Habs’ Kotkaniemi ruled out vs. Avs after scary fall on hit from Zadorov

Montreal Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi has been ruled out with an upper-body injury for the remainder of Thursday's contest versus the Colorado Avalanche after falling hard on a hit from Nikita Zadorov.

Kotkaniemi landed awkwardly after being spun upside down and remained on the ice before Montreal's medical staff helped him to the dressing room. No penalty was called on the play.

Kotkaniemi missed seven games earlier this season due to a groin injury. The 19-year-old sophomore has posted five points in 21 games while averaging just over 13 minutes per contest.

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Report: Coyotes definitely interested in trading for Hall

The Arizona Coyotes are definitely interested in trading for New Jersey Devils star Taylor Hall, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on Thursday's edition of "Insider Trading."

Hall, 28, is in the final year of his current deal, which carries an annual cap hit of $6 million. He's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July, and Devils GM Ray Shero is reportedly listening to potential offers for the blue-chip winger.

The Devils entered the 2019-20 campaign with high expectations after being one of the most aggressive teams in the offseason. But New Jersey has stumbled to a 9-14-4 record through 27 contests and sits second-last in the NHL entering Thursday's action.

Arizona, on the other hand, has enjoyed a strong start to the season as it looks to end a seven-year playoff drought. The Coyotes have been one of the league's best defensive teams but rank 23rd in goals-per-game and could use an offensive boost.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka added perennial goal-scorer Phil Kessel in a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in July, and his apparent interest in Hall seems to indicate Arizona is all-in on this season; the Coyotes are currently projected by CapFriendly to have just $785,000 in cap space for 2020-21 - the first season of Hall's next contract.

Hall captured the 2018 Hart Trophy as league MVP with a career-best 93-point campaign. The Alberta native leads the Devils with 22 points this season but has mustered just four goals in 27 games.

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Sopel’s Crawford stories not meant as allegations: ‘He found ways to motivate me’

Former NHL defenseman Brent Sopel released a statement Wednesday adding context to his comments from last year about Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Marc Crawford, who is currently being investigated by the team after allegations that he was abusive toward players during his long career as a head coach with other franchises.

Former NHLer Sean Avery recently said that Crawford kicked him so hard it "left a mark" when Crawford was head coach of the Los Angeles Kings in 2006. Sopel played under Crawford during his tenures with the Kings and the Vancouver Canucks. In a 2018 appearance on the "Spittin' Chiclets" podcast, Sopel said the coach had kicked, choked, and verbally abused him.

Sopel's quotes attracted plenty of recent attention in light of Crawford being investigated. He posted a statement Wednesday on Twitter that credited Crawford for making him a better player, noted that he'd talked about his experiences "as a former NHL defenseman, not as a victim," and clarified that he won't comment on how the coach impacted others.

"I told some stories from many years ago about my time as a professional hockey player," Sopel said of his podcast appearance. "I shared those stories to entertain the listeners. I told those stories as a former NHL defenseman, not as a victim.

"The stories that I shared ... have recently been cited alongside accusations made by other players against coach Marc Crawford. It was not my intent to make any allegations against anyone or any organization. I was only speaking to how Coach Crawford affected me. I cannot speak for how others were affected by him. I played hundreds of games for Coach Crawford, including a season where I posted 42 points. He found ways to motivate me and make me a better player. He molded me into a player that went on to win a Stanley Cup in Chicago.

"I recognize and respect that different coaching tactics affect people in different ways. Just as I prefer others not speak on my behalf about my life experiences, I will not comment on Coach Crawford's impact on other players. Those are not my stories to tell.

"Time has a way of changing people and the way that we do things."

Crawford, 58, oversaw 1,169 games as a head coach and won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. He joined the Blackhawks' staff this past summer.

Sopel played 659 NHL games and recorded 218 points over a career that featured stints with the Canucks, Kings, Islanders, Blackhawks, Thrashers, and Canadiens. His final season in the league was 2010-11.

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Landeskog set to return vs. Canadiens after 16-game absence

Colorado Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Andre Burakovsky will return to the lineup for Thursday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens, the team announced.

Landeskog, 27, hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury on Oct. 26. The Avalanche have gone 9-6-1 during his absence. The Colorado captain has seven points in 11 games so far this season.

Burakovsky has missed the last three games due to an upper-body injury. The 24-year-old winger has recorded 21 points in 24 games.

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Stars’ Radulov a healthy scratch vs. Jets

Dallas Stars forward Alexander Radulov is a healthy scratch Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets, head coach Jim Montgomery said, according to The Athletic's Sean Shapiro.

Montgomery added that the move is what's best for the team.

Radulov declined to comment on the matter through the Stars' public relations department.

After compiling 70-plus points in each of his first two seasons in Dallas, Radulov has eight goals and seven assists in 29 contests this year. The 33-year-old is in the third season of a five-year contract that carries an annual cap hit of $6.25 million.

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MacKinnon: ‘I’ll take less again’ on next contract to help Avs win

Nathan MacKinnon is arguably the league's most underpaid player, but he says he isn't looking to make up for that on his next contract.

The Colorado Avalanche superstar is owed $6.3 million per season through the 2022-23 campaign after signing a seven-year, $44.1-million deal in 2016. His $6.3-million cap hit makes him the 82nd-highest-paid player in the NHL even though he's blossomed into a perennial Hart Trophy candidate.

"We have guys that we wouldn't (otherwise) be able to bring in," MacKinnon told Forbes' Jordan Horrobin on Wednesday in Toronto. "On my next deal, I'll take less again. Because I want to win with this group."

There's some irony in MacKinnon saying this while paying a visit to the Maple Leafs. Toronto rosters three of the league's seven highest-paid players by annual cap hit in Auston Matthews ($11.634 million), John Tavares ($11 million), and Mitch Marner ($10.893 million).

The Avalanche are one of the few NHL contenders that isn't in dire cap trouble. MacKinnon's cap hit - which could have theoretically doubled by now had he signed a bridge deal instead of a long-term extension - is a big reason why.

"I was just excited to get paid that much money at such a young age," the 24-year-old said. "Obviously it's pretty (team) friendly now, but I was worth that at the time. … I have no regrets."

MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy awarded to the league's top rookie in 2013-14, but he didn't enjoy a breakout season until his 97-point 2017-18 campaign.

Bridge deals were popular in this offseason's stacked class of restricted free agents. Matthew Tkachuk, Patrik Laine, Brayden Point, Charlie McAvoy, and Zach Werenski were among those who signed contracts of two or three years, setting themselves up for bigger paydays down the road.

Many of these players missed a large chunk of training camp and preseason during negotiations. MacKinnon's linemate Mikko Rantanen signed a six-year, $55.5-million pact less than a week before the start of the regular season.

"I think you want to get paid what you're worth," MacKinnon said. "I'd probably do the same thing. If a team isn't paying you what you think you're worth, holding out is something (players) are entitled to. … I think it's going to continue that way."

MacKinnon is currently tied for third in the NHL with 44 points while the Avalanche hold second place in the Central Division with a record of 17-8-2.

(Salary information source: CapFriendly)

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Senators assign Brannstrom to AHL

The Ottawa Senators assigned defenseman Erik Brannstrom to the AHL on Thursday, the team announced.

Brannstrom had recorded a pair of assists in 23 games while averaging 13:35 per game.

The 20-year-old Swede was the centerpiece return chip in the deal that sent Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights at last season's trade deadline. Vegas drafted Brannstrom 15th overall in 2017.

Brannstrom totaled 32 points in 50 AHL games a season ago.

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‘Miracle on Ice’ star ruled mentally ill, dangerous by judge

A Minnesota judge ruled Wednesday that a former member of the "Miracle on Ice" 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, Mark Pavelich, is mentally ill and dangerous, according to Pam Louwagie of the Minnesota Star Tribune.

The judge ordered the 61-year-old committed to a secure treatment facility.

Pavelich faced criminal charges that he beat a friend with a metal pole after accusing him of "spiking his beer." His friend suffered cracked ribs, a bruised kidney, and a fractured vertebra.

Judge Michael Cuzzo deemed Pavelich incompetent to stand trial based on an expert report, concluding that he was "incapable of participating in the defense due to mental illness or deficiency." The case was put on hold while the state moved to civilly commit him to treatment.

Pavelich's family is convinced he suffers from CTE after repeated concussions and blows to the head sustained during his hockey career. They started to see changes over the last few years but he has refused help. CTE can only be diagnosed after death.

A pair of clinical psychologists who examined Pavelich found him to have post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other conditions, according to the judge's order. Both psychologists considered him to be mentally ill and dangerous.

Psychologist Chris Bowerman found Pavelich to have delusions and paranoia, including a delusion that family, friends, and neighbors tried to poison him.

Psychologist Jacqueline Buffington found he suffers from "mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury with behavioral disturbance (psychotic symptoms, aggression)," and believes his condition is likely related to head injuries suffered over his lifetime.

Pavelich had seven points in seven games during the 1980 Olympics. He assisted on Mike Eruzione's game-winning goal during the U.S.'s famous 4-3 upset victory over the heavily favored Soviet Union. The Americans then went on to defeat Finland to win gold.

Pavelich played five seasons for the New York Rangers and one apiece with the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks. He tallied 329 points in 355 career games and fought nine times, according to hockeyfights.com.

The NHL agreed to a maximum settlement of just under $19 million in its concussion lawsuit last year involving hundreds of players. The league didn't admit to any wrongdoing, however.

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