Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the past week:
+ Many NHL teams do special favors for fans, but Patrick Sharp and the Chicago Blackhawks took that to a newly heartwarming level when they welcomed a blind girl named Christina to her first hockey game at the United Center in connection with a team advertising campaign called, “What’s your goal?” Here’s a link to a video about her visit. Have tissues handy.
+ Kudos to fans in Nashville and the Predators organization for giving former coach Barry Trotz a warm welcome when he returned Friday as coach of the Washington Capitals. Trotz guided the Predators for their first 16 seasons and was active in the community, especially with the Best Buddies program, which helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Trotz’s son, Nolan, has Down syndrome.
+ The Winnipeg Jets have grabbed hold of a wild-card playoff spot in the West after winning four straight games and five of their last six, a surge that includes their third straight win over the Blackhawks at Chicago this season. They haven’t made the playoffs since the franchise moved north from Atlanta before the 2011-12 season.
- The NHL’s Department of Player Safety was lenient in suspending Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo six games for his post-whistle, blindside cross-check to the left arm of Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault on Friday. The blow to an unprotected area injured Perreault, who missed the rest of the game and also will have missed the two games before the All-Star break. Carcillo had been suspended eight times before and fined three other times. Did he get a cheaper-by-the-dozen discount?
- This has been a season to forget for Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta, who has had thyroid cancer surgery, the mumps and season-ending shoulder surgery. The 20-year-old Finn is expected to be ready for next season, hopefully without the dark cloud that has hovered over him.
- The Buffalo Sabres have appeared in this space so often they’ve earned permanent residency. Sadly, their season continues to be a big minus: They extended their club record Sunday by losing their 11th straight game in regulation, squandering a 3-0 lead before falling to the Detroit Red Wings, 6-4. They’re 1-14-1 in their last 16.