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Helene Elliott: What we learned in the NHL last week

Helene Elliott: What we learned in the NHL last week
Kings goalie Peter Budaj makes a save as teammate Alec Martinez looks to clear on Jan. 31. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Lessons learned from the last week of play:

Getting unhitched

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The St. Louis Blues were stuck in transition from being a physically punishing team to emphasizing skill when they fired Coach Ken Hitchcock last week and promoted Mike Yeo from coach-in-waiting. Their biggest problem has been weak goaltending, and they asked future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur — their assistant general manager — to work with their goalies. The Blues' plans took a hit when they lost forward Robby Fabbri (torn knee ligament) for the rest of the season. Yeo planned to play Paul Stastny, dynamic Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen together with the aim of creating a combination that can carry the Blues through a tight playoff scramble. If that doesn't work, rumors that they will trade defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk could soon come true.

2018 Olympic agreement elusive

Nothing was decided when leaders of the NHL, NHL Players' Assn., International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation met in New York last week to discuss NHL players' participation in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel called it a "courtesy visit." The NHL, which objects to paying for transportation and accommodation while halting its operations, has worked on two potential schedules for 2017-18, one with an Olympic break and one with no interruption. The NHL might be waiting to be offered enough money before agreeing to play in 2018 and — possibly as a package — in Beijing in 2022. League executives are intrigued by China's vast market and have discussed staging exhibition games there, possibly including the Kings.

A weight on their shoulders

Doug Weight, promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach of the New York Islanders after Jack Capuano was fired, started 5-0-1 before reality seeped back in as the team gave up 10 goals to Detroit and Carolina and got one point. They had a worrisome week off the ice too: Bloomberg News reported executives at Barclays Center recently gave prospective investors projections that included no revenue from the Islanders after the 2018-19 season, meaning the team would be gone. The arena can terminate the lease after that season; the Islanders have an option to leave after 2017-18. Their old home, the Nassau Coliseum, has been renovated but its seating capacity was cut to 13,000. The governor of Connecticut and mayor of Hartford invited the Islanders to consider playing in the Whalers' old home, but that's a long shot.

Peter Budaj saved the Kings' season

It can't be said enough: Budaj has saved the Kings from imploding while Jonathan Quick recovers from a groin injury and everyone besides Jeff Carter struggles to score. Budaj was abandoned by teammates in a 5-0 loss at Washington on Sunday, but he had back-to-back shutouts before that and took the NHL lead with seven. Give credit to goaltending coach Bill Ranford and minor-league coach Dusty Imoo, who worked with Budaj before the Kings called him up.

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen

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