NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – Saturday, February 23, 2013.

The Chicago Blackhawks make history, the Penguins lose Evgeni Malkin, plus the latest on Rick Nash, Mike Smith, Brenden Morrow, Rick DiPietro and more.

Blackhawks congratulate Brendan Saad on his historic goal.

Blackhawks congratulate Brandon Saad for his historic goal.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE/SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1, becoming the first NHL team to open a season by going 17 games without a regulation loss. Brandon Saad’s shorthanded goal early in the third period was the winner. It was the Sharks eighth loss in their last nine game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Two teams clearly going in different directions. The Blackhawks look like Stanley Cup contenders, while the Sharks (who opened the season 7-0-0) are in free-fall and in danger of falling out of playing contention.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE/MIAMI HERALD: Goals by Chris Kunitz, Matt Niskanen and Dustin Jeffrey lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Evgeni Malkin left the game early in the third period  with an upper body injury after being checked into the boards by Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There could be further word on Malkin’s condition today. It’s either a head or upper back injury.

NEWSDAY: The New York Islanders have placed goaltender Rick DiPietro on waivers for the purpose of demoting him to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. With eight years and $36 million remaining on his contract, there’s little chance he will be claimed by a rival club. Injuries have limited DiPietro to only 50 games over the past five seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DiPietro has likely played his last game with the Islanders. I expect he’ll be an amnesty buyout candidate this summer. Under the new CBA, this move only clears $900K off the Islanders books. I’ve been asked if this signals a possible trade for a backup, but it appears the intent is to promote Kevin Poulin.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Rick Nash will miss his third straight game as the Rangers meet the Canadiens in Montreal tonight. The Rangers have not disclosed Nash’s injury, leading to speculation it could be a concussion. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (lower body) is also sidelined.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Encouragement from Mike Smith’s teammates have helped the Phoenix Coyotes goalie overcome a slow start to this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith is currently tied for the league lead in shutouts, and while his overall GAA and SP are higher than last season’s, those numbers should improve as the season progresses.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars will honor Brenden Morrow before Saturday’s game against the San Jose Sharks as part of their 20th anniversary roster.

DENVER POST: Good news for the Colorado Avalanche, as team captain Gabriel Landeskog returns to action today after missing 11 games to a concussion.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko has been placed on IR with concussion symptoms.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko was off to a good start in his first NHL season. It’s a shame to see it potentially cut short like this. 

COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Artem Anisimov has left a Detroit hospital and returned to Columbus. He was hospitalized after hitting his head on the ice in a collision with Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Though there’s no word when Anisimov will return to action, he’s apparently feeling better.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck feels lucky he only suffered a contusion to his left knee after being hit by Edmonton’s Taylor Hall on Thursday. Hall received a two-game suspension.