The NHL’s All-Star Break is officially over, with a handful of teams returning to action over the next few days. While the Buffalo Sabres may not be back in game action until Thursday, there’s still plenty to keep an eye on in the days ahead.
Players Entering COVID-19 Protocol
Before players can return to team facilities, they have to undergo COVID-19 testing. After this, teams will stop testing asymptomatic players. It’s only Monday afternoon as I write this, but we’ve already seen three players around the league enter protocol. Jack Hughes and Quinn Hughes were both at the All-Star events in Vegas and have now entered protocol. Evgeni Malkin - who wasn’t at the All-Star weekend - also entered protocol.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a handful more, too.
The Panthers Are Legit
I don’t necessarily check the NHL standings every day - no real need to, considering the Sabres are far beyond any kind of playoff contention. So imagine my surprise when I saw that the top team in the league is... the Florida Panthers! Honestly, good for them. The Panthers are 32-10-5 this season and their 69-point total currently leads the league. It’s nice to see a different team up there, and I wish Sam Reinhart nothing but success.
Other Teams Trending Up
Obviously things can change quickly, especially after coming back from a break, but there are a few more teams around the league who appear to be trending upwards.
The Carolina Hurricanes are fourth in the NHL and have a four-game winning streak heading into Monday’s tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs, by the way, carry a five-game winning streak. Which streak ends tonight?
Don’t sleep on the Minnesota Wild, either. They’ll put their six-game winning streak to the test on Tuesday against Winnipeg.
New Kids in Town
Everybody’s talking about Trevor Zegras, and for good reason, but you can’t miss Lucas Raymond, either. The Detroit Red Wings winger is having a stellar rookie season, with 35 points in 47 games. He leads all rookies leaguewide in points and is third on the team in scoring, behind only Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Florida’s Anton Lundell is also having a great year, with 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points in 43 games. Moritz Seider, Michael Bunting and Dawson Mercer are others to watch out for.
What is Going on in Chicago?
The situation with the Chicago Blackhawks continues to unfold, with new twists and turns coming around every bend. Last week, it was Rocky Wirtz’s senseless rant at a town hall meeting. Now, Emily Kaplan & co. have unveiled that the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford fired their longtime equipment trainer for sexual harassment back in November. The complaint was filed the day after the Jenner & Block report about the Kyle Beach allegations was released.
Meanwhile, the team keeps Tweeting... about its GM search.
Don’t forget the Olympics in Beijing are happening, too. The women’s ice hockey tournament is well underway, and the men’s tournament kicks off on February 9.