NHL Rink Wrap: Avalanche, Wild stay red-hot; jersey retirements
Top players from Friday in the NHL
Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche
As one of the NHL franchises that seems most ahead-of-the-curve, the Avalanche seemed like a team that might not risk the dreaded “aging curve” with Gabriel Landeskog in free agency. Maybe that fear never really cropped up. Or perhaps that created a subtle reluctance that at least got Landeskog’s cap hit to a relatively reasonable $7 million. (The term’s still a little scary for a power forward. The rugged Swede is 29, and his contract runs through 2028-29.
Whether that contract eventually looks bad or Landeskog ages more like a Brad Marchand, he’s delivering outstanding value this season.
Truly, it’s surprising to see that Landeskog is topping his contract year, at least in points per game. In 2020-21, Landeskog scored 20 goals and 52 points in 54 games. He’s almost to those totals already this season. Through 34 games, Landeskog’s already generated 18 goals and 44 points. (Landeskog already matched his 2019-20 season total of 44 points, which he produced in 54 contests.)
Quite a nice way to soften sticker shock.
Landeskog enjoyed one of his best games of the season during the NHL action on Friday, collecting two goals and one assist. That rugged part came into play, too, with four hits.
NHL highlights from Friday
To save you a click, here’s that jersey/number retirement video for Henrik Lundqvist:
And also for former Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov:
The real highlight might have been Henrik Lundqvist’s play-by-play. Right after saying “don’t let that guy score” about his buddy and former teammate Mats Zuccarello, the beloved former Ranger did exactly that:
Impressive save by Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith. The Red Wings ended up winning in the shootout anyway, however.
Considering Charlie McAvoy’s injury history, a fight with Antoine Roussel is a loss even before the actual lost fight.
Friday NHL Takeaways
Oilers, Evander Kane hold a press conference
After weeks of reports connecting Evander Kane and the Oilers, the team signed him on Thursday. So, Friday ended up being the time for Evander Kane, Ken Holland, and Dave Tippett to address the decision the Oilers made.
Not that this will be the last time that people question the decision.
Generally speaking, everyone said about what you’d expect (in other words: nothing likely to change anyone’s mind). Do note that both Holland and Tippett flanked Kane during this Oilers press conference. If this goes bad -- as every Evander Kane stop has so far -- there will be plenty of photos and quotes to reference as seals of approval.
(The key quote, likely, is Ken Holland noting he did his “due diligence.”)
With the Oilers riding a three-game winning streak, Kane is expected to suit up on Saturday.
Avalanche win ninth in a row; MacKinnon injury update
Unfortunately, the Avalanche are fairly familiar with navigating injuries. Those hurdles allow Landeskog and Nazem Kadri (1G, 2A on Friday) to shine.
But there’s only so much of a positive spin you can put on Nathan MacKinnon dealing with a facial fracture and a concussion. The Avalanche shared some fallout from the brutal hit Taylor Hall delivered on MacKinnon. The speedy Avs center will miss the remainder of the Avalanche’s games through at least the 2022 NHL All-Star break (now two more games at minimum).
Now, MacKinnon could also miss more, as he’s considered out indefinitely. It’s often difficult to put a timetable on how long a player might struggle with concussions.
On the bright side, the Avalanche extended their winning streak to an NHL-leading nine games on Friday. At 65 points in 42 games played, the Avalanche lead every other Central Division opponent by at least seven points.
As Peter Baugh notes, the Avalanche’s hot streak goes beyond just winning nine games in a row. They’ve really been on a roll in January, in general:
Colorado has more wins in January (14) than the following teams have all season:— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) January 29, 2022
Colorado also has more points in January (29) than Arizona and Montreal have all season.
At this rate, maybe the biggest question is if they can enter the playoffs on a roll -- and reasonably healthy.
Wild are almost as hot
Again, the Avalanche are the hottest team in the Central, and the NHL. But the Wild aren’t all that far behind them.
Take it from Michael Russo:
Saturday’s big story
Kane likely to debut for the Oilers vs. Canadiens
Right now, the worst team in the NHL race is a split decision between the tanking Coyotes and the crumbling Canadiens. The Habs are positively ice-cold, with a four-game losing streak and a single win (1-6-3) in their last 10 games.
For an up-and-down Oilers team (three-game winning streak preceded by a seven-game skid), losing to the lowly Canadiens would be a sour way for Evander Kane to debut. Assuming that there aren’t any hiccups with him getting to play on Saturday, mind you.
It’s a long season; upsets can happen. Still, it would look really bad for Edmonton to drop this one.
If you want a Saturday NHL game with more stakes for both teams, check out the Golden Knights (25-16-3) vs. the Lightning (29-10-5).
NHL scores from Friday
Red Wings 3, Penguins 2 (SO)
Wild 3, Rangers 2
Avalanche 6, Blackhawks 4
Capitals 5, Stars 0
Bruins 2, Coyotes 1