Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Habs send Weber home from trip, will miss next two games

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Montreal can clinch first in the Atlantic with a win over Florida tonight, but won’t have Shea Weber to help the cause.

Weber has been sent home from the club’s current three-game road trip to have his lower-body injury evaluated, the club announced on Monday. The veteran blueliner played 22:46 in Saturday’s 2-1 OT win in Tampa Bay, but will now miss his first action of the year.

Needless to say, it’s a massive hole to fill. Weber is tied for second among NHL defensemen with 17 goals, and sits third on the team in scoring (42 points). He also averages a club-high 25:04 TOI per night.

As mentioned, Montreal is in action tonight, then again on Wednesday in Buffalo. From there, the Habs have two games remaining: Friday, Apr. 7 versus Tampa Bay, then a road date in Detroit to close things out on Apr. 8.

Per Sportsnet, Weber’s injury isn’t believed to be of the long-term variety. Today’s move could be purely precautionary, as the Habs will almost certainly lock up top spot in the division.

 

Panarin wins first star of week, with contract bonuses in sight

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From the “this might have something to do with that” file: Chicago forward Artemi Panarin captured the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, after racking up five goals and six points over his last four games.

That put Panarin on 29 goals and 72 points for the season. The 25-year-old Russian is now tied with Evgeni Malkin for 10th in the NHL in scoring, but sits ninth among all forwards — and that’s pretty important, because Panarin will receive $1.725 million in bonus money by finishing in the top 10.

More, from the Chicago-Tribune:

The category of total points will be Panarin’s best chance to secure the bonus, most of which will go against the Hawks’ cap for next season.

Panarin, who also has a two-year, $12 million extension beginning next season, is well positioned to secure another $850,000 in “Schedule A” bonuses for reaching various team milestones for points, plus-minus rating and minutes played.

Panarin and the ‘Hawks went through a similar situation last year. It led to some asking about potential awkwardness — pressed up against the cap ceiling, it would’ve financially behooved the ‘Hawks to have Panarin fall short of his bonus targets — but GM Stan Bowman shot down any talk of organizational unease.

“Our team wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Bowman told Blackhawks Insider near the end of last season (audio). “What he’s done here as a rookie, I don’t want to say it’s unprecedented, but it hasn’t happened in a long, long time for a guy, his first year in the league, to finish in the top 10 in scoring.

“That’s why those bonuses are rarely earned. He’s done something very, very special this year.”

While Chicago was pleased with Panarin’s season, the financial strain did lead (in part) to the club shipping out Andrew Shaw at the draft.

As for the remainder of this year, the ‘Hawks have little to play for, so there’ll be a decent amount of focus on Panarin over final three games.  Chicago closes out with a road swing through Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles, and it’s worth noting Panarin has faced those clubs a combined six times this year — racking up eight points.

Report: Panthers goalie Berra signs in Swiss League

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Reto Berra, Florida’s third-string netminder that’s been forced into action following injuries to Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss League.

The club announced the news on Monday, explaining that the contract would kick in next season and return Berra to a league he’s quite familiar with. Prior to debuting with Calgary during the ’13-14 campaign, the Swiss native played for Zurich, Davos, Langnau, Zug and Biel of the National League A.

Berra, 30, was acquired from Colorado via trade last June and has made six appearances for the Panthers this year (No. 7 will come tonight, against the Habs). He’s 0-4-0 with a 3.54 GAA and .870 save percentage, and most of his time was spent with Florida’s AHL affiliate in Springfield.

Berra’s in the last of a three-year, $4.35M deal, signed with the Avs back in 2014. His departure doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given Florida is pretty set in goal with Reimer (under contract through 2021) and Luongo (through ’22).

Future’s on display in Winnipeg as Connor, Roslovic recalled

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On Monday, the Jets put the spotlight on their ballyhooed ’15 draft class by bringing up Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic from AHL Manitoba.

Connor, the 17th overall pick, re-joins the club after appearing in 19 games earlier this season. The 20-year-old started out with the Jets after a terrific freshman season at the University of Michigan, but was eventually sent to the Moose for further grooming.

So far, the plan has worked. Connor has 23 goals and 42 point through 49 games.

Roslovic, taken eight spots after Connor, has also played very well in his first professional campaign. After leaving Miami (Ohio) after just one year, he jumped right to the AHL and has 45 points in 61 games.

This marks his first NHL recall.

Should both draw into Tuesday’s game against the Blues, it’ll be a big showcase for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s draft-and-develop model. Connor and Roslovic would join the likes of star rookie Patrik Laine (2nd overall, ’16), Nikolaj Ehlers (ninth overall, ’14), Josh Morrissey (13th overall, ’13), Jacob Trouba (9th overall, ’12) and Mark Scheifele (7th overall, ’11).

Other recent draftees currently making an impact in Winnipeg include Connor Hellebuyck, Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry.

Worth mentioning here that all the guys mentioned are 24 or younger (and that’s without listing two former first-rounders acquired by trade: Marko Dano and Joel Armia). This will end up a disappointing season for the Jets, having failed to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year, but the future still looks extremely bright.

Change of plans: Detroit recalls prospect Svechnikov

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Two weeks ago, we passed along word of Detroit’s plan to keep Evgeny Svechnikov — the club’s first-rounder from ’15 — down in AHL Grand Rapids for the remainder of the season.

Well, things have changed.

On Monday, the Wings recalled Svechnikov under emergency circumstances with veteran forward Drew Miller out sick. (Luke Glendening and Anthony Mantha are also sidelined with injuries.)

Svechnikov, 20, is expected to make his NHL debut tonight when the Red Wings take on Ottawa. It would cap off what’s been a really successful first year in North America.

Svechnikov’s had a solid freshman AHL campaign, scoring 18 goals and 44 points through 68 games. That was part of the reason Detroit wanted to keep him with the Griffins — the club’s had good past success letting prospects spend considerable time in the American League, prior to moving them up to the bigs.

There were other circumstances at play, too.

“The one thing with the younger prospects is, this is a situation where a guy may or may not play,” head coach Jeff Blashill told the Free Press two weeks ago, in explaining the decision to keep Svechnikov in Grand Rapids. “And you sure don’t want a guy’s first NHL game and potentially fly parents in and then they don’t play. So that’s one thing we are very cognizant of.

“Two, probably just as importantly, with younger prospects, and I have been in this situation, lots of times they are way better off just continuing to focus on playing down there and developing rather than the roller coaster ride of up and down and up and down. So that is something we stay very cognizant of.”