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Simmer’s Morning Skate: NHL Injuries plus Covid, Where the Canucks will Finish, Suzuki $$

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby

While the Vancouver Canucks announced their season opening roster Monday, there was lots of other crazy stuff going on around the NHL the last couple of days that we feel compelled to share. There are two games this evening (Tuesday) to open the season. The Sid-and-Geno-less Pittsburgh Penguins play in Tampa Bay as the Lightning hoist another banner and the Covid-reduced line-up of the Seattle Kraken plays its first ever game in Las Vegas against the other most recent expansion team, the Golden Knights.

Let’s Skate! …

Here’s more on the Kraken Covid list and the scramble to fill a line-up for the season opener. They’re also without their projected first-line centre Yanni Gourde, formerly of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. They did name Mark Giordano the captain of the team; he wore the C in Calgary for eight seasons.

The NHL’s leading goal scorer last season, Auston Matthews, will miss the first three games of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs following wrist surgery in August. The Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night to open their season. The rest of the Canadian season openers: we already know about the Vancouver Canucks visiting the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday, the Winnipeg Jets open in Anaheim the same night, and the Ottawa Senators open their season at home Thursday night against the Maple Leafs who are going back-to-back to start the season. Then there’s the poor Calgary Flames, sitting in a chair at the edge of the dance floor, waiting for someone to come along … they don’t start their season until Saturday night in Edmonton. Practice anyone?

The Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin absences helped open the door of opportunity for big centre Brian Boyle who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday following a successful Professional Try-Out (PTO) effort. The 36-year-old joins a roster that is dinged up by injury and protocol, as two players are sitting out due to positive Covid tests. All of the deets are here at Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

The TSN TV boys picked the Vancouver Canucks to finish third in the NHL’s Pacific Division and therefore make the playoffs. Meanwhile, it looks as though half of the NHL.com “experts” have the Canucks making the playoffs, with the Colorado Avalanche clearly being the most popular pick to win the Stanley Cup.

The Montreal Canadiens wrapped up Nick Suzuki for the next eight years, signing the dynamic young centreman to a $63-million deal. They wasted little time, getting the deal done prior to him starting the final season of his entry-level deal. Barring a move, Suzuki is locked up around Hab-land for nine years.

As my Stockholm-based hockey journalist friend Risto Pakarinen likes to correctly point out today, and almost every year on or about this date, the first games of the NHL season are not the “start of hockey season”. Ice hockey, as it’s often more commonly referred to overseas, has been cranking along on a professional level in Europe since August. In fact, the season within the season that is the Champions Hockey League is about to reach its playoff stage. The CHL takes the best of the best, many of them champions of their respective European leagues, and plays a separate tournament schedule intermittently wedged into the European regular season, similar to UEFA’s Champions League football (soccer). The group stages of that effort are about to wrap up. ((Gratuitous plug: you can follow along all things European hockey and European NHL’ers at hockeywanderlust.com. I may have something to do with that effort. @hockeywanderlst on twitter))

Enjoy the Hockey Action!!

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