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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In praise of Victor Rask

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It’s been a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good start to the year for Victor Rask.

Rask, Carolina’s No. 1 center, has 10 points through his first eight games. What’s more, he’s had at least one in every contest, putting him within spitting distance of GM Ron Francis’ franchise-record point streak (Francis went 11 straight to start the ’84-85 campaign).

Rask’s playmaking ability has been a major catalyst in Jeff Skinner‘s season — Skinner sits tied for second in the league with 11 points, despite only playing seven games — and, slowly but surely, the talented Swede is turning heads around the league.

He’s turning his teammates’ heads, too.

“He’s pretty slippery,” veteran winger Lee Stempniak said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “I’ve been very impressed. He’s a lot better than maybe I had appreciated.”

It’s not overly surprising Rask’s enjoying a breakout campaign.

Or that, prior to this, he flew under the radar.

This is just his third NHL season. He doesn’t play in a marquee market, he’s only 23 years old and while he was a decorated junior — winning gold and silver at the WJC with Sweden, starring for WHL Calgary — he lasted until the 42nd overall pick in his draft year.

But there were signs Carolina had found something special.

Rask avoided a sophomore slump in ’15-16, posting a career-high 21 goals while leading the club in power-play points. He also shouldered a heavy workload, appearing in 80 games while averaging just under 17 minutes per night.

Another sign? This past summer, when Francis signed Rask to a six-year, $24 million extension.

There were a few surprised onlookers, because of the raise — Rask went from making less than a million to $4M annually — and the term caught some off-guard as well, since Rask was a RFA with just two campaigns under his belt.

But Francis knew what he wanted — get Rask locked in for the long haul.

“He is a big part of this team’s present and future,” Francis said at the time. “We are thrilled to sign him to a longer-term deal.”

Rask’s skillset is impressive. The playmaking ability and vision are important — just ask Stempniak, as Rask has assisted on each of his last three goals — but his shooting ability is crucial, too.

Rask has a terrific wrister, which makes both him and the shot-happy Skinner a dual threat every time they’re on the ice.

Related: Carolina has a talented young blueline, too

Charges against Evander Kane to be dropped — if he stays out of trouble

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If Evander Kane can avoid any further legal issues for the next six months, the trespassing and harassment charges stemming from a Buffalo bar incident will be dismissed and sealed.

That was the news out of a Buffalo courtroom on Monday morning, as Kane received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, after being arrested and charged in July for allegedly grabbing three women by the hair and neck.

More, from WGRZ Buffalo:

Kane was originally charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass, non-criminal disorderly conduct and four counts of non-criminal harassment. The arrest and charges were in connection to an incident at Bottoms Up.

Three women claim Kane grabbed them. A male bouncer at Bottoms Up told police he was grabbed by Kane as he told him to leave the establishment.

Kane, currently sidelined with a rib injury, didn’t speak during or following Monday’s court appearance. His attorney, Paul Cambria, briefly met with reporters.

“This is an appropriate disposition, and it’s not unusual for a non-criminal violation,” Cambria said. “Evander has steadfastly maintained that he did nothing wrong, and that position hasn’t changed.”

Journeyman Tlusty signs in Finnish League

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Jiri Tlusty has found work, agreeing to terms with Finnish club side Karpat, the club announced on Monday.

Tlusty, 28, spent last season in New Jersey, scoring two goals and four points in 30 games before undergoing season-ending wrist surgery in January.

Tlusty caught on with the Devils on a training camp PTO, then parlayed that into a one-year deal.

Prior to his time in New Jersey, the Czech winger had bounced around a few different organizations to varying degrees of success. Picked 13th overall by Toronto in 2006, Tlusty spent four seasons in Leafs organization before moving to Carolina, where he enjoyed the finest campaigns of his NHL career — including the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, in which he scored 23 goals and 38 points in 48 games.

At the ’15 deadline, Tlusty was acquired by Winnipeg and went onto appear in 20 regular-season games for the Jets (scoring eight points), as well as four playoff games.

This new deal with Karpat comes just weeks after Tlusty tried to crack the Avs on a training camp PTO, but was cut loose after failing his physical.

 

Blues to retire Bob Plager’s No. 5

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The St. Louis Blues will commemorate their 50th anniversary with a special ceremony on Feb. 2, retiring the No. 5 jersey worn by longtime defenseman Bob Plager.

More, from the club:

Plager, who was acquired by the Blues on June 6, 1967 and has been with the organization for all 50 years, will become the seventh player in Blues history to have his number retired, joining No. 2 Al MacInnis, No. 3 Bob Gassoff, No. 11 Brian Sutter, No. 16 Brett Hull, No. 24 Bernie Federko and his brother, No. 8 Barclay Plager.

Bob and Barclay Plager join Maurice and Henri Richard (Montreal Canadiens) as the only brothers to have their numbers retired by the same team in NHL history.

Plager played 10 seasons with the Blues, then transitioned to a number of front office and coaching roles within the organization.

In a unique twist, his No. 5 was never taken out of circulation and subsequently worn by another staple of the Blues organization — Barret Jackman, who recently retired after spending 16 years in St. Louis, appearing in over 800 games.

Prior to the February retirement ceremony, Blues fans will be able to recognize Plager this Saturday when St. Louis hosts Los Angeles at Scottrade.

Goalie nods: Kinkaid makes season debut for Devils

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There’ll be a new look in goal for New Jersey this evening, as backup Keith Kinkaid gets his first start of the season as the Devils host the Blackhawks.

Kinkaid will give Cory Schneider the night off, after Schneider started New Jersey’s first six games of the year.

This promises to be a game worth monitoring. Kinkaid spent last year as Schneider’s backup — going 9-9-1 with a 2.81 GAA and .904 save percentage — but, this year, had to beat out Scott Wedgewood for the gig during training camp and the exhibition campaign.

What’s more, Kinkaid is being thrown into a difficult matchup, taking on a Chicago team that’s averaging 3.43 goals per game this season. The ‘Hawks are busting out new lines tonight, too, as Patrick Kane will skate alongside Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik.

Corey Crawford will start for Chicago.

Elsewhere…

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes, who are playing their first home game of the season. Henrik Lundqvist goes for the Rangers.

— It’s Michael Hutchinson versus Semyon Varlamov as the Jets take on the Avs in Colorado.

Andrew Hammond, now Ottawa’s No. 1 with Craig Anderson away dealing with a personal issue, gets the nod in Calgary. He’ll be up against Brian Elliott, who has rebounded from a poor start to win both of his last two starts.

— The red-hot Cam Talbot goes again for Edmonton tonight in Vancouver. The Canucks will counter with Ryan Miller.

— No confirmed starters in Anaheim yet. Sergei Bobrovsky played in last night’s loss to San Jose, and John Gibson has been carrying the load lately with Jonathan Bernier out injured.