Mike Halford

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For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

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For a small city in Northern Minnesota with approximately 2,000 residents, Warroad’s had a big impact on the hockey world.

It’s home to a number of former Olympians, including the Christian clan — Bill, Dave, Roger and Gordon all represented the U.S. at various winter games — and a handful of NHLers as well.

Which includes T.J. Oshie.

The Washington winger, enjoying another successful offensive campaign in the nation’s capital, was a former star at Warroad High School, helping the team capture two Minnesota State Class A titles in 2003 and 2005.

From there, more accolades followed. A standout career at the University of North Dakota. Getting selected in the first round of the draft. Over 100 goals scored over seven seasons with the Blues.

And, of course, one unforgettable Olympic effort, in a dramatic shootout win over the Russians in Sochi.

Through it all, though, the 30-year-old has remained close to Warroad, which helped shape his hockey journey.

From the Star-Tribune:

Oshie only lived in Warroad for three years, and he says he hasn’t been back in some time. But he isn’t sure where he would be today without that experience.

“I probably wouldn’t be playing hockey,” he said. “Maybe working somewhere.”

Warroad helped pave a path to his dream job, playing in the NHL. He has become a fan favorite, [and] achieved overnight celebrity at the Sochi Olympics after his one-man shootout display against Russia.

This Sunday, the NBC Sports Group will profile Warroad and its rich hockey history during the Hockey Day in America celebration. It’s part of a massive quadrupleheader of action that begins with Oshie and the Caps taking on the Rangers (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), followed by Detroit-Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

From there, Hockey Day in America shifts to NBCSN. First, it’s Chicago-Buffalo (6 p.m. ET) followed by Boston-San Jose (8:30 p.m. ET).

Julien considered break, but couldn’t pass on Habs

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To hear him explain it, Claude Julien expected his unemployment to last longer than a week.

“When I was let go by the Bruins, I felt like I should sit back and let the season finish, and go from there,” Julien said in his introductory presser as Montreal’s new bench boss. “That was my initial thought. But I always said ‘unless something comes along that I can’t turn down, that would be what I was looking for.'”

That something was a return to the Canadiens, the club he coached from 2003-06.

Enticed by the opportunity to lead the first-place team in the Atlantic Division — “this team has the best goalie in the world, good defensemen, players who can move the puck, and talent up front,” he said — Julien decided against taking a wait-and-see approach, opting instead to jump right back into coaching.

And surely, GM Marc Bergevin’s contract offer helped him make the leap.

Julien confirmed he received a deal that goes through this season and the next five as well (which, not coincidentally, is the same length of term as Bergevin’s.) That puts Julien under contract through 2022.

Despite this opportunity, Julien did admit he thought seriously about taking some time away. He called his dismissal in Boston “not a shocker, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it,” and admitted it was disappointing for his 10-year tenure to end the way it did.

But now, it’s onto Montreal.

Here are some other key takeaways from today’s presser:

— Julien confirmed no changes will be made to the Canadiens’ coaching staff of associate coach Kirk Muller, assistants Dan Lacroix, Clement Jodoin and J.J. Daigneault, and goalie coach Stephane Waite.

— He didn’t delve too deeply into strategic changes he wanted to employ, or how differently the Habs will play under his guidance. Julien did allude to the club “playing with pace,” and referenced a forward group that’s had a difficult time finding the back of the net lately.

— “I want the puck,” Julien said with regards to style of play. “If you watch the Bruins we also recovered pucks, but I want both. I want a good statistic for puck possession.”

In the end, though, everything came back to opportunity. Bergevin clearly saw one when Julien became available, even though his remarks tried to suggest otherwise.

“Maybe the timing was — you know, Claude let go by Boston last week — but I didn’t make my decision based on how Boston operates,” the GM explained. “That’s just not how I did it, no.”

But Bergevin pounced, and ensured he landed his target with a lucrative offer.

As for Julien, he too saw a major opportunity. To lead another Original Six team. To get closer to home. To take the reins of a team he belives that, when rolling, can be among the league’s best.

“When Marc called me and started talking to me about the situation, it kind of intrigued me,” Julien explained. “By the end of it, and discussing with my wife and everything else, we felt it was a good move — not just business-wise, but also family-wise.

“We really felt it was the right decision to make. Even though it was a little bit quicker than expected, sometimes you have to make some adjustments in your life, and we’re making them.

“We’re happily making them.”

Trade: Caps acquire veteran d-man Gilbert from Kings

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Washington has added some depth ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring Tom Gilbert from Los Angeles for future considerations.

Gilbert, 34, cleared waivers at the beginning of the month after scoring just five points in 18 games this year. He’d signed on with the Kings last summer after two seasons in Montreal, but spent most of his time in L.A. in the press box as a healthy scratch.

He also missed three games to suspension for boarding Anaheim forward Nick Ritchie.

Earlier in his career, Gilbert was a decent offensive defenseman that racked up 45 points for the Oilers in ’08-09. But now, having suffered a season-ending knee ailment with the Habs last year, he looks to be a step slow. Hard to imagine he’s much more than a stopgap replacement should Washington suffer an injury on defense.

The Kings will retain 20 percent of Gilbert’s $1.4 million cap hit, according to Caps writer Mike Vogel.

As for the future considerations?

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.