As a league that stages outdoor games (Dallas hosts Nashville at the Cotton Bowl Jan. 1 for the Winter Classic) and doesn't shirk snow or ice or see-your-breath temperatures, it is fitting the NHL handles the winter holidays with an equal embrace. The NHL traditionally gives all teams a three-day break to celebrate and connect with loved ones.
Monday night marks the last puck drops until Friday, so pass the eggnog latte and let's get this Weekly Warmup started.
Taylor One: Kessel's New Linemate
In a move that could affect the NHL Seattle franchise two seasons from now, future Pacific Division rival Arizona acquired left wing Taylor Hall in a trade with New Jersey last Monday. The Devils received three prospects and conditional draft picks in return, deciding to cash in on Hall's value before losing him with no compensation during this summer's free agency period.
Hall won the NHL's Hart Trophy as most valuable player in 2017-18, leading the Devils to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. He scored 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) that season and lived up to the No. 1 overall pick he earned in the 2010 NHL Draft. He's now at 27 points (6 G, 21 A) this season in 32 games, sitting out two contests with New Jersey to prevent injury before the pending trade (media reports said at least seven teams were interested).
Getting about four hours of sleep overnight Monday, Hall notched an assist on the game-winning goal late in the third period of a 3-2 Coyotes win over San Jose Tuesday. He picked up another assist Thursday, a skillful setup for right winger Phil Kessel. a perennial high scorer who is scuffling in Arizona. In a Sunday win over Detroit, Hall scored his first goal as a Coyote with an assist from Kessel. Arizona coach Rick Tochett is encouraged by Hall's arrival in Arizona and placement on the same line as Kessel: "I've had some talks with Phil," Tocchet said to NHL.com's Nick Cotsonika. "I think this will help him. Taylor will help him."
Taylor Two: Raising Arizona?
Most NHL insiders anticipate Hall will explore the free agency market. While there are other Pacific division teams that might welcome Hall to their rosters (ahem, Calgary), Hall's agent suggested Friday Hall might decide Arizona is the right fit: "It's never an open-and-shut case where you say, 'It's going to free agency, I don't care what you offer'," Ferris said in an exclusive interview with Craig Morgan of The Athletic. "That's just not true. Every situation is different. Every player is approached differently, and every situation has pros and cons to doing it earlier or later."
Net Negative for Coyotes
Most media members considered Arizona a playoff team even with the addition of Taylor Hall. But those upbeat projections might be a bit wobbly right now. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper had to be helped off the ice in Thursday night's 8-5 loss to Minnesota. Kuemper lowered in the butterfly position to make a save late in the game, but could not get up on his own. He is listed as "week-to-week, lower-body injury" on the medical report. Goaltending was the question mark for the Coyotes at season start. Kuemper punctuated the query with a 15-8-2 so far while co-No. 1 goalie Antti Raanta is 5-5-2. Kuemper ranks second the NHL (behind Dallas' Ben Bishop) in both save percentage and goals-against-average for goalies making at least 16 starts.
Sixty and Over
Edmonton stars Connor McDavid (21 G, 40 A) and Leon Draisaitl (22 G, 38 A) both reached the 60-point mark Saturday in the Oilers' dramatic 4-3 over Montreal. The forwards are the first in the NHL to get to 60 this season, becoming the sixth set of teammates in 30 years to go 60-plus by the 40th game on the schedule. Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri (three seasons; 1983-84 to 1985-86) did as Oilers too. Edmonton visits Vancouver Monday, then returns to action hosting another western Canada rival, Calgary, on Friday.
Kane Ready for 2020
Chicago's Patrick Kane continues to play like the Hall of Famer he will be. He scored the first of four third-period goals in a surprising 5-3 comeback win in Colorado (the Avalanche had routed the Blackhawks in three previous games this season). It was Kane's 20th goal so far, making him the 11th player in NHL history to start a career with 13 consecutive seasons with 20-plus goals. He is the first Chicago player to do, though all-time greats Stan Mikita (14 seasons) and Bobby Hull (13) also hit the 20-plus goal marks. Chicago gets New Jersey at home Monday, then hosts New York Islanders Friday night.
'Hockey Fights Cancer' Encore in Philly
The Philadelphia Flyers returned to home ice Tuesday for their first time since the team announced winger Oskar Lindblom would likely miss the remainder of the season while he battles Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. The Lindblom Love was on full display: Every arena seat was covered with an "I Fight For Oskar" orange card. During a first-period stop in play, fans held up their signs in a moment of unity. During warmups, the Flyers skated in their purple Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys, now be auctioned to benefit Ewing's sarcoma research.
Flyers Charities is also selling #OskarStrong purple shirts with all proceeds targeted for Ewing's sarcoma research. The Flyers wore the t-shirts under their jerseys for Thursday's home game against Buffalo.
O Captain! O Four Captains!
The fan votes are in. Edmonton's Connor McDavid will be captain of the Pacific Division squad for the upcoming 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis Jan. 24 and 25. It marks McDavid fourth straight year at the ASG helm. Other captains earning fan validation during the 2020 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by Adidas, which ended Friday: Boston's David Pastrnak (Atlantic Division), Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon (Central) and Washington's Alex Ovechkin (Metropolitan) will lead the other squads. It's the first time for Pastrnak, second for McDavid and third for Ovechkin.
Buffalo's Jack Eichel fell short of matching Sabres great Gilbert Perreault club record of 18 straight games with a point. But only because the star captain did not play due to an upper-body injury Thursday night in the aforementioned game at Philadelphia. Eichel's point streak officially ended at 17. He extended his personal point streak to 18 with a late assist on an empty net goal in Buffalo's 3-2 win Saturday against Los Angeles.
As a former editor-in-chief for NHL.com and later Yahoo Sports, I have enjoyed some monster-viewing data for offbeat hockey videos. One clip zooms to mind: 2010 Stanley Cup-winning Chicago goalie Antti Niemi losing the puck in his pads for about two minutes (with refs and others searching for it) before captain Jonathan Toews magically pulled it out of his teammate's jersey.
Here's another clip destined to light up the digital-content goal light: Anaheim's Michael Del Zotto backhanding a pass in his defensive zone only to have it, well, literally pocketed by linesman Francis Charron. Note the video covers both the home and away play-by-players and features a huge smile from New York Islanders star and former Seattle Thunderbird Mathew Barzal. Consider an early Christmas gift: