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: Miller, Elliott to start as Canucks and Flames go back-to-back

The Flames and Canucks will play a two-game, home-and-home series starting tonight in Vancouver — and, unsurprisingly, both clubs are going with their in-form netminders.

Ryan Miller, riding a personal four-game winning streak and coming off a 22-save shutout of Arizona, will go for Vancouver. The veteran has been terrific of late, allowing just five goals on his last 111 shots — a stellar .955 save percentage.

Elliott’s been good lately, too.

He’s riding a personal five-game winning streak, which included a win over Vancouver two weeks ago. All told, he’s posted a 1.80 GAA and .922 save percentage over that stretch, and has wrestled the No. 1 gig away from Chad Johnson.

Speaking of Johnson, it’ll be interesting to see if he gets the nod for tomorrow’s rematch in Calgary. The Flames could opt to rest Elliott — Saturday’s game would be his fourth start in seven days — but head coach Glen Gulutzan could also stick with the hot hand, given points are so precious.

Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins faces a similar conundrum. Jacob Markstrom is due for a start, having not played since Dec. 31, and there is always concern in Vancouver about overplaying the 36-year-old Miller.

Elsewhere…

Frederik Andersen, fresh off getting lit up for six goals in an OT loss to Washington, is back in goal for the Leafs. He’ll go up against Cory Schneider, who starts for the host Devils.

Roberto Luongo gets a second start for Florida, after facing 39 shots in a mid-week loss to Winnipeg. No word yet on who he’ll face, as the visiting Preds have yet to name a starter (Pekka Rinne did beat the Bolts last night.)

Scott Darling gives Corey Crawford the night off in Chicago, making his first start since Dec. 30. No word on who goes for the visiting ‘Canes, as Cam Ward started in St. Louis last night, and got the win.

— The Isles will stick with Thomas Greiss in Colorado tonight, as Greiss is riding a three-game winning streak. Semyon Varlamov still isn’t ready to go, so the Avs will give Calvin Pickard another start.

John Gibson, coming off a 23-save shutout of Detroit on Wednesday, is back in goal for the Ducks. Mike Smith will be between the pipes for the visiting Coyotes.

Report: Hertl won’t rejoin Sharks until mid-to-late February

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Tomas Hertl‘s troublesome right knee continues to give him, well, more trouble.

From CSN Bay Area:

According to a source, Hertl will likely be out until mid-to-late February, as he recovers and rehabs from his latest right knee surgery.

Hertl has been skating lightly under the watch of the team’s medical staff since Dec. 27, but there is no timeframe for him to return to practice.

It’s a noteworthy development given that, back in late November, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said Hertl has been diagnosed with a right knee sprain and would undergo a “minor procedure” to correct it. It was later reported Hertl was expected to be out “weeks,” and, so far, he’s been out of the lineup 45 days — closing in on seven weeks on the shelf.

The former first-round pick had a quality effort during last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring six goals and 11 points through 20 games. He was one of San Jose’s best players early in the series against Pittsburgh, but was knocked out of action in Game 2 with a knee problem.

As mentioned above, the knee has been a recurring issue. Hertl’s rookie year was cut short after tearing his right PCL and MCL on a hit from Dustin Brown.

That said, he’s shown an ability to rebound. Despite being limited this year, he still managed to rack up nine points in his first 17 games.

More tough times for the Florida Panthers

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A quick rundown of the current state of affairs in Florida:

— Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Winnipeg was the Panthers’ fifth in their last six games, dropping them to 16-15-8 and sixth place in the Atlantic Division.

— In that loss, forward Seth Griffith suffered a concussion on a hit from Nikolaj Ehlers, one head coach Tom Rowe called “dirty.” That put Griffith on the shelf alongside a slew of fellow injured teammates: Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Alex Petrovic.

— At this morning’s skate ahead of tonight’s game against Nashville, Rowe was in a salty mood:

(The target of Rowe’s ire has yet to be identified.)

It’s fair to speculate frustration levels are high throughout the organization. Florida heads into tonight’s game with a patchwork lineup — per Daily Faceoff, Vincent Trocheck will center the top line between Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Marchessault, while Nick Bjugstad will man the middle on the second line between Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith.

From there?

Jared McCann, recently recalled from the minors, will skate with Michael Sgarbossa and Colton Sceviour. Captain Derek MacKenzie is on a line with Paul Thompson and Greg McKegg.

Florida will be a team to watch in the coming weeks. After this upcoming back-to-back at home against Nashville and Boston, the club will play six of its next eight on the road, which includes a four-game Western swing through Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Arizona.

Given the Panthers are just 7-8-5 on the road this year, it could be tough sledding.

Stars send Nemeth, who’s been mentioned in trade rumors, to AHL for conditioning

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Dallas d-man Patrik Nemeth, the 41st overall pick in 2010, has been sent to the club’s minor-league affiliate in Texas for a conditioning stint, the team announced on Friday.

The decision comes after Nemeth had appeared in just 16 of Dallas’ 39 games this season, averaging 15:59 TOI per. He hasn’t been in the lineup since getting just over seven minutes in a game against L.A. on Dec. 23.

There’s been plenty of discussion about Dallas potentially moving on from the Swedish rearguard this year. Back in mid-December, Morning-News beat writer Mike Heika penned the following:

They need to move Patrik Nemeth. He is a good person in a bad situation, and they have plenty of depth in the minors. Moving Nemeth would help the mindset of Nemeth, Oleksiak and Johns, and I think it is necessary to help the mindset of these young defensemen right now.

That also would allow them to carry two extra forwards, and that could allow Lindy Ruff to tweak his lineup more strategically.

When we see what direction this team is heading after January 4, the guess is the potential for trades (and more than just Nemeth) will probably open up quite a bit.

(That Jan. 4 date was picked because it marked the end of a lengthy holiday break for the Stars.)

Dallas’ had a logjam on defense all year long. Nine different d-men have dressed, including ’14 first-rounder Julius Honka, and 22-year-old Esa Lindell has seen a significant spike in usage. Lindell’s TOI is up to 20:21 per game — he only averaged 14:03 last year — and he’s found a niche skating alongside John Klingberg.

As for Nemeth… well, the 16 games played suggests he’s on the outside looking in, which could translate into a change of scenery. Nemeth is 24 and on a cap-friendly deal — $900,000, expires this year — so there would probably be some interest in acquiring his services.

Of course, the jury’s still out on how effective he can be at the NHL level, if effective at all. He has just 84 career games on his resume despite debuting four seasons ago and has limited offensive upside, with no goals and just 11 assists over that stretch.

Devils captain Greene has ironman streak snapped

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There hasn’t been a more consistent lineup presence in New Jersey over the last few years than Andy Greene.

Which makes today’s development so noteworthy.

Greene, who has been dealing with an upper-body injury, will miss tonight’s game against Toronto at Prudential, per NHL.com. That will snap his consecutive games played streak at 350 — the third-longest in Devils history — and will mark his first missed game since the ’11-12 campaign.

New Jersey’s captain for each of the last two seasons, Greene’s had a tough year. His TOI is down to 21:43 per night and while he does have fairly decent offensive production — nine points through 39 games has him on pace to beat last year’s 13 — it figures to be well off the career-high of 37 he posted a few years ago.

No word yet on who will replace Greene in the lineup, but it’s likely Ben Lovejoy will see another uptick in minutes as a result: