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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After missing on Nieto, Sens still looking for forward help

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.

Struggling rookie Zacha ‘needs to get more competitive,’ says Hynes

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Tough times for Pavel Zacha.

Zacha, the prized Devils prospect taken sixth overall in ’15, is struggling through a rookie campaign that saw his pointless streak extend to 14 games in last night’s 3-0 loss to Florida.

Zacha’s most significant “impact” on the game was a boarding major on Panthers forward Denis Malgin, one that knocked Malgin out for the evening and kept Zacha to just over 10 minutes of ice time overall. And in addition to going scoreless, the big Czech center failed to register a single shot on goal.

That’s something the Devils have been monitoring, per NJ.com:

Asked about Zacha after Monday’s morning skate, Devils coach John Hynes threw out some harsh criticism.

“Why is he not scoring?” Hynes said. “He’s got to shoot the puck more. He has to play harder on the puck in the offensive area. He’s got to skate. He’s not putting himself in positions to score goals either.

“So instead of wondering why the goals aren’t going in, let’s continue to work on how we’re going to create more scoring (and) use his assets. … When he’s in opportunities to shoot the puck, shoot it.”

Asked if Zacha needs to get stronger, Hynes shot back, “He needs to get more competitive.”

The Devils clearly expected more from Zacha, even though he is only 19 years old. A solid scorer in junior (64 points in 51 games with OHL Sarnia), he burst onto the scene last year in his NHL debut, finishing the game with a pair of assists.

This year, though, he has just two goals and seven points through 35 games. And that’s with Hynes already having sent a few messages by way of the healthy scratch.

It’s been a tough season for the Devils overall, with Hynes constantly complaining about his team being too easy to play against. Fairly or not, Zacha has been lumped into that group, so it’ll be interesting to see if he continues to play with more physicality and further utilizes his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame.

Flyers first-rounder Rubtsov parts ways with KHL club

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One of the most curious prospects at last year’s draft is on his way to North America.

Russian center German Rubtsov, selected 22nd overall by Philly, has reportedly terminated his contract with KHL club Vityaz and will now join Quebec junior league side Chicoutimi, per NHL.com.

Rubtsov is an interesting story. He was the fifth-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, but was part of the Russian squad that was pulled out of the world under-18 championships in April.

From Sportsnet:

The belief is that all, or most, of the team, had been on a meldonium regimen, and there were fears that many of the players would test positive at the tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Rubtsov is expected to be a top 25 pick this month in Buffalo, a talented two-way centre who is highly competitive.

“He’s like a dog on a bone,” said one hockey executive.

Another said he’s an “old school Russian centre who cares about the defensive side of the game.”

Philly had the 18th overall selection, but traded down (with Winnipeg) to take Rubtsov at No. 22. This year he’s split time between Vityaz’s junior and senior teams, and was part of the Russian contingent that captured bronze at the world juniors.

Rubtsov will reportedly undergo facial surgery — related to a nose injury suffered at the WJC — in Philly, before heading to Quebec.