NHL Talk: Maple Leafs, Predators, Hurricanes, Canucks, Flyers & More

In this edition of “NHL Talk,” these are the top hockey stories with quotes from players, coaches, managers, and more. Check Tom Pepper’s profile every day for a new edition of the “NHL Talk” column.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews Sets Franchise Single-Season Goals Record

Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Auston Matthews tallied his 55th and 56th goals of the season in a 4-3 overtime win at the Dallas Stars on Thursday. His first goal of the game at 18:58 of the second period passed Rick Vaive, who scored 54 goals with Toronto in 1981-82, for the most goals scored by a Maple Leafs’ player in a single season. He finished the monumental night with the game-winning goal at 2:10 of overtime.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“It means a lot,” Matthews said. “The names that have come before us, just to be in the same breath as some of these guys, it’s extremely humbling. It’s a big honor. … This feels really nice, but we’re working towards something bigger than this. It’s a nice steppingstone, but there’s work to be done.”

Blackhawks Announce Plan to Retire Hossa’s No. 81 Next Season

The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Thursday that it will retire No. 81 next season in honour of former forward Marian Hossa, who won three Stanley Cup championships with Chicago and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2021. He joins goaltenders Glenn Hall (No. 1) and Tony Esposito (No. 35), defensemen Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson (each No. 3), and forwards Bobby Hull (No. 9), Denis Savard (No. 18) and Stan Mikita (No. 21) as the only players to have their number retired by the Blackhawks. In 1309 career NHL games, he scored 1134 points (525 goals, 609 assists) as a member of the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Blackhawks.

Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks
Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“As a kid, you know you dream to play one day in the National Hockey League, the best league in the world,” Hossa said. “Then your goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Your goal is not going into the rafters or going into the Hall of Fame, but I guess somebody really liked my game over those years and this success we’ve had. … I was lucky to play with so many great players and a great coaching staff. Thanks also to them. It’s amazing news for me and my family. I’m overwhelmed. It still didn’t sink (in). It’s amazing.”

Sharks’ Wilson Steps Down as General Manager After 19 Seasons

On Thursday, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson stepped down as general manager after 19 seasons with the franchise. He has been on medical leave since Nov. 26, 2021, and made the decision in the best interest of his health. Wilson set the Sharks up for 14 playoff runs, reaching the Western Conference Final five times (2004, 2010, 2011, 2016, 2019) and the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

“I want to thank everyone who has reached out during my leave of absence,” Wilson said. “While I have made great progress over the last several months, I feel it is in the best interest of the organization and myself to step down from my current duties and focus on my health and full recovery. I look forward to continuing my career in the NHL in the future.”

Canucks’ Ekman-Larsson Returns to Arizona for First Time Since Trade

On Thursday, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson returned to Arizona for the first time since being traded by the Coyotes on July 23, 2021. He was the fourth captain in Coyotes franchise history and played in Arizona for 11 seasons, recording 388 points (128 goals, 260 assists) in 769 games. He was welcomed back by Coyotes fans with a video tribute and plenty of cheers.

“A lot of memories from my time here,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I couldn’t be more thankful for what this organization did for me and just to be able to be be back. It’s a great feeling, but it’s also some mixed feelings. … This will always be my second home. I loved it when I was here and I still do, the fans were great and people were super nice to me. I can’t say anything bad about this place, and it feels good to be back.”

Flyers’ Atkinson Returns to Columbus for First Time Since Trade

On Thursday, Philadelphia Flyers forward Cam Atkinson returned to Columbus for the first time since being traded by the Blue Jackets on July 24, 2021. He scored 402 points (213 goals, 189 assists) in 627 games with Columbus over the course of 10 seasons and was a fan-favourite for many years. As expected, he was greeted with loud cheers and a video tribute upon his return.

“That had all the feels. Definitely emotional. Got a little choked up,” Atkinson said. “I have so many great memories here and so many friends. This is my home, this is where I’m going to be in the offseason and when I retire. The fans, I couldn’t ask for anything better. I was trying to squeak one by this guy Elvis, but he doesn’t seem to want to let me get one.”

Predators’ Josi Sets Franchise Single-Season Points Record

Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi tallied three assists in a 3-2 win at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. His strong performance gives him 87 points (19 goals, 68 assists) in 68 games this season, surpassing Paul Kariya (85 points in 2005-06) for most points in a single season in Predators franchise history. Josi is having a fantastic season and is one of the main reasons Nashville sits in the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Roman Josi Nashville Predators
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“Paul Kariya is obviously an unbelievable player, a guy I grew up watching as a kid,” Josi said. “He’s a Hall of Famer, he’s such an amazing player, and it’s definitely pretty surreal. Like I said before, I love this team. I’m getting a lot of free points because guys are playing so well and guys are scoring and our power play is doing so well. It’s just so much fun being a part of this team.”

Hurricanes Clinch Berth in 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Carolina Hurricanes clinched a berth in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 5-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. It marks the fourth consecutive season that the Hurricanes have qualified for the postseason, all under head coach Rod Brind’Amour. Carolina ranks third in the NHL and first in the Metropolitan Division with a 46-17-8 record (100 points).

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour
Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

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“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Brind’Amour said. “We grinded all year. We know there’s bigger and better things we want to accomplish, but you have to get there first. I give these guys a ton of credit. They play their butts off every night. It doesn’t always work out, but they’re a pretty committed group.”

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