Mike Halford

Jaroslav Halak

World Cup: Halak goes again for Team Europe, looks to be Game 1 starter

In a move that could have ramifications all the way to Brooklyn, Team Europe appears primed to anoint Jaroslav Halak as its No. 1 netminder for the World Cup of Hockey.

On Wednesday, head coach Ralph Kruger said Halak would start Europe’s final exhibition game tonight (versus Sweden, 7 p.m. ET), and all but confirmed the veteran Slovak will be the No. 1 when Europe opens the tourney against the U.S. on Saturday:

Halak’s largely been the man for Team Europe throughout the exhibition campaign. He played all 60 minutes in an opening loss to Team North America — allowing four goals on 21 shots — then came on in relief of a beleaguered Thomas Greiss in the rematch, after Greiss was hooked after allowing four goals in just over 10 minutes of action.

As mentioned above, this development goes beyond Team Europe.

Halak and Greiss are set to (presumably) jockey for the Isles’ No. 1 gig this year. Halak was the starter for a good chunk of last year until succumbing to injury, which Greiss used as an opportunity to showcase himself as a potential No. 1.

The German ‘tender went 23-11-4 with a .925 save percentage and 2.36 GAA last year, and helped the Isles win their first playoff series since 1993. The Isles also have a somewhat intriguing prospect in J-F Berube, who they re-signed this offseason.

At the Isles’ locker clear out day in May, Halak said the three-goalie setup was “not ideal,” adding that management will “have to decide which way they want to go for next season.”

Wounded Wing: Ericsson’s ailing hip ‘gets a little worse every year’


Given that Jonathan Ericsson is 32 years old, signed through 2020 and makes $4.25 million per, the following probably won’t come as welcome news for Red Wings fans.

In a candid media session, Ericsson told reporters his hip injury — called “hip impingement” — isn’t getting any better, and the pain it causes made it difficult to walk after some games last season.

“It gets a little worse every year,” Ericcson said, per the Free Press. “There’s arthritis in there, too.”

Ericsson said that while the pain is bad, it’s not unbearable — a key reason why he’s put off corrective surgery, which would sideline him for four months.

A lightning rod for criticism among Detroit fans, Ericsson struggled last season, scoring 15 points in 71 games while watching his ice time tip to 18:32 per night. That’s down significant from the career-high 21:19 he averaged during the ’13 campaign.

The big Swedish rearguard has dealt with a myriad of injuries over the last few years, though he did appear in all 82 games in ’14-15. And that’s sort of the thing with his hip ailment — it causes great pain and discomfort, but not enough to force Ericsson from the lineup.

And to be honest, the Wings can’t afford to lose him. Even though Ericsson’s play has been erratic, Detroit’s lack of depth on defense has been well documented.

Detroit’s pairings this season could look something like this:

Danny DeKeyserMike Green
Ericsson — Niklas Kronwall
Brendan SmithAlexey Marchenko
Xavier Ouellet

Might be a long year in the Motor City.

Byfuglien: Playing forward ‘definitely not my favorite,’ experiment could be over

WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 11: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets prepares for the faceoff in second period action in an NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the MTS Centre on February 11, 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) The Dustin Byfuglien at forward experiment might be a short-lived one for the United States.

Byfuglien played on the wing during the Americans’ 3-2 victory over Finland in their final exhibition game Tuesday night and had the lowest ice time of any player. Coach John Tortorella explained the move earlier in the day as a way to see the six other defensemen on the roster.

“We’re still trying to make some decisions on where people fit and in our mind we always felt Buff was kind of a wild card moving into a couple of different positions, so we’ll see,” Tortorella said.

Byfuglien had a big hit on Finland’s Olli Maatta, but skated just 10:32 in a fourth-line role. After splitting his NHL career between forward and defense, the 31-year-old Byfuglien became an All-Star defenseman the past couple of seasons with the Winnipeg Jets and didn’t seem too comfortable going back up front Tuesday.

“It’s definitely not my favorite spot,” Byfuglien said afterward. “It’s just something they wanted to try and that was it.”

Asked about his hit and some other impacts he made, Byfuglien said: “It’s my ice time. I’ve got to do what I got to do, what I’m told to do.”

Byfuglien should be back on the blue line when the U.S. opens the tournament Saturday against Team Europe. Tortorella loves what the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Byfuglien brings with his shot on the power play.

“We’re not putting him in front of the net,” Tortorella said. “We’re going to have him shoot the puck because he can shoot it pretty hard. I hope he’s a weapon.”

Byfuglien is a unique player because of his skating ability for his size, physicality and his shot. U.S. winger Patrick Kane, who won the 2010 Stanley Cup with Byfuglien as a forward on the Chicago Blackhawks, appreciates the Minneapolis native’s versatility.

“He kind of plays that rover style of game, anyway, where he’s all over the ice and in front of the net he’s a big body,” Kane said.

“He’s a special player. He’s one of those guys that’s kind of a rare breed of skill and power and he’s fast for his size. He’s pretty much got everything. He’s very physical, as well. He can do anything out there.”

Report: Flames to bring Grossmann to camp on PTO

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 22:  Nicklas Grossmann #2 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Gila River Arena on December 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Calgary is on the verge of offering a training camp tryout to Nicklas Grossman, according to a report from The Fan 960.

Grossmann, 31, spent last season in Arizona, where he racked up three goals and seven points in 58 games, averaging just under 18 minutes per night.

Prior to his stint in the desert, Grossmann played four years in Philly and six in Dallas, and it’s that time in Dallas that might’ve scored him a tryout with the Flames.

Calgary’s new head coach, Glen Gulutzan, coached Grossmann with the Stars during the ’11-12 campaign. Gulutzan played Grossmann a lot — 18:59 per game, one of the highest TOI averages of the big Swede’s career — so it’s easy to see why the Flames are giving Grossmann a look-see.

Of course, he remains a longshot to actually make the roster. Grossmann’s had issues with his skating and keeping pace, and Calgary doesn’t have a ton of open spots on defense.

Based on their current depth chart, the Flames have Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman, Dougie Hamilton, Ladislav Smid, Jyrki Jokipakka and Deryk Engelland slotted in as the top seven, though Smid did miss a bunch of time last season with a neck injury.

Report: Canucks to offer Sheppard training camp PTO

James Sheppard

James Sheppard, the ninth overall pick at the 2006 draft, is reportedly close to securing a training camp invite from the Canucks, per the Vancouver Sun.

Sheppard, 28, spent last year with Kloten of Switzerland’s National League A, scoring 11 goals and 25 points in 37 games. He last played in the NHL during the ’14-15 campaign, which he split between the Sharks and Rangers.

Once a promising prospect, Sheppard suffered a major knee injury in 2010 while riding an ATV, which proved to be a significant detour in his progression as a player. He did have one decent season in San Jose — scoring 20 points in 67 games in ’13-14 — and appeared in 13 playoff games for the Rangers in the spring of 2015.

Sheppard has also been down the PTO road before. Last September, he caught on with the Blue Jackets for training camp but didn’t last long, and was released just 20 days after joining the team.