Halak on Montreal return: “It’s going to be emotional”

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For the first time since guiding the Canadiens to an improbable Eastern Conference finals appearance, Jaroslav Halak is going back to Montreal.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis netminder will face his former club at the Bell Center for the first time since being traded in June of 2010, and will likely receive a hero’s welcome upon hitting the ice. To give you an idea of Halak’s popularity in Montreal, consider this, from NHL.com:

 Not too long after Halak was shipped to the Blues for prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz, he decided to honor a charity appearance to which he had already committed. Just a few hundred people were supposed to get one last glimpse of the hero who played a major role in upsets of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins in that unforgettable postseason run..

However, in Montreal, few things are as simple as they seem when it comes to hockey.

Halak showed up for the session to benefit Ste. Justine Children’s Hospital at La Capsule Sportive store inside Fairview Mall in Pointe-Claire, Quebec expecting maybe 500 or so fans to attend and fork over $20 for a quick hello and an interview.

Estimates were a bit low, it seems. Organizer got their 500 fans — times 10.

That’s right, 5,000 fans lined up five-plus hours before the session began, forming a line stretched for a mile and doubled by the day’s conclusion. Halak stayed 90 minutes past his departure to meet the demand, yet security guards needed to eventually shut it down because of the closure of the mall. By day’s end, Halak helped raise $22,000.

Halak acknowledged Tuesday’s game will be an emotional affair.

“It was a great time [in Montreal],” he said. “I got traded and we didn’t have to go there last year. They came here [to St. Louis] and I think that was perfect. It’s going to be emotional, but at the same time, probably less than it would have been last season.

“I still have a few friends [in Montreal], but when we play against them, there’s no friends on the ice. I’m looking forward to seeing some friends off the ice. We’ll see how it goes. I can’t wait to go back in the building.”

Just in case you’re wondering, yes, Ken Hitchcock is astutely aware of the situation at hand. The St. Louis head coach has been splitting goaltending duties between Halak and Brian Elliott, but made no bones about Tuesday being Halak’s start — even though Elliott is coming off a shutout.

“This is once in a lifetime,” Hitchcock said. “Ideal situation, you want to support the shutout…I mean, come on, first time going back. I think in fairness to Jaroslav he had a heck of a time there. I think it would be dismissive of me to not recognize that.”

PHT Morning Skate: Is it time for the Habs to trade Shea Weber to the Leafs?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Vladimir Tarasenko got a Gordie Howe hat trick in Tuesday’s 8-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–TSN’s Travis Yost explores the possibility of the Canadiens trading Shea Weber away so that they can get a rebuild started. Yost believes a trade to Toronto isn’t likely, but it should be considered. (TSN.ca)

–Former NHL enforcer Stephen Peat is struggling with a number of issues due to brain trauma he suffered on the ice. Here’s a sad exchange of e-mails between Peat’s father and a writer at the New York Times.

Matt Murray has two Stanley Cup rings, but he’s still working hard to improve his game on the ice. “It’s just about trying to make your job as easy as possible, fundamentals-wise,” Murray explains. “Every time a goal goes in, I know exactly what I should have done better and what I could have done better. There’s an answer to everything. That’s kind of how I like to approach it.” (Pittsburghmagazine.com)

–Now that the Avs have made the Matt Duchene trade, they’ve officially fully embraced a rebuild, as they’re icing the second-youngest roster in the NHL. (BSNDenver.com)

–Even though teams that aren’t in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving face an uphill climb, the Bruins aren’t going to let that stop them from where they want to go. “We gotta stick with the process,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “If you trust the process and play the right way, then we believe we’ll get enough points. It may not be by November 24. Given the amount of adversity we’ve dealt with I don’t think it’s fair to use that benchmark. It matters but the process matters equally.” (Bruinsdaily.com)

–Winning on the road isn’t easy in the NHL, so games at home are that much more important. Unfortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, they haven’t been good at Rogers Place. (Oilersnation.com)

–The Leafs have been relatively good on the ice this season, but what do their advanced stats look like? Pensionplanpuppets.com has a full breakdown of their advanced shooting numbers. (Pensionplanpuppets.com)

–Sabres coach Phil Housley hasn’t had it easy during his first year as an NHL head coach, but he still enjoy working with the players on his roster. “Obviously, when you’re not winning, the pressure builds and you have to try to handle all those things and the stressful parts of the job,” Housley said. “But I love the challenge. I love coming to the rink, I love getting better, whether as a coach or demanding more from players and trying to turn the organization around.” (Pioneer Press)

–The Canucks placed Anton Rodin on waivers with the purpose of buying out his contract. Now, it sounds like he’s about to join HC Davos of the Swiss League. (Swisshockeynews.ch)

–The Australian ambassador to the United States’ name is Joe Hockey. Seriously, that’s not a joke. NHL.com sat down for a Q&A with Mr. Hockey, and surprisingly, he doesn’t know a whole lot about the game. (NHL.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Benn vs. Benn, poor get poorer

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Line of the Night: The St. Louis Blues’ superb top trio.

Seemingly every night, at least one of the NHL’s best scoring lines seems to make its case as the best. It’s getting to the point where any off night is surprising, which seems almost impossible in a league where it’s still (allegedly?) tough to score on a nightly basis.

In Tuesday’s case, the Blues’ red-hot trio of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Oilers’ profound miseries by triggering an 8-3 stomping.

Schwartz scored one goal and three assists, while both Schenn and Tarasenko enjoyed ridiculous two-goal, two-assists nights. Schwartz and Schenn both are at 30 points in 2017-18, while “The Tank” is rolling with 26. Tarasenko almost had a hat trick today, but settled for the Gordie Howe:

Highlight of the Night: Jamie Benn vs. Jordie Benn, just in time for American Thanksgiving.

(They’re Canadians, but still.)

Shared sadness: The Canadiens lost a hard-fought game to the Stars as the 3-1 margin of defeat was inflated by an empty-netter, while the Oilers were just humiliated, yet both teams really needed wins and neither even got a standings point for their efforts. Times are getting tense for two Canadian franchises that came into 2017-18 with high hopes.

Brendan Gallagher‘s reaction to the empty-netter says it all:

Factoid of the Night: Clearly, it’s totally Connor McDavid‘s fault.

Scores

Canucks 5, Flyers 2

Blues 8, Oilers 3

Stars 3, Canadiens 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

On fire vs. fireable: Blues humiliate Oilers

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If you judge a person or sports team by how they react to their backs being up against the wall, then the Edmonton Oilers were complete failures on Tuesday.

Whether you place most of the blame on Connor McDavid (bad) or management (fair), the bottom line is that a response was needed, as people are already doing the math to wonder if the Oilers can dig themselves out of an early hole with a huge rally.

Instead, we saw the same story tonight, only it was sadder and more dramatic. The St. Louis Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers by a score of 8-3, and that deficit wasn’t an unfair depiction of what happened on the ice. The red-hot Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers, seemingly scoring at will.

Just check Paul Stastny‘s body language after this beautiful goal; it almost seemed like the veteran forward felt squeamish about the carnage going on in Edmonton’s zone.

Again, it was the same story with McDavid straining to create quite a few chances, even while dealing with an unspecified sickness (note: sickness not a joke about the poor team around him, this time).

It seems fitting that the same few Oilers contributed at least something to the cause, as McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were involved in Edmonton’s three scores.

This loss encapsulated a lot of the themes of this season for Edmonton: not enough support, a cratering structure, and goaltending Cam Talbot having a miserable night.

Morale in Edmonton is, uh, low.

Now, none of this should take away from the West-leading Blues’ side, as they flexed their muscles once again. Really, the main debates surrounded if the Blues were the best in the West by a large or merely a slim margin.

It was a banner night for one of the best lines in the league in Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Tarasenko almost had a hat trick, but will settle for the Gordie Howe variety, as he dropped the gloves with Matt Benning.

Fittingly, the Oilers didn’t even win that battle, either.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fight video: Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Matthew Benning

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Vladimir Tarasenko earns the nickname “Tank” because he’s a big, hoss-like scorer and because it matches up well with his name.

He showed a different kind of firepower on Tuesday, though, as he took exception to a Matthew Benning hit and decided to fight the Edmonton Oilers defenseman. The bout happened even as the Oilers seemed like they were getting a precious scoring chance, but the crowd in St. Louis was riled up mainly to see the superstar drop the gloves.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the first battle for “The Tank.” According to Hockey Fights’ listings, Tarasenko fought once in 2015-16 and another time in 2014-15, while also dropping the gloves once in the KHL.

(This is his first fight against someone not named Ryan, as he exchanged fisticuffs with Ryan Kesler and Ryan Ellis in his other NHL fights. I mean, unless Matthew Benning’s middle name is Ryan?)

So far, the Oilers haven’t been showing as much fight as Tarasenko, as the Blues currently hold a 3-0 lead and chased Cam Talbot. Read more about what’s been a tough night for goalies so far here.