NHL suspends season amid coronavirus concerns

The NHL announced Thursday that all games wil be suspended indefinitely due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19)

The announcement comes a day after the NBA indefinitely postponed its entire slate of games , with Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell reportedly testing positive for the virus.

“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season beginning with tonight’s games,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement . “The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures.

“However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.”

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES: Cancellations, postponements in U.S., Canada

The NHL progressively had been limiting access on gamedays as the spread of the virus increased. On March 7, dressing rooms were closed to the media. This week, the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks announced that, in accordance with local government directives, their upcoming home games would be played without fans.

On Thursday morning, the league told teams not to hold morning skates or meetings.

All signs pointed toward the NHL following the lead of many leagues and competitions worldwide, and shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday, word became official.

“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate,” Bettman said. “Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”

The NHL Players Association released a statement shortly after the league’s announcement, calling the suspension of play “an appropriate course of action at this time.”

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Bruins announcer Jack Edwards criticized again for bizarre commentary

Typically, TV commentators are not the ones in the news the day after a big game. Then again, Jack Edwards is not your typical commentator. 

The Boston Bruins’ play-by-play announcer was the target of criticism on social media once again after an interesting call during Saturday night’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Take a listen: 

Clearly, there’s a lot to unpack there. 

First, Boston’s Zdeno Chara takes exception to an apparent high-stick by Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev. He reacts by heaving Sergachev’s stick into the air, getting an impressive amount of height on the toss. 

A few seconds later, Boston’s Charlie McAvoy puts a shot on goal that is spilled by Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The puck trickles through Vasilevskiy’s legs and appears to cross the goal line, but the referee immediately indicates there was no goal. Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov even gets a decent breakaway chance before being cut off by Chara at the other end.

Then, out of nowhere, the siren goes off inside the stadium to indicate that video review showed a good goal. The Boston fans, seemingly as baffled as the rest of us, continue to boo while everyone on the ice tries to figure out what’s going on. 

Suddenly, the camera cuts to Chara scuffling with Tampa’s Patrick Maroon before Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli wipes out the Bruins captain with a cross-check from behind. A brawl ensues, with everyone on the ice except the two goalies involved in the tussle. This is where Edwards’ commentary gets interesting. 

“Alright, alright, alright,” he says, clearly enjoying the old-time hockey on display. “It’s time to settle things down. Kuraly manhandles Killorn! Take your Harvard degree and take it to the hospital!”

Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn did attend Harvard University, where he played college hockey for four years.

“Chara’s squaring off with Maroon,” Edwards continues, “[He’s] saying, ‘You want to see the afterlife? I’ll take you there!'”

Maroon then proceeds to take Chara down to the ice before things finally settle down momentarily.

Fans on social media were less than impressed with Edwards’ commentary during the chaotic sequence, with many criticizing him for his apparent bias towards the Bruins players and violent choice of words. 

It’s certainly not the first time Edwards has been in hot water for his calls.

Back in October, he came under fire for saying an injury to Dallas’ Roman Polak was “bad hockey karma.” 

Polak was motionless and eventually had to be stretchered off the ice. The defenseman’s agent, Allan Walsh, later took to Twitter to call out Edwards. 

“As for Jack Edwards,” he said, “To say Roman’s injury was ‘bad hockey karma’ while he was laying on motionless on the ice, you are truly a piece of s— and an absolute disgrace.”

During the 2011 playoffs, Edwards also yelled at Montreal Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik to get up after a collision with Boston’s Michael Ryder. 

Finally, in a 2013 game between Boston and Pittsburgh, he compared the Penguins’ Matt Cooke to Sirhan Sirhan, the man who shot and killed Robert Kennedy. Cooke had ended the career of the Bruins’ Marc Savard with a hard hit several years earlier. 

Whether you love him or hate him, one thing is for certain. Jack Edwards will always speak his mind when he’s calling games.

Boston fans probably wouldn’t want it any other way. 

 

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San Jose Sharks fans attend home game despite public health officials calling for cancellation

SAN JOSE, Calif. — At least one fan defied his own pulmonary disease to attend the game. Another one insisted on continuing to high-five those in nearby seats, hand-washing be damned. Yet another couldn’t stay away after the home team’s recent surge, despite his wife’s misgivings.

Hours after Santa Clara County public health officials recommended that large gatherings like sporting events be cancelled in light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the San Jose Sharks opted to keep the doors open for Thursday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild, and thousands of followers showed up.

The 14,517 tickets distributed for the Wild’s eventual 3-2 victory were more than 2,000 below the Sharks’ season average of 16,550 at the SAP Center, which has a capacity of 17,562.

It was still a notable turnout considering the increasing concerns about COVID-19, an illness that has afflicted nearly 100,000 people worldwide — killing almost 3,400 — and is making its presence felt with increasing intensity in the San Francisco Bay Area. Earlier in the day, local officials announced the number of cases in the county was up to 20 after six new ones were reported.

That didn’t scare off longtime pals Gerald Pleasant and Tom Canale, who live 35 miles away in Santa Cruz County and attend about 10 games a year. Both retirees are in their 70s, and the illness has proven most deadly among the elderly, but they had not talked much about it even though Pleasant needs medication for his breathing condition.

"I have chronic lung disease so I’m concerned about it, but I’m not going to let it control me," he said.

MORE: Wild extend winning streak to six games with win over Sharks

CORONAVIRUS: Part-time stadium employee who worked for XFL Seattle Dragons game tests positive

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES: 3,500 cruise passengers confined off San Francisco

Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (25) controls the puck during Thursday night's win against the Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. (Photo: Neville E. Guard, USA TODAY Sports)

In announcing the game would be played as scheduled, the Sharks said they would evaluate circumstances ahead of their Saturday and Sunday home games, and they encouraged fans to follow the standard suggestions regarding hand-washing and avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth.

Several fans said they already do that, including Michele Caban and her daughter Meghan Merwin, both of whom work in the healthcare industry.

Caban, a marriage and family therapist for patients with compromised immune systems, pointed out that every year many more people get sickened and killed by the flu than by the coronavirus so far.

"I believe they’re trying to do their best to keep people safe, but I actually think it’s blown out of proportion," she said of public health officials. "We’re talking about one death in California, about a person who was exposed on a cruise."

That person, a 71-year-old man from a city near Sacramento, was on a February trip along with 62 passengers who continued on to another cruise on the same ship, which is now waiting to hear whether it can return to San Francisco as scheduled. About 35 people on the ship have reported flu-like symptoms, and close to 100 are getting tested.

That news caught the attention of Rosalena Garrett of San Jose, who was reluctant to accompany her husband, Bryan, to Thursday’s game. She eventually relented so he wouldn’t have to go by himself.

"It gives you pause, but it doesn’t stop us from doing anything," he said, more focused on the Sharks’ recent winning streak than the virus. "They’ve won three in a row. I’ve got to show up."

Some of the fans said the media has been overplaying news of the outbreak and its potential threat, noting that otherwise healthy people who get infected typically endure mild symptoms.

Marilyn Ludwig of San Jose said she would not stop high-fiving fellow fans or wash her hands afterward.

"It’s media b.s., completely and totally," she said.

As a government official herself, Loella Haskew might have a better understanding of what goes into decisions that affect public health.

Haskew is the mayor of the East Bay city of Walnut Creek, about 15 miles northeast of Oakland. Asked about her decision to attend the game with her husband, Ralph, and two friends despite the warning from Santa Clara officials, Haskew brought up the trip to Europe the couple took back in 2001 the month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

They’re applying that same fearless mindset now.

"We’re not stopping life," Ralph said, "not at all."

Follow USA TODAY reporter Jorge Ortiz on Twitter @jorgelortiz.

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NHL standings: Seeding scenarios, breakdown for final spots in 2020 playoffs

The 2020 NHL playoff picture is coming into focus, with the contenders increasingly separating themselves from the pretenders with every passing week.

While there are still a month’s worth of regular season games to be played, it’s never too early to turn our gaze to the playoff races as they continue to heat up.

Here’s how the 2020 Stanley Cup playoff bracket looks today.

Last updated: 3:48 p.m. ET on March 5. 

All probabilities from Sports Club Stats, all GIFS from giphy.com.

POWER RANKINGS: Flyers, Leafs, Canucks see postseason in playoff prediction edition

NHL standings: Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

1. Boston Bruins (96 points, 42 ROW)

Remaining games: 15
Home record: 22-3-9
Playoff probability: 100%

The Bruins have lost just twice in their past 10 games and are the only Eastern Conference team over 90 points.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (87 points, 39 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 21-10-2
Playoff probability: 100%

Tampa Bay has been decidedly mediocre lately, and the loss of Steven Stamkos will not help matters.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (78 points, 34 ROW)

Remaining games: 15
Home record: 17-9-7
Playoff probability: 87.5%

Everyone’s waiting for the Leafs to turn things around, and they seem to consistently be on the cusp of becoming an elite team if not for their battered defense.

Metropolitan Division

1. Washington Capitals (86 points, 36 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 18-10-5
Playoff probability: 99.8%

The Capitals are once again leading their division, although the Pennsylvania teams are hot on their tails.

2. Philadelphia Flyers (85 points, 34 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 23-5-4
Playoff probability: 99.6%

The surging Flyers are the hottest team in the East, with seven straight victories boosting them ahead of their state rival.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (82 points, 35 ROW)

Remaining games: 17
Home record: 23-6-4
Playoff probability: 97.5%

Pittsburgh has hit a rut that has seen the team drop off slightly in the chase for the Metro title.

Wild cards

1. Columbus Blue Jackets (79 points, 32 ROW)

Remaining games: 14
Home record: 20-12-4
Playoff probability: 31.1%

The Blue Jackets’ grasp on this spot is very tenuous, given they’ve played more games than all of their wild card rivals.

2. New York Islanders (78 points, 32 ROW)

Remaining games: 17
Home record: 20-9-5
Playoff probability: 73.4%

A terrible stretch of games has seen the Isles fall behind in the Metropolitan Division.

————————————

3. Carolina Hurricanes (75 points, 30 ROW)

Remaining games: 18
Home record: 19-12-2
Playoff probability: 65.1%

The ‘Canes are currently on the outside looking in, but with four(!) games in hand over Columbus, they are actually in a pretty good spot.

4. New York Rangers (74 points, 34 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 17-15-2
Playoff probability: 22.4%

Chris Kreider’s injury probably snuffed out the already slim chance the Rangers had of making the postseason.

5. Florida Panthers (73 points, 30 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 16-14-3
Playoff probability: 22.2%

The Panthers simply give up too many goals to be considered a serious playoff contender and — unlike the Leafs — they cannot simply score their way out of trouble.

6. Montreal Canadiens (71 points, 27 ROW)

Remaining games: 14
Home record: 14-16-6
Playoff probability: 1.7%

Stick a fork in ’em. The Habs’ playoff dream died in January.

7. Buffalo Sabres (66 points, 28 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 19-10-4
Playoff probability: 0.2%

NHL standings: Western Conference

Central Division

1. St. Louis Blues (90 points, 38 ROW)

Remaining games: 15
Home record: 23-6-5
Playoff probability: 100%

The Blues find themselves in a much more comfortable spot than last year. Winning eight straight games helps.

2. Colorado Avalanche (88 points, 39 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record:  17-9-6
Playoff probability: 100% 

Call them the road warriors, because the Avs are vastly better away from Denver (and they’re pretty good at the Pepsi Center).

3. Dallas Stars (82 points, 35 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record:  19-10-3
Playoff probability: 99.7%

The Stars’ awful start to the campaign is a distant memory.

Pacific Division

1. Vegas Golden Knights (82 points, 34 ROW)

Remaining games: 14 
Home record: 22-11-4
Playoff probability: 97.1%

The Pacific Division is completely up for grabs, but Vegas has the edge thanks to nine wins in its last 10 games.

2. Edmonton Oilers (80 points, 34 ROW)

Remaining games: 15
Home record: 16-10-5
Playoff probability: 97.7%

Two points out of first with a game in hand. The Oilers are in prime position for a good run.

3. Calgary Flames (77 points, 29 ROW)

Remaining games: 14
Home record: 15-12-4
Playoff probability: 68.7%

The Flames will likely spend the rest of the season trying to hold off Vancouver and Arizona.

Wild cards

1. Vancouver Canucks (74 points, 31 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record:  20-8-4
Playoff probability: 70%

The Canucks hold a pair of games in hand on Calgary, but their current form (four straight losses) doesn’t suggest that they’ll take advantage of it.

2. Winnipeg Jets (74 points, 31 ROW)

Remaining games: 14
Home record: 18-14-3
Playoff probability: 31.8%

Winnipeg will have to get hot and stay hot in order to hold on to this spot.

————————————

3. Arizona Coyotes (74 points, 28 ROW)

Remaining games: 14
Home record: 17-12-4
Playoff probability: 42.2%

Two straight wins (and Vancouver’s recent slide) have thrust the Coyotes into a three-way tie for the two wild-card spots.

4. Minnesota Wild (73 points, 31 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 19-11-5
Playoff probability: 53%

The Wild have played two fewer games than the two teams directly ahead of them, boosting their probability of making the playoffs.

5. Nashville Predators (72 points, 29 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 16-14-4
Playoff probability: 24.9%

An outside shot is still a shot. The Preds aren’t that far behind, truth be told.

6. Chicago Blackhawks (68 points, 26 ROW)

Remaining games: 16
Home record: 14-13-4
Playoff probability: 9.8%

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St. Louis Blues will host ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ night … while team plays on road

The St. Louis Blues are holding their first "Hockey is for Everyone" event later this month. For fans heading to the Enterprise Center that night, there won't be any action on the ice — they'll have to watch on the big screen.

The defending Stanley Cup champions will be playing the Capitals in Washington on March 24, the day of the event meant to promote inclusiveness and diversity in the NHL. It will leave the Blues as the only NHL team to hold its celebration of diversity while the team is on the road. 

The Blues are also one of two NHL teams to not host an LBGTQ event this year, according to ESPN. They did, however, schedule a "Star Wars Night," "'90s Night," "Soccer Night" and "Cardinals Night."

LUCKY: Johnny Boychuk needed 90 stitches after taking skate to eyelid

NFL FRANCHISE TAG PRIMER: Breaking down options for all 32 teams in 2020

A general view at the Blues' Enterprise Center during the 2019 playoffs. (Photo: Billy Hurst, USA TODAY Sports)

"Due to unprecedented ticket demand and sales following last season’s success, we weren’t able to execute as many ticket promotions as we have in the past," Blues vice president of media and brand communications Mike Caruso told For The Win. "However, instead of foregoing Hockey Is For Everyone completely, we wanted to brainstorm ways to continue its application. That is where the idea of a watch party came in. This allows us to open the entire building – over 18,000 seats – for the event, instead of having just a couple hundred available for a home game." 

Caruso said the decision to not have a "Pride Night" is a result of wanting everything under the "Hockey Is For Everyone" umbrella to promote full inclusion — "night or event to recognize all walks of life no matter the sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or physical or mental handicap," Caruso said.

The NHL declined comment when contacted by ESPN.

Proceeds from the event will benefit participating organizations, with more than 20 groups signed up, per the team.

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Flames vs. Blue Jackets: Two big takeaways from Calgary’s overtime win at home

The Calgary Flames are locked in a tight playoff race, which made Wednesday night’s come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets that much more important.

Entering the contest, interim head coach Geoff Ward’s squad was sitting five points behind the second-place Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division and, precariously, one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks, who sat in the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot; however, they are in control after getting seven of a possible 10 points on their recent five-game road trip and with playing 11 of their last 15 games at home.

They eventually skating away with the victory, but it was not easy. Here are two big takeaways from the Flames’ 35th win of the season

NHL power rankings: Where do Flames, Blue Jackets fit in playoff prediction edition

The Flames are not a first-period team

Before the game, Calgary was tied for 21st in the NHL with five teams for the worst goal differential in the first period (minus-7). They ranked 12th for fewest goals scored (55) and 12th for most goals allowed (62). 

It was no shock, then, that the Flames trailed 2-0 after the first 20 minutes, with the second goal coming off a turnover in the neutral zone. With the two tallies, the Flames are now tied for second in the NHL for most goals allowed in the first period at home.

“I didn’t think we were particularly sharp, as sharp as we needed to be at the start” was how Ward framed it.

Luckily for him, his group picked up the pace in the second and third periods to eke out the OT win. Getting out to better starts will be key for this team; however, it should be noted that the Blues allowed the most goals against in the first period (24) during last year’s playoffs — while only scoring 23 — and well, they still won the Stanley Cup.

Cam Talbot should be the starter

Despite allowing the two early goals, Talbot was solid in net again. He stopped 20 of 22 Columbus shots.

That has been the norm of late for the veteran, who since the last edition of the Battle of Alberta on Feb. 1, where he famously fought Edmonton counterpart Mike Smith, ranks second in fewest goals allowed (17) and in the top 20 in save percentage among netminders who have played a minimum of seven games.

Flames’ goaltender stats after Feb. 1

Talbot has also posted better numbers compared to All-Star goalie David Rittich since the calendar flipped to 2020 — including two shutouts.

Goaltender stats since Jan. 1

The Flames have played 11 home games since Jan. 1, with Talbot getting the majority of the starts. Although neither goalie has been impressive in front of the Saddledome faithful this calendar year — or the entire season, to be honest — with 10 of the team’s last 14 games at home, it would be smart to ride Talbot’s hot hand with a playoff berth on the line.

Goaltender stats since Jan. 1 at home

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NHL free agency 2020: State of UFA market following trade deadline

Last Monday’s NHL trade deadline had an immediate effect upon this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. 

Here’s a breakdown on which players may be available and what organizations may do as July 1 approaches.

Forwards

With the New York Rangers re-signing winger Chris Kreider and the New York Islanders acquiring and re-signing center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, two of the notable free-agent forwards came off the board.

Taylor Hall still tops the list as the best forward and sole superstar among this summer’s UFAs. The decline in his production this season, possibly linked to season-ending knee surgery a year ago, could adversely affect his free-agent value. Landing a multi-year deal worth over $10 million annually seems less likely for the 2018 Hart Trophy winner than it did when this season began.

Florida Panthers wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgeni Dadonov and Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli are the best of what can be considered second-tier forward talent. Hoffman and Dadonov are skilled offensive players, while Toffoli is a versatile two-way forward who can play center or wing.

Other recognizable forwards include San Jose’s Joe Thornton, Washington’s Ilya Kovalchuk, Toronto’s Jason Spezza and Buffalo’s Wayne Simmonds. All are past their prime and should be considered depth options at this stage of their respective careers while Thornton is already talking about returning with the Sharks next season. Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund and the New York Rangers’ Jesper Fast would also be decent pickups.

TRADE DEADLINE: Thornton, Tyson Barrie among notable players not moved

Defensemen

The market for defensemen features two blue-chippers in St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo and Boston Bruins rearguard Torey Krug. There is also some decent secondary blueline talent, such as Carolina’s Sami Vatanen, Toronto’s Tyson Barrie, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk and Calgary’s T.J. Brodie.

Krug’s teammate Zdeno Chara is also due to become a UFA, but everyone knows he’ll either re-sign with the Bruins or retire.

Goaltenders

Noteworthy goaltenders include a former Vezina Trophy winner in Washington’s Braden Holtby, a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Chicago’s Corey Crawford, and the 2019 Masterton Trophy winner in Vegas’ Robin Lehner. Of those three, Lehner could be the best option as Holtby and Crawford are no longer putting up Vezina-worthy numbers. Meanwhile, the under-appreciated Lehner had solid stats behind a porous Blackhawks club before getting shipped to the Golden Knights at the trade deadline.

TRADE DEADLINE: Winners, losers and those to be determined

A number of quality backups could be available, including Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, Boston’s Jaroslav Halak and the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss.

What happens next?

How many of these players are still available when free agency opens at 12 p.m. ET on July 1 remains to be seen.

The offense-starved Coyotes could open the vault to keep Hall in Arizona, though that could mean shedding some salary to do so. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $80 million invested in 17 players, though they can get $5.25 million of cap relief by placing all-but-retired winger Marian Hossa on long-term injury reserve.

Toffoli is quickly fitting in with the Canucks after they acquired him two weeks ago from the Los Angeles Kings. With over $63 million tied up in 13 players and goalie Jacob Markstrom to re-sign, there might not be enough to keep Toffoli in the fold.

Pietrangelo and Krug would attract considerable interest if they hit the open market, but that’s not a certainty. The Blues hope to re-sign Pietrangelo — and he wants to stay —  though it could get tricky working out the dollars. Krug, on the other hand, suggested last September he’d take a hometown discount to remain a Bruin.

With the Capitals giving more playing time to young Ilya Samsonov this season, Holtby’s days in Washington appear numbered. At 35, Crawford won’t get any more lucrative long-term deals, but the Blackhawks could attempt to keep him in the fold for a reasonable short-term deal.

Marc-Andre Fleury seems entrenched as the Golden Knights’ starting goalie. Nevertheless, one wonders if that might change if Lehner outplays Fleury and takes over the starter net in the playoffs.

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Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk takes skate to face, evaluated after game

There was a scary scene at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday night.

With just over 11 minutes remaining in the third period of the Islanders’ 6-2 loss to the Canadiens, New York’s Johnny Boychuk and Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen got tangled up in front of the home team’s net. Boychuk pushed Lehkonen out of the crease, and as the Montreal forward fell, his right skate came up and clipped Boychuk in the face.

(NOTE: Some may consider the video graphic.)

The Islanders defenseman immediately grabbed his face and was in obvious pain on the ice. He quickly got up and skated to the locker room; his hand appeared to be over his left eye.

After the game, Islanders coach Barry Trotz told reporters that Boychuk was still being evaluated.

The exact injury and its severity are difficult to determine from the video. NBC Boston’s Joe Haggerty is reporting it was “a cut to the eyelid rather than the blade directly cutting his eyeball.” Islanders winger Cal Clutterbuck told NHL.com’s Brian Compton: “It’s not good. It’s not easy to see. Not good at all.”

Clutterbuck knows what a skate blade can do. He just returned to the lineup Saturday after missing more than two months following surgery to repair a wrist that was cut by a skate blade in December.

Islanders players are not the only ones to be cut this year. The list includes the Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev, who also underwent surgery on a severed artery and wrist tendon in late December and recently resumed skating.

Earlier on Tuesday, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported that NHL general managers at their meetings in Florida were shown new cutproof and Kevlar-reinforced undergarments to help prevent skate cuts like the ones suffered by Clutterbuck and Mikheyev. Kevlar socks became more popular following Erik Karlsson’s surgery in 2013 to repair a sliced Achilles tendon. 

Obviously, the Kevlar would not have helped in Boychuk’s case; however, it did appear that the visor he was wearing — which became mandatory in 2013 — took the brunt of the skate’s impact.

Last season, Boychuk took a skate blade to the neck from the Maple Leafs’ Mitchell Marner that luckily did not slice his throat and just left a mark from the incident.

“It was really scary,” Boychuk said the following morning to reporters. “You feel it hit your neck, just thoughts go through your mind. It was really scary. I’m just happy that nothing serious happened.”

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Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl becomes first player to reach 100 points in 2019-20 season

It’s been a heck of a year for Leon Draisaitl.

The Edmonton Oilers forward became the first NHL player to reach 100 points this season Saturday night with a pair of goals and an assist against the Winnipeg Jets. Both goals were assisted by teammate Connor McDavid, who is also on pace to reach 100 points with 89 so far this year. 

Draisaitl has led the league in points for most of the season and looks on track to win his first Art Ross Trophy. After tonight’s three-point performance, he moves 11 points ahead of Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for most points in the league.

Since entering the league in 2014, the German has been steadily improving. He broke the 100 points mark for the first time last year, finishing with 105 on the season, but he’s on pace to smash that mark this year. He is just the ninth player in Oilers’ history to reach 100 points, and the seventh to do it more than once. 

Draisaitl also became the 10th different player over the last 26 years to reach the 100-point mark in 65 games or fewer.

While it certainly helps to play alongside Connor McDavid, Draisaitl deserves plenty of credit for his individual performance. He leads the league in assists with 63 and is fourth in goals scored with 39. 

Despite the performances of Draisaitl and McDavid, Edmonton’s playoff hopes remain in the balance. After Edmonton defeated Winnipeg 3-2, the Oilers move into sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division, four points back of the Vegas Golden Knights. They only have a four-point edge on the second Wild Card spot.

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Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews scores 45th goal, keeps pace with Bruins’ David Pastrnak

The Rocket Richard Trophy race continues to heat up as the two leaders, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews and Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak, each scored in their respective games on Saturday.

Matthews showcased his speed entering the offensive zone, outskating the Canucks defense and somehow getting one past Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko for his 45th goal of the season. It was a go-ahead goal in the first period to make it 2-1 Maple Leafs.

It was Matthews’ 31st goal of the season at home, tied for second-most in a season in franchise history and just three behind Darryl Sittler’s record of 34 set in 1977-78.

Toronto secured a 4-2 win over the Canucks as the Maple Leafs improved their record 22-7-5 when Matthews lights the lamp. 

INJURY UPDATES: Steven Stamkos | Chris Kreider 

The goal helped Matthews keep pace with Boston’s Pastrnak, who scored his 47th goal of the season in a 4-0 win over the New York Islanders. 

Pastrnak opened the scoring after Bruins defenseman Torey Krug received a cross-ice pass and attempted to connect with forward Patrice Bergeron. The pass was behind Bergeron, who was charging the net, and the puck went into the corner where Pastrnak one-timed a snapshot past Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov.

It was the 15th time that Pastrnak had opened the scoring for the Bruins in a game this season. The only player in NHL history who has done it more in a single season was Brett Hull in 1990-91 (20) and 1991-92 (16).

Pastrnak maintains his two-goal edge on Matthews in the Rocket Richard race. Both teams have 16 games remaining in the season.

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