Red Wings, followed by under-sized forward William Eklund, who was chosen seventh by the San Jose Sharks.
More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing
In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:
Sports TV of note from Weds:
AEW Dynamite on TNT: 1.148 million viewers
Primetime Oly programming on NBCSN: 773,000
PTI on ESPN: 648,000 viewers
NHL Expansion Draft on ESPN2: 637,000 viewers
Cubs-Cardinals on ESPN: 509,000 viewers
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 22, 2021
On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.
And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).
If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.
That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).
In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.
[John Ourand on Twitter]
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