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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More (more!) injuries in Pittsburgh: Malkin out tonight, Hainsey week-to-week

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Prior to today, the Penguins had already lost Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley, Bryan Rust, Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin to injury.

So what’s a couple more?

For Pittsburgh, that’ll have to be the mentality after learning that Evgeni Malkin would miss tonight game against New Jersey with a lingering upper-body ailment and, perhaps more distressingly, that trade deadline pickup Ron Hainsey is week-to-week with an upper-body issue of his own.

Malkin, who sits second on the team in points with 72, doesn’t appear to be seriously hurt. He briefly took to the ice for the morning skate before exiting. Head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t comment on the nature of the injury, or the severity.

Hainsey’s injury could be a problem. On its own, that’s a difficult void to fill — the veteran blueliner had appeared in 10 games since coming over from Carolina, and was averaging a shade under 21 minutes per night.

The ailment is even more problematic given the current state of Pittsburgh’s defense.

As mentioned above, Maatta, Daley and Letang are all out of action (part of the reason why Hainsey’s minutes had increased). That left Sullivan to ice a defensive unit comprised of Hainsey, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Chad Ruhwedel, Justin Schultz and Mark Streit in Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to the Flyers.

In a related move, the Pens recalled Derrick Pouliot from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday. That left them with the following d-pairs…

It’s official: Sens, Habs to play outdoor game in Ottawa

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Yesterday, we passed along reports that the Senators were prepping to announce an outdoor game at Lansdowne Park.

Today, they made it official.

With NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance, the Sens confirmed they would be hosting the Habs in the NHL 100 Classic on Saturday, Dec. 17.

The game will be played at Lansdowne Park’s TD Place Stadium, current home of the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. Of note, TD Place will also host the 105th Grey Cup a few weeks earlier — Nov. 26 — and officials have said the plan is to add about 10,000 additional seats for the game, bringing the capacity to around 35,000.

Per the Citizen, the Senators plan to leave those additional seats in for the NHL 100 Classic.

More:

The price of tickets for this game will be interesting because by NHL standards for an outdoor game it will be a small seating capacity.

The lowest attended outdoor game was held this season Oct. 16, 2016 in Winnipeg when 33,240 watched the Jets faceoff against the Edmonton Oilers at Investors Group Field.

In a nice bit of timing, today’s announcement leads into a huge home-and-home weekend series between the Sens and Habs. The two will face off on Saturday in Ottawa, then get right back at it on Sunday at the Bell Centre.

Lehner had some words for the Sabres after listless loss in L.A.

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It’s been a tough last few weeks for Buffalo.

After moving to 26-23-10 on Feb. 18 and sparking talks of a potential playoff push, the club has gone in a tailspin — just 2-8-2 since — and individuals are getting testy.

There are calls for Dan Bylsma’s job. GM Tim Murray has felt heat, especially in the aftermath of a nonexistent trade deadline. And after Thursday’s loss in Los Angeles — in which the Sabres failed to score, and only put 26 shots on Jonathan Quick — goalie Robin Lehner had a few things to say.

“This is a business. You’ve got to come out and play,” Lehner said, per the Buffalo News. “Otherwise, you get replaced. It’s simple. It doesn’t matter if we’re in or out. Everyone needs to be playing for their jobs. It’s a privilege to play in this league. You’ve got to earn it. We all have to decide if we’re going to help each other make a good last impression these last 11 games left.

“If you just pack it in, there’s a lot of eyes, a lot of eyes looking and people see. And it’s pretty obvious. If we want to stay in this league, you better get your head on straight.”

There are two ways to look at this.

The first? Those are the words of a guy that put forth a good effort — 34 saves on 36 shots — yet received no run support, and was tagged with the loss. Also, they’re coming from Lehner, who hasn’t been shy about ripping lackadasical efforts in the past.

In that light, this could just be Robin being Robin.

But there’s another way to look at this, and it’s damning for Bylsma.

Prior to this recent stretch, the Sabres could’ve hung their hats on their ability to keep the bad times from going too long. They had just two three-game regulation losing streaks this year, finding ways to eke out OT and shootout points. They also went 9-5-1 from Jan. 20 to Feb. 18, which kickstarted the aforementioned playoff talk.

And then they fell off a cliff, and never climbed back up.

If Lehner’s assessment is accurate, this team went from “dropping out of playoff contention” to “packing it in,” and quickly. Buffalo now has a legitimate shot at finishing as the worst team in the Eastern Conference, hardly the finish folks expected following last year’s 81-point campaign.

As such, it’ll be really interesting to see how the Sabres play for Bylsma over the final 11 games of the season.

Yeo asked Blues ‘for a response’ in San Jose, and he got it

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) With points at a premium down the stretch of the NHL season, there’s no time to lament over lost opportunities. So the St. Louis Blues shook off the disappointment of a loss in Anaheim to end the treacherous California trip with two wins in three games.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals to give him 34 on the season and Zach Sanford added his first since joining St. Louis to help the Blues complete a regular season sweep of the San Jose Sharks with a 4-1 victory on Thursday night.

“We asked for a response and we got it,” coach Mike Yeo said. “Last night, it was a close game, but we weren’t really happy with the way things went. We knew that we left something on the table. So we asked for a response today and the guys more than delivered.”

The 2-1 loss in Anaheim on Wednesday is the only loss for St. Louis in the past seven games. But with an early goal by Scottie Upshall setting the tone and Carter Hutton providing a solid night in goal with 19 saves, the Blues remained two points behind Nashville for third place in the Central Division and four points up on Los Angeles for the second wild-card spot.

“You want to get on them early,” Upshall said. “You want to show them you’re here to play and you have your legs. We had a tough game last night, almost came back and tied it late. I like the way we came out and played. We held them to under 20 shots. We peppered their goalie from some good scoring chances. It was a game we needed.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored the lone goal for the Sharks. Aaron Dell made 32 saves.

“I thought we looked tired out there, sluggish, we just didn’t have any jump up front,” forward Logan Couture said. “I think a lot of it was on us.”

San Jose still holds a seven-point lead in the Pacific Division over Anaheim but missed a chance to pass Minnesota for the second most points in the Western Conference with a third loss this season to St. Louis.

The Blues, despite playing the back end of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights, managed to keep the Sharks away from the net for most of the night and allowed only three shots from Sharks forwards in the first 54 minutes.

They took the lead for good when they scored the only goal in the second period. The play started innocently as Jay Bouwmeester took a shot from the boards that deflected behind the net. The puck hit off the backboards and went right to Sanford, who knocked it in for his first goal with St. Louis since being acquired last month from Washington in the trade that sent Kevin Shattenkirk to the Capitals.

“I saw it coming the whole way,” Sanford said. “I didn’t know if it was ever going to make it to me. It slowed up a little there at the end, but it ended up getting there in time.”

Tarasenko provided the insurance when he knocked in the rebound of Alexander Steen‘s shot off the crossbar on the power play midway through the third and added an empty-netter late in the period.

“We fought the puck a bit and got some bad bounces,” Dell said. “It kind of didn’t go our way. The whole game went that way for us with the bad bounces.”

The teams traded goals late in the first period with Upshall scoring after intercepting a pass from Brent Burns and San Jose tying it when Vlasic’s point pass deflected off defenseman Carl Gunnarsson‘s skate past Hutton.

NOTES: San Jose’s Micheal Haley fought with Ryan Reaves late in the second period. … Sharks D David Schlemko (lower-body injury) missed his seventh straight game but could return Saturday.

UP NEXT

Blues: Visit Arizona on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Anaheim on Saturday.

‘Game 7 again’ for Bolts, as playoff push continues versus Leafs

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There’s little room for error as Tampa Bay tries to complete its one-improbable task of playoff qualification.

As such, all your favorite cliches are being trotted out in advance of tonight’s (admittedly) huge tilt against the Maple Leafs.

“It’s huge, it’s Game 7 again,” Victor Hedman said, per the Times. “All the games will be Game 7 attitude for us. We know it’ll be a packed building, fans are going to be loud. Really looking forward to it.”

Since falling to 22-24-6 with a loss to Ottawa on Feb. 3, the Lightning have caught fire. They’re 12-2-3 since, and have vaulted back into playoff contention — right alongside Toronto.

The Leafs head into tonight with 76 points to Tampa Bay’s 77, but have a game in hand. Both teams are behind the Islanders, who currently hold the Eastern Conference’s final wild card spot because of the ROW tiebreaker.

The teams couldn’t be going in different directions, however. The Bolts are surging, and the Leafs are limping — which includes Tuesday’s embarrassing 7-2 loss to the Panthers.

Toronto, like Tampa, is cognizant of the importance surrounding tonight’s game. Nazem Kadri called it a playoff game, and even head coach Mike Babcock — not one to indulge in hyperbole — admitted this was a big one.

“If you want to be in the playoffs, this is an opportunity,” Babcock said, per the Toronto Sun. “You set yourself up all season so you can have games like this down the stretch. It would be unbelievable for the development of our team.

“To do that, you have to do it at crunch time of the year and you’ve got to handle the opportunity and deliver.”

Tonight’s game will be the third of four meetings between the two this year. Tampa Bay whipped Toronto in the first, 7-3, but the Leafs earned a measure of revenge with a 3-2 OT win back on Dec. 29.

This evening’s tilt will also mark Brian Boyle‘s return to Amalie Arena, after he was flipped to the Leafs at the trade deadline.