Datsyuk return 'would be awesome' for Howard
Jimmy Howard hadn't heard about Pavel Datsyuk's potential interest in returning to the NHL next season, but the Detroit Red Wings goalie was downright giddy when he got the word.
"This is news to me," a smiling Howard said, "but that would be awesome."
Datsyuk, 40, who spent his entire 14-season NHL career with the Red Wings before announcing his retirement from the League on June 18, 2016, could soon look into returning to the NHL, his agent, Dan Milstein, told Match TV in Russia this week.
Milstein told the Detroit Free Press on Thursday that he believes the Red Wings are the only NHL team Datsyuk would consider. Datsyuk played 953 games with the Red Wings and is seventh on their all-time scoring list with 918 points (314 goals, 604 assists).
"It would be appropriate to return to Detroit where he spent all his North American career," Milstein said. "Though it's up to Datsyuk. Will he want to make this comeback?"
Datsyuk is in his third season with SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League. He has 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists) in 44 games this season. His KHL contract runs out at the end of the season.
"I miss Pav," Howard said. "I haven't talked to him in probably about a month. He's a good friend, and I'd welcome him back with open arms."
Howard, whose contract with the Red Wings runs out after this season, said he hasn't heard anything about what Detroit's plans could be with Datsyuk. However, he said he believes his former teammate would have no problem assimilating back into the NHL.
"Oh, absolutely," Howard said. "He's the magic man."
[RELATED: Datsyuk not ruling out NHL return: report]
Gritty ready for All-Star debut
Claude Giroux knows he might not be the most popular member of the Philadelphia Flyers at All-Star Weekend. After all, Gritty is here.
"He is a big deal. He is a big deal," Philadelphia's captain said. "I remember the first preseason game he was on, he got booed and then I think it was a big motivation for him to kind of do better and he's been shining still."
Gritty, the Flyers mascot and a rookie sensation, is here to participate in the fifth annual NHL Mascot Showdown presented by Playmobil. Among the 29 mascots participating are hometown favorite S.J. Sharkie and last year's Most Valuable Mascot, ThunderBug from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Giroux was slow to warm to Gritty -- "I think I was booing with the fans" -- but he's come around and now he's all in.
"He's going to win, for sure," Giroux predicted. "He's a very intense guy. Competitive. He's always ready mentally. So the other mascots are in trouble."
Video: Giroux talks about his 6th All-Star selection
Tavares impressed by Islanders
John Tavares played his first nine NHL seasons with the New York Islanders before signing a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1. And though the Maple Leafs (30-17-2) are second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference with 62 points, they are one point behind the Islanders (29-15-5), who lead the Metropolitan Division and are second in the conference at the All-Star break.
"They're having a tremendous season," said the 28-year-old center, who made five All-Star Game appearances with the Islanders. "Obviously it's a complete 180 in terms of the defensive side and obviously goaltending has been a big part of that, just not giving up really a whole lot defensively."
Under first-year coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders have allowed the fewest goals (118) in the NHL this season after allowing the most in the League (293) in 2017-18. Goalie Robin Lehner, in his first season with the Islanders, is 15-7-4 and has a 2.02 goals-against average, the best among goalies who've played at least 25 games.
"It's obviously leading to a lot of success, a lot of wins," Tavares said of his former team's improved defense. "It's good to see they're doing well, but my focus is on the Maple Leafs, and control what I can control. But certainly they're having a very good season."
Tavares, who faced the Islanders for the first time in his career at Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 29, will play his first game at his former team when the Maple Leafs come to Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 28.
Jumping the Sharks
Pacific Division coach Bill Peters isn't going to be radical when it comes to line combinations for the All-Star Game.
He knows the crowd at SAP Center will want to see the three representatives of the host San Jose Sharks play together whenever possible, so he plans to give the fans what they want by keeping forward Joe Pavelski and defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson on the ice at the same time whenever he can.
"I think there is going to be a lot of common sense. [Keeping] the San Jose guys together to a certain degree, we would like to do that," said Peters, coach of the Calgary Flames. "Obviously, we will probably have to split Karlsson and [Burns] to have two (forwards) and one (defenseman) everywhere we go. It'll be a lot of fun and they will figure it out."
Peters was reminded that Burns spent time as a forward after being traded by the Minnesota Wild to the Sharks on June 24, 2011, before he was returned to the role of a full-time defenseman in 2014-15. He won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman in 2017.
"He can play anywhere, you're right," Peters said with a smile, suggesting that the three Sharks might see some shifts together in the 3-on-3 format.
Burns leads the Sharks in points with 55 (nine goals, 46 assists) in 52 games. Karlsson has 43 points (four goals, 39 assists) in 47 games, but has 28 points in his past 21 games. Pavelski has 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) in 52 games.
The Pacific Division plays the Central Division in the first game. If it wins, the Pacific Division would play the winner of the Atlantic Division vs. the Metropolitan Division game in the championship.
Players from the other divisions admitted they were excited to see how the hometown heroes are received and how they perform.
"They are obviously great hockey players, and they deserve to be here," said Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, who will represent the Metropolitan Division. "I'm sure they are happy it is in their home building, their hometown. I'm sure they are going to get warm receptions."
Video: Burns on playing in San Jose, being an All-Star
Aho happy for Teravainen
Sebastian Aho was glad to see linemate and good friend Teuvo Teravainen agree to a five-year, $27 million contract extension with the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, though he said that will have no impact on his own talks with the Hurricanes.
"That doesn't change anything," said Aho, a center who will play for the Metropolitan Division in his first All-Star Game appearance. "Obviously, I'm hoping I can stay with the Hurricanes for a long time, but I don't think that one deal changes my mindset here."
Aho, 21, can become a restricted free agent on July 1. His agent, Gerry Johannson, had some discussions with Carolina general manager Don Waddell during the summer and in October before agreeing to temporarily halt negotiations.
"There's nothing much to say about that right now," Aho said.
Aho leads the Hurricanes with 22 goals, 35 assists and 57 points. Teravainen, 24, is second on Carolina with 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists).
"He's a great player," Aho said. "I'm so happy for him. He deserved that deal. That was a good deal for both the Hurricanes and Teuvo."
Video: Sebastian Aho discusses his All-Star selection
Kane now an All-Star elder statesman
Patrick Kane said it doesn't feel like that long ago that he was playing in his first NHL All-Star Game at Bell Centre in Montreal in 2009. Now the Chicago Blackhawks forward is in San Jose for his eighth, the most among players participating in this year's game. At age 30, he feels like he's been thrust into the role of elder statesman.
"I'm the old guy here this year," Kane said. "I don't know. … Pretty crazy, it's eight All-Star Games here. At the same time, it's cool to see that number growing. I feel pretty good about myself and my game and where it's at, so hopefully [I'll] keep growing that number."
Kane is tied with Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche for fifth in the NHL with 71 points (29 goals, 42 assists), and he has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) during a nine-game point streak. He has fond memories of his first All-Star Game, when he was excited to meet Mike Modano, Joe Thornton and Alexei Kovalev.
"All of a sudden, you're considered to be an all-star with these guys," he said. "That was pretty wild."
Reirden trying to forget losing streak with Capitals
Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden will try to push his team's seven-game losing streak to the back of his mind and enjoy coaching the Metropolitan Division at his first All-Star Game. He knows it won't be easy.
"I spend a lot of time thinking about it and how to make things better," Reirden said. "In this situation, it's coming off a little bit of a harder scenario. But I definitely need to leave it alone and enjoy this opportunity because what I'm doing here is I'm representing our organization and our players and our coaching staff. It's important that I enjoy that and represent us properly."
Reirden hopes goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman John Carlson, who will also represent the Capitals at the All-Star Game, will do the same and return mentally refreshed from their mandatory five-day break after All-Star Weekend for Washington's next game against the Calgary Flames on Feb. 1.
"I want all of our players to feel that way," Reirden said. "So a little bit of the end message was we have to get away and you have to get your mind clear. That's the one of the benefits to having this kind of a break."
Reirden flew home with the Capitals after their 6-3 loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, then took a 6 a.m. ET flight to San Jose on Thursday with his wife, Shelby, and their 16-year-old son Travis.
"They've been a huge part of the success I've had," he said. "They've had to make a lot of sacrifices. We've lived a number of places over the years trying to climb this ladder and certainly didn't envision having this opportunity [to be] an All-Star Game coach my first year. It's pretty amazing."