Mike Halford

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

Goalie nods: Streaking Anderson looks for fifth win in a row

Ottawa’s playing well lately — Brough wrote about that earlier today — and a big reason why is the netminding of Craig Anderson.

Anderson, who’s won four straight games while stopping 109 of 115 shots (.948 save percentage), will look for his fifth consecutive win when the Sens take on the Stars in Dallas tonight.

Goaltending has been a real strength for Ottawa this season, as the Anderson-Mike Condon duo — with a few cameos from Andrew Hammond — has recorded a collective .914 save percentage, good enough for 12th in the league. That’s a marked improvement from last season, when Ottawa allowed 2.94 goals per game — fifth-most in the NHL — with a .910 save percentage.

Anderson’s missed extensive time this year to be with his wife while she undergoes cancer treatment, but has been rock solid. He’s at 19-8-1 with a .930 save percentage and 2.24 GAA, his best numbers since the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, when he finished fourth in Vezina voting.

For the Stars, Kari Lehtonen is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Team North America teammates Matt Murray and Connor Hellebuyck are both coming off losses, and both will get a chance at redemption tonight when the Pens take on the Jets in Winnipeg.

— Boston will go back to Tuukka Rask, after he allowed three goals on 28 shots in a loss to Ottawa on Monday. No word yet on a Detroit starter.

 

 

Stars extend Cracknell, ‘a valuable member of our team’

Getty

Adam Cracknell‘s in the midst of a career year — posting personal bests in games played, goals and blocked shots — and on Wednesday, Dallas rewarded the gritty veteran forward.

Cracknell has signed a one-year, $675,000 extension, the Stars announced. The deal comes after with the 31-year-old scored seven goals and 10 points through 53 games this season — averaging just over 10 minutes per night — and is a nice pay raise, up from the $600,000 he made this season.

“Adam stepped into our lineup this season and established himself as a valuable member of our team,” Stars GM Jim Nill said in a release. “He plays a heavy, physical game and has been steady and reliable for us all season long.”

It should be noted this gives Dallas a forward to expose at the upcoming expansion draft. Nill has several pending UFAs up front — Patrick Sharp, Alex Hemsky and Jiri Hudler most notably — and it remains unclear if any will be brought back.

A former ninth-round pick, Cracknell bounced around the league prior to this year, with stops in St. Louis, Columbus, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Pens dress enforcer Sestito for grudge match versus Jets

Getty
8 Comments

There were plenty of fireworks the last time Pittsburgh and Winnipeg played.

Tonight, when they meet for the first time since, there could be plenty more.

Pittsburgh will insert tough guy Tom Sestito into the lineup, after recalling him from the minors. The move is (presumably) in response to everything that occurred on Feb. 16, including Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Jets captain Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien’s hit on Pens d-man Justin Schultz, which left the latter with a concussion.

Oh yeah, Olli Maatta also had to exit the game following a big open ice hit from Adam Lowry (watch it here).

Chris Thorburn, Winnipeg’s resident pugilist, told the Winnipeg Sun Sestito’s inclusion “catches your attention a little bit,” adding “I’d probably be the one to address that.”

The Jets, of course, are desperately fighting to remain in playoff contention, so they’re insisting the focus is solely on securing two points. But at the same time, they were visibly frustrated after Malkin escaped punishment for the Wheeler hit, only for Jacob Trouba to get suspended days later for his hit on Mark Stone.

Then, after the Trouba-Stone incident, Winnipeg d-man Ben Chiarot voiced his displeasure with a high hit from Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, which also went unpunished.

“Might not be this year, might not be next year,” Chiarot warned. “But there will be a time where the shoe will be on the other foot.”

It’s probably worth noting the game on the 16th was in Pittsburgh.

Tonight’s rematch is in Winnipeg.

Rangers sign prospect Day, who’s ‘come a long way’

Getty
1 Comment

At last year’s draft, the Rangers made waves in the third round by selecting OHL defenseman Sean Day — once considered to be a star blueliner in the making — with the 81st overall pick.

Today, they inked Day to a three-year, entry-level deal.

Day, 19, came to prominence four years ago when he was granted exceptional status to play in the OHL, just like John TavaresAaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid had been granted before him.

But Day’s OHL career hadn’t come close to matching the hype. In fact, it was dogged by questions about his commitment to staying in shape.

From Sportsnet’s report from the Draft Combine:

Body fat:
Sean Day went off at 1-5 odds to have the worst result here and he did at 14.9 per cent.

More:

Okay, he’s down 20 pounds at least from last summer. At 230 he still looks like a beer leaguer but it’s a start. It didn’t look like he bought into the idea that the combine was a chance to make a big impression.

He went from ordinary to very ordinary to below average at the stations, and seemed sort of nonchalant.

This year, though, Day has impressed with 14 goals and 31 points in 57 games split between Mississauga and Windsor. The Spitfires acquired Day for their playoff push — they’ll host the Memorial Cup this year — and according to GM Warren Rychel, Day has been a solid addition.

“I’m happy for him,” Rychel said of today’s news, per the Windsor Star. “Sean has come a long way since he arrived in Windsor and that has been acknowledged by the Rangers.

“He will be a big part of our playoff push and Memorial Cup.”

Things certainly seem to be trending in the right direction for both player and organization. At the draft, Day said the Rangers were getting “a new Sean Day,” and delivered on that promise with a good showing at last summer’s prospect camp.

Lehtonen says it’s hard not to think about buyout, trade

Getty

Amid rumblings that Dallas is ready to move on from its maligned two-goalie system, Kari Lehtonen is trying to block out the noise.

Which is easier said than done.

From the Dallas Morning-News:

Lehtonen could be moved, be bought out or remain and try to establish a new relationship with a younger goalie. He said he’s aware of all of the options but is working hard to keep them at arm’s length.

“It’s hard sometimes not to think about it, but you have a job to do,” he said. “It’s part of this sport, and you do best when you concentrate on controlling what you can control. To me, I feel most healthy when I don’t think about it.”

Both Lehtonen and Antti Niemi are 33. They’re also both under contract through 2018, but Lehtonen carries the slightly larger cap hit ($5.9 million to Niemi’s $4.5M). From a financial standpoint, it might make sense for Dallas to get rid of the bigger hit, but there’s also a case to be made for keeping Lehtonen over Niemi.

Especially lately.

Lehtonen is playing his best hockey of the year. He has a .921 save percentage over his last five starts, which included 40-plus saves in consecutive wins over the Panthers and Capitals. That’s given the Stars the faintest flicker of playoff hope, as they head into tonight’s action seven points back of St. Louis for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

(Of note, Lehtonen will start tonight against Ottawa.)

But this all might be a case of too little, too late. Lehtonen’s overall body of work has been spotty — he hasn’t posted a save percentage above .906 in three years — and given Niemi’s equally underwhelming performance over the last couple of seasons, the case could be made to overhaul the entire thing, and move on from both.

Logistically, though, that could be tough.

Buyouts are costly, trades will be tough to orchestrate and it’s not like Dallas has a slew of goalie options in the pipeline. Prospect Philippe Desrosiers is only 21 and still a few seasons away from competing for an NHL gig.

Nill could try and upgrade the position in free agency, though it remains to be seen who’ll come available (and which other teams, like Calgary, will be in the goalie mix).

In the end, it could be that Dallas opts to part with just one of Lehtonen or Niemi. And if that’s the case, Lehtonen says he wants to stick.

“The whole city, the whole organization, it’s all very important to me,” he said.