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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Flames ink d-man Bartkowski to PTO

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Calgary made a roster move on Wednesday, signing blueliner Matt Bartkowski to a professional tryout.

Bartkowski, 28, has spent all of this season with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring 10 points in 34 games. His last NHL action came in ’15-16, when he scored 18 points in 80 games with Vancouver.

And that’s where the familiarity angle comes into play.

Though he was oft criticized for his play last season, Bartkowski did log career highs across the board with the Canucks — under the watchful eye of then-assistant coach Glen Gulutzan, who’s now the head man in Calgary.

That said, it’s tough to see where Bartkowski would fit in the Flames lineup. He could push for a spot in the bottom pair, currently comprised of Brett Kulak and Deryk Engelland, though the likes of Jyrki Jokipakka and Tyler Wotherspoon are fighting for those minutes as well.

He also might provide the Flames some roster flexibility as they head into the Mar. 1 trade deadline, and the upcoming expansion draft.

 

Vermette gets automatic 10-game suspension for linesman slash

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Antoine Vermette’s slash on linesman Shandor Alphonso in Tuesday’s Ducks-Wild game has landed Vermette in hot water.

Vermette, who was tossed from the game following the incident, has been flagged as a Category II offender under Rule 40 (Abuse of Official), per Sportsnet.

From the NHL rule book:

Automatic Suspension – Category II
Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.

Per TSN, Vermette has the right to appeal, which would be heard by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Bettman would have the option to increase, decrease or uphold the 10-game ban.

Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle addressed the incident following the contest — a 1-0 Ducks win — and said that while the club had an opinion on the matter, it might not make a difference given Vermette made contact with a linesman.

From the Orange County Register:

Carlyle said Vermette reacted to not being ready for Alphonso dropping the puck and that the veteran forward wasn’t vicious or had malice in striking him. But he added, “He touched the official. What are you going to do?”

“To me, these are things that the league reviews,” Carlyle continued. “We have a view on it; they have a view on it. Whatever they decide, we have to live with.”

This marks the second suspension for an abuse of an official infraction this season. Earlier, Anthony DeAngelo of the Arizona Coyotes was banned three games for an incident involving linesman David Brisebois following a fight.

Report: Ex-NHLer Comrie under rape investigation

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Mike Comrie, who appeared in nearly 600 games over an 11-year NHL career, is under investigation from the Los Angeles Police Department after a woman claimed he repeatedly raped her at his residence, per TMZ.

More:

Law enforcement sources tell us the woman claims she met up with Comrie at a bar Saturday night and went back to his West L.A. condo. She claims he raped her multiple times.

The woman says she almost immediately went to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center nearby, and a rape kit was administered.  

Sources connected with Comrie say he’s known the woman for a long time and acknowledges he had sex with her, but insists she gave full consent. The sources also say the encounter was a 3-way and the other woman has not filed any complaint.

Comrie, 36, last played in 2010-11, appearing in 21 games for the Penguins. The son of noted entrepreneur Bill Comrie — the CEO of The Brick furniture chain, and a Chicago Cubs minority owner — Mike was also known for his marriage to actress and singer Hilary Duff.

The two divorced in 2015, ending their five-year union.

 

Deja vu all over again: Habs fire Therrien, hire Julien

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In a bold, dramatic move that will undoubtedly shake up his floundering club, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin has fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien — exactly one week to the day that Julien was fired by the Bruins.

“I would like to sincerely thank Michel for his relentless work with the Montreal Canadiens over his eight seasons behind the bench, including the last five seasons when we worked together,” Bergevin said in a release. “The decision to remove Michel from his coaching duties was a difficult one because I have lots of respect for him.

“I came to the conclusion that our team needed a new energy, a new voice, a new direction. Claude Julien is an experienced and well respected coach with a good knowledge of the Montreal market. Claude has been very successful as an NHL coach and he won the Stanley Cup. Today we hired the best available coach, and one of the league’s best. I am convinced that he has the capabilities to get our team back on the winning track.”

Per ESPN, Montreal asked for permission to speak with Julien on Sunday.

Just days later, the 56-year-old is now back for his second stint in Montreal, having coached the club from 2003-06. This also marks the second time he’s replaced Therrien as the Canadiens’ bench boss.

(Of note, there are only two roster holdovers from the last Habs team Julien coached: Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec.)

Since leaving Montreal, Julien achieved tremendous success in Boston, capturing the ’09 Jack Adams and ’11 Stanley Cup. He also left as the organization’s all-time leader in coaching wins.

As for Therrien, his dismissal comes with the club having plateaued since its 13-1-1 start to the year. The Habs are just 18-18-7 since but, following Sunday’s ugly 4-0 shutout loss in Boston, still remained atop the Atlantic Division. Per Sportsnet, Therrien is the first head coach to be fired with his team leading the division since Ottawa fired John Paddock in 2008.

It’s probably worth noting the last time Therrien was fired, he was the head coach in Pittsburgh. Pens GM Ray Shero turfed him on Feb. 15, 2009 — almost eight years to the day — and replaced Therrien with Dan Bylsma.

Bylsma, of course, led the club to the Stanley Cup months later.

More to follow…

Goalie nods: Smith, 27, to make NHL debut for Avs

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Colorado will get to look at another goalie in the system tonight.

Jeremy Smith, the 27-year-old journeyman that’s spent all year in AHL San Antonio, will make his big league debut when the Avs take on the Devils in New Jersey.

Smith, originally drafted back in 2007, has played almost exclusively in the American League during his career, with stops in Milwaukee, Springfield, Providence, Iowa and finally San Antonio, where he’s 5-8-0 with a .911 save percentage and 2.57 GAA this season.

Prior to tonight, the closest Smith came to the NHL was with Boston, who recalled him from the minors a few times. But he never saw game action with the B’s.

Tonight’s start comes after the Avs shut No. 1 Semyon Varlamov down for the year, which left them with a Calvin Pickard-Spencer Martin duo. Martin, who made his NHL debut back in late January, has since been returned to the minors.

Martin, 21, was likely sent back to save his confidence. It was a big ask for him to play at the NHL level in this stage of his career, made even bigger by asking him to play behind the worst team in the league. Martin’s only in his second full season of pro hockey and, unsurprisingly, struggled to an 0-2-1 mark with the Avs, posting a 4.35 GAA and .865 save percentage.

For the Devils, Cory Schneider starts in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Vancouver will start Ryan Miller after Jacob Markstrom beat the Sabres on Sunday. Matt Murray also returns to the net after a night off, as Marc-Andre Fleury played (and lost) on Saturday.

— The streaking Isles will stick with Thomas Greiss in goal when they take on the Leafs in Toronto. Greiss will square off against Frederik Andersen, who has lost three straight while posting an .887 save percentage over that stretch.

Robin Lehner goes up against his old team, as the Sabres invade Ottawa. Craig Anderson makes his second consecutive start since rejoining the Sens, having posted a 33-save shutout in his return on Saturday.

John Gibson has struggled lately, losing three of four while posting a .898 save percentage. He’ll look to get things on track tonight in Minnesota. The Wild, as they almost always do, are starting Devan Dubnyk, who’s emerged as the favorite for the Vezina Trophy.

Connor Hellebuyck starts again for the Jets, as Ondrej Pavelec is out hurt (he was placed on IR today). The visiting Stars will go with Antti Niemi, who starts for the first time in three games.

— It’s Cam Talbot versus Louis Domingue as the Oilers host the Coyotes in Edmonton.