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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Report: Rangers, Leafs among several clubs to express Kovalchuk interest

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Last week, Devils GM Ray Shero said Ilya Kovalchuk was driving the bus with regards to his potential NHL return.

Now, we’re learning where he might steer toward.

Per the New York Post, “more than a half dozen” teams have expressed interest in acquiring Kovalchuk via trade, with two of the league’s biggest markets — New York and Toronto — on the list.

Other known suitors include St. Louis (where Kovalchuk’s former teammate, Martin Brodeur, is the assistant GM) and San Jose (where Kovalchuk’s former coach, Peter DeBoer, is currently employed).

Toronto, of course, is the home of ex-Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, who brought Kovalchuk to New Jersey from Atlanta seven years ago, then signed him to a 15-year, $100 million extension.

Kovalchuk, who just turned 34 in April, hasn’t played in North America since his shock retirement in 2013. He left with 12 years and $77 million still remaining on that aforementioned monster deal, and has spent the last four campaigns with KHL powerhouse SKA Saint Petersburg.

In Russia, Kovalchuk remained an elite player. He’s actually coming off his most productive campaign with SKA, having racked up 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games.

To get him back in an NHL lineup won’t be a simple task. As TSN’s Bob McKenzie laid out here, the only way Kovalchuk could play somewhere other than New Jersey is if the Devils sign him first, then trade him.

But there’s also the real possibility he stays in the KHL, which would allow him the opportunity to represent Russia at the 2018 Olympics.

After rough start, ‘life’s pretty good’ for Rinne

NASHVILLE — After two games of the Stanley Cup Final, you would’ve understood if Pekka Rinne wasn’t totally loving the experience.

His team was trailing 0-2 after he allowed eight goals on just 36 shots. Reporters were asking him what was wrong. When they weren’t doing that, they were asking Peter Laviolette about a potential goalie switch.

So when Rinne buckled down on Saturday night — stopping 27 of 28 shots in Nashville’s 5-1 victory in Game 3 — some asked how hard it was to deal with the uncertainty, the doubt, the noise.

Not very, it turns out.

“Not happy with going down two nothing but, at the same time, I didn’t try to change anything,” Rinne said during his postgame media availability. “I knew that I was playing [in Game 3] all the time.”

Because Laviolette doesn’t comment on his lineup, reporters were able to keep the will-you-start-Juuse-Saros thing going since Game 2.

Daily, one intrepid soul would ask the coach if he’d announce his starter and, daily, the coach would decline.

And that’s how you get the makings of a goalie controversy.

Adding fuel to the fire was Rinne’s ghastly .778 save percentage, and the fact he’s struggled historically against the Pens. The veteran netminder admitted his play wasn’t up to snuff.

“It’s been a battle,” Rinne explained. “I think at those moments, you just mentally try to erase your mind and just focus on the next save, and remind yourself that you’re still in the Final, and life’s pretty good.”

Rinne’s best work on Saturday came in the second period, when the Penguins fired 13 shots on net. This stretch save might’ve been his finest of the evening:

It was the kind of performance Rinne had regularly through the first three rounds of the playoffs. He was Nashville’s MVP and, heading into this final, the odds-on Conn Smythe favorite.

That could be why, in the aftermath of tonight’s game, Laviolette scoffed at the notion he’d ever go away from Rinne.

“There was no decision. No decision. Just you guys,” Laviolette said of the supposed goalie controversy. “[Rinne] was terrific. I said it after Game 2.

“He’s the backbone of our team.”

Guarantee delivered: Preds thump Pens to make it a series

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NASHVILLE — Predators fans descended on Bridgestone Arena by the thousands, desperate for something to celebrate.

They got it. And how.

Nashville won the biggest hockey game in the city’s history on Saturday night, thumping Pittsburgh 5-1 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, cutting the Penguins’ series lead to two games to one in the process.

Prior to the tilt, Preds d-man P.K. Subban made waves by saying — twice — that Nashville was going to win Game 3. It was a bold proclamation, but one his teammates apparently took to heart as the Preds got contributions from across the board.

Five different skaters — Roman Josi, Frederick Gaudreau, James Neal, Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm — found the back of the net, while nine different players had at least one point.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, bounced back with a solid and hugely important effort after getting ventilated in the opening two games. Rinne made 27 stops on the night, getting beat only by Jake Guentzel‘s rebound effort 2:46 into the contest.

Despite that less-than-ideal start, pretty much everything else went Nashville’s way.

The streets outside Bridgestone were filled with roaring onlookers. Inside, the team received a terrific boost from the frenzied fans, who were loud and boisterous throughout. Add it all up, and the Preds continued to prove a daunting foe at home — they’re now 8-1 this postseason at Bridgestone, with that lone loss coming in overtime during the Western Conference Final.

For Pittsburgh, there were few positives.

The Pens failed to match Nashville’s energy level for most of the night. They were out-shot, again, this time by five and gave little to no support to Matt Murray, who at times was under siege. Murray was hung out to dry on a few occasions, especially early in the third period as his teammates surrendered several dangerous scoring chances.

After Smith scored to make it 4-1, Sidney Crosby and Ian Cole gave Murray a stick tap on the pads. The gesture felt half appreciative, half apologetic.

Looking ahead, tonight’s result sets up a tremendous scenario for Monday. With home teams having held serve, the Preds will be confident they can even up the series.

The Pens, meanwhile, will try and flush tonight’s performance, regroup for Game 4, then hopefully head back to Pittsburgh with a shot at finishing the series.

However it all plays out, one thing is certain.

Monday’s going to be a party.

Notes…

It was the first Stanley Cup Final win in franchise history for Nashville… With his goal, Guentzel moved one back of Dino Ciccarelli for the most goals (14) by a rookie in a single playoff… The third period got nasty as the score got out of hand and, as such, the penalty minutes jumped. The two teams combined for 78 penalty minutes, with 70 of those coming in the final frame.

Bonino out, Hagelin in for Penguins in Game 3

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Latest on Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

Penguins center Nick Bonino looks to be out of the mix for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Predators.

Bonino was in a suit and, using crutches and in a walking boot about an hour before the start of pregame warmups. He took a shot from P.K. Subban off the left foot or ankle in Game 2 Wednesday.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan called Bonino a game-time decision, but based on practice lines Friday, Carter Rowney will slide to center and Carl Hagelin will rejoin the lineup with Bonino out.

More: Bonino day-to-day with lower body injury, Hagelin likely replacement

5:40 p.m.

Peter Laviolette won’t talk about his lineup but is expected to make some changes with his Nashville Predators down 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins going into Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Based on the morning skate at Bridgestone Arena, P-A Parenteau and Harry Zolnierczyk looked to be replacing Cody McLeod and Vern Fiddler. Colin Wilson, who missed the first two games of the series with an unspecified lower-body injury, skated but could be more likely to return for Game 4 Monday.

Laviolette defended McLeod on Friday but also didn’t play him in a similar speed series, in the first round against Chicago.

“Decisions go into every game,” Laviolette said. “We have to look at every series, then we have to look at every game as a single entity to make sure we’re putting the right pieces on the ice to try and be successful. There’s always adjustments, always moves.”

More: Players have no issue with spread-out Stanley Cup Final

5:30 p.m.

The Nashville Predators and their fans finally have the game they’ve been waiting so very long to host.

The first Stanley Cup Final not only in the franchise’s history, but also the first major league championship game ever played in Tennessee with Game 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

Nashville shut down a chunk of Broadway where the honky tonks and bars line the street for a free concert by country superstar Alan Jackson. Fans packed shoulder to shoulder nearly an hour before Jackson’s concert with the street then being used for an outdoor viewing party.

Predators forward Harry Zolnierczyk says the atmosphere was crazy through the first three rounds of the playoffs and now sees Nashville revamping everything downtown. He says the Predators are excited for Game 3.

The defending champion Penguins lead the best-of-seven series 2-0.

More: Rinne starts Game 3

Sweeney prepared to trade Boston’s first-round pick

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Bruins GM Don Sweeney is ready to move the 18th overall selection at this year’s draft.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t explore what could improve our hockey club now in the shorter term,” Sweeney told the Boston Herald this week, while at the NHL Scouting Combine. “I owe it to our players and the organization to continue to do that.”

“It’s certainly an area I’ve looked at that if we can improve, then we would move it.”

More: Are the top three picks at the draft all in play?

There’s a myriad of reasons Sweeney’s open to moving the pick. The perceived weakness of this year’s draft is one. Boston’s immediate roster needs — an upgrade at left wing, and on defense — is another. There’s also the fact that Sweeney’s done a nice job of stockpiling young prospects over the last two years.

In 2015, he snagged a trio of first round talents in Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn. Last year, two more in Charlie McAvoy and Trent Frederic.

Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Sweeney could be working the phones in the coming weeks.