Mike Halford

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 21, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Ducks 5-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Rakell ‘ready to go’ for Ducks in Freeway Faceoff

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After surgery, a contract dispute and visa issues, Rickard Rakell is finally ready to make his season debut tonight when the Ducks take on the Kings in the latest installment of the Freeway Faceoff.

“I think I’m ready to go,” Rakell said, per the Ducks website. “I’ve been skating hard with the coaches, so I feel conditioned. It’s more about timing because I haven’t played games in a while.”

In practice this week, Rakell centered the third line between Antoine Vermette and Chris Wagner, while also seeing second unit power-play time with Vermette, Jakob Silfverberg, Shea Theodore and Kevin Bieksa.

So it certainly looks like he’s ready to go.

The Ducks will certainly welcome it.

Signed to a six-year, $22.8 million extension two weeks ago, the 23-year-old should give his club a bump offensively. Rakell finished fourth on the Ducks in scoring last year, with 20 goals and 43 points, and led the team in game-winning markers.

Tonight’s game will mark the first matchup of the season between the Kings and Ducks, who have established a pretty healthy rivalry over the last few years. For what it’s worth, Rakell finished with a goal and an assist in four games against L.A. last year.

Related: The injury-riddled Kings just want to ‘stay in the race’

 

‘Valuable’ Murphy to make season debut for ‘Canes, who really need wins

Ryan Murphy
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With just two victories from their first eight games, the Carolina Hurricanes need to turn things around — and fast — to stay on track with their goal of snapping a seven-year playoff drought.

And tonight, they’ll get some help in that department.

Ryan Murphy, who hasn’t played at all this season due to a lower-body ailment, will make his debut when the ‘Canes take on the Sens in Ottawa.

The former first-round pick will be a welcome addition to the lineup. Specifically, for sophomore Noah Hanifin, who’s struggled to find a consistent d-man partner this year after playing extended lengths of time with Murphy last season.

Head coach Bill Peters said Murphy’s presence in the lineup will make an impact.

“He’s a valuable guy,” Peters said, per the ‘Canes website. “He’s a puck-mover, and we’ve had a hard time moving the puck out of our zone in transition.”

Murphy, who’s really struggled with injuries over his four-year career, is a good skater and has nice passing vision — two attributes that should help Carolina get the puck out of its own end, which Peters alluded to.

This is also the time Carolina needs to make up ground in the standings. Having survived a tough six-game road swing to start the year, the ‘Canes have a quick two-game trip through Ottawa and Nashville before a nice stretch at home, which will see them play six of seven at PNC Arena.

Goalie nods: Isles start Greiss, again, as Halak trade rumors swirl

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders prepares to play against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Barclays Center on October 9, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City. The game is the first for the Islanders in their new arena. The Blackhawks defeated the Islanders 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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On paper, the Isles going with Thomas Greiss tonight against Tampa Bay seems like a straightforward decision.

Greiss was great in his last game — making 33 saves in a 5-1 win over the Leafs — and has been steady all season long, posting a 2.28 GAA and .925 save percentage.

But nothing is ever truly straightforward in Brooklyn.

Especially when it comes to goalies.

Over the weekend, Allan Walsh — the agent for Jaroslav Halaktook to Twitter to object to the Isles’ three-goalie setup, and what it’s doing to his client. According to Walsh, the practice time split between Halak, Greiss and J-F Berube has resulted in sub-optimal game prep. Walsh also noted this is the second straight year the Isles have rolled with a three-headed goalie monster.

Not long after those remarks, Sportsnet reported the Isles were open to trading Halak.

What’s transpired since is something of a mixed bag. Initial reports suggested the Isles didn’t receive any offers for Halak but, on Tuesday, TVA reported there are some teams interested in a potential acquisition.

It’s easy to see why Halak’s displeased with his current situation. Coming off a terrific effort for Team Europe at the World Cup — a tournament in which he beat out Greiss for the No. 1 gig — there was some thought he’d distanced himself as the Isles’ starter, too.

But it’s been the same old timeshare this season. After tonight’s start, Greiss and Halak will have split ’em equally, with five each.

For the Bolts, Ben Bishop is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Good matchup at MSG, as Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers host Jake Allen and the Blues.

— No surprises from the Blue Jackets, who will continue to ride Sergei Bobrovsky. The visiting Stars look as though they’ll go with Antti Niemi.

— After he and James Reimer split a weekend back-to-back, Roberto Luongo is in goal for the Panthers. He’ll likely be facing off against Tuukka Rask, who appears primed to start for the visiting Bruins.

— Following an emotional shutout against Edmonton, posted just days after announcing his wife’s cancer diagnosis, Craig Anderson is back in goal for the Sens. Carolina is going with Cam Ward.

— The red-hot Cam Talbot starts again for Edmonton, while Frederik Andersen is likely for the Leafs. The bigger matchup here, of course, is Auston Matthews vs. Connor McDavid.

Connor Hellebuyck gets the nod for Winnipeg after coming on to replace Michael Hutchinson in Sunday’s loss to the Sabres. No word yet on a Capitals starter.

Robin Lehner was great in his first game back from illness (37 saves in a win over the Jets), so he’ll go right back in against the Wild. Minnesota counters with Devan Dubnyk.

Brian Elliott has been great lately, going 3-1-0 with a 1.73 GAA and .941 save percentage in his last four games. That gets him the call against Chicago, who will go with Corey Crawford in goal.

— Seymon Varlamov for Colorado tonight, as the Avs host the Preds. No word yet on a Nashville starter.

— It’s Martin Jones versus Louis Domingue as the Sharks travel to Arizona to take on the Coyotes.

— Expect John Gibson to make another start for the Ducks, as they host the Kings. No word yet on a L.A. starter, though the Kings have been riding Peter Budaj as of late.

Nylander beats out Matthews for rookie of the month

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 12: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his fourth goal of the game in his first career NHL game with team mate William Nylander #29 against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 12, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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Toronto finished October with an ugly 2-4-3 record, yet it could still be seen as a success.

Why?

Well, on Tuesday, the NHL announced that William Nylander has been named the top rookie for October, beating out fellow Maple Leafs freshman Auston Matthews in the process.

More:

Nylander edged teammate Auston Matthews (6-4—10 in 9 GP), Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (6-2—8 in 9 GP), Philadelphia Flyers center Travis Konecny (1-6—7 in 10 GP) and New York Rangers left wing Jimmy Vesey (5-1—6 in 9 GP) for the honor.

Nylander, the eighth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, collected at least one point in seven of his nine appearances, highlighted by his first career multi-goal performance Oct. 22 at CHI (2-0—2). He recorded three other multi-point efforts: Oct. 12 at OTT (0-2—2), Oct. 19 at WPG (1-1—2) and Oct. 25 vs. TBL (1-1—2).

Nylander also shared the League lead with seven power-play points, while placing second among rookies with three power-play goals and 31 shots on goal.

Nylander and Matthews aren’t the only Toronto rookies doing the business, either. Mitch Marner has been effective with six points through nine games, while both Zach Hyman and Connor Brown have been regular lineup fixtures, and are among the team leaders in shorthanded time on ice for forwards.

No Myers, no Stuart – and of course, no Trouba — for Jets tonight

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Paul Maurice of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during the game against Minnesota Wild on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Winnipeg’s defense will be undermanned this evening when it hosts the Capitals at MTS.

Already without the services of Jacob Trouba — who, as you may have heard, is embroiled in a contract dispute — the Jets will also be without Tyler Myers (day-to-day, lower body) and Mark Stuart (ditto), per the Winnipeg Sun.

To partially fill the void, Julian Melchiori has been recalled from AHL Manitoba.

Considered to be one of the club’s deepest positions last season, the defense has really thinned out this year. Winnipeg has leaned heavily on Dustin Byfuglien (averaging a whopping 28:36 TOI per game), while Myers and Tobias Enstrom are both over 23 a night.

Why?

Well, Trouba’s absence is a big reason, as is the integration of former first-round pick Josh Morrissey. The 21-year-old has been a lineup fixture thus far, but has seen his ice time managed by head coach Paul Maurice (Morrissey is averaging around 17-and-a-half per).

As for the rest of the blueline? Stuart, Paul Postma and Ben Chiarot have largely rounded it out, but have been used sparingly. None of them average more than 13 minutes a night.

Add it all up, and the Jets face a tall order tonight in Washington. The Caps got off to an uneven start this year but have rebounded recently with back-to-back wins in Vancouver and Calgary, where they found the back of the net a combined eight times.