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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Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim

One of the better stories in Anaheim this season has been the revival of goalie Jonathan Bernier.

Bernier, a once-ballyhooed prospect that fell on hard times over the last few years, has a 1.78 goals-against and .943 save percentage in his last 10 starts. He’s been the Ducks’ life preserver while No. 1 netminder John Gibson deals with a lingering injury — Gibson’s played just once over the last 30 days — and, on Mar. 13, Bernier’s cap received a nice feather as the NHL named him its second star of the week.

It’s a dramatic turnaround from a guy that, in January, went 23 days between starts and admitted he was in a difficult situation.

But things have certainly turned around, which has kickstarted conversations about Bernier’s playing future.

From the L.A. Daily News:

A potential unrestricted free agent this summer, Bernier faces an uncertain future in a typically fickle goalie market. The number of openings among the 30 teams fluctuates from year to year. And there is now a 31st – the Vegas Golden Knights – to factor in.

It is a given the Ducks will choose Gibson as the one goalie they can protect from the expansion draft, which will leave Bernier available for the Golden Knights to pluck away if they so choose. And even if he isn’t grabbed, Bernier could choose to seek the best contract he can find.

“I think it’s been a tough year for a lot of teams and a lot of GMs, just with the Vegas team,” Bernier said. “There are a lot of decisions that are going to have to be made after the season. And especially for me, right? I’m a free agent. I really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

But playing in Anaheim is working and Bernier had a one-word response for possibly staying.

“Hopefully.”

Anaheim appears set in goal with regards to the expansion draft. Gibson will be protected, and AHL San Diego ‘tender Dustin Tokarski was re-signed a couple months ago, presumably as the goalie to be made available.

(The Ducks also have Jhonas Enroth in the fold, currently serving as Bernier’s backup. But Enroth hasn’t seen a second of game action for the Ducks since coming over from Toronto.)

Add it all up, and Bernier seems destined to hit free agency on July 1. That said, don’t rule out a return to the Ducks to work in tandem with Gibson next year. Head coach Randy Carlyle is a fan and, as Bernier’s above quotes illustrate, he’d be happy for another stint in Orange County.

Ristolainen to have hearing for hit that concussed Guentzel

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Buffalo blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen will have a disciplinary hearing following Tuesday night’s interference major on Pens forward Jake Guentzel, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety has announced.

Ristolainen was given a five-minute interference major and game misconduct for the hit, which left Guentzel bloodied and, as we later learned, with a concussion. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the diagnosis in his postgame presser.

Ristolainen, 22, doesn’t have any history with the NHL’s DoPS, so that should be reflected in any potential punishment. At the same time, Guentzel was injured on the play, and it could be argued he was in a prone position.

“I thought it was bad,” Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said of the hit, per the Buffalo News. “The puck doesn’t get to him. He’s looking to get the puck to get into the play, and the guy holds up a second and then he still goes through him.”

Pre-game reading: ‘Assume we are not going’ to Olympics, says Bettman

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— In what might be his most definitive statement on Olympic participation to date, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday told Reuters people shouldn’t expect players to participate in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

“There are no negotiations ongoing,” Bettman said, while at the Sport Business Summit in New York. “We were open to having discussions on a variety of things that might mitigate the damage to our season but that had no resonance.

“As things stand now people should assume we are not going.”

These remarks come after Bettman’s comments during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, when he was sharply critical of the IOC’s decision to stop covering out-of-pocket expenses for NHLers to attend the Games.

“What I think has happened…you know, there were probably some owners over time who always thought the Olympics were a good idea, there were some owners who always hated it,” said Bettman, “and there were probably a bunch of clubs that really didn’t give it much thought until the IOC said we weren’t going to pay the expenses. And then I think it caused a number of clubs to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, if that’s how they value our participation, why are we knocking ourselves out?’”

Today, Bettman re-iterated Olympic participation was terribly disruptive for NHL business, adding “we have been unable to quantify any benefit from it.”

For more from Reuters, including info on which sponsors are trying to help broker a deal, click here.

Meanwhile, here’s what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had to say on the matter:

— In what’s been a disappointing year for the Sabres, sophomore sensation Jack Eichel is playing exceptionally well. He rebounded from a severe high ankle sprain, one that cost him the first 21 games of the year, and was one of the league’s highest-scoring players over the last few months.

From NHL.com:

Since making his season debut, Eichel is tied for eighth in the NHL in scoring with 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists) in 52 games and is first in shots on goal with 207. Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, the player selected ahead of Eichel in the 2015 draft and the League’s leading scorer, has 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists) in that time.

Since Feb. 1, Eichel is second in the NHL with 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 24 games, one point behind Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, who won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion last season.

Yet to hear Eichel explain it, the personal achievements don’t mean much.

“Frustrating more than anything,” Eichel said of this season. “Want to be a playoff team. Want to play in the playoffs, get a taste of it. It’s tough when you don’t get there.”

Over at ESPN, Craig Custance, Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and more discuss who’s the best current fighter in the league. About the only thing the writers agreed on is that it’s a difficult question to answer, which is a testament to today’s NHL.

Signing spree! Jackets ink Sedlak, Hannikainen, Harrington to two-year extensions

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Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen was a busy man on Tuesday.

The Blue Jackets announced a trio of two-year extensions today — one for center Lukas Sedlak, one for left winger Markus Hannikainen and one for blueliner Scott Harrington.

Of the three, Sedlak has made the biggest impact at the NHL level this season. He has seven goals and 13 points in 56 games, emerging as a good fourth-liner, often alongside Scott Hartnell and Sam Gagner. The 23-year-old really turned heads during Lake Erie’s Calder Cup championship last year, when he scored nine goals in 17 playoff games.

Hannikainen, also 23, has been up and down between Columbus and AHL Cleveland this season, appearing in 10 games for the Jackets. He’s been a good scorer at the American League level, with 24 points through 43 games.

Harrington, 24, was acquired in the Kerby Rychel trade and like Hannikainen, has split his time between Cleveland and Columbus. In 16 games with Columbus, he’s scored a goal and three points.

Update: The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline breaks down the salaries as such:

Sedlak, Hannikainen and Harrington were pending restricted free agents with arbitration rights this summer and per the Dispatch, all three extensions are of the one-way variety.

Sedlak is currently carrying a $600,000 cap hit, Harrington $632,500, and Hannikainen $717,500.

Goalie nods: Berra makes first NHL start in 15 months

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The last time Reto Berra started an NHL game, he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche. His head coach was Patrick Roy. His opponent?

The Mike Johnston-led Pittsburgh Penguins.

So yeah, been a long time.

Tonight, Berra will start for the first time since the aforementioned game — played on Dec. 9, 2015 — when the Panthers host the ‘Canes in Florida. Berra’s start comes with No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo dealing with a hip injury, and No. 2 James Reimer needing a night off (he’s been the goalie of record in eight straight).

Berra, 30, was acquired from Colorado via trade last June and has made one appearance for the Panthers this year, playing 25 minutes in relief of Reimer back on Mar. 7. That came after a lengthy stint with Florida’s AHL affiliate in Springfield, where he went 12-14-2 with a .910 save percentage and 2.53 GAA.

Berra’s in the last of a three-year, $4.35M deal (signed with the Avs back in 2014), so this audition is fairly important. If he can prove enough to be a capable NHL backup, he might find work this summer.

For the ‘Canes, Cam Ward starts in goal.

Elsewhere…

Henrik Lundqvist is closing in on a return from injury, but not there yet, so Antti Raanta starts again as the Rangers visit New Jersey. Cory Schneider goes for the Devils, looking to turn around a terrible month of March (0-5-0, 3.81 GAA, .882 save percentage).

— Even though Marc-Andre Fleury recorded a shutout on Sunday, Pittsburgh will go with Matt Murray tonight in Buffalo. No word yet on a Sabres starter.

— Another big Atlantic Division tilt, as the B’s host the Sens (one night after they lost in Toronto). Looks as though Bruce Cassidy will go back to Tuukka Rask, who made 26 saves on Monday. The Sens are going with Craig Anderson, his third game in four nights.

— The red-hot Brian Elliott, currently on an 11-game winning streak, goes for Calgary tonight in Washington. The Caps will counter with Braden Holtby.

— It’s Louis Domingue versus Andrei Vasilevskiy as the Coyotes host the Lightning.

Al Montoya starts for the first time since Mar. 9 as the Habs host the Red Wings in Montreal. No word yet on a Detroit starter, though Jimmy Howard is expected to get the call.

Michael Hutchinson, who’s hasn’t start since Jan. 16, gets a rare opportunity when the Jets host the Flyers. Steve Mason, who’s been Philly’s go-to for most of March, will be in goal.

Corey Crawford, fresh off an OT win against Toronto on Saturday, goes for Chicago. The visiting Canucks have yet to name a starter, but Ryan Miller is likely after Richard Bachman played over the weekend against Edmonton.

— Good matchup in Minnesota, as Martin Jones and the Sharks take on Devan Dubnyk and the Wild.

Jake Allen, who’s rebounded fantastically to salvage his season, gets the call as the Blues visit Colorado. Calvin Pickard‘s in for the Avs.