NHL Notes: Jackets hire Kekalainen as new GM

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NHL Notes: Jackets hire Kekalainen as new GM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets hurried to make history.

Just more than 24 hours after firing Scott Howson, they announced the hiring of Jarmo Kekalainen of Finland as the first European to be a general manager in the National Hockey League.

Kekalainen, director of amateur scouting with the St. Louis Blues 2002-10, held a news conference Wednesday in his native Finland at the same time the Blue Jackets Blue Jackets held theirs in Ohio.

"One of my dreams since I hung up my skates has been to be a GM of an NHL team sometime. Now that dream has come true," Kekalainen said in Helsinki at the home arena of the Jokerit club, where he's been GM since 2010. "I'm really happy and pleased, even proud, that I've been give this chance."

The 46-year-old, who played sparingly in the NHL, worked closely with Columbus director of hockey operations John Davidson with the Blues. When the Blues hired Doug Armstrong as general manager in 2010 instead of Kekalainen, Kekalainen returned to Finland to take over as GM of Jokerit in Finland's top league (see full story).

Avs' Johnson out indefinitely
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without Erik Johnson indefinitely after the defenseman suffered a head injury in a game against Phoenix.

Johnson was hurt on a hit during an overtime loss to the Coyotes on Monday.

The Avs already are missing captain Gabriel Landeskog (head) and defenseman Ryan Wilson (ankle), along with forward Steve Downie, who's out for the season with a torn ACL.

But they're expecting to have forward John Mitchell (flu) and defenseman Matt Hunwick (torso) back when they play at Minnesota on Thursday. Although Matt Duchene skipped practice on Wednesday, coach Joe Sacco said he will be in the lineup.

Given the rash of injuries, Colorado could certainly use the offensive flair of Ryan O'Reilly, who is holding out due to a contract dispute (see full story).

Wild hire Brunette as adviser
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Former Minnesota Wild player Andrew Brunette rejoined the team Wednesday as hockey operations adviser.

Brunette will help general manager Chuck Fletcher with scouting, free-agent signings and evaluating and developing prospects.

In his 16-year career, Brunette had 268 goals and 465 assists in 1,110 regular-season games.

The 39-year-old Brunette played six seasons with Minnesota, finishing with 321 points in 489 games. He ranks second in franchise history in goals (119) and power-play goals (55).

Brunette was selected by Washington in the seventh round of the 1993 NHL draft. He also played for Nashville, Atlanta and Colorado before finishing his career last season with Chicago (see full story).

Best of NHL: Henrik Lundqvist's 36 saves leads Rangers past Kings

Best of NHL: Henrik Lundqvist's 36 saves leads Rangers past Kings

NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist stopped 36 shots to lead the New York Rangers over the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Monday night.

Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel and Mats Zuccarello scored to help New York win its third straight since a three-game skid.

Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford scored, and Jeff Zatkoff finished with 14 saves for Los Angeles, which has lost four straight and five of seven.

Lundqvist has given up just four goals on 84 shots during the winning streak -- including a 1-0 shutout at Detroit on Monday -- after allowing 20 on 113 shots the previous four games.

The veteran goalie needed to be at his best in this one as the Kings, who last played Saturday across town against the Islanders, seemed a step faster from the start and controlled play for most of the first two periods (see full recap).

Caps top 'Canes to extend point streak to 14 games
WASHINGTON -- Defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored twice and the Washington Capitals kept the offense rolling to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Monday night and extend their point streak to 14 games.

Orlov doubled his goal output for the season and Justin Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller also scored for the Capitals, who have won three in a row and haven't lost in regulation since Dec. 27. Washington scored on six of its 25 shots on Cam Ward and handed Carolina its fourth consecutive loss.

Braden Holtby made 25 saves for his 23rd victory of the season. The only goal he allowed came from Jordan Staal on the power play in the first period.

The Capitals allowed the first goal for the first time in 11 games but scored six unanswered to continue their winning ways. They've scored 44 goals in their past eight games (see full recap).

Kadri reaches 20 goals as Leafs beat Flames
TORONTO -- Nazem Kadri scored twice to tie his career high with 20 goals this season, Frederik Andersen stopped 26 shots and the Toronto Maple Leafs ended a two-game winless streak with a 4-0 win over the Calgary Flames on Monday night.

Kadri beat Brian Elliott twice, and Andersen captured his second shutout as a Leaf.

Rookies Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto, which sits third in the Atlantic Division with 53 points.

Elliott gave up four goals on 28 shots, dropping his fourth consecutive start.

The Flames have lost three in a row and five of the past six. They are a point up on Vancouver for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference (see full recap).

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.

The team announced the timeline Monday after Hayes underwent an MRI in the morning. Hayes left the Rangers' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period.

Hayes had seven points in his previous six games and is third on the team in points with 35. The 24-year-old has 13 goals and 22 assists in 47 games this season.

His injury is a major blow to New York, which holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The silver lining for the Rangers is that Hayes will miss fewer games because of the upcoming All-Star break.

Senators: Smith signed to 4-year, $13 million extension
OTTAWA, Ontario -- The Ottawa Senators have signed forward Zack Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $13 million.

The Senators said that the extension goes through the 2020-21 season and carries an annual average value of $3.25 million.

Smith, 28, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season and is averaging a career-high 16 minutes, 13 seconds per game.

He set career highs with 25 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. He has 75 goals and 61 assists in 443 games, all with the Senators.

Smith was Ottawa's third-round pick (79th overall) in the 2008 draft.