The blue-chip rearguard was expected to miss the remainder of the campaign after suffering a broken fibula on Jan. 16 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the timeline for Hamilton's recovery has general manager Don Waddell pondering a potential return.
"The only thing that I'm cautious about is with Dougie they say 8-12 weeks," Waddell said Friday, according to NHL.com's Tom Gulitti. "If he's 10 weeks, that's the last week of March."
Wadell will have to decide how to approach the Feb. 24 trade deadline with Hamilton's status still somewhat uncertain. Carolina could place Hamilton and his $5.75-million cap hit on long-term injured reserve in order to create more cap space, but using that space to add another player could prevent the team from activating a healthy Hamilton for what's shaping up to be a critical final stretch.
"If he was ready to go that last week of the season, starting on March 28, we have five games," Wadell said. "Those might be the most important five games of the year. So if he was ready to come back, you'd want to try to keep space to bring him back."
Hamilton was in the conversation for the Norris Trophy this season, recording 14 goals and 40 points in 47 games before sustaining the injury. The 26-year-old earned his first All-Star nod earlier in January.
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Luck really wasn't with us Thursday as we fell on the wrong side of a come-from-behind shootout victory and a goal short of nailing an over, finishing 1-2 on the night.
These things happen, but that New Jersey Devils game is going to haunt me for a while.
Let's get it back Friday.
GOATs and scapegoat
Brendan Gallagher put on a show in his return to the ice for the Montreal Canadiens after missing 10 of the last 11 contests. He scored the game-winning goal and also registered an assist as the Canadiens marched into Buffalo and claimed two points from the reeling Sabres.
We needed that from the Habs, because the Devils absolutely broke our spirit. They held three separate leads over the Nashville Predators - including two in the third period - but Mackenzie Blackwood was the victim of his miserable defense and allowed five goals on 25 shots. I'm never betting New Jersey again. That was torture.
Carolina Hurricanes (-140)
Laying this sort of juice isn't something I typically like to do but there are times when the occasion calls for it. The Vegas Golden Knights have generally been pretty poor on the road. They've lost four of five, 12 of 18, and are 3-7 away to Eastern Conference teams, beating only the Devils, New York Rangers, and Ottawa Senators.
This is the first game of a back-to-back for the Knights, with Peter DeBoer confirming Malcolm Subban will get the start against the Hurricanes, who are 7-2 at home to Western Conference teams this season and have won five of their last six in Raleigh. The Canes have allowed just four goals in their last five home games and are playing some excellent hockey at the moment.
Boston Bruins/Winnipeg Jets over 6 (-110)
Give me the Bruins' team total over 3.5 (-110) and the Jets' team total over 2.5 (-120), as well. Winnipeg is on a 6-0-1 run to the over against Eastern Conference teams and has allowed 25 goals in its last four contests.
Boston has played to three straight overs against Western Conference teams and its last four games in Winnipeg have averaged 7.3 goals. All signs point to fireworks.
Philadelphia Flyers/Pittsburgh Penguins over 6 (-110)
This will be the first action for both the Flyers and Penguins since they met in Philadelphia just before the All-Star Break, with the latter losing that one 3-0. Brian Elliott put on an unlikely performance in that game, but I expect a much different result this time around. Elliott allowed 32 goals and was pulled four times over his previous eight games against the Penguins before that shutout.
Pittsburgh has had 10 days to stew over that result and should put in a much-improved offensive effort on home ice. The over has hit in eight of the Flyers' last nine road games for an average of 7.8 goals per contest. The Penguins are on a 5-2 run to the over on home ice.
I also like the Flyers' team total over 2.5 goals here at just -110. They've won four of their last five in Pittsburgh and are going to need to score to keep pace.
George Kittle total receptions > Columbus Blue Jackets at Montreal Canadiens total goals
This one is almost too good to be true. The Kansas City Chiefs were a bottom-five team at defending the tight end position this season in terms of receptions and yards allowed. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan is the best in the business at exploiting a defense's weakness and, with a projected total of 54.5, the 49ers will have to throw the ball a fair bit Sunday, with Kittle expected to be a focal point of that. Six receptions should be the minimum.
And six should be more than enough to surpass the total number of goals scored at the Bell Center on Sunday when the Blue Jackets visit the Canadiens. Their last five meetings in Montreal have featured just 18 goals (3.6 per game). Even if they fly over that total and the game finishes 3-2, we should feel more than comfortable with Kittle surpassing that mark.
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.
Steinel took the Sabres organization and, specifically, co-owner Terry Pegula to task during the diatribe. He called out the team for its in-game ineptitude, but also cited a series of off-ice missteps involving the club's legends during its 50th season.
He referenced the embarrassment he felt seeing former Buffalo forward Danny Gare being forced to wear an unlicensed jersey at a fundraising event, as well as the organization giving former Sabres Dave Andreychuk and Mike Robitaille jerseys with their surnames misspelled.
"I don't need a Jerry Jones type of owner," Steinel said, before beginning to yell. "I need (an) owner who's going to answer the fans when they misspell names on jerseys and have Chinese knockoffs on alumni. What is going on? What are we doing?"
Steinel lamented the fact that no one from the organization has taken responsibility by publicly commenting on the mishaps or answering questions from fans amid another disappointing season.
"I don't need a damn camera in front of Terry Pegula every single day, but address our concerns," he said. "Be there when you screw up. Answer for the mistakes. Be accountable."
The rant resonated locally, blowing up on social media and even resulting in the creation of "We Are All Duane" T-shirts. But it also made the rounds on a national scale.
A representative of Pegula Sports and Entertainment - the team's parent company - subsequently "berated" WGR management, leading to the deletion of a tweet promoting the audio and increased attention around it as a result, The Athletic's John Vogl reported Thursday.
Pegula and his wife, Kim, bought the team in February 2011. The Sabres made the playoffs later that spring, but they lost in the first round and haven't returned to the postseason since.
Here are our top five Hart Trophy candidates as the unofficial second half of the season rolls on:
5. Auston Matthews
Even for his lofty standards, Matthews' contributions to the Toronto Maple Leafs have been impressive, particularly given the circumstances.
The 22-year-old star has buried 12 more goals and notched 10 more points than the next-closest teammate. He's been particularly hot lately, piling up nine goals in 10 games since the calendar flipped to 2020, and a whopping 20 markers in his last 21 contests. Matthews has also been a beast from a possession standpoint, posting stellar Corsi For and High-Danger Chances For rates in addition to the analytics listed in the chart above.
Those exploits are all the more commendable considering he's been dealing with a wrist condition for the last few weeks. He's not one of the front-runners for this award just yet, but with the Maple Leafs back in the playoff hunt, he now deserves to be included among the contenders.
4. John Carlson
Carlson has no shortage of talented teammates on the league-leading Washington Capitals, but his efforts still deserve recognition.
He's cooled off a bit since his early season offensive explosion, but the ultra-productive defenseman is still putting up big numbers, collecting a point per game in January. The Norris Trophy favorite is driving the Capitals' offense and posting favorable possession figures while logging a heavy workload.
Carlson is tied for 10th in the NHL points race, leads all blue-liners in that department, and is also pacing his team, registering eight more than second-place star Alex Ovechkin. Plus, his 96-point pace means he still has a shot at the first triple-digit campaign by a blue-liner since Brian Leetch in 1991-92.
3. Brad Marchand
It's tempting to give Hart consideration to Pastrnak based solely on his offensive output, but a closer look at the numbers shows his polarizing teammate remains a far more worthy contender.
Marchand has excelled whether he's been with Pastrnak (55.48 xGF% and 55.8 SCF%) or without him (much better figures of 62.88 and 63.41), whereas Pastrnak's numbers in these categories dip to 45.53 and 51.16 without Marchand.
That's largely due to the fact that Marchand is a more complete player than his Czech linemate. He does more on the defensive end, kills penalties, and leads the NHL in infractions drawn. The talented pest also ranks fifth in the league in assists (sitting in a tie for third in primary helpers) and is tied for sixth in points while playing in all situations.
2. Connor McDavid
No one doubts McDavid is the league's biggest game-changer. He's been No. 1 in this race at times during the 2019-20 campaign, and arguably still would be if not for MacKinnon's exploits. The Edmonton Oilers superstar is tied for the league lead in assists and points while averaging over a full minute of ice time more than the Colorado Avalanche dynamo.
However, McDavid has been aided by Draisaitl's significant production, even though he's also played a big role in facilitating it. It's none other than Draisaitl himself who's tied with McDavid for the NHL lead in assists and points, and he's matched McDavid's goal total as well. While Mikko Rantanen is averaging more than a point per game for the Avalanche, MacKinnon doesn't have a teammate scoring at a rate near that of McDavid's running partner.
Draisaitl's has also been worse without McDavid than McDavid has been without him, posting a 45.02 xGF% and a 44.13 SCF% mark away from the Oilers captain, compared to 46.10 and 46.47, respectively, with him. Conversely, McDavid has posted a gaudy 57.93 xGF% and 60.22 SCF% without Draisaitl.
So even if McDavid isn't the Hart front-runner right now, the value he brings to his team is obviously immense.
1. Nathan MacKinnon
Despite McDavid's impact, MacKinnon remains the Hart favorite. He proved his case when Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog were both forced out of the lineup for a prolonged period earlier this season, and he's continued to produce with six goals and 14 points in nine January games.
MacKinnon holds the edge over McDavid virtually across the board when it comes to driving possession, posting superior numbers in both of the analytics categories listed in the chart above. He also owns far better High-Danger Chances For (by a 57.45 to 52.69 margin) and Corsi For (53.06 to 48.82) rates.
The Colorado catalyst has racked up nearly double the points of the next-closest Avalanche skater (72 to Cale Makar's 37), a feat that remains remarkable regardless of the aforementioned injuries.
MacKinnon has demonstrated - both while his linemates were shelved and when they've been healthy - that no one's done more to improve his team.
The NHL is investigating the Arizona Coyotes after allegations they conducted physical testing on draft-eligible Canadian Hockey League players, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on "Insider Trading."
Physically testing players prior to the NHL combine is prohibited under league rules.
The OHL, WHL, and QMJHL - the three leagues under the CHL's umbrella - tell their respective junior teams to report any contact from NHL clubs. Multiple teams have stated there's been contact from the Coyotes, according to Dreger's sources.
If the Coyotes are found guilty, the club could face hefty fines of $250,000 or more per incident at the discretion of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Dreger adds.
The San Jose Sharks' miserable season was dealt another devastating blow Thursday, as the team announced forward Tomas Hertl will miss the remainder of the year with a torn ACL and MCL.
Hertl ranks second on the Sharks in goals (16) and points (36) this season. He's fresh off his first career All-Star Game, where he put up five goals in two games as the Pacific Division won the tournament last weekend in St. Louis.
The 26-year-old joins San Jose's other top center, captain Logan Couture, on the sidelines long term. Couture was diagnosed to miss several weeks with a fractured ankle earlier in January.
San Jose currently sits 26th in the NHL with 48 points through 52 games and appears set to miss the playoffs for just the second time since 1997-98. Making matters worse, the Ottawa Senators own the Sharks' first-round pick this summer as a part of the trade package that landed Erik Karlsson.