Mike Halford

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Report: Oilers interested in acquiring Brian Boyle

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Sounds like Edmonton’s in the market for some size and depth at center, per the Journal:

If you’re wondering what Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has been up in full buyer mode to with the NHL trade deadline three weeks away, he’s been looking at third-line centres.

He was spotted in Minnesota a few days ago when Tampa Bay was there.

Chiarelli was looking at Lightning unrestricted free-agent Brian Boyle, who’s averaging almost 14 minutes a game, is winning more than 50 per cent of his draws and has 12 goals.

Boyle, 32, would certainly be a fit with the Oilers, especially in the size department.

Edmonton already boasts some big bodies at forward — Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian and Matt Hendricks — but all four play the wing. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Boyle would provide a size upgrade down the middle, given bottom two centers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Letestu aren’t exactly the most physically imposing specimens.

Boyle also has a ton of playoff experience, with over 100 games and back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances with the Rangers (’14) and Lightning (’15). Last year, he scored five times in 17 postseason appearances.

Two things to note here.

One, it’s still unclear if Bolts GM Steve Yzerman will sell off any assets (yes, even a pending UFA like Boyle). Tampa’s made a push lately, going 3-0-1 in its last four, and is just four points back of the final wild card spot in the East.

Two, it’s interesting to hear that Chiarelli’s in the market for forwards because — for a good chunk of this season — the talk in Edmonton has been about upgrading the blueline.

Back in late December, head coach Todd McLellan addressed his club’s need for more on the back end.

“It’s Christmas and we all have wish lists,” said McLellan, per the Edmonton Journal. “We’re coaches and we’re never happy but when you talk of those type of players … say a power play quarterback, somebody who puts up points, we don’t have that.”

History suggests Chiarelli would be more than happy to oblige. In Boston, he made it a near-annual tradition of stocking up on defensemen at the deadline: Andrej Meszaros in ’14, Wade Redden in ’13, Greg Zanon/Mike Mottau in ’12 and Tomas Kaberle in ’11.

Of course, the Oilers could be getting a boost on the back end with the return of Darnell Nurse, who’s been out since mid-December following ankle surgery. Nurse has resumed skating, and could be ready to rejoin the club in a few weeks.

Huberdeau’s ‘phenomenal’ comeback takes Panthers by surprise

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jonathan Huberdeau #11 of the Florida Panthers skates during the second period of a game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on November 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Given he missed the first 51 games of the year to a major injury — a lacerated Achilles tendon — Jonathan Huberdeau was expected to ease his way back into the Panthers lineup, limit expectations and get re-acclimated to the rigors of the NHL.

Suffice to say he’s blown that plan out of the water.

“No way did we think he’d jump in and produce the way he is, but he’s in phenomenal shape,” head coach Tom Rowe said, per the Sun-Sentinel. “He’s a terrific hockey player.

“Being on the bench with him every day he’s a lot better than I thought he was.”

Huberdeau has two goals and five points in his three games since returning — and, not coincidentally, the Panthers are 2-1-0 over that same stretch. He’s been reunited on a line with Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, and is averaging 16:14 TOI per game.

That’s down from last year’s 18:09 — expected, given the severity of Huberdeau’s injury — but the TOI could be back up soon, what with Florida in the midst of a playoff push.

Things already appear to be trending in that direction.

Huberdeau only played 15:27 in his most recent game, Saturday’s 7-4 win over the Predators. But he absolutely stuffed the stat sheet — a goal, two assists, five shots on goal, plus-2 rating — and all facets of his game appeared sharp. Rowe spoke of the fitness level, and captain Derek MacKenzie noted there was no rust in the skill department, either.

“He may have some of the best hands in the league,” MacKenzie said, per the Miami Herald. “He worked hard to get his feet under himself to be able to make plays.”

Looking ahead, it’ll be curious to see how Huberdeau’s play affects what Florida does at the trade deadline. Dale Tallon could look at Huberdeau — along with Barkov — as a virtual deadline acquisition, and opt to stand pat.

Of course, Tallon does have a history of adding. Like last year, when he went out and acquired Teddy Purcell, Jiri Hudler and Jakub Kindl in advance of Florida’s first playoff appearance in four years.

Goalie nods: Bolts hope Vasilevskiy can extend winning streak

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 16:  Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a glove save during the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on May 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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After Ben Bishop posted back-to-back wins — with one shutout — over the Ducks and Kings, Andrei Vasilevskiy will look to push Tampa Bay’s win streak to three tonight in Minnesota.

It’s a modest streak, sure, but vitally important for the Bolts.

The team will need to go one a major run over the final two months of the season to qualify for the playoffs, and it stands to reason goaltending will play a major role in that. Neither Bishop nor Vasilevskiy have been consistent this year, but the young Russian has really struggled — heading into tonight, he has just a .909 save percentage and 2.84 GAA.

That said, there are signs he’s rounding into form.

Vasilevskiy only has one win in his last five appearances, but has posted a .924 save percentage, allowing just 10 goals on 132 shots. The hope is that he can continue that form into tonight against a streaking Wild team, who are 5-1-1 in their last seven.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk starts in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Just one other game tonight, and it’s in Winnipeg. The Jets are going with Connor Hellebuyck as the injured Ondrej Pavelec is out for a week, while the ‘Hawks with go with Corey Crawford.

Burakovsky out at least a month with injured hand

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 26:  Andre Burakovsky #65 of the Washington Capitals looks on during the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center on December 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Washington Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky is expected to miss at least a month with an injured right hand.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said at practice on Friday that Burakovsy will not need surgery but will be out until mid- to late-March.

The NHL playoffs begin on April 12.

Burakovsky was hurt when he was hit by the puck while blocking a shot in the first period of the NHL-leading Capitals’ 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

He is eighth on Washington with 29 points – 11 goals and 18 assists.

Trotz said Burakovsky would be replaced as the third line’s right wing against visiting Anaheim on Saturday by Zach Sanford, who was called up from Hershey of the AHL this week.

After string of healthy scratches, Stars demote Honka

Julius Honka
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Julius Honka, the prized d-man prospect Dallas took 14th overall in 2014, is headed to the minors.

The Stars sent Honka to their AHL affiliate in Texas on Friday, after he sat in the press box as a healthy scratch in each of the last four games.

The 21-year-old made his NHL debut back in November and went on to appear in 10 games for Dallas, scoring four points while averaging 16:35 TOI per night. His last outing came on Jan. 31, in which he played 15:31 and registered an assist in a win over Toronto.

Since then, he’s been a spectator (and the Stars have lost all four games, for whatever that’s worth.)

In Thursday’s defeat in Ottawa, head coach Lindy Ruff went with a defensive unit comprised of Jordie Benn, Dan Hamhuis, Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth and Esa Lindell.

Constantly changing parts on the blueline has been a major theme in Dallas this year, as the guys that didn’t play last night — Honka, Jamie Oleksiak, Johnny Oduya — have all been in and out of the lineup, either because of injury of ineffective play.