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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Goalie nods: Ward to make 17th straight start for ‘Canes

The last time someone other than Cam Ward started for Carolina was on Dec. 3. Michael Leighton got the call that night, a 4-2 loss to the Rangers in New York.

Since then, Leighton’s played a grand total of 34 minutes.

Eddie Lack, Ward’s usual backup, hasn’t played at all as he’s currently sidelined with a concussion.

Jorge Alves, the club’s 37-year-old equipment manager and occasional practice goalie, received eight seconds of relief time in late December.

So yeah, Ward’s been a busy guy.

Fourth among all NHL netminders in games played and third in minutes, Ward will make his 17th consecutive start this evening when the ‘Canes host the Blue Jackets in Carolina.

It’s a heavy workload, no doubt, though ‘Canes head coach Bill Peters doesn’t seem too concerned about burning Ward out. At least not concerned outwardly.

“Our schedule has been fairly favorable,” Peters said prior to Sunday’s OT win over the Bruins, per Fox Sports. “There has been a couple of back-to-backs, but nothing ridiculous.”

Ward has been solid, if unspectacular, while carrying the load. He’s posted a 15-12-6 record with a .915 save percentage and 2.28 GAA, and is on pace for his most starts since getting 68 back in the ’11-12 campaign.

For the Blue Jackets, Anton Forsberg will get the start in his first game as the club’s new backup. Curtis McElhinney, the veteran who’s served as Sergei Bobrovsky‘s No. 2 for most of the year, was waived yesterday and claimed by Toronto today.

Elsewhere…

Steve Mason will look to snap a personal six-game losing streak as he gets the nod for Philly in Buffalo. The Sabres will counter with Anders Nilsson, who gets the start with Robin Lehner out with the flu.

Tuukka Rask will get a shot at following up Saturday’s shutout win over Florida, as the B’s head to St. Louis. The Blues are going with Jake Allen, who became a first-time father over the weekend.

Ryan Miller, coming off a 44-save win over Calgary on Friday, goes back in for Vancouver after Jacob Markstrom faced the Flames in the second of a back-to-back on Saturday. Miller will take on Pekka Rinne, who starts for the host Preds.

Corey Crawford will look to extend his winning streak to three, as Chicago hosts Detroit. Petr Mrazek is expected to start for the Wings, as he manned the No. 1’s crease at the morning skate.

— Two of the Western Conference’s busiest netminders go head-to-head in Edmonton, as Martin Jones and the Sharks take on Cam Talbot and the Oilers.

— After coming on in relief of Kari Lehtonen in last night’s win over L.A. Antti Niemi starts for Dallas. The host Ducks will go with John Gibson.

 

Purcell’s ‘too good for the American League’ — could trade be coming?

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Another name to keep an eye on as the Mar. 1 trade deadline draws closer — L.A. Kings forward Teddy Purcell.

Well, technically, it’s Ontario Reign forward Teddy Purcell.

A veteran of over 500 big league contests, Purcell signed with the Kings this offseason but lasted just 12 games before getting waived, and was sent to the minors. He’s since shown extremely well in Ontario — 14 points through 12 contests — and, as head coach Mike Stothers explained, is probably too talented to be toiling in AHL.

“You can see his skill level,” Stothers said, per LA Kings Insider. “He’s too good for this league and maybe this is what he needs to get back up to the NHL but it’s almost like he’s a tweener.

“He’s too good for the American League, maybe he’s getting a little longer in the tooth in the NHL, I don’t know. But what he’s brought, it’s what everybody’s looking for. It’s a skill set. The way he hangs onto pucks. The way he makes plays.”

It’s believed Purcell’s financial situation, not his playing ability, was the reason he went unclaimed on waivers. Though his contract isn’t huge, it does carry a $1.6 million cap hit — and to hear Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman explain it, that could be why teams are opting to wait until closer to the deadline to contemplate acquiring him:

Purcell not being picked up on waivers seems purely a budget/cap decision. The Kings let it be known they were willing to trade him, as long as they did not take a contract back in return. That didn’t work.

There are so many teams tight to the cap, they didn’t have room. The Ottawa Senators have space and Purcell played for Guy Boucher in Tampa Bay, but that’s a budget issue.

It’s little consolation for him now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone takes a chance later in the year, when teams have more room.

As we wrote earlier, Ottawa remains in the market for help at forward. Purcell’s two best offensive campaigns came under Boucher in Tampa Bay — 51 points in ’10-11, 65 points in ’11-12 — and there is some good playoff experience on his resume. Purcell was nearly a point-a-game player for the Bolts as they advanced to the Eastern Conference final six years ago.

Stothers made it clear what the goal is for both the organization and player.

“I know Teddy wants to get back in the NHL,” he said. “We certainly hope that he can and do so in rapid fashion.”

After missing on Nieto, Sens still looking for forward help

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It’s no secret Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion’s in the market for depth up front — per the Citizen, the Sens put in a waiver claim for former Sharks winger Matt Nieto, only for him to be claimed by the Avalanche.

So the search continues.

More:

Later this week [Dorion will] sit down with the members of the pro scouting staff to see what might be available before the trade deadline set for March 1 at 3 p.m. EST.

Ideally, before the end of the season, Dorion would like to add another forward to help Ottawa make the playoffs.

Make no mistake, Dorion has been working the phones hard for the last month or so trying to bring in forward depth.

Ottawa’s had issues finding the back of the net this season, and currently sits 22nd in the NHL in goals per game. Bobby Ryan is on pace for 16 tallies after scoring 22 last year, and Derick Brassard has slowed after a hot start — five points through his first seven games, just 13 over his last 32.

Former first-round pick Curtis Lazar has struggled with health and finding any sort of rhythm, and is pointless through 19 games. The club also probably expected a bit more from 24-year-old Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who’s on pace for 27 points after racking up a career-high 43 last season.

Yes, some of these numbers have to do with the more structured, less high-event hockey the Sens have played under Guy Boucher. They’ve dramatically cut their goals against and are middle-of-the-pack in terms of shots surrendered.

But it’s also obvious the club isn’t getting enough from its forwards. Injuries to regulars like Mark Stone and Zack Smith have also proven costly, and Dorion still doesn’t have a clear picture on the return of Clarke MacArthur, who hasn’t played this year due to concussion issues.

Should MacArthur return, it would be a shot in the arm offensively. He’s scored 40 combined goals over the last two years in Ottawa.

Dorion may, however, try to further bolster his forward group. The Sens are right in the thick of the playoff race, and almost certainly project to be buyers at the deadline. Names already out there include Arizona’s Martin Hanzal and Colorado’s Jarome Iginla, though it’s unclear if either would be a fit.

It will be interesting to see if they kick the tires on any of Boucher’s ex-players from his time in Tampa Bay — like Teddy Purcell, who is currently languishing with the Kings’ AHL affiliate.

Jonathan Toews isn’t sure how he snuck into the All-Star Game

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As mentioned, the NHL announced its full All-Star Game rosters earlier today — and as is often the case with such announcements, there were debates about those who got in, and those who didn’t.

Those conversations are certainly going on in Chicago.

Captain Jonathan Toews was one of three ‘Hawks to make it, along with Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. But to hear Toews explain it, he’s not quite sure how he got the nod over some of his teammates.

“I guess it’s related to how I’ve played in previous seasons, not this one, and not necessarily who’s doing the best on our team,” he said, per the Sun-Times. “I definitely think that Bread Man, Arty and Hoss should be there. I happened to sneak in there somehow. Not sure how.”

Bread Man (Artemi Panarin), Arty (Artem Anisimov) and Hoss (Marian Hossa) are all having quality campaigns. Panarin sits second on the ‘Hawks — and sixth in the NHL — in scoring, with 41 points, while Anisimov leads the team in goals (18).

Hossa, meanwhile, is enjoying a solid goalscoring season of his own, having netted 16 times in 37 games.

And then there’s Toews.

Offensively, it’s been a down year. He’s Chicago’s seventh-leading scorer with just seven goals and 20 points through 34 games, missing significant time with a back injury. That injury coincided with a tough slump in which he failed to find the back of the net in 45 days, during which he admitted a certain level of frustration.

“I don’t know what to tell you; I feel like I’ve got experience dealing with this sort of thing,” Toews said at the time, also per the Sun-Times. “I don’t know what that says about my game. But I still believe I’m that offensive player.

“I’ve just got to stay with it and keep working.”

Since that quote — dropped after a 4-3 loss to Ottawa in which he went pointless — Toews has stepped up the offense. He has six points over his last eight games, which included a pair of power-play markers. That’s noteworthy, because the captain had scored just once on the man advantage prior to.

Still, it’s tough to explain exactly why he got the ASG nod over other deserving ‘Hawks. Of course…

Matthews, Laine highlight All-Star rosters

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It was widely assumed last year’s draft class would be a special one — just maybe not this quickly.

But it’s happening, and fast.

On Tuesday, the NHL released the remaining rosters for the 2017 All-Star Game in Los Angeles, and the first two picks of the 2016 draft — Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine — were named, becoming the only two rookies voted into this year’s event.

Laine, 18, is in his first campaign with Winnipeg and currently sits second in the NHL in goals with 21. He also leads all rookies in scoring — yes, ahead of Matthews — with 37, and is tied for 13th in league scoring and has the team lead in points, tied with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers.

Though currently sidelined with a concussion, there is hope Laine will return to the Jets lineup soon, and be able to participate in L.A.

Matthews, 19, has been equally impressive in his first season with the Leafs. After a lengthy goalscoring slump that ran from late October to late November, the Arizona native has come alive and is on fire, with 15 goals and 22 points in his last 20 games.

Matthews capped off a terrific December by being named the NHL’s rookie of the month.

Here are the remaining players named to the ASG, along with the coaching staffs:

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Forwards

Nikita Kucherov
Brad Marchand
Auston Matthews
Frans Nielsen
Kyle Okposo
Vincent Trocheck

Defensemen

Victor Hedman
Erik Karlsson
Shea Weber

Goaltenders

Carey Price (C)
Tuukka Rask

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

Forwards

Sidney Crosby (C)
Taylor Hall
Evgeni Malkin
Alex Ovechkin
Wayne Simmonds
John Tavares

Defensemen

Justin Faulk
Seth Jones
Ryan McDonagh

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky
Braden Holtby

CENTRAL DIVISION

Forwards

Patrick Kane
Patrik Laine
Nathan MacKinnon
Tyler Seguin
Vladimir Tarasenko
Jonathan Toews

Defensemen

P.K. Subban (C)
Duncan Keith
Ryan Suter

Goaltenders

Corey Crawford
Devan Dubynk

PACIFIC DIVISION

Forwards

Connor McDavid (C)
Jeff Carter
Johnny Gaudreau
Bo Horvat
Ryan Kesler
Joe Pavelski

Defensemen

Brent Burns
Drew Doughty
Cam Fowler

Goaltenders

Martin Jones
Mike Smith

HEAD COACHES

The four head coaches for the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend will be Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens (Atlantic), Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild (Central), John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets (Metropolitan) and Peter DeBoer of the San Jose Sharks (Pacific).

Under the All-Star selection process, the head coach of the team with the highest points percentage (points earned divided by total possible points) in each of the four divisions through games of Tuesday, Jan. 10 – the halfway point of the regular season – will guide the respective All-Star rosters.

Therrien’s Canadiens (.683, 25-10-6) are guaranteed of posting the top points percentage in the Atlantic Division through tonight, while Boudreau’s Wild (.705, 25-9-5), Tortorella’s Blue Jackets (.769, 28-7-4) and DeBoer’s Sharks (.625, 24-14-2) similarly have wrapped up first place in the Central, Metropolitan and Pacific Divisions, respectively.