Mike Halford

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

Lack back for ‘Canes following 14-game concussion absence

2 Comments

Carolina will have its regular goalie tandem back prior to the holiday break.

Eddie Lack, out since late November with a concussion, has been activated from IR and will rejoin the team ahead of tomorrow’s game against Buffalo.

In conjunction with the Lack news, the ‘Canes also announced that veteran netminder Michael Leighton has been reassigned to AHL Charlotte.

Lack missed the last 14 games with the concussion, and during that time Cam Ward started the majority of Carolina’s games, and fared well. So it’ll be interesting to see when the lanky Swede returns to game action, and how he fares.

Lack struggled to start this year and, at the time of his injury, had all but ceded the net to Ward.

Before the concussion, Lack played just twice in November — one was a 4-1 loss to New Jersey, in which he allowed three goals on 20 shots. The other was a 28-second appearance against Anaheim on Nov. 10.

Goalie nods: Smith goes for Coyotes, who worry they’re ‘wasting a tremendous performance’

Getty
1 Comment

Arizona has not been good this year. The Coyotes head into Wednesday night’s action sitting 29th in the NHL and have given up the seventh-most goals (101) in the league.

Now imagine where they’d be without Mike Smith.

The veteran netminder is having a remarkable season. Despite missing a month of action due to injury, he still sits 21st among all goalies in shots faced this season, with 626.

Now quick, do the math.

Smith has only played in 18 games this year, meaning he’s facing an average of 34.7 per night.

In light of this, his .928 save percentage on the year is pretty special. And that’s on top of one incredible effort — a franchise-record 58 saves against Columbus earlier this month — and a 2.65 GAA which is very respectable, given the circumstances.

More on Smith, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

[Shane] Doan (and several of his teammates) were really selling Mike Smith during the team’s trip to Toronto.

“Please talk about what a great year he’s having,” one said. “It’s like we’re wasting a tremendous performance.”

Smith will get another start tonight, when the Coyotes host the Oilers at Gila River. For Edmonton, Cam Talbot is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Quiet night in the league, with just one other game on the docket. In Philly, the red-hot Steve Mason will get another start as the Flyers host the Caps. He’ll be up against Braden Holtby, who gets the nod for Washington.

Jackets’ leading scorer Atkinson in walking boot, and ‘not for fashion reasons’

Getty

Thursday’s hotly anticipated Penguins-Blue Jackets game — and yes, it still feels weird writing that — could be without a major figure, as Cam Atkinson spent Wednesday in a walking boot after blocking a shot in Tuesday’s win over the Kings.

“We’ll see how it feels tomorrow,” Atkinson, the club’s leading scorer, told the Dispatch. “It’s precautionary, that’s why I’m wearing (the boot). It’s not for fashion reasons.”

Breaths of relief were collectively sighed in Columbus today, as X-rays revealed Atkinson didn’t break any bones.

“Personally, I’m a pretty fast healer,” he added. “Hopefully, I will be able to rock and roll.”

On a surprisingly good team filled with surprisingly good individual efforts, Atkinson is near the top of the list. He currently sits 15th in the league in goals (14), 21st in assists (19) and eighth in points (33). Those 33 points puts him head of guys like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Claude Giroux.

Atkinson’s scoring is even more impressive given he and the Jackets have only played 30 games this year, tied with Washington for the fewest thus far.

He’s a big reason why the Jackets have won 10 straight, and can move into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference with a win tomorrow.

Another loss, and another bunch of discouraging quotes from the Avs

Getty
9 Comments

The Avs lost 2-0 to Minnesota on Tuesday night — the sixth time this year they’ve been shut out — which put them at 11-19-1 on the year.

That’s the worst record in the NHL. Colorado is mired in the league basement, four points back of the 29th-place Coyotes, with the fewest goals scored (65) and the eighth-most goals allowed (99).

As Brough wrote two days ago, nothing is going right for this team.

“We’re still losing games, which is frustrating,” goaltender Semyon Varlamov said after the Wild loss, per the Denver Post. “We’ve lost four in a row. It’s embarrassing.”

Varlamov’s quote was telling, but hardly the only negative one. Matt Duchene said the Avs’ power play, which went 0-for-5 against Minnesota, was “awful.” Head coach Jared Bednar said it was just another example of a season-long issue — “we’ve been struggling all year to create offense.”

It’s really been a season of lowlights:

— The Avs’ longest winning streak of the season is two. It happened twice. Once at the start of the year (season-opening victories against the Stars and Penguins), and once in mid-November (wins over Minnesota and Columbus).

— They suffered one of the worst losses in franchise history two weeks ago, a 10-1 drubbing in Montreal that captain Gabriel Landeskog accurately summed up as an “ass-whooping.”

— Injuries haven’t helped. Landeskog missed a bunch of time with a lower-body ailment, and Erik Johnson is sidelined with a broken fibula.

— This isn’t the first time Duchene and Bednar have called out the group. The former said his team was “awful” in a shutout loss to Dallas on Dec. 3, and the latter has constantly harped on the Avs’ lack of intensity.

With a points percentage of 0.74, the Avs are in serious danger of eclipsing one of the worst teams in franchise history — Joe Sacco’s 2010-11 side, which finished with just 30 wins and 68 points. Colorado finished 29th in the league that year.

That finish, of course, netted the Avs the No. 2 overall pick, which they used to select Landeskog. And after winning the Calder trophy, Landeskog was named team captain, cementing him as a franchise cornerstone.

Now, though, Landeskog is the leader of a core group that’s come under heavy scrutiny (most notably by former head coach Patrick Roy). There have been rumblings of a potential shakeup for a while, though GM Joe Sakic has remained defiant, saying he has faith in the group.

“It’s not a core thing,” Sakic said. “It’s a team thing.”

Of course, Sakic said that back on Dec. 1, when the Avs were 9-11-1. Since then they’ve won just two of 10 games, and suffered that humiliating defeat in Montreal.

Which begs the question — how much longer can this go on without some kind of change?

Frustrating times for Toews, who hasn’t scored a goal in 45 days

Getty
12 Comments

Though Jonathan Toews has never been known as a sniper, he’s always been a consistent goalscorer and usually ends up finding the back of the net around 25-30 times a season.

Might not happen this year, though.

Toews, who already missed nine games to a back injury, is now suffering through a different kind of ailment — the dreaded goalscoring slump. He has just four through 26 games this year, putting him on pace for 11.

That would be way, way less than his current career-low of 23 goals, which occurred during the ’13 campaign.

But that was, of course, the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, in which Toews only played 47 games. Extrapolate that over a full season, and it’s a 40-goal effort.

“I don’t know what to tell you; I feel like I’ve got experience dealing with this sort of thing,” Toews said following last night’s loss to Ottawa, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t know what that says about my game. But I still believe I’m that offensive player.

“I’ve just got to stay with it and keep working.”

There were signs of Toews’ offense slipping a bit last season, when he finished with just 58 points — one of the lowest totals of his 10-year career. He insisted the dip wasn’t about linemates or chemistry or rhythm and, in classic Captain Serious form, took full responsibility for it.

“I think I have to just look at myself and take responsibility for that,” he said, per The Athletic. “I think this year, regardless of who I’m playing with, whether it’s [Marian Hossa] or anybody else, I think the two of us will definitely want to have a comeback year and just have fun and play with some excitement and play loose and let that offense come to us.”

It’ll be curious to see what, if anything, head coach Joel Quenneville does to spark his captain. Known for going to the line blender early and often, Coach Q must be somewhat concerned about the fact Toews hasn’t scored since Nov. 6, a span of 13 games.

Toews opened up Tuesday’s game on a powerhouse line with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. One would think that trio will stick together for a little bit — and if playing with those two can’t get Toews’ offense going, well, hard to imagine what will.