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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Vegas signs first player in franchise history

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Reid Duke will forever be a part of history.

On Monday, the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights announced that Duke — a former Minnesota Wild draft pick — has signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the club, marking the first player transaction in Vegas Golden Knights history.

“I think what’s impressive with Reid is a real high skill level and yet a guy that’s able to play a big, strong, heavy game,” Golden Knights assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon said, per the club website. “When we project Reid, we think his game will evolve as he becomes a pro. We believe he’s going to be an NHL player.

“It’s real exciting for us to be bringing Reid into the Golden Knights organization.”

McCrimmon coached Duke in Brandon prior to taking his post with Las Vegas.

Duke, 21, is enjoying good offensive success this year, with 35 goals and 67 points through 54 games. The 6-foot, 190-pound forward was originally taken in the sixth round of the ’14 draft by Minnesota but, when last year’s July 1 deadline came to sign him, the Wild passed.

“We just didn’t know if there was really an opportunity for him,” Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said, per the Star-Tribune.

Vegas GM George McPhee is currently in Boca Raton for the league’s annual GMs meetings, and was unavailable for comment. The club has indicated he’ll address this signing later today.

Once Duke finishes his junior campaign, he’s expected to join the Golden Knights for their inaugural Development Camp this summer.

Pavelec may be done for season after knee surgery

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The second Ondrej Pavelec era in Winnipeg may be over.

Pavelec, who went 4-4-0 following a mid-January AHL recall, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday — a procedure that could sideline him for the remainder of the season.

“Pavelec had a scope done on his knee this morning,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said, per Illegal Curve. “Normal window is 2-3 weeks recovery for a player. Can be longer for a goaltender.”

Pavelec has been sidelined since Feb. 7, and the Jets have gone almost exclusively with Connor Hellebuyck in goal ever since. Thanks in large part to the NHL’s eighth-best offense, the Jets have masked goaltending and defensive issues and remained on the outskirts of the playoff picture.

Winnipeg has won four of its last six, and heads into tonight’s action just three points back of St. Louis for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Of course, the Jets have played two more games than the Blues, and would need to leapfrog both them and the Kings to get into a postseason spot.

Which is why the Pavelec injury is a problem.

The club has little faith in Michael Hutchinson — he’s barely played since the Pavelec recall, and his last start was a 6-5 loss to the Wild. That means Hellebuyck is going to carry the load over the final month of the regular season.

Duclair got recall despite being ‘very average, at best’ in AHL

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When Arizona brought Anthony Duclair back from the minors five days ago, most assumed he earned it on merit.

But that doesn’t sound like case.

“His experience with the AHL was very average — at best — but he set a standard for himself we know he can play to and we have to see if he get there again,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said, per Arizona Sports. “We wanted to see if we can grab some positives out of the season for him.”

Circumstances certainly fell Duclair’s way. Forward spots opened up in Arizona following the deadline deals of Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, and Duclair was quickly tabbed to fill one of the holes.

But judging by Tippett’s comments and the 21-year-old’s numbers in Tucson — one goal and eight points in 16 games — this wasn’t about getting surging scorer up to the big club.

It’s about trying to salvage a bad situation.

Duclair scored 20 goals and 44 points as a rookie last year, creating a dynamic duo alongside Max Domi. But the fall from grace has been sharp. His sophomore production fell off a cliff — just three goals through 42 games — and there were several signs the organization had soured on him. Trade rumblings in November. Healthy scratch in December. AHL demotion in January.

One has to think Duclair might not be long for the desert.

In that light, this recent recall makes sense. Get Duclair back up to the bigs, let him regain some confidence, and hopefully rediscover his scoring touch.

If there’s a deal to be made in the offseason, a strong finish to the campaign could help move it along.

Ripping Lack ‘not my proudest moment,’ says Peters

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Chances are we won’t see more “honesty” from Bill Peters.

Peters, who made waves last week for verbally attacking the play of netminder Eddie Lack — punctuated by telling Lack to “make an [expletive] save” — has now suggested he won’t be as candid moving forward.

“I hope not,” Peters said when asked if he’d ever make similar comments, per the ‘Canes. “Not my proudest moment.

“I have a lot of respect for [Lack’s] game and a lot of respect for him as a player.”

Peter’s initial remarks came on Friday, two days after Lack allowed four goals on just 16 shots in an ugly loss to Tampa Bay. Then, the day after ripping Lack, Peters defended his comments by saying “that’s just being honest.”

But the coach’s tune changed following Carolina’s 2-1 win over the Coyotes last night, a game in which Lack made 24 saves. Peters also revealed his change of heart came after a chat with his 29-year-old netminder.

”We had a great talk and a great walk from the cars to the plane,” Peters said, per Yahoo.

It’s not entirely surprising to see things turn out this way. There’s still a month left in the regular season, and there’s no way Peters or the ‘Canes organization wanted to let the situation fester through April.

What’s more, Lack is under contract through 2018 — at $2.75 million — so it would make sense for all parties involved to try and salvage things.

At least for now.

 

Goalie nods: Budaj makes Bolts debut in Pittsburgh

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The Lightning will start their third different goalie in the last five games when they take on the Pens in Pittsburgh.

Peter Budaj, acquired in the Ben Bishop-to-L.A. swap, will make his Bolts debut at PPG Paints. The nod comes after Bishop beat Edmonton 4-1 in his final game with Tampa Bay back on Feb. 21, followed by three consecutive starts by Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Vasilevskiy’s latest, Wednesday’s 4-3 OT win over Carolina, pushed the Bolts to within four points of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay is surging a bit, having won six of its last nine — and a win tonight, coupled with regulation losses from the Isles and Leafs, would cut the deficit to two.

For the Penguins, Matt Murray‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

— In Carolina, where there’s been some major goalie drama, Cam Ward gets the start against the visiting Coyotes. Louis Domingue will go for Arizona ahead of Mike Smith, who has really struggled lately.

Carter Hutton makes his first start since shutting out Detroit on Feb. 15 when the Blues travel to Winnipeg. Connor Hellebuyck is back in for the Jets after getting hooked in Tuesday’s loss to the Wild.

Corey Crawford goes for the ‘Hawks, while Jeff Glass will fill in for injured backup Scott Darling as Chicago hosts the Isles. No word yet on a New York starter.

— It’s Petr Mrazek against Brian Elliott as the Red Wings take on the Flames in Calgary.

Frederik Andersen wanted the start in his return to Anaheim but, after playing last night’s shootout loss to L.A., he’ll be sat in favor of Curtis McElhinney (he himself a former Duck). Jonathan Bernier will go for Anaheim (he himself a former Maple Leaf).