Watch: MacKinnon ejected after throwing helmet at Garland

Nathan MacKinnon's clash versus the Arizona Coyotes ended early Wednesday after throwing a helmet at Conor Garland.

The Colorado Avalanche superstar was assessed four minutes for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct.

Tempers flared between the two clubs late in the third period as Colorado held a commanding 9-3 lead over its division rivals.

MacKinnon finished the night with two assists, two shots, and 14 penalty minutes.

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Wheeler exits vs. Maple Leafs with undisclosed injury

Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler suffered an undisclosed injury Wednesday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team announced.

Wheeler finished his last shift with 2:25 remaining in the first period and didn't come out for the second frame.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Wheeler's injury will be examined Thursday, according to team reporter Mitchell Clinton.

"We'll have something for you in a couple days," he told reporters after his team's 3-1 loss.

Wheeler, 34, hasn't missed a game this season. He entered Wednesday's action fourth in team scoring with 31 points.

Winnipeg's next contest comes Friday against Toronto.

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NHL postpones Canucks-Flames game due to COVID-19 protocol

The NHL postponed Wednesday's game between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks due to COVID-19 protocol.

Two Canucks players - including one the league said it added to its COVID-19-related absences list after its initial release at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday - and a coach have entered protocol.

Vancouver forward Adam Gaudette is the lone member of the team currently on the list. He tested positive and entered protocol Tuesday.

The NHL hadn't postponed a North Division game until rescheduling a Montreal Canadiens-Edmonton Oilers contest on March 22 after two Canadiens forwards landed on the COVID-19 list. The league subsequently postponed three more of Montreal's games.

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Report: Canucks, Demko agree to 5-year, $25M extension

The Vancouver Canucks and goaltender Thatcher Demko have agreed to a five-year, $25-million extension, reports Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Demko is in the midst of a breakout season, posting a .917 save percentage and a 2.77 goals-against average in 25 games so far this year. He also ranks fifth in the NHL in goals saved above expected, according to Evolving-Hockey.

The 25-year-old netminder's success this season follows his coming-out party during the 2020 postseason. Replacing an injured Jacob Markstrom, Demko stopped 128 of 130 shots in four appearances against the Vegas Golden Knights before the Canucks were eliminated.

The Canucks let Markstrom walk as a free agent after Demko's strong playoff showing this summer and signed veteran Braden Holtby to a two-year, $8.6-million deal. Demko has thoroughly outplayed Holtby and solidified himself as the team's No. 1 goalie moving forward.

Vancouver selected Demko 36th overall in the 2014 draft. The native of San Diego was set to become a restricted free agent in the offseason.

Demko, defenseman Quinn Hughes, and forward Elias Pettersson made up a trio of key RFAs the Canucks had to sign following the campaign. With Demko's deal reportedly taken care of, Vancouver projects to have just over $20 million in cap space this offseason with a roster size of only 12, according to CapFriendly.

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Stan Bowman named GM of 2022 U.S. Olympic team, Guerin tabbed as assistant

Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has been chosen to assemble the 2022 U.S. Olympic men's ice hockey team in Beijing next February, USA Hockey announced Wednesday.

Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin will serve as assistant GM.

"We could not be happier to have the combination of Stan and Bill, with the support of John Vanbiesbrouck, guiding our men’s Olympic team," said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey.

"We have a deep talent pool thanks to so many people, including volunteers at the grassroots level across the country, and it’s great to have the leadership and expertise that Stan and Bill bring in building our team."

Bowman helped lead the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup titles (in 2010, 2013, and 2015) since being hired as general manager in 2009.

The Buffalo native has been a member of the U.S. Men's National Team Advisory Group - which helps select players and staff for the U.S. Men's National Team - since 2012. Bowman was also selected as general manager for Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey alongside Peter Chiarelli.

The Wild hired Guerin as general manager in August 2019. The Massachusetts native served as assistant GM for the Pittsburgh Penguins and eventually as GM for the club's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before joining Minnesota. Guerin won consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.

The NHL is expected to send its players to the Olympics after skipping the 2018 PyeongChang Games. Their participation is still pending an agreement between the league, the NHLPA, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Ice Hockey Federation.

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Report: Flyers interested in Red Wings’ Bernier

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier is among the netminders on the Philadelphia Flyers' radar ahead of the April 12 trade deadline, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

However, if the Flyers fall out of playoff contention before the deadline, they could instead become sellers, LeBrun added.

Philadelphia sits three points back of the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the East Division. Boston has two games in hand, though.

The Flyers own the NHL's worst save percentage (.878) and rank second-last in goals against per 60 minutes (3.51), according to Natural Stat Trick. Philadelphia, however, has the ninth-best expected goals against per 60 minutes in the league.

Youngster Carter Hart ranks last in the NHL with minus-26.02 goals saved above expected, according to Evolving-Hockey. His veteran teammate, Brian Elliott, hasn't been much better, sporting an .893 save percentage.

Bernier has been solid despite playing for the Red Wings, who sit 29th in the NHL standings. The 32-year-old owns a .918 save percentage and a 2.78 goals-against average in 17 games this season. He's in the final year of his contract carrying a $3-million cap hit.

Dean Lombardi, a senior advisor for the Flyers, drafted Bernier 11th overall in 2006 while general manager of the Los Angeles Kings.

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Buy, sell, or sit: Choosing deadline directions for fringe playoff teams

The NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and numerous general managers have key decisions to make about the direction they want to take their respective teams. Some executives have it easy; teams well on their way to locking postseason spots are obvious buyers, while clubs that are so far removed from contention are clear sellers.

However, teams on the bubble have very difficult decisions to make - buy, sell, or sit? Let's look at which direction 10 fringe playoff teams should head in before April 12.

Calgary Flames

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Current standing: 5th in North
Points back of playoffs: 4

The Flames are one of the league's biggest underachievers this season. The addition of Jacob Markstrom between the pipes was supposed to be the last missing ingredient to a deep, complete team. He's been subpar, and the offense hasn't supported him enough.

Calgary is not in a position to be sacrificing futures for the present, but its biggest rental candidates - David Rittich, Derek Ryan, and Sam Bennett (RFA) - likely won't garner much on the open market. Moving any of those players would be fine, but any franchise-altering decisions - such as trading 2022 unrestricted free agents Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano - should wait until the offseason.

Verdict: Sit

Vancouver Canucks

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Current standing: 6th in North
Points back of playoffs: 4

Poor free-agent spending has caught up to the Canucks. Contracts handed out to Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Tyler Myers severely affected GM Jim Benning's ability to retain players like Markstrom, Chris Tanev, and Tyler Toffoli this past offseason.

The poor cap management will be felt even more this offseason with both Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson due for hefty raises. Vancouver should deal as many pending UFAs as possible since it will be difficult to re-sign them. Tanner Pearson (injured right now), Brandon Sutter, and Jordie Benn should be moved to the highest bidder. The same goes for Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic if they're willing to waive their no-movement clauses.

It's a lost season for Vancouver a year after a strong showing in the playoff bubble. Benning needs to pile as many future assets as possible - as minor as they may be.

Verdict: Sell

New York Rangers

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Current standing: 6th in East
Points back of playoffs: 5

There have been many encouraging signs for the Rangers this season, and even though goaltender Igor Shesterkin and a handful of other key players are in the final year of their entry-level deals, this doesn't seem like the time to go all-in. New York is still a very young team and even reaching the playoffs will be difficult.

If GM Jeff Gorton wants to make a splash, he should wait until the offseason when there's more cap flexibility to land someone like Jack Eichel, for example.

New York's only notable pending UFA is Brendan Smith. Other than trying to get a mid-to-late-round pick for him, the Rangers should stand pat at the deadline.

Verdict: Sit

Philadelphia Flyers

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Current standing: 5th in East
Points back of playoffs: 3

The Flyers are scuffling, but this is still a team built to win now. Most core players are in their primes, so it wouldn't seem right to sell off assets.

That doesn't necessarily mean Philly should go all-in and sell the farm. The Flyers grabbing a goaltender and defensive defenseman without giving up a first-round pick or any blue-chip prospects would be ideal.

Perhaps there's a trade to swing with the Arizona Coyotes involving pending UFAs Antti Raanta and Niklas Hjalmarsson, assuming their current injuries aren't overly serious. The Coyotes would have to retain salary on both players and money would have to go with the other way, but it would help the Flyers greatly and likely wouldn't come at too high a cost.

Verdict: Buy

Chicago Blackhawks

Chase Agnello-Dean / National Hockey League / Getty

Current standing: 5th in Central
Points back of playoffs: 0 (behind NSH based on regulation wins)

The Blackhawks need to stick to their plan. Management likely envisioned this season as a rebuilding year, and a surprisingly good first half shouldn't change that.

Even if Chicago were to buy and get into the playoffs, it would be completely overmatched in a first-round series against either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Carolina Hurricanes. There's no point giving up future assets just to get walloped in the postseason.

The Blackhawks need to trade away rentals Mattias Janmark and Carl Soderberg. If teams call for blue-liners Calvin de Haan or Connor Murphy - both of whom are signed through 2021-22 - GM Stan Bowman should hear them out.

Verdict: Sell

Columbus Blue Jackets

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Current standing: 6th in Central
Points back of playoffs: 3

The Blue Jackets seem to have lost their mojo. This isn't the same team we've seen pull of upsets in the last couple of postseasons. None of the squad's best players - Patrik Laine, Seth Jones, and Zach Werenski - are having their finest seasons.

Re-signing pending UFAs Nick Foligno and David Savard will prove to be very difficult in the offseason with Laine and Alexandre Texier due for raises. Jones and Werenski are set for raises in the 2022 offseason.

Columbus' best course of action is to sell Foligno and Savard to the highest bidder. Fellow pending UFA Riley Nash could probably fetch a late-round pick, too. The Blue Jackets lost a lot of future assets when they went all-in at the 2019 trade deadline. This season is providing an opportunity to recoup some of those draft picks and prospects.

Verdict: Sell

Dallas Stars

Joe Hrycych / National Hockey League / Getty

Current standing: 7th in Central
Points back of playoffs: 7 (4 games in hand)

The Stars' season obviously hasn't gone according to plan. (They're 2-0-10 in overtime/shootouts.) But the final playoff spot in the division is wide-open, so Dallas in a position to strike. Tyler Seguin should return soon, and Ben Bishop could be back before the end of the campaign. Both players have missed the entire season thus far.

If the Stars can add a forward or two - perhaps someone like Kyle Palmieri - and get back the two aforementioned players from injury, they'd be a dangerous team down the stretch.

Reaching the playoffs isn't a guarantee, so GM Jim Nill shouldn't necessarily sacrifice the farm, but one or two savvy additions could go a long way. A first-round upset over the Lightning or Hurricanes seems highly unlikely, but this might be the last kick at the can for the aging core of Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Alexander Radulov, and Seguin.

Verdict: Buy

Nashville Predators

John Russell / National Hockey League / Getty

Current standing: 4th in Central
Points back of playoffs: N/A

The Predators are in a precarious spot. They've been deemed sellers for over a month, but should their current six-game winning streak change things? Given how unlikely an upset over Tampa Bay or Carolina seems, we lean toward no.

How much the Preds should sell is another question. Pending UFAs Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula should be shipped off for futures regardless, but bigger pieces like Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg - who are signed through 2021-22 - shouldn't be forced out.

If teams aren't willing to meet the reported asking price for Ekholm, GM David Poile would be smart to wait until the offseason. However, trading Ekholm prior to the deadline would allow Nashville to protect seven forwards and three defensemen at the expansion draft rather than eight total skaters.

Forsberg, meanwhile, is just 26 years old, so unless there's an offer that Poile can't refuse, the Preds should try to re-sign the Swede in the summer.

Verdict: Sell

Arizona Coyotes

Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Current standing: 5th in West
Points back of playoffs: 1

It may be tempting for the Coyotes to try and make a run given how close they are to a playoff spot and the fact that they don't have a first-round pick this year due to combine testing violations.

However, the reality is that this team needs an overhaul, and the farm system needs replenishing. A first-round upset over the Colorado Avalanche or Vegas Golden Knights seems next to impossible at this point.

Plus, the Yotes have too many pending UFAs to justify sitting or buying. Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Jordan Oesterle, and Ilya Lyubushkin - five out of seven defensemen - are set to hit free agency. Teams are always in need of blue-line depth at the deadline, so as many of those players as possible should be traded.

The Coyotes have more trade bait, too. Raanta is a pending UFA and could help some goalie-needy teams - if he can get healthy. Darcy Kuemper, who's also sidelined, is signed through next season, but Arizona should be willing to move him for the right offer.

Verdict: Sell

Los Angeles Kings

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Current standing: 6th in West
Points back of playoffs: 6 (2 games in hand)

The Kings are falling out of playoff contention after a surprising start, but GM Rob Blake has built a great foundation. They have one of the league's deepest and most talented prospect pools, which is already beginning to bear fruit at the NHL level.

This could seemingly indicate that selling veterans would be the best course of action, but there really isn't much to sell. Alex Iafallo is the team's only notable pending UFA, but he's a valuable player for L.A. - playing over 20 minutes per night - and at 27 years old, he's probably worth re-signing. The speedy Andreas Athanasiou is a pending RFA that could probably fetch a mid-round pick, but there's no need to force it while he's under team control.

Verdict: Sit

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