The All-Star Break is over. The skills competition once again were the best part of the weekend, at least for the things we know about. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of stories of things happening off the ice that will slowly trickle out over the next few years. Now that the fun is over (and the hangovers are gone) it’s back to the grind of the regular season.
Originally a select few had hoped they would be recovering from a very long flight to Beijing and the rest of the league heading to the beach, plans changed and instead of an Olympic break the season rolls on. Tonight the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Toronto Maple Leafs while the New Jersey Devils take on the Ottawa Senators. Tomorrow the ‘Canes, Devils, and Senators are right back on the ice. No rest for the weary!
Our beloved Tampa Bay Lightning are off until Thursday when they have their own back-to-back against the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes (last visit to the Phoenix area? Possibly!) Hopefully, there will be some familiar faces on the ice in Colorado when the Lightning play next. Nikita Kucherov is out of COVID protocol and should be ready to go, giving the Lightning all of their top forwards for the first time since the beginning of the season.
Questions still remain about the defense. Erik Cernak and Zach Bogosian may or may not be ready to return, leaving them short on the right side. Once they return to practice and Coach Cooper is back in front of the media we’ll have a better idea of what the line-up will look like in Colorado later this week.
Lightning / NHL News
Tampa Bay area hockey player looking for Olympic Gold [Tampa Bay Times]
Let’s point out to all of our friends up north that a kid that went to high school in Florida is leading NCAA Division I hockey in scoring. The Winnipeg Jets prospect grew up inline skating in New Port Richey and is now in Beijing representing the United States.
The Athletic’s Agent Poll [The Athletic]
This is a few days old, but still pretty nice to share. The Athletic polled 20 agents that represent a total of 258 players. Figured we should highlight the first question they asked.
It wasn’t a surprise that the Tampa Bay Lightning got the most love in this survey. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions have developed a reputation that owner Jeff Vinik is one of the gold standards in the sport, willing to spend to the salary cap and open his wallet for other amenities.
The fact Tampa plays in a tax-free state only adds a card to Vinik’s already loaded hand.
Midseason Awards - Selke [Yahoo News]
Anthony Cirelli is currently polling third behind Patrice Bergeron (who has a healthy lead) and Aleksander Barkov. While it would be nice to win an individual award I’m sure Cirelli would rather be lifting his third Stanley Cup at the end of the season. Of course, if the Lightning are celebrating another Cup then it means Cirelli has likely done a pretty good job of shutting down the opponents.
Lightning have few needs as Trade Deadline approaches [The Hockey Writers]
We’ll dive into the trade deadline a little later this month, but for now things are pretty set for the Bolts. Who out there doesn’t need defensive depth?
Just remember that Rocky Wirtz doesn’t want to talk about the past. Since this happened back in November it’s probably none of our business and we should just talk about the GM search or something.
News: The Chicago Blackhawks fired the longtime head athletic trainer of their AHL affiliate for sexual harassment in November, sources told @JesseRogersESPN & me. Story coming.— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) February 7, 2022
Jack Hughes enters COVID protocol [Sportsnet]
Hughes returned to New Jersey after his weekend in Las Vegas for the All-Star Game. Will he be the last All-Star to enter protocol? The league is hoping so. Although, it probably shows the league and players’ association made the right call in not going to the Olympics. Imagine if seven or eight All-Stars tested positive while in Beijing? That would have been really, really bad.
21 Awesome Things from All-Star Weekend [Sportsnet]
COVID did not make the list. Although, Steven Stamkos did bring up the possibility of a Tampa Bay/Toronto playoff series. Why not? We got Tampa Bay/Florida last season and it was pretty fun, why not a little fun with the Leafs this spring?
Results from the Olympics [The Ice Garden]
China 2, Japan 1
United States 8, Switzerland 0
Canada 6, Russian Olympic Team 1
There are two more more left in the qualifying rounds and the U.S. takes on Canada tonight, this morning, this afternoon, whenever. The game will determine who wins Group A and has the top seed in quarterfinal rounds. Just like they want it.
Your moment of hockey zen: