In a long notebook with many takes, The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek (subscription required) points out that assuming that Seattle does acquire an expansion team that starts in the 2020-21 season, realignment will have to happen as it’s highly unlikely Seattle will end up in the Central Division, which is the division that’s short one team.
Duhatschek suggests the smartest way to fix the divisional problem when/if Seattle gives the NHL a 32nd team, would be to move the Colorado Avalanche to the Pacific Divison and then move both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers to the Central Division. Geographically, that would make the most sense, although neither Edmonton or Calgary would make a great fit in the Central. One other possibility would be that by 2020-21, the Arizona Coyotes may have decided to move away and relocate. That could also fix the problem, but only time will tell.
- Adam Vingan of the Tennessean writes that Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis has been practicing with the team and could return within the next couple of weeks. The 26-year-old stud defenseman has been out after knee surgery this summer. Vingan also writes that despite their solid defense, it’s likely the team will have to make a move with Matt Irwin and Anthony Bitetto the most likely candidates to be sent to the Milwaukee Admirals. Since the return of Yannick Weber a week ago, Irwin has been scratched twice, while Bitetto once.
- Patrick Johnston of The Province writes that Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi, who took a puck to the face during last night’s game against the Calgary Flames, will return home to Vancouver rather than continue with the team on their current roadtrip. While there are no details on the severity of the injury, Johnston said the angle of the shot and its velocity would suggest the injury could be significant as he has already been ruled out for the team’s game against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday. The 25-year-old has struggled lately on offense, but is still third on the team with eight goals this year.
- Sarah McLellan of the Star Tribune tweets that veteran Zach Parise and defenseman Jared Spurgeon are skating and may just be a couple of weeks away from returning to the team. Parise, who underwent back surgery in October, hasn’t played all year. He scored 19 goals and had 42 points last year for the Wild and was counted on to be a key contributor. Spurgeon has been out since Dec. 1 with a groin strain. He has three goals and 12 assists in 23 games this season.
- The Arizona Coyotes will play in their 21st road game of the season tonight when they face the Chicago Blackhawks tonight. The Coyotes will be the first team in NHL history to play 21 road games within the first 66 days of the season, according to NHL.com’s Dave Vest.
- Mike Chambers of the Denver Post tweets that defenseman Erik Johnson is fine after blocking a shot late in Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers. He is expected to play Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.