All posts by Brandon Maron

Barzal agrees with Trotz’s decision to bench him: ‘I was in the wrong’

New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal isn't holding any grudges against his coach after he was benched in the third period Tuesday against the New York Rangers.

"As a young guy, I know an example needs to be set," Barzal said at Thursday's All-Star media day, according to Newsday's Laura Albanese. "I was in the wrong."

With the Islanders up by three late in the game, Barzal had a defensive lapse which resulted in a turnover and almost led to a goal. Despite having two assists on the night, head coach Barry Trotz opted to bench Barzal for nearly the last 18 minutes of the contest due to his mistake.

"I'm a competitor and I always want to be on the ice," Barzal added. "At the end of the day, Barry knows what's best for the team. ... We've had games this year where defensive errors have cost us games and he wasn't going to let that happen again.

"I was in the wrong for the play I made. Barry's got my best interests and the team's best interests. He wants to win as bad as anyone and so do I. It's over with now. We got the win and that's all that really matters."

Barzal, 22, is making his second appearance in the All-Star Game. He has 17 goals and 42 points in 49 games this season.

The Islanders will resume play after the All-Star break Feb. 1. They currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division with a 29-15-5 record.

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theScore’s guide to the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition

2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition
Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis, Missouri
When: Friday, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports (Canada); NBCSN (U.S.)

The time has come for the NHL's biggest stars to put their dazzling talents on display.

The 2020 All-Star Skills Competition will feature two new events, including a three-on-three game that showcases the best of women's hockey. Meanwhile, the winners of the individual events will each earn a $30,000 bonus.

Here's everything you need to know about Friday's action.

Fastest Skater

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Kendall Coyne Schofield of the U.S. women's national team put everybody on notice last year when she participated in this classic event and posted a time of 14.346 seconds that topped Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller.

Coyne Schofield won't compete this year, but eight NHLers will be timed for one full lap around the rink. Each skater can choose which direction they'll go, and they're allowed to begin a maximum of 3 feet behind the starting line.

Participants

Last year's winner: McDavid (13.378 seconds)

Save Streak

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Eight goaltenders and all 36 skaters will participate in this event, which is a shootout format in which the goalies will compete to make the most consecutive saves.

Each netminder will face nine skaters from an opposing division and a minimum of nine shot attempts. Those skaters will shoot in order of their number, from the lowest to the highest, with the division's captain going last. The round cannot end with a save, so if the goalie stops the captain's shot, the shooters will continue in the same order until a goal is scored.

The goalie with the longest consecutive save streak will be crowned the winner.

If there's a tie, the winner will be the goaltender who made the most total saves. If at least two goalies are still tied, they will compete in a sudden-death round of "Goalie Goals."

Participants

Last year's winner: Henrik Lundqvist (12 saves)

Accuracy Shooting

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Eight of the league's top snipers will duke it out in this accuracy challenge.

The players will be positioned 25 feet from the goal line. They must hit all of the LED targets in the net, and the player who does it the fastest will be the winner.

Participants

Last year's winner: David Pastrnak (11.309 seconds)

Elite Women's 3-on-3

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This brand-new event will treat fans to one of hockey's greatest international rivalries.

The women's three-on-three matchup will include two teams - American All-Stars and Canadian All-Stars - that are each comprised of nine skaters and one goalie. There will be two 10-minute periods with a running clock.

The American squad will include the likes of Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel, and Coyne Schofield. The Canadian team will feature Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, Sarah Nurse, and Meghan Agosta, among others.

Hardest Shot

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Zdeno Chara, who won this competition consecutively from 2007-12, won't be involved this year. However, Shea Weber, who won it three years in a row from 2015-17, will try to take back his crown.

Each player will attempt two shots that are measured in miles per hour, and the higher speed of the two will be recorded.

The players will shoot from 30 feet out. Players can skate toward the puck but can't start from farther away than the blue line. The player who records the fastest shot speed will be the winner.

Participants

Last year's winner: Carlson (102.8 MPH)

Shooting Stars

How about players shooting pucks into targets from an elevated platform above the ice? Sure, why not. We certainly can't blame the NHL for trying something new.

Eight NHLers and one player from each of the American and Canadian women's three-on-three teams will participate. Players will be positioned on the elevated platform 30 feet above the ice and shoot seven pucks at different targets. Protective netting will be installed above the fans.

Targets will have different point values, and players will be allowed to hit them more than once. The player who accumulates the most points will be the winner.

Participants

All-Star rosters

Atlantic Division

Player Position Team
David Pastrnak F BOS
Tyler Bertuzzi F DET
Anthony Duclair F OTT
Jack Eichel F BUF
Jonathan Huberdeau F FLA
Mitch Marner F TOR
Brady Tkachuk F OTT
Victor Hedman D TBL
Shea Weber D MTL
Frederik Andersen G TOR
Andrei Vasilevskiy G TBL

Metropolitan Division

Player Position Team
Mathew Barzal F NYI
Nico Hischier F NJD
Travis Konecny F PHI
T.J. Oshie F WSH
Chris Kreider F NYR
Kris Letang D PIT
John Carlson D WSH
Jaccob Slavin D CAR
Seth Jones D CBJ
Braden Holtby G WSH
Tristan Jarry G PIT

Central Division

Player Position Team
Nathan MacKinnon F COL
Patrick Kane F CHI
Ryan O'Reilly F STL
David Perron F STL
Mark Scheifele F WPG
Tyler Seguin F DAL
Eric Staal F MIN
Roman Josi D NSH
Alex Pietrangelo D STL
Jordan Binnington G STL
Connor Hellebuyck G WPG

Pacific Division

Player Position Team
Connor McDavid F EDM
Leon Draisaitl F EDM
Tomas Hertl F SJS
Anze Kopitar F LAK
Max Pacioretty F VGK
Elias Pettersson F VAN
Matthew Tkachuk F CGY
Mark Giordano D CGY
Quinn Hughes D VAN
Jacob Markstrom G VAN
David Rittich G CGY

Women's American All-Stars

Player Position
Alex Carpenter F
Kendall Coyne Schofield F
Brianna Decker F
Amanda Kessel F
Hilary Knight F
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson F
Annie Pankowski F
Kacey Bellamy D
Lee Stecklein D
Alex Cavallini G

Women's Canadian All-Stars

Player Position
Meghan Agosta F
Melodie Daoust F
Rebecca Johnston F
Sarah Nurse F
Marie-Philip Poulin F
Natalie Spooner F
Blayre Turnbull F
Renata Fast D
Laura Fortino D
Ann-Renee Desbiens G

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Gallant ‘disappointed and surprised’ by firing, eyeing return to coaching

Like many people in the world of hockey, Gerard Gallant was shocked to learn he'd been fired as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.

"I was quite surprised, actually, when it happened," Gallant said to the Journal Pioneer's Jason Simmonds. "You don't see something coming like that when you have two-and-a-half years in.

"I was disappointed and surprised, but I understand the hockey business and things have to change sometimes."

Gallant was surprisingly relieved of his duties earlier this week, despite Vegas' current hold on a playoff spot.

The first coach in franchise history, Gallant led the Golden Knights on an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. Vegas made the playoffs for the second time in as many campaigns last year, though the team bowed out in the first round.

"That first year was a magical season. If we could have capped it off winning the Stanley Cup it would have been incredible," Gallant said. "The second year was a really good year, too. We made the playoffs, battled hard.

"Up until I got fired, I had two-and-a-half years of being really happy in Vegas. It's a good organization, a good team, and I was excited."

Gallant was even named to the All-Star Game as head coach of the Pacific Division team, but he has decided to not attend. Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet will replace him.

"I was an All-Star coach a week-and-a-half ago and we were in first place in our division and then things change and we lose four in a row," Gallant said. He continued: "I talked to the NHL about it and they sort of left it up to me, but I didn't really feel comfortable (going). I just said I'd sooner pass."

The 56-year-old isn't going to let the bad news keep him from getting behind a new bench sometime soon.

"I'm far from done," he said. "I enjoy coaching. If an opportunity comes up I will definitely look at it."

Gallant is one of seven NHL coaches to be relieved of his duties this season, so a number of teams - including the Seattle expansion franchise - could be looking for a new bench boss in the near future.

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Ovechkin passes Lemieux for 10th in all-time goals

Alex Ovechkin passed Mario Lemieux on Saturday to claim sole possession of the 10th spot on the all-time goals list with 691.

Ovechkin entered Saturday's contest against the New York Islanders needing just one goal to tie Lemieux. He scored early in the first period, and in the third, Ovechkin managed to bury his second goal of the game to pass Lemieux.

The 34-year-old has been on a tear. He's coming off a hat trick in his last game and has seven goals in his last three contests, bringing him to 33 on the year.

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Marchand pokes fun at most recent puck-handling gaffe

Brad Marchand has had some trouble handling the puck lately, and he's hoping somebody can help him find his hands again.

After overskating the puck on a shootout attempt earlier this week, the Boston Bruins forward fumbled the rubber once again on a clearcut breakaway during Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Marchand had Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry beat, but he simply mishandled the puck and missed out on an easy goal. With 21 tallies and 64 points on the season, mishaps like these are rare for the 31-year-old.

On Friday, Marchand took to Twitter in an attempt to solve his recent woes:

Hopefully, an upstanding citizen finds and returns them as soon as possible so Marchand can get back on track.

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Marchand pokes fun at most recent puck-handling gaffe

Brad Marchand has had some trouble handling the puck lately, and he's hoping somebody can help him find his hands again.

After overskating the puck on a shootout attempt earlier this week, the Boston Bruins forward fumbled the rubber once again on a clearcut breakaway during Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Marchand had Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry beat, but he simply mishandled the puck and missed out on an easy goal. With 21 tallies and 64 points on the season, mishaps like these are rare for the 31-year-old.

On Friday, Marchand took to Twitter in an attempt to solve his recent woes:

Hopefully, an upstanding citizen finds and returns them as soon as possible so Marchand can get back on track.

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Kassian has no regrets about Tkachuk altercation: ‘I’d do it again’

Zack Kassian isn't going to apologize anytime soon for his actions toward Matthew Tkachuk that warranted a two-game suspension.

"I'd do it again all over again," Kassian said to reporters when asked if he'd do anything differently. "Since I've been in minor midget I've stood up for myself and my teammates. People don't do that to me or my teammates when I'm out there. To me, those are two dangerous hits."

The Edmonton Oilers forward got into an altercation with the Calgary Flames winger on Saturday. After two questionable hits from Tkachuk, Kassian engaged in a one-sided fight with him. He earned a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct while Tkachuk got nothing.

"I'm a big boy. I love big-boy hockey. But if you're gonna play big-boy hockey, you gotta answer the bell every once in a while," Kassian added. "I'm not crying about the hits, it's hockey, it's the game of hockey - it's rough.

"I thought they were a little bit on the blind side, but at the end of the day I've laid big hits like that, I've been hit like that - but two times is more than enough. You play with fire, eventually, you're gonna get burned, and he messed with the wrong guy and I don't think he realizes that we're in the same division and I have a great memory."

Kassian will be eligible to return from his suspension for the Oilers' game against the Flames on Jan. 29.

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Crosby to return vs. Wild after 28-game absence

The Pittsburgh Penguins are inching toward full health and will get one of the best players in the league back Tuesday.

Sidney Crosby will return to the Penguins' lineup against the Minnesota Wild, the team announced. Crosby has been out of action for two months after undergoing core muscle surgery Nov. 14.

Despite being without Crosby for nearly half the season, the Penguins have been one of the NHL's top teams. Since his last game on Nov. 9, Pittsburgh has gone 18-6-4 - the best record in the league during that span, according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.

Crosby had five goals and 17 points in 17 games before hitting the shelf. The Penguins have won three straight and currently sit second in the Metropolitan Division.

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Capitals re-sign Backstrom to 5-year, $46M contract

The Washington Capitals have re-signed forward Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year deal with an average annual value of $9.2 million, the team announced Tuesday.

The 32-year-old center is in the final season of a 10-year deal he signed with the Capitals in 2010. He negotiated his new deal without the help of an agent, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

Backstrom has been a staple in the Capitals' lineup since the club drafted him fourth overall in 2006. He's amassed 240 goals and 908 points in 934 career games with Washington.

An integral member of the Capitals' Stanley Cup-winning team in 2018, Backstrom is in the midst of another great season, posting nine goals and 35 points in 39 games.

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Grading Shero’s biggest moves with the Devils

Despite a handful of high draft picks and some splashy trades over the last five years, Ray Shero couldn't turn the New Jersey Devils into a contender. With the Devils making just one playoff appearance during his tenure and the team in the league's basement yet again, Shero's time with the squad came to an end when both sides mutually parted ways on Sunday. Let's take a look at how the former GM's franchise-altering moves have panned out to date:

Acquiring Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Shero shocked the hockey world when he landed then 24-year-old Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in the summer of 2016. It didn't stun people that Hall was traded, as the Oilers couldn't escape the bottom of the standings for years, but nobody could believe how little Shero had to give up to acquire the former first overall pick.

The infamous words tweeted out by TSN's Bob McKenzie on the day of the deal, informing the public that it was a one-for-one trade, still echo in the hockey world today. Shero sent 24-year-old defenseman Adam Larsson to the Oilers. Larsson, the Devils' fourth overall pick in 2011, was by no means a bad player. He was a solid stay-at-home defenseman, which the Oilers were desperately searching for, but Larsson wasn't in the same league as the future MVP winner.

Hall captured the Hart Trophy in 2017-18 when he seemingly single-handedly dragged the Devils to their first playoff appearance since 2012. But he was limited to just 33 games last season due to injury, and other than his MVP year, his time with the Devils was rather lackluster. Still, Shero managed to pull off one of the most lopsided NHL trades in quite some time.

Hall spent three full seasons with the Devils, and he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes earlier this year. He's due to become a free agent this summer and he didn't express a desire to re-sign with New Jersey, so Shero decided to get some assets and move on.

Grade: A+

Drafting Nico Hischier 1st overall

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Shero didn't have the easiest decision to make when he headed into the 2017 draft armed with the first overall pick. It wasn't so obvious who the selection should be. There was a lot of debate about whether Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick should go first. On draft day, Shero decided to go with Hischier.

Now in his third season with the club, Hischier is slowly developing into a great two-way player that can chip in on both sides of the puck. After putting up 17 goals and 47 points in 69 games last year, Shero rewarded the 21-year-old with a seven-year, $50.75-million extension in October. Hischier will be part of the Devils' core for years to come, and rightfully so.

However, in retrospect, it appears that Shero shouldn't have selected Hischier or Patrick. Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, and Elias Pettersson were drafted with the third to fifth picks, respectively. Heiskanen and Makar are quickly turning into two of the biggest names on the blue line in the league. Pettersson took home the Calder Trophy in his rookie season and is continuing to excel this year.

Any three of those players would have been a great fit for the Devils, a team that lacks scoring power and needs help on the defensive end. Hindsight is always 20/20, and Hischier isn't a bad consolation prize.

Grade: B

Acquiring P.K. Subban

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Shero made another surprise splash when he acquired P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators last summer. The three-time All-Star only cost the Devils two second-round picks, Steven Santini, and Jeremy Davies. On paper, the trade looked phenomenal for New Jersey. However, things haven't gone according to plan so far.

The 30-year-old defenseman was brought in to be a shutdown defender and contribute offensively. 45 games into the season, Subban has just five goals and 10 points and is on pace for the lowest point total of his career.

The former Norris Trophy winner's only been with the team for just over half a season, so it might be too early to write this off as a bad trade. Shero didn't mortgage the team's future in the deal, making it a rather low-risk move. Subban has two years left on his current contract, which carries a hefty $9-million cap hit, so there's still time for him to turn things around and return to his All-Star form with the Devils.

Grade: C

Drafting Pavel Zacha

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The 2015 draft was absolutely loaded with top-end talent, with a number of teams securing franchise players in the first round. Shero opted to go with Pavel Zacha with the sixth overall pick. At the time, scouts ranked Zacha in that range of the draft. Unfortunately, he hasn't panned out for the Devils, and the quality of the players selected after him makes that sting a little bit more.

Zacha, 22, has 32 goals and 94 points in 242 games with the Devils. Mikko Rantanen, Zach Werenski, Timo Meier, Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, and Ivan Provorov were all selected after him. The Devils could desperately use any of these players, and if Shero had gone with virtually anyone other than Zacha, the state of the team could be drastically different.

Grade: F

Trading Adam Henrique for Sami Vatanen

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Looking to bolster his defensive group, Shero managed to land Sami Vatanen and a conditional pick from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi and a third-round pick.

The trade came in November 2017, and at the time, Henrique had four goals and 14 points in 24 games. His scoring touch was missed as Hall finished the campaign with 39 more points than the Devils' next highest scorer, but Vatanen helped the team secure a playoff spot.

Vatanen appeared in just 50 games last year as his season was cut short due to injury. He's currently in the final year of his contract and is set to hit free agency this summer. Meanwhile, Henrique inked a five-year extension with the Ducks worth $29.125 million, and he's been a steady scorer for Anaheim with 18 goals last season, appearing in all 82 games.

It seems unlikely that Vatanen will return to the Devils at season's end with Subban and Damon Severson locked up on the right side of the blue line for a combined cap hit of $13.16 million a year. The trade made some sense at the time, but it no longer looks like it worked out in favor of the Devils.

Grade: C+

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