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NHL Rink Wrap: Thomas lifts Blues; Kotkaniemi contract close


NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 12: Robert Thomas #18 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates his goal against the Nashville Predators during an NHL game at Bridgestone Arena on March 12, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Top player in the NHL on Saturday

Robert Thomas, St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues won a thriller against the Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon that was highlighted by a two goal, four point effort from Robert Thomas, the first four point game of his career. The Blues have assembled quite an offensive team this season and a sneaky contenders in the Western Conference. As long as Ville Husso keeps playing the way he has in goal, and maybe with a defensive upgrade, they can go toe to toe with almost anybody in the Western Conference with their offense.

Highlights from around the NHL on Saturday

Thomas second goal of the game was this nice goal set up by a slick Jordan Kyrou feed with less than three minutes to play.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Saturday

Hurricanes closing in on new contract with Jesperi Kotkaniemi

The Carolina Hurricanes are reportedly closing in on a new contract extension with forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi, according to a report from Andy Strickland. The deal will reportedly be an eight-year contract worth between $4.2 and $4.5 million per season. The deal can not be made official until after the trade deadline. Kotkaniemi joined the Hurricanes this past offseason when he signed a one-year offer sheet worth $6 million as a restricted free agent. The Montreal Canadiens chose not to match that offer and received the Hurricanes’ first-and third-round picks from the 2022 NHL draft. Kotkaniemi, 21, has 11 goals and 12 assists (23 total points) in 54 games for the Hurricanes this season. At this point he has not really become an impact player offensively, but he does play a strong two-way game and is a good possession driver. It will be interesting to see how his offensive game develops during that contract because an eight-year deal is an obviously significant commitment. He is now a long-term part of the Hurricanes’ core which is still one of the best in the NHL.

Marcus Foligno avoids suspension for another kneeing incident

Here is a strange one to analyze. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Saturday that Minnesota Wild forward Marcus Foligno has been fined $5,000 for kneeing Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jakub Voracek during their game on Friday night, a 3-2 Blue Jackets shootout win. It is strange because Foligno was just suspended a little more than a month ago for two games for another kneeing incident. That is two kneeing incidents that rose to the level of supplemental discipline in a months time and the punishment actually went backwards. That is not normally how it works.

Another shutout for Markstrom

Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom is having an amazing season and continued it on Saturday with his ninth shutout of the season in their win over the Detroit Red Wings. The Flames are starting to run away with that division and the play of Markstrom is a significant reason why.

Sunday’s big story

The NHL is going outdoors again as the Buffalo Sabres play the Toronto Maple Leafs in Hamilton in the Heritage Classic (4 p.m. ET). The outdoor storyline is only secondary though to the fact the Maple Leafs need to get their goaltending situation figured out. Jack Campbell is injured and Petr Mrazek gets the start after a tough performance on Thursday night against the Arizona Coyotes. Also on Sunday the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild play a very significant game in the Western Conference playoff race, while the Vegas Golden Knights look to get back on track against the Winnipeg Jets. Los Angeles and Vancouver are also in action as the Western Conference playoff race continues to unfold.

Saturday’s NHL Scores

St. Louis Blues 7, Nashville Predators 4 Carolina Hurricanes 3, Philadelphia Flyers 1 Seattle Kraken 4, Montreal Canadiens 3 (SO) Calgary Flames 3, Detroit Red Wings 0 Boston Bruins 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 Chicago Blackhawks 6, Ottawa Senators 3 New Jersey Devils 2, Anaheim Ducks 1 New York Rangers 7, Dallas Stars 4 San Jose Sharks 5, Los Angeles Kings 0 Edmonton Oilers 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 1