By Matt Citak
We have officially hit the quarter-mark of the 2017-18 NHL season, and if the first 20+ games are any indication, we are in for an incredibly exciting season. After getting off to hot starts, teams like the Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils, who most around the league believed would struggle to remain in the playoff race this year, have continued their strong play into the latter-parts of November. Tampa Bay’s pair of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are still dominating the entire league, as the two have consistently been the top two points leaders all season. And this week, rumblings about the potential location of the next city to get an NHL team makes the headlines.
Here are this week’s top NHL headlines.
Flyers and Penguins in 2019 NHL Stadium Series
The NHL announced this week that the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins would be participating in the 2019 NHL Stadium Series. The intrastate rivals will be battling at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, in the Battle for Pennsylvania. The annual outdoor game is set to take place on February 23, 2019. The game comes two years after the two teams last made an appearance in the Stadium Series, where the Penguins defeated the Flyers 4-2 at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heinz Field.
This year’s edition of the Stadium Series will take place at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and will feature the Washington Capitals hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Flyers’ Gudas suspended 10 games for slash
Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas has been suspended for 10 games without pay due to the slash he delivered to the neck of Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault last week. The two players became tangled during a puck battle in the corner, when Perreault shoved Gudas from behind and knocked the defenseman’s helmet off. Gudas responded by knocking Perreault off-balance, and then swinging a two-handed slash down on his neck. Gudas was given a major penalty and a game misconduct. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety explained the reasoning behind the 10-game ban, stating Gudas was “reckless” and used “excessive force.” The 27-year-old defenseman has a history of dirty play, leaving many to believe he got off easy with the 10-game suspension.
Gudas will lose out on a little over $400,000 worth of salary because of the suspension.
Gary Bettman meets with Rockets owner about possible Houston team
Reports came out this week stating NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with new Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta at the league’s offices in New York City, with the discussions centering around the viability of bringing an NHL team to Houston. Bettman refuted the notion that the league is actively looking for relocation options, but this recent meeting is the latest development regarding an NHL team possibly playing in Houston. Fertitta hasn’t been shy about stating his desire to bring the NHL to Houston, as the Rockets owner has openly campaigned for it since meeting with reporters last month. With several teams rumored to potentially be on the move in the near future (Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames, Arizona Coyotes, New York Islanders), it may not be long before we see hockey in Houston.
Clayton Keller dominating the race for Calder Trophy
There is no denying the Coyotes’ season has been extremely disappointing thus far, as Arizona has picked up a league-low 13 points in 23 games. But it hasn’t been all bad for the struggling franchise. While they currently rest at the bottom of the NHL standings, the Coyotes do have a consistent bright spot in rookie forward Clayton Keller. Keller leads all rookies with 20 points and 11 goals, with the next highest-scoring rookie sitting at seven goals. The 19-year-old has been producing like a veteran while playing big minutes each game in a top-six role. While the season may still be young, Keller is the clear front-runner in the race for NHL rookie of the year.
Big names nearing return from injury
A couple of big-name players recently returned to the ice this week. Starting in St. Louis, the Blues activated defenseman Jay Bouwmeester off injured reserve on Monday, and the veteran made his season debut in Edmonton the following night. Bouwmeester missed the first 21 games of the season after fracturing his left ankle during a training camp scrimmage on September 17th. In Montreal, goaltender Carey Price practiced with the Canadiens on Monday for the first time in almost three weeks. Price was hurt during warmups prior to Montreal’s 6-3 loss in Minnesota on November 2nd, and while his return is expected soon, he is still being considered day to day. Finally in Boston, Bruins forward David Backes skated in practice on Monday for the first time since undergoing surgery for diverticulitis. Backes had part of his colon removed on November 2nd, and his recovery time was set at eight weeks. It appears that timeline has stayed the same, but it was nice to see Backes back on the ice so soon after the surgery.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.