Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

Huberdeau ‘right on schedule’ for February return

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It’s been a very tumultuous season in Florida, and you can point to the Panthers losing Jonathan Huberdeau on the eve of the regular season as the incident that kicked everything off.

But now, some good news on that front. Huberdeau traveled with the team last week, and has returned to both the ice and the gym — significant steps in his recovery from a torn Achilles.

According to head coach Tom Rowe, everything is pointing towards a February return for the former Calder winner.

“He’s right on schedule, but he feels real good,” Rowe said, per the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “The fact he could spend as much time in the weight room getting stronger and getting in better shape because of the injury is all good.

“He’s an elite level player and it will be good for us when he is back; it makes us a stronger, deeper team.”

Huberdeau, 23, is coming off a career-best 20 goals and 59 points last season, one in which he further developed chemistry with No. 1 linemates Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr. Florida has spent much of the first two months of the season trying to fill Huberdeau’s spot on the top line, with mixed results, and it’s become clear the organization is both anxious and excited about the prospect of getting him back.

Given the timing, it will almost be like a deadline pickup for the Panthers (this season’s deadline is on Feb. 28).

Florida made a big investment in Huberdeau with his six-year, $35.4 million extension, which kicks in next season. So there’s no doubt the club is more than ready to see him back in action.



Coyotes prospect Strome to captain Canada at World Juniors


Canada’s world junior team features three players that played in the NHL this season.

On Monday, those three were named to the club’s leadership group.

Arizona’s Dylan Strome, who appeared in seven games this season and scored his first NHL point, has been named captain for the tournament, Hockey Canada announced.

Islanders forward Matthew Barzal — who played two games before getting sent back to WHL Seattle — is one of the alternates, along with Ottawa d-man Thomas Chabot, who played in one game this year prior to returning to the QMJHL.

This figures to be a big tournament for Strome, who was part of the disappointing Canadian team that lost in the quarterfinals to Finland last year.

Strome finished tied with Mitch Marner for the team lead in scoring, with six points in five games, and will now have a chance to follow in the footsteps of Curtis Lazar, the last player to captain Team Canada to gold on home soil (Lazar was the leader of a dynamic ’15 team that went undefeated en route to gold in Montreal and Toronto).


B’s waste no time in recalling Vatrano, who’s already back to scoring goals


When Boston lost sophomore forward Frank Vatrano to torn foot ligaments during offseason training, it was a big blow. The 22-year-old — coming off eight goals and 11 points in 39 games as a rookie — was being counted on to replace some of the goalscoring that departed when Loui Eriksson signed in Vancouver.

Now, he’s back.

Vatrano, sent down to AHL Providence three days ago, has been recalled to Boston after a brief two-game rehab stint over the weekend. During that stint — which represented his first game action of the season — he quickly got back to doing what he does:

Scoring goals.

Vatrano found the back of the net in each of his two games in Providence, a trend that carried over from last year — in ’15-16, he scored 36 times in 36 games en route to capturing the AHL’s goalscoring title, wildly impressive given it was essentially his first full professional campaign.

The Bruins next play on Tuesday, when they take on the Islanders. Vatrano will be available for selection, and could be again counted on to replace some missing scoring — another exciting young sniper, 20-year-old David Pastrnak, will miss the next few games following elbow surgery.

Pastrnak currently leads Boston with 19 goals through 27 games.

Leafs recall first-rounder Gauthier


Frederik Gauthier, the 6-foot-5 center taken 21st overall in 2013, has been recalled by Toronto from the AHL Marlies, the club announced on Monday.

Gauthier, 21, has four points through 16 American League games this season, this after scoring 18 in 56 games with the Marlies a year ago. The former QMJHL Rimouski standout also appeared in nine Calder Cup playoff games in ’15-16.

Gauthier made his NHL debut last season, appearing in seven contests.

With this recall, Toronto now boasts a roster featuring all five of its last first-round picks: Gauthier, Auston Matthews (1st overall, ’16), Mitch Marner (4th overall, ’15), William Nylander (8th overall, ’14) and Morgan Rielly (5th overall, ’12).

Trump nominates Panthers owner Viola for Secretary of Army (Updated)


Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola, a West Point graduate, has been nominated by president-elect Donald Trump to serve as the Secretary of the Army, the club announced on Monday.

“Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge,” Trump said in a statement, per the Miami Herald.  “He is a man of outstanding work ethic, integrity, and strategic vision, with an exceptional ability to motivate others.

“The American people, whether civilian or military, should have great confidence that Vinnie Viola has what it takes to keep America safe and oversee issues of concern to our troops in the Army.”

Viola, who purchased the Panthers in 2013, is well known for his ties to the Army. He founded the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point following the 9/11 attacks, and has hired fellow West Point graduates for several positions within the Panthers organization — including president and CEO Matthew Caldwell.

Ownership of the franchise will remain within the Viola family, per the Herald. The club announced that, pending confirmation of Viola’s nomination, current vice chairman Doug Cifu would become chairman and governor of Sunrise Sports and Entertainment.

Update: The NHL has released the following…

“We proudly congratulate Vincent Viola on his nomination to this important position – which, pending Senate approval, obviously will require his full-time attention.

“The Club has assured us that the day-to-day operations of the Panthers’ franchise will not be affected by this development, and we will certainly work closely with the Club to ensure that is the case.

“Mr. Viola and team ownership have further advised that they remain completely committed to South Florida and to the Panthers’ fans.”