Mike Halford

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 06:  Tom Sestito #47 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jordin Tootoo #22 of the New Jersey Devils fight in the first period on March 6, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Pens tough guy Sestito will ‘go after Dubinsky as much as I can’

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Pretty interesting dynamics at play ahead of tomorrow’s Blue Jackets-Penguins game in Columbus.

The history, and rivalry, between Sidney Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky is pretty well established, and Jackets head coach John Tortorella’s made no mistake about his disdain for Pittsburgh’s “whining.”

Now, Pens tough guy Tom Sestito — who Tortorella used to coach in Vancouver — has thrown himself into the mix.

In speaking with subscription-based website DKOnPittsburghSports.com, Sestito spoke about his role protecting Pens captain Sidney Crosby.

That, of course, meant talking about Dubinsky, who’s been a thorn in Crosby’s side for the past several years and, earlier this season, was suspended one game for cross-checking Crosby.

“Definitely,” Sestito said of relishing his role, per the Columbus Dispatch. “If I can deter guys from taking runs at Sid, that’s my job. And if they’re taking runs at him, I’ll take runs at their stars.

“I’ll go after Dubinsky as much as I can.”

The two teams last met on Dec. 28, a game in which Dubinsky fought Eric Fehr. That contest didn’t have the Sestito factor, though — the journeyman enforcer only signed an NHL deal with the Pens at the start of February, and has played in just two games thus far.

Detroit signs University of Maine standout Renouf

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Detroit had some success with collegiate free agent defensmen a few years ago with Danny DeKeyser, so why not try it again?

On Thursday, the club announced it had reached an agreement with University of Maine product Dan Renouf — a two-year, entry-level contract that will kick in next season.

For the remainder of this year, Renouf — an undrafted free agent — will play with AHL Grand Rapids on an amateur tryout basis.

Renouf, 21, has spent the last three years with Maine, and led the team in blueliner scoring this season with 15 points in 38 games. At 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds, the junior has good size and will look to follow in the footsteps of a former Maine teammate and d-man — Ben Hutton, who skated alongside Renouf for the Black Bears last season.

Hutton is in the midst of a banner rookie campaign in Vancouver. The former fifth-round pick currently sits third among all NHL freshmen blueliners in points, with 22, while averaging 19:23 TOI per night.

Goalie nods: Dubnyk (illness) out, Kuemper in as Wild fight for playoff lives

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Minnesota comes into tonight’s action sitting two points back of Colorado for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

If the Wild want to draw level with the Avs, they’ll need their No. 2 goalie to come up big.

With Devan Dubnyk ruled out due to illness, Minnesota will go with Darcy Kuemper tonight as it hosts Edmonton at Xcel. Kuemper, who came on in relief of Dubnyk last game out — stopping all 18 shots in an eventual loss to St. Louis — has a bit of recent history on his side, as his last win came on Feb. 18 against these same Oilers, when he stopped 31 of 33 shots for just his sixth victory of the season.

The Wild could really use No. 7.

Tonight’s game is Minnesota’s last before setting out on a three-game eastern swing through Montreal, Ottawa and New Jersey. While it’s hardly a formidable trio, the Wild have struggled on the road this season — at 14-14-6, they have the 11th-worst away record in the league.

For the Oilers, Cam Talbot is likely to get the start in net.

Elsewhere…

Cam Ward versus Tuukka Rask as the ‘Canes visit Boston.

Robin Lehner, pulled in his last outing against the Rangers, goes back in as Buffalo travels to Montreal. Mike Condond starts for the Habs.

— The slumping Red Wings will hope the slumping Petr Mrazek will turn things around tonight, against Winnipeg. Michael Hutchinson goes for the Jets.

— After missing the last four games with a lower-body injury, Craig Anderson starts for Ottawa. Florida replies with Roberto Luongo.

Keith Kinkaid will continue to carry New Jersey’s starting load while Cory Scheider is sidelined with injury. The Devils are in San Jose to face the Sharks, who will start Martin Jones.

Stars announce Demers (shoulder) out at least six weeks

Jason Demers, Justin St. Pierre
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Jason Demers‘ regular season is over.

His entire season might be done, too.

On Thursday, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff announced Demers would miss at least the next six weeks with a shoulder injury suffered Tuesday in Montreal, per the Morning-News.

The veteran d-man left the contest during the second period following an awkward fall. He was seen after the game wearing a sling on his right arm.

With four weeks remaining in the regular season, the most optimistic outlook for Demers is that he’s able to return to help Dallas in the playoffs — though that’s entirely dependent on how far the Stars go.

Demers, 27, plays a pretty big role on the Dallas defense, averaging just under 21 minutes per night while sitting second among blueliners in points, with 23. His seven goals put him just three back of John Klingberg for the lead among Dallas d-men.

Speaking of Klingberg, he’s also currently out of the Dallas lineup with an injury of his own — though he’s currently listed as day-to-day. The Stars are also without Jordie Benn, who’s out for roughly another week with a lower-body ailment.

To fill the void, Dallas called up Stephen Johns from AHL Texas yesterday.

NHL suspends Nurse three games, says he ‘intentionally targeted Polak in retaliation’

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Oilers blueliner Darnell Nurse has been suspended three games for jumping San Jose blueliner Roman Polak during Tuesday’s game in Edmonton, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced.

“It is important to note that at no point during this altercation does Polak drop his gloves, throw a punch, or do anything other than to attempt to defend himself from the attack,” the DoPS explained in its video. “As Nurse began throwing punches without warning, Polak is a defenseless and unwilling combatant.”

The video noted Nurse “manages to throw and land around eight punches” on Polak.

The DoPS also made a point of mentioning the retaliatory aspect of this incident. Prior to getting jumped by Nurse, Polak was engaged with Oilers forward Matt Hendricks, which resulted in Hendricks crashing violently into the end boards.

Though replay showed Polak wasn’t at fault for the crash, Nurse went after him anyway, with the DoPS saying it believed he “intentionally targeted Polak in retaliation.”

As a result, Nurse will now miss Edmonton’s next three games — at Minnesota, versus Arizona, versus Nashville — and will be eligible to return on Wednesday, Mar. 16 against St. Louis.

Nurse will also forfeit $13,924.74 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.