Clark Gillies, Islanders legend and Hall of Famer, dies at 67

New York Islanders icon and Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gilles died at 67 years old, the team announced Friday.

Gillies played 12 seasons with the Islanders, winning four consecutive Stanley Cups in the 1980s. He finished his career with a two-year stint in Buffalo, ultimately racking up 697 points in 958 games.

He had his No. 9 retired by the Islanders in 1996 and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2002.

"The entire Islanders community is devastated by the loss of Clark Gillies," Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said.

"He epitomized what it means to be a New York Islander. The pride he felt wearing the Islanders sweater on the ice was evident by his willingness to do anything to win. Off the ice, he was just as big of a presence, always taking the time to give back to the local community.

"The New York Islanders have four Stanley Cups because of the sacrifices he and the members of those dynasty teams made for the franchise. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Gillies family."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement:

"The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Clark Gillies, a tower of strength on the ice for the dynastic New York Islanders of the early 1980s and a pillar of the Long Island community ever since. Gillies helped define the term "power forward" during a 14-season, Hall of Fame career with the Islanders and Buffalo Sabres that was highlighted by winning four Stanley Cups with the Islanders."

Gillies was one of 17 Islanders to win every championship between 1980 and 1983.

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Fleury ignoring trade speculation, wants to lead Blackhawks to playoffs

Marc-Andre Fleury is focused on finding a way to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to the playoffs this spring, not the trade speculation surrounding him.

"All I want is to have this team make the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs," Fleury said Thursday, per NHL.com's Tracey Myers. "Honestly, that's what's in my head right now. To me, it's not worth looking too far ahead. I just want to put this team in a good position to make the playoffs, and that's my goal."

The Blackhawks are a long shot to qualify for the postseason, sitting eight points back of the Western Conference's second wild-card spot. Fleury's frequently been mentioned as a target for playoff hopefuls looking to bolster their depth in goal due to his status as a 37-year-old pending unrestricted free agent and Chicago's struggles.

Fleury has been one of the Blackhawks' few bright spots this season, posting a .916 save percentage across 27 starts. The team won four of its last five, and its recent form is giving Fleury hope for a charge up the standings.

"We've been winning some games, so I think it's not just me," he said. "As a team in general, we've been playing well, giving ourselves a chance to win every night. I think guys are playing well in front of me, too, which makes my job easier. I feel good."

The Blackhawks acquired Fleury, then fresh off winning the Vezina Trophy, in a stunning trade from the Vegas Golden Knights this past offseason. He posted a 117-60-14 record over four years in Sin City.

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AHL player suspended 30 games for racist gesture

San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik has been suspended 30 games for directing a racist gesture toward Tucson Roadrunners winger Boko Imama, who is Black.

Hrabik committed the act during a game on Jan. 12 and has already sat out for three contests.

The 22-year-old center will take part in education and training with the NHL's Player Inclusion Committee. He can apply to have the suspension reduced after March 12, and that ruling would be made based on his progress with the committee.

“The AHL stands with Boko Imama,” AHL president and CEO Scott Howson said in a statement. “It is unfair that any player should be subjected to comments or gestures based on their race; they should be judged only on their ability to perform as a player on the ice, as a teammate in the locker room, and as a member of their community.”

The Barracuda and the San Jose Sharks, who share an affiliation, said in a joint statement that they were "appalled to learn of this incident." The two clubs also extended their "sincerest apologies" to Imama, the Roadrunners, the AHL, their fans, and the hockey community as a whole.

This is the second time a player has been disciplined for an act of racism toward Imama in his career. Brandon Manning, then a defenseman for the Bakersfield Condors, was suspended five games exactly two years ago Friday for directing a racial slur toward Imama, who was with the Ontario Reign.

The Tampa Bay Lightning selected Imama in the sixth round of the 2015 draft. He's since played in the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes organizations. The Roadrunners are the Coyotes' AHL affiliate.

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NHL weekend preview: Goals galore

We have a busy weekend ahead on the ice with 19 games over the next couple of days - eight on Friday night and 11 on Saturday.

Let's highlight some of the bets that stick out.

Panthers (-200) @ Canucks (+180)
Jan. 21, 10 p.m. ET

Goals follow the Panthers. Their dynamic offense can keep up with anybody, and that's no exaggeration. Florida leads the NHL in goals with 164.

The Panthers' style of play welcomes a track meet - especially when Spencer Knight is between the pipes. The highly-touted prospect has struggled to find his footing at the NHL level, owning a putrid .893 save percentage while conceding at least three goals in seven of his last nine starts.

Put simply, they tend to be high-event games when Knight is in net. The Panthers have to give him a handful of goals to have a realistic shot at winning.

Even in a back-to-back, I don't think that'll be much of an issue tonight. Thatcher Demko, one of the league's hottest goaltenders, isn't available due to a positive COVID-19 test. The same can be said of backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

As such, the Canucks will have to turn to their third-string netminder against the highest-scoring team in the NHL. That doesn't seem ideal.

While not having J.T. Miller (COVID-19 protocol) hurts Vancouver's offense, it still has the pieces to contribute and put at least a couple behind Knight.

I see fireworks in this one.

Bet: Over 6.5 goals (-120)

Flames (+105) @ Oilers (-125)
Jan. 22, 10 p.m. ET

Both sides are limping into this crucial Battle of Alberta. The Flames have dropped four of the last five games, being outscored by nine goals in that span.

They've won only won three of their last 10 overall but somehow enter this contest on a higher note than the Oilers. That's crazy, I know. Edmonton has won just two of its last 10 games.

As easy as it'd be to pile on the narrative that both teams are playing like garbage, the reality is each side probably deserves better.

Calgary, for example, ranks fifth in high-danger chances per minute over the last 10 games. The Flames are generating great opportunities in bulk but struggle to put them in the back of the net. Unfortunately, goaltending hasn't been able to mask those struggles. An unsustainably low PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage) of 0.955 makes them look worse than they actually are.

It's a similar story for the Oilers. Shockingly, their five-on-five PDO over the same period is ... 0.956.

They have controlled nearly 54% of the expected goals during this rough spell - putting them seventh in the NHL, sandwiched between the Panthers and Penguins. Their best players just haven't finished, while the goaltending has made matters worse.

At some point, these offenses are going to break out. Both teams feature a few dynamic stars up top, so the shooting woes aren't going to last forever, especially going up against struggling netminders.

I'm going to bank on some regression kicking in and this game going over the number.

Bet: Over 6 goals (-110)

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

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Kadri’s All-Star play, Laine-Dubois deal revisited, and fighting’s resurgence

What's driving Nazem Kadri's outsized production this season?

"Everyone keeps asking me that, and I'm not exactly sure how to answer," the Colorado Avalanche center told theScore earlier in January.

Kadri has erupted for 51 points in 35 games to rank fifth in points and fourth in points per game among all NHLers. He's already set a career high in assists with 36. After some prodding, the vote-in All-Star offered a few thoughts on why he's enjoying a career year at age 31 in his 12th NHL campaign.

Michael Martin / Getty Images

First, Kadri noted, Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar truly believes the forward is a "difference-maker" and "game-changer." That faith has seen Kadri average a career-high 18:50 of ice time per game alongside a group of wingers with complementary skill sets - Andre Burakovsky on the left side and Valeri Nichushkin, Logan O'Connor, or J.T. Compher on the right.

Secondly, Kadri believes his skating has never been this explosive, his shot has never been this accurate, and his release has never been this quick. Interestingly, unlike virtually all of his peers, Kadri opted not to work with a skills or skating coach this past offseason - a departure from previous training habits.

"I've been doing this for a long time, and at some point, you start to understand your body and what you need and certain drills that work for you," Kadri said of his offseason training regimen, which featured regular skates with NHLers. "I try to apply that mentality to each and every practice, and it seems to be paying off."

My two cents: There appears to be finer precision in Kadri's game this season. His timing around the puck has been just right, and he seems to activate "attack mode" - angling to the net intent on scoring, marching through the neutral zone with purposeful strides, etc. - more frequently.

Kadri admitted to entering 2021-22 with "a bit of a chip on my shoulder." He was suspended for eight games last postseason after delivering a blindside hit on Justin Faulk in Game 2 of Colorado's first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche were eliminated before Kadri returned from his sixth career suspension - and third during playoff action - so he sagged into the offseason with his approval rating at an all-time low.

Among the criticisms - most of which were fair, given Kadri's suspension history - was a scathing Denver Post column. It ran under the headline, "Avalanche should cut ties ASAP with cheap-shot artist Nazem Kadri."

"Stupidity," Mark Kiszla wrote, "is a drug Kadri can't quit. The Avalanche gave him a second chance after he wore out his welcome in Toronto, but general manager Joe Sakic would be foolish to think Kadri is capable of meaningful reformation."

Needless to say, Kadri's career year couldn't have come at a better time for his reputation or his wallet (he's a pending unrestricted free agent).

"And those people aren't so loud now," Kadri said, talking in general terms about his critics. "It's funny how that works. All of those naysayers come out after something like that (Faulk hit) happens, then you have a big performance, and everyone kind of fades away. For me, that's fuel to the fire. I want to be able to make these doubters look like fools."

Kadri has one thing left to prove: That he can play smart and continue this level of production - or some variation of it, anyway - over a long playoff run.

Revisiting Laine-Dubois trade

Jamie Sabau / Getty Images

Sunday marks one year since the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets swapped struggling, unhappy young forwards in a blockbuster deal. Center Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round draft pick went from Columbus to Winnipeg, while winger Patrik Laine and center Jack Roslovic went the other way.

It was hard to crown a winner at the time. Would the change of scenery help Dubois return to the trajectory of an elite two-way center? Would it help Laine rediscover the sharpshooting magic that allowed him to score 80 goals in his first two NHL seasons?

Even after a year, neither question has been answered fully - though Dubois is certainly closer to his ceiling than Laine is to his. (Roslovic's play, meanwhile, hasn't tipped the value of the trade beyond the future value of that third-round pick.) So, Winnipeg has made out better in the trade, but it hasn't necessarily hit a home run.

The 2020-21 season was disastrous for both Dubois and Laine. Quarantines, injuries, and the complications of joining a new organization contributed to the worst season of each player's career. The separator, then, is Dubois' strong performance so far in 2021-22:

Points aren't everything, especially for two 23-year-olds aiming to round out their respective games (more offense for Dubois, more defense for Laine). But the eye test and statistics both show clearly that Dubois has had a greater impact in all three zones of the ice. In fact, he's arguably been the Jets' best forward behind Kyle Connor.

Context is key, of course, and observers can't ignore what Laine has endured. The Finn suffered an oblique injury in early November. While he was sidelined, he traveled home to say goodbye to his father, Harri, who died on Nov. 21.

On the ice, Laine has mostly had weaker linemates than Dubois. The pairing of Boone Jenner and Jakub Voracek doesn't quite stack up to a duo of Connor and one of Nikolaj Ehlers, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Andrew Copp.

That said, the results at the one-year mark speak for themselves, and the Jets have squeezed more on-ice value out of the trade than the Blue Jackets.

It's probably best to judge trades five years after they occur, so we'll see how the next four seasons unfold. Laine and Dubois are both restricted free agents this summer and set to hit unrestricted free agency in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

Fighting numbers up

After watching Nicolas Deslauriers and Kurtis MacDermid throw down during Colorado's game against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, I wondered if the recent rush of tilts I've seen was a trend or coincidence.

There have been 0.5 fighting majors per game this season, up from 0.46 in 2020-21. So, a small increase. But what about the per-game averages each season since 2010-11?

Fighting decreased significantly in the 2010s; the NHL went from an average of one fighting major per game to one roughly every three games. Over the past two seasons, however, the per-game average has crept back up.

Some theories as to why this may be: first, players are human, and some pandemic-related angst has been spilling onto the ice; second, empty or half-full arenas tend to breed energy-boosting acts - such as starting a fight; third, the addition of a 32nd team created 23 new roster spots league-wide, and some of those spots have been filled by less skilled, fight-happy players; fourth, there's been a small-scale swing back in the direction of brute physicality after a decade of obsession over skill and speed.

Though a span of last year's shortened season and this year's first half doesn't constitute a legitimate big-picture trend, the uptick in fighting is something to keep an eye on. As for the busiest fighters thus far, here's the leaderboard: Liam O'Brien (Arizona Coyotes, eight majors), Tanner Jeannot (Nashville Predators, eight), Mark Borowiecki (Predators, six), Deslauriers (Ducks, six), and Jacob Middleton (San Jose Sharks, six). Nashville has been particularly pugilistic with 27 fights, well ahead of second-place Arizona's 18.

Parting thoughts

Eastern playoff picture: The Eastern Conference standings are comically lopsided right now. Eight teams - four from the Atlantic Division, four from the Metropolitan - are firmly in playoff position with points percentages between .750 (Carolina Hurricanes) and .646 (Washington Capitals). From there, it falls off to .513 (Detroit Red Wings), .500 (New York Islanders and Blue Jackets), and so on. In other words, don't expect any thrilling playoff races out east.

Ryan Hartman: It sure looks like the Minnesota Wild have found Kirill Kaprizov's long-term center in Hartman, who thinks the game well, plays with an edge, and can really pick a corner. Hartman, 27, is a journeyman of sorts, having played for three NHL teams before joining Minnesota in 2019. The native of South Carolina has 16 goals and 14 assists in 35 games this season and carries a $1.7-million cap hit through 2023-24. He's a rare breed, too: a forward who's successfully moved from the wing to center. It's usually the other way around by the time a player reaches the best league in the world.

Montreal Canadiens: New Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes faces a unique challenge. His club isn't devoid of talent or weighed down by a bunch of immovable, albatross contracts. No, Montreal's roster is littered with guys who are in or around their prime, have been injured or haven't played well of late, and are signed for multiple years past this season (two examples: Josh Anderson and Brendan Gallagher). Keeping all of those pieces isn't the move for a rebuilding or resetting team. But the Canadiens have minimal leverage, so netting satisfactory returns via trade won't be easy either.

Takes, Thoughts, and Trends is theScore's biweekly hockey grab bag.

John Matisz is theScore's senior NHL writer. Follow John on Twitter (@MatiszJohn) or contact him via email (john.matisz@thescore.com).

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Canadiens’ Allen to miss 8 weeks with injury

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen will be out for eight weeks with a lower-body injury.

Allen has already missed four games after departing early in a loss to the Boston Bruins on Jan. 12. The 31-year-old left the Canadiens' road trip for further evaluation. Montreal head coach Dominique Ducharme initially said the netminder would need at least one week to recover.

The struggling Canadiens have leaned on Allen without Carey Price so far this season. The former St. Louis Blues puck-stopper is 5-16-2 with a .901 save percentage while playing 24 of Montreal's 39 contests in his second campaign with the club.

Sam Montembeault has gone 1-0-2 with a .926 save percentage in Allen's absence. Montembeault excelled while being bombarded in the last two contests, stopping 97 of the 104 shots he faced.

The Canadiens acquired Allen from the Blues for a pair of seventh-round picks in September 2020.

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Remember, we are all Canucks!