Mike Halford

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Dumba healthy scratched as Wild look to clinch playoff spot

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Big shakeup in Minnesota, ahead of the Wild’s potentially playoff-clinching game against the Sharks at Xcel tonight — Matt Dumba will be a healthy scratch, and miss his first game of the season.

Before we get into the Dumba situation, a quick look at what Minnesota needs tonight to clinch its fourth straight playoff appearance:

The Wild will clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Sharks in any fashion OR if they get one point against the Sharks AND the Avalanche lose to the Predators in any fashion OR if the Avalanche lose to the Predators in regulation.

So that’s that.

Now, onto Dumba, the seventh overall pick in 2012 that currently sits third among Wild d-men in goals (10) and points (26):

“Reilly” is rookie d-man Mike Reilly, who will also be dropped from the lineup tonight, despite being a regular lineup fixture since early February. With Reilly and Dumba out, Nate Prosser and the recently-recalled Christian Folin look as though they’ll draw in.

This is a pretty bold move from interim head coach John Torchetti, who was none too pleased with his club’s last outing — a brutal 5-1 loss in Winnipeg (a game in which Dumba was minus-2).

Dumba can struggle defensively, but has been a key contributor on Minnesota’s 13th-ranked power play, leading all Wild d-men with six PPG this year.

Gudbranson sent back to Florida amid concussion concern

Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) gets up from the ice after being pushed in the second period during a preseason NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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A rough stretch here for defensemen on playoff-bound teams.

You can add Florida’s Erik Gudbranson to a list that, after last night’s action, now includes the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh and the Isles’ Calvin de Haan — after taking a high hit from Toronto’s Colin Greening on Monday, the Panthers sent Gudbranson back to Florida on Tuesday for further evaluation.

Gudbranson averages over 20 minutes a night and, at 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, is Florida’s most physically imposing defenseman. He leads the club’s blueliners in hits, with 150, and is fourth on the team in fighting majors.

He’s also the second Panthers d-man to be sidelined with concussion issues.

Captain Willie Mitchell hasn’t played since mid-January while dealing with post-concussion symptoms, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to return to the club this season.

Related: Panthers’ Mitchell believes the NHL is ‘slipping’ on player safety

Rangers bring up Skjei in wake of McDonagh injury

skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 23, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Rangers 5-2.
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There was a dark cloud over the Rangers’ win against Columbus on Monday — even though the Blueshirts clinched their sixth straight playoff appearance with the victory, celebrations were somewhat muted in the wake of captain Ryan McDonagh‘s apparent hand injury.

On Tuesday, New York made a corresponding roster move to replace him.

Brady Skjei — who, like McDonagh, is a left-handed shot — has been recalled from AHL Hartford. The move is interesting, because the Rangers already had a healthy d-man waiting in the wings: Dylan McIlrath, who’s been looking to get back into the lineup since suffering a knee injury in early March.

But it’s quite possible Skjei could draw in ahead of McIlrath.

The Rangers’ first-round pick (28th overall) in 2012, Skjei has performed well for Hartford this year, scoring four goals and 28 points in 68 games. He also showed well in a brief four-game cameo for New York earlier this season, playing a career-high 22:17 against the Devils on Feb. 23.

The Blueshirts play again tonight, then Thursday in a tilt against the Isles (who are limping on defense right now as well). It’ll be interesting to see how head coach Alain Vigneault decides to deploy his defensemen, as — in the wake of the McDonagh injury — the team has four right-handed shots (McIlrath, Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein) compared to three lefties (Skjei, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle).

With injuries piling up on D, Isles recall Mayfield

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28:  Scott Mayfield #42 of the New York Islanders skates against the Washington Capitals at the Barclays Center on September 28, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Capitals defeated the Islanders 3-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Roughly 12 hours after losing the services of Calvin de Haan, the Islanders made a move to replace him by recalling Scott Mayfield from AHL Bridgeport, the club announced on Tuesday.

Mayfield, the 34th overall pick in 2011, has spent most of this year with the Sound Tigers, but did appear in three games for New York back in January/February.

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, the 23-year-old will be an upgrade on de Haan in terms of size — but it’ll be a tall task for Mayfield to replace everything else de Haan brought to the table.

De Haan, knocked out of Monday’s win over the Bolts after taking a Nikita Kucherov shot to the knee, averages just under 21 minutes a night and leads the team in blocked shots this year, with 189.

He’s not the only missing piece on defense.

The Isles, of course, are also without the services of d-man Travis Hamonic, who’s out for the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury.

Its unclear when — or, if — Hamonic will return, which is especially troubling.

Hamonic, a steadying presence on the blueline, missed all of last year’s opening-round playoff loss to the Caps with a knee injury (grade-3 MCL tear). Without him, the defense was thinned out and the Isles ultimately bowed out in seven games.

The 25-year-old, who has been in the news quite a bit this season because of his earlier trade request, was averaging a career-high 24:04 TOI per night and tied a career-best in goals, with five.

There is a potential silver lining for New York’s blueline, however.

Adam Pelech, originally thought to be lost for the year after his thoracic outlet syndrome diagnosis, will return to action with Bridgeport this weekend, and could be available for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Sharks give Norris love to Burns, ‘one of the best defensemen in the league right now’

Brent Burns
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As the regular season winds down, awards chatter heats up — and no trophy has garnered more debate this season than the Norris, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman.

If you talk to enough pundits, you’ll come to the conclusion this year’s hardware will go to one of two guys: Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, or Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty.

But from the Bay Area, a third suitor is getting a push from his teammates — Brent Burns.

“He’s an animal,” James Reimer said of Burns, per the San Jose Mercury News. “He’s arguably one of the best defensemen in the league right now and probably not getting the recognition he deserves.”

Burns, who represented San Jose at this year’s All-Star Game, is enjoying a quality campaign. He sits second among all blueliners in scoring, with 74 points — only Karlsson has more, with 79 — and his eye-popping 344 shots on goal are something of an anomaly from a defenseman, as only three in NHL history have fired that many in a single season:

Dustin Byfuglien, Ray Bourque, and Bobby Orr.

Despite that, most concede that Burns is unlikely to bring home the Norris this year. Part of that could do with his, ahem, occasionally reckless style of play, which often leads to turnovers.

The other part could be his history. Despite being a good, quality rearguard for quite some time, Burns has never finished higher than 12th in Norris voting.

It’s something his head coach, Peter DeBoer, can’t make sense of.

“I can’t understand why he’s not in those conversations more for (the Norris Trophy),” DeBoer explained. “He’s a version of (Nashville’s Shea) Weber and Doughty.

“He plays well in both ends for us, plays against other team’s best lines. They’re big guys a lot of nights, and he brings a physical element too, which some of those guys don’t. For me, he should be in that conversation all day long, and I don’t understand why I don’t hear his name more.”