Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

Lake Superior leading scorer Hults turns pro, signs with Ducks

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Mitch Hults, the sophomore that led Lake Superior State in scoring this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Anaheim Ducks.

Hults, 22, went undrafted out of the USHL but made a name for himself over the course of two NCAA campaigns. He finished this year with 11 goals and 34 points in 36 games, and was named to the WCHA’s All-Second Team.

Hults will take the path of many an undrafted college free agent, and immediately join an AHL club (in this case, Anaheim’s minor-league affiliate in San Diego) on an amateur tryout. That means his entry-level deal will kick in next season.

Goalie nods: Rask faces Andersen in crucial Bruins-Leafs tilt

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Plenty at stake tonight at the ACC so, unsurprisingly, both the Bruins and Leafs are rolling with their No. 1s.

Tuukka Rask will get the call for Boston, his first action since getting yanked after allowing five goals on 17 shots in a loss to Edmonton on Thursday. Getting Rask out of the Oilers game might’ve been more precautionary than anything — it’s believed head coach Bruce Cassidy will go with the Finnish ‘tender both tonight and tomorrow, when the B’s host the Sens at TD Garden.

As playing Rask in back-to-backs would suggest, points are at a premium right now. Boston heads into tonight’s action just three points up on the Leafs for third in the Atlantic Division.

Speaking of the Leafs, they’ll stick with Frederik Andersen after a solid effort on Saturday — the Dane allowed two goals on 39 shots in a OT loss to the ‘Hawks, continuing his recent run of fine play. Andersen has been great in March, posting a 1.99 GAA and .940 save percentage, and tonight will look to remain undefeated against the Bruins this season (he’s 3-0-0).

Elsewhere…

Robin Lehner returns as Buffalo’s starter after sitting out Friday night. He’ll be up against Petr Mrazek, who gets another shot in goal for the host Red Wings after Jimmy Howard played over the weekend.

Pekka Rinne, who got a rest on Saturday (Juuse Saros got the call), will be in net when the Preds host the Coyotes in Nashville. No word yet on an Arizona starter.

— The Sharks have given backup Aaron Dell a bunch of work down the stretch, and that trend continues tonight in Dallas. The Stars will counter with Kari Lehtonen, who was yanked against San Jose earlier this month after giving up three goals on eight shots.

— Ever the workhorse, Cam Talbot will make yet another start after posting a 33-save shutout against Vancouver on Saturday. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, after Jonathan Quick got the hook in last night’s loss to Calgary.

Going pro? Ottawa wasted no time contacting prospect White

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Colin White, the Boston College sophomore taken 21st overall by Ottawa at the ’15 draft, had his collegiate season end over the weekend with a loss to UMass Lowell.

And the Sens got right down to business.

From the Citizen:

Senators assistant GM Randy Lee, who is handling the talks, reached out to White’s camp after the loss and the club is weighing its options to try to determine the best route.

White was a standout for Team USA at the world junior championships but that doesn’t mean he’s NHL-ready, which is why Ottawa wants to do what’s best for both sides.

White, 20, has had a terrific last couple of years. He’s been a point-per-game player at BC and, as mentioned above, was a major catalyst at the world juniors. He finished second in the tournament in goals, with seven in seven games, and was a force in the U.S.’s gold medal win over Canada.

According to the Citizen’s Bruce Garrioch, “it doesn’t sound like either White or the Senators” are interested in him returning to school for his junior season. Which leaves two landing options: Ottawa, on an entry-level contract (and the potential for White’s NHL debut) or AHL Binghamton, on an amateur tryout (the Sens don’t lose a year off his ELC this way).

White could leverage going back to school to get Ottawa to sign him to an ELC. He would be no doubt thrilled at the prospect of making playing in the NHL — especially for a team that looks playoff-bound — but the Sens still have much to play for, and might not have the luxury of getting White into the mix.

Canucks announce Granlund to undergo season-ending wrist surgery

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The best season of Markus Granlund‘s professional career is ending on a down note.

Granlund, who’s posted career highs in goals (19) and points (32), will undergo season-ending wrist surgery, the Canucks announced on Monday.

“Markus has had an ongoing wrist injury which we’ve treated through regular maintenance and rehabilitation,” Vancouver GM Jim Benning said in a release. “Our Canucks medical team and Markus believe that surgery is the best course of action for his long-term health and by having the procedure now it will allow him to have more time to rehabilitate and work out in preparation for next season.

“Markus is an important part of our team and we are confident he’ll have a full recovery.”

Granlund, 23, was one of the biggest bright spots in a fairly disappointing campaign for the Canucks. He sat second on the team in goals at the time of his injury — one behind Bo Horvat, who has 20 — and had his TOI spike to 17:19 per night, by far his highest since breaking in with Calgary during the ’13-14 campaign.

It’ll be interesting to see how Granlund’s absence affects Vancouver’s slide down the standings. The Canucks head into tonight’s action sitting 27th in the NHL with 65 points, just four out of 29th (currently held by Arizona, with 61 points).

 

McLellan: Workhorse Talbot ‘has been better than I thought he’d be’

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To hear Edmonton head coach Todd McLellan explain it, not much went to plan in goal this year.

The club didn’t expect Jonas Gustavsson to go bust as Cam Talbot‘s backup (which he has). It didn’t expect Talbot to play in 64 of 71 games thus far (which he has). And it didn’t expect Talbot to play this well.

Which he has.

“We had a group of goalies we thought could play and contribute and he was at the top of the list,” McLellan said, per the Edmonton Sun. “He has been better than I thought he’d be, to be honest, but he works at his craft.”

It’s understandable that McLellan had tempered expectations.

After acquiring Talbot from the Rangers at the ’15 draft, the Oilers knew they were taking a gamble on a talented, yet unproven entity — and that gamble looked troubling following Talbot’s start in Edmonton. The first three months of the ’15-16 campaign were a disaster to the point where, in December, he said the situation had become “extremely frustrating.”

But things changed.

Talbot played well over the second half of the year, finishing with a respectable .917 save percentage while emerging as the club’s No. 1 netminder. Edmonton cemented that with a three-year, $12.5 million extension, and that security seemed to propel Talbot to the next level.

This year, his numbers are terrific and there’s a major case for co-team MVP consideration alongside Connor McDavid. Talbot sits first in the league in starts, shots faced, saves and time on ice, sitting top-five in wins and shutouts.

“This group plays for Talbs, not with him,” McLellan explained. “That’s a huge thing for goaltending.”