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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‘Fan favorite’ Olli Jokinen to retire a Florida Panther

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Olli Jokinen, who spent seven seasons in Florida and four of them serving as team captain, will sign an honorary contract to officially retire a Panther, the club announced on Tuesday.

“Olli is an important player in the history of the Panthers franchise and he remains a fan favorite,” GM Dale Tallon said in a release. “We are proud to give Olli the opportunity to retire as a Panther and we congratulate him on a long, successful and productive National Hockey League career.”

Jokinen, 38, spent seven years in Florida, wearing the “C” from 2003-08. He appeared in nearly 600 games in a Panthers uniform, during which he set franchise marks for most points, goals, game-winning goals, OT goals, power play points and shots on net.

“My heart has always been with the Panthers organization and now I feel like my career has come full circle,” said Jokinen. “I am extremely grateful that I had the chance to play hockey in South Florida and help the sport grow.

“I want to thank my family – my wife Katerina and my daughters Alexandra, Emma and Keira – and all of the fans, teammates, coaches and staff who have supported me throughout my career.”

Jokinen was taken third overall by L.A. at the ’97 draft, playing for both the Kings and Isles before joining Florida in 2000. Following his stint with the Panthers, the veteran Finn played for the Coyotes, Flames, Jets, Predators, Leafs and Blues.

Goalie nods: Bolts go with streaking Vasilevskiy as playoff push continues

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On Feb. 2, the Lightning dropped a 5-2 decision to Ottawa, which dropped them to 22-24-6 on the year.

At the time, their playoff chances were slim, and the club looked ready to accept a non-postseason fate by dealing away the likes of Brian Boyle, Ben Bishop and Valtteri Filppula prior to the deadline.

But if that was the message, it didn’t make its way down to Jon Cooper and company.

Since that loss to the Sens, the Bolts have gone 8-2-2 and catapulted back into playoff contention. And tonight, they’ll try to catapult even further when Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the nod at home against the Rangers.

Tasked with the No. 1 gig following Bishop’s departure, Vasilevskiy was solid in February, finishing with a .919 save percentage, and has been stellar through two games in March, stopping 59 of 63 shots faced in a pair of victories.

As a result, Vasilevskiy comes into tonight riding a three-game unbeaten streak, while the Bolts have won five of their last six. That includes Saturday’s 31-save shootout win over the Sabres.

With a win tonight, Tampa Bay could move one point back of the Islanders for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

For the Rangers, looks like Antti Raanta‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

Kari Lehtonen, coming off a terrific 41-save win over Florida on Saturday, goes back in for Stars as they visit Washington. He’ll be up against Braden Holtby.

— There’ll be a playoff-type atmosphere in Ottawa tonight as the B’s and Sens do battle, and each team will roll with its respective No. 1: Tuukka Rask for the Bruins, Craig Anderson for the Sens.

Connor Hellebuyck, who projects to get a ton of minutes down the stretch with Ondrej Pavelec injured, gets the call for the Jets. No word yet on a starter for the visiting Sharks, though Martin Jones did face the Wild last night.

Wild lose Folin for at least three weeks after Labanc hit (Video)

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Last night, Minnesota head coach Bruce Boudreau said “it didn’t look good” when d-man Christian Folin was rammed into the end boards by Sharks forward Kevin Labanc.

Boudreau was right — it isn’t good.

Folin will miss at least the next three weeks with an upper-body ailment, the club announced on Monday. The news comes just hours after the Wild’s big 3-1 win over the Sharks, one in which Folin exited in the first period (and in which Labanc got two minutes for boarding).

The play in question:

An undrafted free agent out of UMass-Lowell — there was quite a bit of clamoring for his services following his sophomore campaign — Folin has been in and out of the Wild lineup over the last few seasons, spending time with AHL Iowa.

This year, the 26-year-old has played almost exclusively in Minnesota. He has seven points through 44 games, while averaging just under 15 minutes per night.

Trade: Sens acquire Gormley from Devils

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Even though the trade deadline has come and gone, Ottawa isn’t done making moves.

On Monday, the club acquired former first-round pick Brandon Gormley from New Jersey in exchange for future considerations. Because the deal came after the March 1 deadline, Gormley will not be playoff eligible (not surprisingly, he’s already been sent to AHL Binghamton).

Gormley, 25, has played sparingly at the NHL level since being picked 13th overall by the Coyotes in 2010. He appeared in 32 career games with Arizona, and another 26 with Colorado.

He’s been largely an AHLer over the last few years, a theme that continued with the Devils — Gormley’s spent the entire campaign in Albany, scoring 10 points in 35 games.

Vegas signs first player in franchise history

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Reid Duke will forever be a part of history.

On Monday, the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights announced that Duke — a former Minnesota Wild draft pick — has signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the club, marking the first player transaction in Vegas Golden Knights history.

“I think what’s impressive with Reid is a real high skill level and yet a guy that’s able to play a big, strong, heavy game,” Golden Knights assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon said, per the club website. “When we project Reid, we think his game will evolve as he becomes a pro. We believe he’s going to be an NHL player.

“It’s real exciting for us to be bringing Reid into the Golden Knights organization.”

McCrimmon coached Duke in Brandon prior to taking his post with Las Vegas.

Duke, 21, is enjoying good offensive success this year, with 35 goals and 67 points through 54 games. The 6-foot, 190-pound forward was originally taken in the sixth round of the ’14 draft by Minnesota but, when last year’s July 1 deadline came to sign him, the Wild passed.

“We just didn’t know if there was really an opportunity for him,” Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said, per the Star-Tribune.

Vegas GM George McPhee is currently in Boca Raton for the league’s annual GMs meetings, and was unavailable for comment. The club has indicated he’ll address this signing later today.

Once Duke finishes his junior campaign, he’s expected to join the Golden Knights for their inaugural Development Camp this summer.