Mike Halford

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 7: Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Vancouver Canucks in the season opener at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Report: Gaudreau broke finger, will require surgery (Update: Flames confirm)

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Calgary’s disastrous start to the year just got worse.

Per Sportsnet, star forward Johnny Gaudreau — who scored the game-winning goal in last night’s 1-0 victory over Minnesota — has suffered a broken finger and will require surgery.

The loss is a critical blow to an underachieving Flames team that’s already calls for Glen Gulutzan’s job. Gaudreau hasn’t been great to start the year — though few Flames have, which is why they’re 6-10-1 — but he does lead the team in scoring, with 11 points, and has been the club’s most dynamic offensive performer for the last two seasons.

The club has yet to confirm the Sportsnet report, though multiple outlets suggested the injury is believed to be serious, and that Gaudreau was set to undergo tests today.

All eyes will now be on Calgary president Brian Burke. The oft-outspoken executive recently called out Gaudreau and Sean Monahan for their lack of production, suggesting the holdout for — and pressure of — Gaudreau’s new six-year, $40.5 million extension played a role in his slow start.

Update: Calgary has confirmed the original report.

Bolts send Stamkos (knee) home from road trip, will be evaluated in Tampa

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The knee injury Steven Stamkos suffered during Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Detroit is serious enough to end his road trip.

Well, presumably end it.

On Wednesday, the Lightning announced that Stamkos had been returned to Tampa Bay for further medical evaluation, adding they had “no other updates at this time.”

The Bolts are currently two games into a five-game road swing, with dates remaining in Buffalo, Philly and Nashville — meaning that, barring a good diagnosis and speedy recovery, Stamkos won’t rejoin the team until it returns home for a date with Philly on Nov. 23.

Losing Stamkos for any length of time would hurt.

He’s off to a fantastic start this year, with 20 points through his first 17 games, and established terrific chemistry alongside Nikita Kucherov on the club’s top line. Despite playing just 2:07 against Detroit last night, Stamkos still managed to score his ninth goal of the year.

Of course, Tampa Bay does have experience dealing with Stamkos’ absence. He missed more than half of the ’13-14 regular season with a broken leg, and missed almost all of last year’s playoff run while dealing with ramifications from a blood clotting issue.

Snow gives beleaguered Capuano a vote of confidence

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Jack Capuano of the New York Islanders leaves the ice following a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 24, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders won the game 2-1 to win the series four games to two. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Islanders are mired in the Eastern Conference basement with a 5-8-3 record, which has many calling for the head of bench boss Jack Capuano.

But Isles GM Garth Snow isn’t having it.

“Jack is an excellent coach,” Snow told TSN, giving his head coach a vote of confidence in the process. “We have good players. I love our coaching staff.”

The Isles have been bad to start the season, and there are several reasons for it. Prized free agent signing Andrew Ladd has just three points through 16 games. Jason Chimera has struggled to produce as well. On defense, the club has dealt with injuries to Ryan Pulock, Dennis Seidenberg and Travis Hamonic — the latter now playing through a suspected broken thumb.

Capuano, though, is the one that’s ended up in the crosshairs.

He’s been taken to task for an inability to replace the offense lost when Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo left in free agency. At times, he’s shouldered the blame — in Monday’s shutout loss to the Bolts, he said it was “on him” to find better line combinations — but at other times, he’s alluded to the fact a good chunk of his offense walked out the door this summer.

“Where are we going to get point production?” Capuano asked reporters after a shootout win over the Flyers. “One hundred and thirty-four points out of our lineup that we lost. Now we have to find a way. Like everything gets magnified, I get it. You guys are talking about the (losses) lately…but we have to find a way to get some balanced offense in our hockey team.”

Some saw those remarks as a shot at Snow, which in turn led some to predict Capuano’s firing was on the horizon.

It still might be. The Isles have a really tough stretch of the schedule coming up — a game this Friday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, then a three-game western road swing through Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose.

Related: No production from Ladd among many concerns for Isles

Smith, Hanzal ‘real close’ to rejoining Coyotes

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 12:  Martin Hanzal #11 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates with goaltender Mike Smith #41 after Hanzal scored the game winning goal in overtime of Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 12, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona, one of the youngest teams in the NHL this season, will soon get a veteran injection into the lineup.

Martin Hanzal, who’s been out the last two weeks with a lower-body injury, is traveling with the club for its upcoming two-game swing through Vancouver and Calgary.

So too is No. 1 netminder Mike Smith, who has missed the last 12 games with a lower-body ailment of his own.

Getting the pair back would be a huge boon for the Coyotes. Hanzal, 29 is one of the club’s best centers — if not the best center — and had four points through nine games prior to getting hurt.

Smith, 34, has been missed. His absence has forced Louis Domingue into the starter’s position and while Domingue has fared well at times, he’s struggled with consistency.

“Some good games this year and some not so good,” head coach Dave Tippett said of Domingue’s season, per the Arizona Republic.

The Coyotes made waves at the start of the year by putting a bunch of kids on their opening-night roster: Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, Jakob Chychrun and Christian Dvorak, most notably.

Each has had varying degrees of success, but overall the club has struggled and currently finds itself in the Pacific Division basement, with a 5-9-0 record.

Update: In moves that further suggest Smith and Hanzal are close, Dvorak and backup netminder Justin Peters have been assigned to AHL Tucson.

I was saying Boo-urns: Rangers’ Nieves to make NHL debut

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Cristoval Nieves #67 of the New York Rangers skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on October 6, 2016 in New York City. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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There’ll be a new face in the Rangers lineup tonight when they take on the Canucks in Vancouver.

Cristoval “Boo” Nieves — who essentially goes by the “Boo” nickname, given to him as a child — will make his big league debut on Tuesday, the club has announced.

Nieves, taken 59th overall at the 2012 draft, enjoyed an impressive four-year career at the University of Michigan before turning pro last season. He signed his entry-level deal in March, played eight games with AHL Hartford — scoring five points — then got off to a good start with the Wolf Pack this season, notching six points in 13 games prior to his recall on Monday afternoon.

The 22-year-old’s debut comes at the expense of Chris Kreider, currently sidelined with an upper-body injury, and Pavel Buchnevich, who is out with back spasms.

At the morning skate, Nieves was skating on the club’s fourth line with Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Pirri.

Considered to be a potential first-round pick in his draft year, Nieves has a solid frame — 6-foot-3, 200 pounds — and can really skate for a player of his size. Per Newsday, he might also get a look on the Rangers’ penalty kill this evening.