Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

Isles put Hamonic on IR, recall Mayfield

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It’s been a tough campaign, at least physically, for Isles d-man Travis Hamonic.

That trend continued on Thursday.

The Isles put Hamonic on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 7, which is when he last played (a loss to Arizona). Hamonic, who’s dealing with a lower-body injury, sat out last night’s loss to Florida and, shortly thereafter, the Isles recalled d-man Scott Mayfield from Bridgeport.

Earlier this season, Hamonic was slated to miss 4-6 weeks with a hand injury, but gutted it out and returned after missing just three games. All told he’s appeared in 35 games this season, racking up 12 points while averaging nearly 21 minutes per night.

Losing Hamonic will hurt the Isles, a team that can’t afford any more losses. They’ve dropped three straight and are just 15-16-8 heading into Friday’s rematch with the Panthers.


Goalie nods: Murray’s back, but Fleury starts versus Caps


Tasty matchup for tonight’s Rivalry Night game between Pittsburgh and Washington — Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s stopped 128 of his last 136 shots faced (for a .941 save percentage), will go up against Braden Holtby, the NHL’s reigning third star of the week.

Fleury’s start comes with Matt Murray returning to the fold, after missing the last two weeks with a lower-body injury. In a related move, the Pens returned Tristan Jarry to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday, after he sat as Fleury’s backup for the last few games.

Fleury has been Pittsburgh’s goalie of record in each of the last five games — all wins — so this is a chance for him to keep the streak alive, and potentially keep his grasp on the No. 1 job as well. Coaches are loathe to mess with a winning recipe.

As for Washington, this will be Holtby’s fifth start in the last nine nights, which is a pretty hefty workload. That said, one of those starts didn’t go the distance — he was hooked in a 6-5 OT comeback win over Toronto on Jan. 3 — and he’s playing some of his best hockey of the year right now, having allowed just one goal over the last three games.


Carey Price was busy in Monday’s loss to Washington, facing 39 shots, so Al Montoya gets the nod in Winnipeg. He’ll be up against Connor Hellebuyck, who is making his sixth straight start and appears to have won the No. 1 gig over Michael Hutchinson.

— Coming off a shutout of New Jersey on Monday, Roberto Luongo gets another start for the Panthers. The host Isles are going with Thomas Greiss, who has played well in the wake of the Jaroslav Halak departure. Greiss is 1-0-2 in his last three, with a .958 save percentage.

— No switching things up in Calgary, as Chad Johnson will make his third straight start, despite losing in Winnipeg on Monday. No word yet on who goes for the Sharks, but Martin Jones did play in last night’s 5-3 win over the Oilers.

Report: Staal suffered concussion, return to Rangers unclear


Marc Staal, the New York blueliner that’s dealt with concussion issues throughout his career, is reportedly dealing with another concussion — one that held him out of the Rangers’ final two games prior to their bye week, per the Post.


Staal, who has been working out at the club’s practice facility this week, did not go through the NHL’s concussion protocol after he was held out of last week’s games in Philadelphia and Columbus with what was announced as an unidentified “upper-body” injury.

It is unknown whether the alternate captain, who reported he was not feeling well following the Jan. 3 game against the Sabres, will be available for Friday’s game against the Maple Leafs at the Garden or Saturday’s match in Montreal.

Staal has dealt with two concussions prior to this — one in 2011, courtesy a hit from brother Eric, and a second two years later following a headshot from then-Devils forward Reid Boucher.

Prior to getting hurt, the 29-year-old had been a staple of the Rangers’ lineup this year. He was averaging 19:33 through 40 games, chipping in offensively with three goals and six points.

With Staal out, Adam Clendening has been thrust into the defensive rotation — and has fared well. In Saturday’s comeback win over the Blue Jackets, he scored his first goal and recorded his first multi-point effort of the campaign.


Ottawa in preliminary extension talks with Smith


Sens forward Zack Smith had a breakout performance last year, scoring a career-high 25 goals while averaging a healthy 15:24 TOI per night.

Now, in the last of his four-year $7.55 million deal, Smith is proving last year was no fluke — and that a big payday could be on the horizon.

“We’ve have some preliminary talks,” Smith said of extension negotiations on Tuesday, per the Citizen. “I don’t think we’re in a rush and I feel like both sides want to get something done. I want to be play here and I think (management) wants me to be here, too, but it’s the agent who talks about money.”

Money will undoubtedly be a focal point for Smith and the Sens. He’s a pretty good bargain right now — carrying a $1.887M cap hit — but that’s unlikely to continue with his next deal.

The 28-year-old has nine goals and 17 points through 37 games this year, missing a fair chunk of time with an abdominal injury. Despite the ailment, he’s still on pace for a pretty good offensive campaign, especially if he continues to thrive playing alongside Derick Brassard and Mark Stone.

Smith has eight points in eight games since being united with his new linemates, which included a terrific effort against Edmonton on Sunday. He notched a goal and an assist in 17:47 TOI, earning praise from assistant coach Marc Crawford.

“He is so strong on the puck and he has got a very good shot,” Crawford explained. “He’s fearless and he goes to the net.”

What kind of raise Smith gets remains to be seen. The key will be how he fits within Ottawa’s budget, and if he’s willing to potentially take less than market value to stick with the only team he’s ever known. Smith was drafted by the Sens in 2008 and has spent his entire career with the organization, but could score big in free agency — should he choose to go that route.

Kesler returns to All-Star Game, looking to prove contract doubters wrong


In the summer of 2015, Anaheim signed Ryan Kesler to a six-year, $41.25 million extension — a deal that would keep the veteran center under contract until he was 38, and pay him $6.875M annually.

The move came with some scrutiny. Kesler was already on the wrong side of 30 and had logged over 800 career games, with many hard minutes therein. He was also coming off a modest 47-point campaign.

The critiques were out there. And apparently Kesler hear ’em.

“That gets me going,” Kesler said this week, per the L.A. Times. “Ever since I signed that contract, I want to prove people wrong. You try not to hear it but you hear what people say, and I think that motivates me every year to come back and prove that I’m not quote-unquote over the hill.”

Kesler has been full value since signing the deal. Last year, he put up 53 points — his highest total since the ’10-11 campaign in Vancouver — and was named a Selke finalist.

This year, he’s been Anaheim’s MVP.

Kesler leads the Ducks in goals and points, with 16 and 35, and is playing an absolute boatload of minutes, averaging 21:51 per night. That puts him second among all forwards in terms of ice time — only Chicago’s Patrick Kane averages more — and he remains a solid possession metrics guy, often tasked with shutting down the opposition’s top forwards.

(He also remains dominant in the faceoff circle, leading the NHL in draws won.)

As such, Kesler’s headed to his second career All-Star Game, and first in six years. It’s a deserved honor. The Ducks are neck-and-neck with San Jose for top spot in the Pacific Division, despite relatively down offensive years from Corey Perry (just seven goals through 43 games) and Ryan Getzlaf (who’s been dealing with various injuries all season).

Even Getzlaf admits Kesler has been driving the bus in Anaheim.

“He’s been our best player all season,” the captain said, per the O.C. Register. “Without a doubt.”