National Hockey League Headlines News & Notes

February 25, 2020

After joining elusive company and becoming just the eighth player in NHL history to net 700 career goals on Saturday, the Washington Capitals had something special in store for the greatest player the franchise has ever known.

Ahead of Tuesday’s Capitals-Winnipeg Jets matchup, Ovi and his family watched on as a touching tribute blasted across the scoreboard.

It was a moment that included words of praise and respect from current and former teammates, Capitals franchise legends, Hockey Hall of Fame inductees, and several of the greatest goal scorers the game has ever seen—capped off with a cameo from Ovi’s parents and son.

Many Washington Capitals fans are excited to watch Ilya Kovalchuk share the ice with Alex Ovechkin. Playing together is something the star forwards have envisioned for over 20 years.

“Since we were 13 years old,” Kovalchuk said to reporters when asked how long he and Ovechkin have spoken about playing for the same club. “We played together on the national team but never for the same team. Usually, we battle against each other.”

The Capitals traded a third-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for Kovalchuk on Sunday. The 36-year-old potted six goals and seven assists in 22 games with Montreal this year. His contract was terminated by the Los Angeles Kings earlier this season.

“I have a great time in Montreal. I think that was one of the best decisions in my hockey life that I go there,” Kovalchuk added.

It was only about a month ago that things were really starting to look up for the Florida Panthers.

They were in the middle of a six-game winning streak, had the highest scoring offense in the league, and at least looked like a solid bet to make the playoffs for just the sixth time in franchise history. Given the moves they made over the summer the playoffs should have been a very realistic goal, if not an expectation.

They can still get there, but they are probably only a 50-50 shot (at best) entering the stretch run as they compete with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

On Monday they made one of the most curious decisions at the NHL trade deadline when they dealt forward Vincent Trocheck to the Carolina Hurricanes for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, and two prospects.

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong met with the media today to discuss the quiet trade deadline, and eventually got to the subject of Chris Kreider. The Blues had showed interest in the New York Rangers winger, but Armstrong explained that they really couldn’t go down that path once they learned that Vladimir Tarasenko would be back this season:

“The interest level waned quite honestly when we knew Vladdy was coming back. In a different world if I was managing the St. Louis Blues in the late-90s, yeah we would have been really interested. It’s only the owner’s money and I wouldn’t care about it.”

The Leafs hope the voice of Jake Muzzin will become even louder in the dressing room now that the defenceman has inked a four-year extension.

“This signing is significant in terms of just giving him the ability to know that he’s really in this with us,” said coach Sheldon Keefe. “Not that he wasn’t before, but just to now have him secured as part of our core [will] allow him to dig in even a little bit deeper with our core and help us get to the level we have to get to.”

Keefe often refers to Muzzin, a native of Woodstock, Ont., as the conscience of the group.

“I wanted to be here,” said Muzzin, who was due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. “That’s pretty much it. I like the team, I like the city, the organization. Me and my wife really enjoyed it, so we wanted to be here.”

That’s a good thing, because Toronto has never needed Muzzin more. The Leafs have struggled to put forward consistent efforts of late, going just 8-9-3 since Jan. 5. Toronto has just five regulation wins in the past 20 games.

“The core of the team needs to take a jump,” Muzzin said. “We can’t have it one night and not the next and that’s everyone and that’s bringing along the younger core as well. We have to give them no option but to come with us.”

Keefe points out that Muzzin’s background with the Kings, including a championship run in 2014, gives him credibility in the room. The coach has urged the 31-year-old to use his platform to create an honest dialogue when things are going poorly.

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