Mike Halford

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 1: Tobias Lindberg #20 of the Toronto Marlies prepares for a face-off against the Albany Devils during AHL game action on March 1, 2016 at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Oh look, another Maple Leaf is making his NHL debut

4 Comments

Byron Froese, William Nylander, Brendan Leipsic, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Viktor Loov, Garret Sparks, Rinat Valiev, Nikita Soshnikov, Connor Brown and now, Tobias Lindberg.

That is the unique group of players Toronto has unified this season, in that all have made their NHL debuts during the ’15-16 campaign.

The latest, Lindberg, will draw in tonight when the Leafs take on the Sabres in Buffalo.

Lindberg, 20, was part of the package acquired in the Dion Phaneuf-to-Ottawa trade, and was recalled from the AHL earlier this morning. The Sens’ fourth-round pick in 2013, Lindberg racked up 12 points in 19 games with the Marlies before getting his break in the bigs.

It’ll be interesting to see if the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Swede can keep the good times (or, depending on how you look at them, bad times) rolling in Toronto. The club is on a bit of a streak, having gone 7-4-0 in its last 11 — and while that’s probably a good thing for the development of some of these young players, it’s not great for the club’s draft lottery odds.

Wild praise Torchetti after turning season around

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 21:  Coach John Torchetti of the Minnesota Wild gives his players instruction during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the TCF Bank Stadium during the 2016 Coors Light Stadium Series game on February 21, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Getty Images
10 Comments

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Wild have turned yet another season around, just in time.

This year, John Torchetti’s takeover of the team was the stimulus. Perhaps the journeyman coach will be rewarded with an eventual removal of the interim tag.

“That confidence, it’s a big word with players,” said Torchetti, who is 15-6-1 in 22 games, steering the once-sinking Wild back on track for the Stanley Cup playoffs. “It’s my job, when I took over, to gain the players’ confidence that I trust them in all situations. I think once players trust, not just their coach but their teammates, they’re able to play the game faster.”

With a 4-1 victory on Tuesday over nemesis Chicago, the Wild stretched their season-long winning streak to six games. With five games left, they are five points ahead of Colorado for the second wild card in the Western Conference.

“I think it was just a stand by all of us in this locker room. Enough is enough,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “We were sick of losing games to probably teams we shouldn’t and ended up beating the ones that were higher up in the standings that we knew we could.”

Torchetti was summoned Feb. 13 from the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa when they fell to 1-11-2 in a fateful 14-game stretch that triggered the firing of Mike Yeo, the franchise’s third head coach in 15 seasons of existence.

This team rallied in each of the last three winters to make the playoffs, so falling below the cut shouldn’t have been a major problem. The 51-year-old Torchetti had done the interim thing before, with Florida in 2004 and Los Angeles in 2006 when changes on the bench put him in charge for the balance of those seasons.

After seven years as a player in the minor leagues, the Boston native has coached or managed with 15 different teams in six different leagues since 1994. He has accumulated all kinds of experience as a motivator, strategist and teacher through stints from San Antonio to Moscow with five NHL stops in between. Torchetti coached some of the Wild’s young players previously in the AHL, too.

Still, uncertainty swirled about the effect the switch would have on a team that reached each of the last two conference semifinals but was mired in a malaise of underperforming veterans and underdeveloped youngsters. Yeo’s message, whether his fault or not, seemed to be failing to register with some players.

Sometimes, though, a team just needs a jolt. Energy is supposed to come from Zach Parise. Leadership is on Mikko Koivu‘s shoulders. Torchetti, though, knew he needed to get more out of the lower-line players and get the whole lineup back to its grind-it-out roots to make this turnaround work.

“He expects, he always says, low-maintenance, high-character guys,” right wing Charlie Coyle said.

Torchetti hasn’t been afraid to be bold, making forwards Jason Zucker and Thomas Vanek healthy scratches for multiple games for a lack of defensive intensity. Enamored with the two-way effort of Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter, Torchetti has watched that third-line pair flourish.

“Nothing’s changed from when he was down there to up here,” said forward Jordan Schroeder, who played for Torchetti in the AHL. “He stays true to himself. He’s honest with you.”

The Wild almost certainly will conduct a coaching search once their season is over, so there’s no guarantee this short-term success will give Torchetti the job going forward. Player endorsements have been easy to find.

“I think I would be surprised if anybody told you that they wouldn’t like to see him around,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said.

For now, they’re set to ride this re-invigoration right into the playoffs, as long as they keep playing like they did on Tuesday.

“You see guys like Zach blocking shots, Mikko just playing underneath sticks hard, Charlie’s bleeding, Dumba’s fighting, that’s what it’s all about,” Torchetti said, his New England accent as subtle as a slap shot to the foot. “That’s playoff hockey for me. That’s the fun part of watching.”

Ducks sign Kossila, NCAA’s fifth-leading scorer, to two-year deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 11:  Kalle Kossila #11 of the St. Cloud State Huskies skates against the Quinnipiac Bobcats  during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 11, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Kalle Kossila, the St. Cloud State senior that racked up 54 points in 41 games this year, has agreed to a two-year contract with the Ducks, the club confirmed on Wednesday.

Kossila, 22, enjoyed a tremendous ’15-16 campaign, leading the Huskies in scoring while drawing even with North Dakota freshman Brock Boeser — Vancouver’s first-round pick at last year’s draft — for the NCHC points title.

The Finnish forward ended his career as St. Cloud State’s sixth-leading scorer all-time.

Kossila’s two-year deal kicks in next season and, per the Star-Tribune, he’s now off to Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego to begin his pro career on an amateur tryout contract.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of trajectory his career takes.

The Ducks have a wealth of options at forward, but have five UFAs (David Perron, Jamie McGinn, Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart and Mike Santorelli) in July, plus two intriguing RFAs in Brandon Pirri and Rickard Rakell.

Anaheim also figures to have some cap issues this summer, and have two very important d-men in Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen needing new deals. As such, a guy signed on the cheap like Kossila could find himself playing a role on the team, at some point.

Talented ‘Canes rookie Tolchinsky to make NHL debut

1 Comment

Carolina fans will get a look at one of the organization’s more intriguing prospects on Thursday, as Sergey Tolchinsky will make his NHL debut against the Rangers.

Tolchinksy, 21, is listed at just 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, but has emerged as one of the better scorers for AHL Charlotte this season, netting 11 goals and 32 points in 65 games in this, his first full season of professional hockey.

A former World Junior silver medalist with Russia, Tolchinsky broke onto the scene three years ago, wowing ‘Canes brass at prospect camp as an undrafted free agent.

After signing that deal he returned to the OHL and lit it up with Sault Ste. Marie, scoring 30 goals and 95 points in 61 games last year.

 

Goalie nods: Stolarz debut on hold as Flyers give Mason seventh straight start

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason reaches up to make a glove save against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Denver. Philadelphia won 4-2. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP
4 Comments

Even with the arrival of Ray Emery, Anthony Stolarz is still Philly’s No. 2 netminder — GM Ron Hextall confirmed as much on Tuesday.

But for now, Stolarz will have to be content with just being the backup, because his time to play still hasn’t arrived.

Tonight, Steve Mason will make his seventh straight start when Philly hosts Washington at Wells Fargo. The decision isn’t a huge surprise — the Flyers are fighting for their playoff lives, not the greatest time to throw the 22-year-old Stolarz into the mix — but it will be taxing for Mason, who has played an awful lot of hockey this month.

Tonight’s start is Mason’s 12th in March, meaning he’s played in all but two of his club’s games. Thankfully for Philly, he’s shown little ill-affect from that heavy workload, going 7-2-2 with a 1.97 GAA and .929 save percentage — a performance that’s gone a long way in Philly vaulting into its current wild card position.

The only question now is when — or, if — Stolarz will make his NHL debut. Philly has just six games left after tonight’s game against Washington, and it’s conceivable Mason will play them all.

Not that head coach Dave Hakstol would tip his hand about future plans.

“We make our decisions on a day-to-day basis who will start as our goaltender for any given game,” Hakstol said, per CSN Philly. “We’ve done that all year long and we’ll continue to do that.”

For the Caps, Braden Holtby will be in goal.

Elsewhere…

Andrew Hammond takes on Michael Hutchinson as the Sens visit Winnipeg.

Jonas Hiller gets back into the Flames net. John Gibson starts for Anaheim.