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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Red-hot Sens lose Stone to injury, but Turris expected back

Ottawa, who has moved to within two points of Montreal for tops in the Atlantic thanks to its current six-game winning streak, got some tough news on Monday as Mark Stone was ruled out “week-to-week” with a lower-body ailment.

Stone, tied for the club lead with 22 goals, last played in Thursday’s 3-2 OT win over Arizona. He sat out Saturday’s victory against Colorado and will now miss the team’s upcoming three-game homestand — which starts tomorrow against Tampa Bay, continues Thursday against Chicago and concludes Saturday with a huge game against the aforementioned Habs.

Thankfully for Ottawa, a pair of fellow injured forwards appear close to returning.

Kyle Turris, tied with Stone on 22 goals, looks to return from a three-game absence against the Bolts tomorrow. It also sounds like Bobby Ryan is close to coming back from a finger injury that’s kept him out since Feb. 18, as GM Pierre Dorion said the club expects Ryan to resume playing this week.

The Sens will undoubtedly be a team to watch down the stretch. They have two games in hand on Montreal, and will play the Canadiens three times over a seven-day stretch in March (18th in Ottawa, 19th and 25th in Montreal).

 

 

What a turnaround from Jonathan Bernier

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On Monday, Jonathan Bernier continued his improbable rebound by capturing the NHL’s second star of the week.

From the league:

Bernier went 3-0-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and one shutout to lift the Ducks (36-23-10, 82 points) into second place in the Pacific Division. He made 24 saves through overtime – and turned aside all five attempts he faced in the shootout – in a 4-3 victory against the Nashville Predators March 7.

Bernier then recorded 43 saves in earning his 14th career shutout via a 1-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks March 9. He finished the week with 25 stops in a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals March 12.

The 28-year-old Laval, Que., native owns a 13-7-2 record with a 2.69 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and two shutouts in 29 appearances this season, his first with the Ducks.

It was that long ago — mid-January, in fact — that we wrote about Bernier going 23 days between starts, a situation that was “not easy” to deal with. Things didn’t get much better from there.

Bernier’s did play all that much — or well — in February, making just five appearances and finishing with a .896 save percentage. The low point came in a 3-2 loss to Arizona, in which Bernier was yanked after allowing three goals on six shots in the first period.

“Looks bad on him,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said at the time. “But I think you have to blame this one on his teammates.”

Heading into the March 1 trade deadline, there were rumblings Anaheim would target a veteran backup for No. 1 John Gibson (Vancouver’s Ryan Miller was mentioned). There were legitimate questions about how much the Ducks trusted Bernier if Gibson either suffered through a stretch of poor play, or injury.

Then, the latter happened. Gibson suffered a lower-body injury on Feb. 20, and the club was forced to trust in Bernier.

The results have been fantastic.

Bernier’s now started eight of the last nine for Anaheim, with Gibson returning from his lower-body ailment in Friday’s 4-3 loss to St. Louis. This development has given Carlyle the flexibility to rest Gibson as he sees fit — and perhaps given Bernier new life heading into the summer.

A pending UFA, Bernier’s recent run could bump his stock on the open market, which figures to be fairly flush. Names like Miller, Ben Bishop, Steve Mason and Brian Elliott could all be available. Projections suggest there won’t be many jobs available, meaning Bernier will be in tough to carve out his niche.

But if he continues to play the way he has, teams will certainly come calling.

Video: During goal drought, Stepan reached out to fellow ‘hockey nerd’ St. Louis

Derek Stepan snapped one of the worst slumps of his professional life on Sunday night, scoring for the first time in 23 games to help the Ranters beat Detroit 4-1.

Afterward, Stepan discussed what he did to get through the drought, including leaning on a former teammate — Martin St. Louis, who himself experienced a lengthy scoring slump with the Rangers. Upon being traded to New York from Tampa Bay back in 2014, St. Louis went 14 straight games without finding the back of the net.

Of note, Stepan’s goal last night was his 13th of the season. He sits tied with Mats Zuccarello for second in scoring, with 47 points.

Goalie nods: Bobrovsky goes for fourth straight shutout, franchise record

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Sergei Bobrovsky will be going for history tonight in Columbus.

Having reeled off three consecutive shutouts, Bobrovsky can set the longest shutout streak of this NHL season and the longest in franchise history when the Jackets host Buffalo at Nationwide.

Bobrovsky needs 3:16 of shutout hockey to break Devan Dubnyk‘s mark for this year, and 19:28 to set the mark Steve Mason set for Columbus during the 2008-09 campaign.

After a so-so January and February, the Russian tender has stormed back in March with some of his finest play of the season. Technically, his bounce-back began late last month, allowing just three goals on 60 shots in consecutive outings against the Rangers and Habs.

In March? Oh, just a 38-save shutout against the Wild, then 20- and 33-save blankings of the Devils.

All told, Bobrovsky’s numbers on the year put him in the Vezina conversation. He leads the NHL in wins, with 35, to go along with a .931 save percentage and 2.05 GAA.

For the Sabres, Robin Lehner‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

Jimmy Howard, who’s been out since Dec. 20 with an injury, will get the nod tonight when the Wings host the ‘Hawks. No word yet on a Chicago starter, but it’s very likely Corey Crawford will be the guy.

— Minnesota will give Devan Dubnyk the night off, and start Darcy Kuemper in Florida. James Reimer goes for the Panthers, who are still without No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo. He’s dealing with a hip/groin injury.

— The Ducks haven’t made it official yet, but Jonathan Bernier could make another start tonight in St. Louis. It would be his second in as many nights, after a brilliant 43-save shutout win over Chicago last night. Jake Allen starts for the Blues.

Cam Talbot will make his NHL-leading 60th start tonight as Edmonton plays its 67th game of the year. The host Penguins are going with Marc-Andre Fleury.

Gaudreau, Muzzin fined for embellishment

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The NHL took care of some monetary punishments on Friday afternoon, fining Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau and Kings d-man Jake Muzzin $2,000 each for diving/embellishment.

First, Gaudreau:

Gaudreau was issued a Warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 514 against Vancouver on Dec. 23. His second Citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident at 8:06 of the second period during NHL Game No. 962 against NY Islanders on March 5.

Offsetting minor penalties were assessed on the play, to Islanders forward Josh Ho-Sang for holding and to Gaudreau for embellishment.

Then, Muzzin:

Muzzin was issued a Warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 16 against Philadelphia on Oct. 14. His second Citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident at 17:41 of the first period during NHL Game No. 961 against Vancouver on March 4.

Vancouver forward Michael Chaput received a minor penalty for high-sticking, nullifying a Canucks power play.

The pair join Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Florida’s Keith Yandle as those fined for diving/embellishment this year.