Central Division Weekly: Arizona almost evicted from Glendale

Plus, The Flower powers his way to his 500th career win.

There’s trouble brewing in Arizona and it’s not about what’s happening on the ice.

On Dec. 8, The Athletic’s Katie Strang reported that if the team does not pay the City of Glendale the money it's owed, the Coyotes will be locked out of the Gila River Arena.

According to Strang, Arizona’s Department of Revenue has filed a tax lien against Ice Arizona Hockey LLC, the company that owns the Coyotes. The filing says the Coyotes owe more than $1.3 million in unpaid state and city taxes.

Strang says if the team doesn’t pay by 5 p.m. MST on Dec. 20, team employees will be denied access to the arena and arena vendors will be locked out.

Arizona quickly responded, saying a “human error” was the cause for the forgotten payment.

“We have already launched an investigation to determine how this could have happened and the initial indications are that it appears to be the result of an unfortunate human error,” ESPN said citing a statement from the team. “Regardless, we deeply regret the inconvenience this has caused. We will make sure by tomorrow morning, the Arizona Coyotes are current on all of our bills and owe no state or local taxes whatsoever. And we will take immediate steps to ensure nothing like this can ever possibly happen again.”

The news comes just days after Forbes reported that the Coyotes were for sale. The report was quickly denied by Arizona’s management, but this newest report adds new trouble for the team.

Arizona Coyotes (5-18-2)

Looking at the on-ice product, it feels like the Coyotes’ management is taking a page out of the movie Major League. Management has filled the team with misfits, overpaid veterans and rookies and then hoped the miserable on-ice product would force the league’s hand into allowing the team to move.

The Coyotes were outscored 11-2 this past week. Arizona lost 7-1 at home on Friday to the Vegas Golden Knights and then 4-1 to the Dallas Stars on Monday.

Forward Johan Larsson is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Chicago Blackhawks (10-14-2)

The Blackhawks aren’t doing themselves any favors as they try to work their way back into the playoff picture. The team lost to the New York Rangers 3-2 on Saturday, then beat the New York Islanders 3-2 on Sunday. But when the Rangers paid a visit to the Windy City, they promptly beat the Blackhawks 6-2.

There was a scary injury to Jujhar Khaira during Tuesday’s game against the Rangers. Khaira was stretchered off the ice after a hit by Jacob Trouba. Khaira’s head was down and he didn’t see Trouba coming. Khaira spent the night in the hospital, but he’s home now and is expected to recover. He’s currently in the NHL’s concussion protocol.

Defender Connor Murphy is also dealing with a concussion. Caleb Jones is dealing with an illness and Jake McCabe is away due to personal reasons. The blue line is looking thin.

On Thursday, the team beat the Montreal Canadiens, 2-0. Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for the victory. It marked the 500th win of Fleury’s career, so Sportsnet took a look back at some of the best saves he ever made:

Colorado Avalanche (14-7-2)

The Avalanche are putting pucks into the nets in droves. Colorado scored 19 goals in 3 games this week. The Avs lost to the Ottawa Senators 6-5 in overtime on Saturday. Colorado then beat the Philadelphia Flyers 7-5 on Monday and the Rangers 7-3 on Wednesday.

Nathan MacKinnon is still returning to form after nearly a month off due to injury. He scored in Wednesday’s game against the Rangers and it was a beauty.

It was MacKinnon’s first goal since Oct. 23. MacKinnon has netted 8 points in his last five games.

Nazem Kadri missed the game against the Senators due to an injury, but then picked up right where he left off. He scored a goal against Philadelphia and then a goal and two assists against the Rangers. Kadri leads the team in scoring with 31 points.

Dallas Stars (13-9-2)

The Stars’ seven-game win streak was snapped on Wednesday night after a 5-4 loss to the Golden Knights. Prior to the loss, the Stars beat the Coyotes 4-1 on Monday. Dallas couldn’t get back to its winning ways on Thursday night. The team was shutout by Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings, 4-0, the first time the team has been shutout this season.

During the team’s seven-game winning streak, the top line of Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz absolutely steamrolled opponents. Pavelski had two goals in the team’s loss to Vegas. He leads the team with 21 points. Robertson is close behind with 20 points and Hintz has 18 points.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate what a good guy Robertson is.

In other Stars news, trade talks are heating up around the league and the Stars are one of the teams to watch. The crease is crowded in Big D. With 22-year-old Jake Oettinger showing he can be the number one guy, the Stars now have to figure out what to do with Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin and Ben Bishop. Bishop is currently in the AHL on a conditioning assignment, but when he returns, someone has to go.

Minnesota Wild (19-6-1)

The Wild have amped the team’s winning streak up to eight games. The Wild beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Saturday and the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on Tuesday. Then on Thursday, Minnesota dominated the Sharks, winning 5-2.

Jordan Greenway had two goals in the win, including this one.

The Wild’s position at the top of the Central Division has a lot to do with the team’s scoring prowess. Minnesota is ranked third in the league with 3.7 goals for per game. Some of that offensive fire power can be attributed to Kirill Kaprizov who now leads the team in points with 32. Ryan Hartman still leads the Wild in goals with 13.

Center Frederick Gaudreau is on COVID Protocol. Jared Spurgeon returned from injury during Thursday’s game against the Sharks.

Nashville Predators (15-10-1)

The Predators are making the case that they should be considered a playoff contender. Nashville beat the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime on Saturday and then snapped the Detroit Red Wings’ five-game win streak with a 5-2 win on Tuesday. On Thursday, the Predators rallied back in the third period to beat the Islanders 4-3 in regulation.

In his first season without the presence of Pekka Rinne, Juuse Saros has performed admirably in net for the Predators. Saros earned the win over the Canadiens and now has an 11-8-1 record, 2.37 goals against average and .921 save percentage. The team’s depth in net will be tested, however, as Saros is currently day-to-day with an illness.

Defenders Matt Benning and Mattias Ekholm missed a few games with their own ailments, but returned to the line-up for the Predators on Thursday.

Part of the reason the Preds are winning is that they’re keeping things loose.

St. Louis Blues (14-8-4)

St. Louis has to be happy with how their week is going. The team took three out of a possible four points in a home-and-home series with the Florida Panthers. The Blues lost 4-3 in the shootout in Florida on Saturday, but beat the Panthers 4-3 in overtime at home.

The most amazing thing about the second win against the Panthers is how the Blues did it shorthanded. St. Louis is right up against the cap and the injuries are piling up. The team dressed just 19 players on Tuesday night with only 10 forwards. Then, during the third period, goaltender Ville Husso was injured and defenseman Jake Walman was also hurt.

On Thursday, the team continued to overcome adversity, beating the Red Wings 6-2. Nathan Walker scored 3 goals for the first hat trick of his career. In fact, it was the first game he’s played for St. Louis this year.

Winnipeg Jets (13-9-4)

The Jets claimed four of a possible six points this week, but the real story was the team’s statement win over the Maple Leafs.

Winnipeg beat Toronto 6-3 on Sunday in a hard-hitting, penalty-filled game. During the third period, Pierre-Luc Dubois was all over Austin Matthews, igniting tempers.

Things came to a head when the Jets’ Neal Pionk landed a knee-on-knee hit to Rasmus Sandin.

Jason Spezza didn’t like the hit, so he threw a dirty one of his own on Pionk.

After all was said and done, Pionk received a two-game suspension for his hit on Sandin. Spezza received six games for his hit on Pionk.

The Jets lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 on Tuesday and shutout the Seattle Kraken 3-0 on Friday. Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves in the win.