The Ottawa Senators, coming off back-to-back victories against Vancouver and Detroit, head to Pittsburgh to face the ice-cold Penguins who have lost six straight. Here are a few of the more pertinent story-lines from around the league and hockey in general:
- A couple of teams hoping to win their respective divisions got some rough news as Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights will miss extended time down the stretch. Stamkos' injury will require surgery, and based on his current timetable he could return for the first round of the playoffs. This might be eased somewhat as Tampa loaded up at the deadline with known commodities Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow but missing one of your stars is never easy. In keeping with NHL tradition, the Golden Knights shared no detail in reporting Stone's lower body injury that will keep him out week-to-week. Vegas acquired Alec Martinez and Robin Lehner to load up for a long run. No one will replace Mark's enthusiasm though.
- In further Golden Knights news, the Vegas squad will relocate their AHL affiliate from San Antonio to Nevada after purchasing the team from Spurs Sports and Entertainment. We have seen a few relocations of this nature in recent years after the Senators moved their affiliate from New York State to Ontario and the Sharks brought their affiliate from Massachusetts to California. In the meantime, the Rampage have bolstered their offence, receiving Joshua Ho-Sang on loan from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The New York Islanders still control Ho-Sang’s rights. I have to wonder if Pierre Dorion at least asked if the Islanders would include Ho-Sang as part of the return for Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
- The Islanders, while we’re on the subject, will play the entirety of their home games at Nassau Coliseum next season after a brief and awkward stint in Brooklyn. The Islanders expect to subsequently move to a new arena in Belmont Park for the 2021-22 season. Fans in Ottawa can naturally relate as both teams have endured years of attendance-related ridicule and never-ending arena-development drama while living in the financial shadows of their state/provincial neighbours. Of course, we’ll also keep our eyes on the Isles down the stretch for other reasons.
- Ottawa’s OTHER farm team, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, won the Penrose Cup (awarded to the regular season champions of the NCHC) over the weekend courtesy of an overtime goal from future Senator Shane Pinto. Along with Jacob Bernard-Docker and Johnny Tychonick, Pinto has helped the Fighting Hawks earn a top-three ranking nationally with eyes on the Frozen Four in April.
- In the NHL awards race, Leon Draisaitl remains the frontrunner for the Art Ross Trophy as he has now amassed over 100 points through 65 games; at his current rate he is threatening 130. With Tyler Ennis now in the fold, the Edmonton Oilers sit four points back of the Golden Knights for the Pacific Division lead. Closer to home, Draisaitl remains a reminder of the intricacies of drafting in the NHL. The Oilers “stole” Draisaitl at third overall as a European import with limited exposure in the WHL despite some unbelievable numbers. Let’s hope Dorion remembers his ABCs: Always Be sCouting (Europeans and North Americans equally).