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What we learned in the NHL: It seems the slashing crackdown has resulted in more goals

What we learned in the NHL: It seems the slashing crackdown has resulted in more goals
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL with 17 goals and 33 points in 20 games this season. (Harry How / Getty Images)

Good sense occasionally prevails

General managers met last week in Montreal and reaffirmed their support for this season’s crackdown on slashes to players’ hands. There has been an adjustment period and there have been some seemingly petty calls but as with previous changes, players will adjust. The idea is to let skilled players use those skills to make plays or score without getting mangled fingers and fractured wrists, and it appears to be working. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, an average of 5.96 goals per game (excluding shootout deciders) were scored in the first 309 games this season, up from 5.31 goals per game after 309 games last season. The average for all of last season was 5.45 goals per game.

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Could major league hockey return to Houston?

Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, said last week he is “very interested” in the possibility of bringing the NHL to Houston. “But it will have to be a deal that works for my organization, the city, fans of the NHL throughout the region and the NHL Board of Governors,” he said in a statement. “We are in the very early stage of evaluating what opportunities may exist but look forward to a thorough process.” At the very least, the possibility gives new leverage to owners who want new arenas, such as Calgary and Ottawa. Houston also could become a relocation option for the New York Islanders, if they don’t get a new arena at Belmont Park, and an option for other unstable franchises. Houston was home to the World Hockey Assn. Aeros and had a minor league team until 2013.

It’s never too early to panic in Montreal

The angst meter soared into dangerous territory after the Canadiens were the victims of the Arizona Coyotes’ first regular-season win and then got spanked by Toronto 6-0. Montreal is 5-4-1 in its last 10 games and has lost two straight. The good news is that goaltender Carey Price, whose supposedly minor lower-body injury turned out to not be minor, skated on Monday for the first time in a week. But he has struggled too: He’s 3-7-1 with a 3.77 goals-against average and .877 save percentage this season.

Every outdoor game must include the Chicago Blackhawks

Not really, but it seems like it. As announced last week, the Blackhawks will make their league-leading sixth outdoor appearance on Jan. 1, 2019, when they face the Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium. Also announced was a game between the Penguins and Flyers at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Feb. 23, 2019. This season’s outdoor schedule starts when the Canadiens face the Senators on Dec. 16 at Ottawa, followed by the Rangers against the Sabres at Citi Field on Jan. 1 and Toronto vs. Washington on March 3 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Md.

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