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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Goalie nods: Flames go with Elliott out of All-Star break

Brian Elliott went into the All-Star break on a high, making 25 saves in a 3-2 OT win over Ottawa.

Now, Elliott will look to exit the break in a similar fashion.

He’ll get the start ahead of Chad Johnson this evening when Calgary hosts Minnesota at the Saddledome. The decision probably has to do with the fact Elliott posted a rare victory for the Flames last Thursday — the club skidded down the last half of January, going 3-6-1 over its last 10.

As we wrote last week, head coach Glen Gulutzan is employing the “win and you’re in” strategy, a testament to how desperate Calgary is for points. The Flames are currently outside of the playoff picture, even on 53 points with St. Louis but behind because of the tiebreaker.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk starts after Darcy Kuemper beat the Oilers last night.

Elsewhere…

— In Washington, Braden Holtby returns to the starter’s crease after Philipp Grubauer was tagged for the loss last night in Brooklyn. No word yet on who goes for the visiting Bruins. Tuukka Rask beat the Lightning last night, and the club recalled Zane McIntyre from AHL Providence.

Peter Budaj goes for the Kings at Staples, when they host the Avalanche. Colorado has yet to name a starter, but it will be one of Calvin Pickard or Spencer Martin now that Semyon Varlamov has been shut down for the year.

Kings waive veteran defenseman Gilbert

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Los Angeles has placed blueliner Tom Gilbert on waivers, per Sportsnet.

Gilbert, 34, signed on with the Kings last summer after two seasons in Montreal. He’s scored five points in just 18 appearances this year, spending most of his time in the press box as a healthy scratch.

He also missed three games to suspension for boarding Anaheim forward Nick Ritchie.

Earlier in his career, Gilbert was a decent offensive defenseman that racked up 45 points for the Oilers in ’08-09. But now, having suffered a season-ending knee injury in Montreal last year, he appears a step slow and doesn’t seem like a candidate to be claimed.

His $1.4 million cap hit probably won’t help any, either.

Speaking of that cap hit, the Kings will (presumably) stash Gilbert in the minors if he clears, and get some financial relief. Here’s CapFriendly with more…

 

 

Trade: Stars get a goalie, acquire Peters from Arizona

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It’s not the splashy move some expected, but Dallas addressed its goaltending situation on Wednesday in a trade with Arizona.

Justin Peters, a journeyman vet with over 80 games of NHL experience, is on his way to the Stars in exchange for minor-leaguers Brendan Ranford and Branden Troock. Dallas also landed AHL d-man Justin Hache in the deal.

Peters, 30, has spent the majority of this year with Arizona’s affiliate in Tuscon, appearing in just three games with the Coyotes. His best NHL campaign came back in ’13-14 with Carolina, when he made 20 starts and finished with a .919 save percentage.

It’s unlikely the Peters acquisition will change much for Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Peters largely a third-stringer at this point in his career, despite serving as a backup for a few seasons. Still, any news on the goalie front in Dallas will raise eyebrows, especially since the Niemi-Lehtonen timeshare has been erratic since GM Jim Nill devised it two years ago.

As for the other pieces in the deal, Ranford could be the most curious. Last summer, Nill identified him as one of the Dallas prospects “everybody wants.”

“We’ve got four young defensemen, five or six young forwards,” Nill said, per NHL.com. “We’ve got three or four guys in the top-20 scoring [Travis Morin, Brendan Ranford, Jason Dickinson] and another guy who’s out for the season in Devin Shore who was leading the league in scoring.

“When I talk about trades, when we got to make trades, that’s who everyone wants and I’m not giving them up. That’s too big a part of our future.”

Ranford, 24, has appeared in one game for the Stars, spending almost all his time in AHL Texas. He had an impressive campaign in ’15-16, finishing with 19 goals and 59 points in 76 games.

Pens announce Sheary, Crosby’s running mate, out 4-6 weeks

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Conor Sheary‘s breakout campaign took a major hit on Wednesday, as Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan announced Sheary would miss the next 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury.

Playing alongside Sidney Crosby on the Penguins’ top line, Sheary has blossomed into a solid offensive producer this season. He has 17 goals and 35 points through 42 games, and has seen his usage spike dramatically — last year, his first in the NHL, he averaged 9:45 per night.

This year, he’s up to 15:18.

More: Sheary’s found a home on the Crosby line

It’s unclear exactly how Sheary got hurt. He played quite a bit (16:52) in last night’s 4-2 win over Nashville and he, along with Crosby and new linemate Patrick Hornqvist, combined to score the game-winning goal.

As for how many games he’ll miss?

If his recovery is on the short side — one month — he’ll miss all 12 games in February. If his absence stretches to six weeks, he could miss as many as 20.

No word yet on who might replace Sheary on the top line. The Pens had an optional skate this morning.

 

 

January started badly for Kuznetsov, but now he’s first star of the month

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Evgeny Kuznetsov was named the NHL’s first star for January on Wednesday, not a huge surprise given he scored 20 points in 15 games as the Caps went 12-2-1.

But considering how the month started…

Kuznetsov, remember, was taken to task by head coach Barry Trotz following Washington’s penultimate game of 2016. Trotz said he was “really upset” with Kuznetsov for a “very careless” pass that led to New Jersey’s only goal of the game (the Devils would go on to win, 2-1, in a shootout).

In the following game, a rematch with the Devils, Kuznetsov received just 14:44 of ice time. Not exactly the way he wanted to go into the new year.

At that point, Kuznetsov had just 19 points from 35 games and was off his pace from ’15-16 when he racked up a career-high 77.

Things appeared dicey, and got even worse on Jan. 5 when the NHL fined him for diving.

But to his credit, Kuznetsov rebounded in a major way. From the league:

Kuznetsov ranked second in the NHL with 7-13—20 in 15 games to power the League-leading Capitals (33-11-6, 72 points) to a 12-2-1 January. He collected at least one point in 11 of his 15 outings, highlighted by seven multi-point performances.

That included his third career four-point game, a 1-3—4 effort Jan. 3 vs. TOR.

Kuznetsov also placed third in the NHL with a +13 rating during the month, finishing with an even or plus rating in all but one his 15 appearances.

It’s no coincidence the Caps took off when Kuznetsov’s game came around. He’s vitally important to the club’s success. When Washington has him and Nicklas Backstrom rolling — Backstrom also had a good month, and was named first star of the week on Jan. 16 — it’s among the best one-two center punches in the league.

That depth down the middle is crucial in a Metropolitan Division featuring the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux and John Tavares.