Mike Halford

Mikko Rantanen, Tim Jackman
AP

Avs mum on plan for prized rookie Rantanen

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The Colorado Avalanche will be a team worth watching over the next four days — and not just because they’re in the thick of the Western Conference wild card race.

With injuries sidelining top scorers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, the Avs have recalled Mikko Rantanen, the 10th overall pick at the 2015 draft.

To say Rantanen is an exciting prospect would be putting it mildly. Still just 19 years old, he’s been tearing up the American League this year — he has 52 points in 44 games, was named to the league’s annual All-Star Game, leads all AHL rookies in scoring and recently set a new San Antoino franchise record for points and assists by a first-year player.

The catch, of course, is that Rantanen was sent down to the AHL earlier this year after playing six NHL contests.

He participated in his seventh in Sunday’s win over Edmonton, meaning he’s got two more before he hits lucky No. 9 — at which time the Avs have to decide whether he’ll play No. 10, and “burn” the first year of his entry-level deal, or be sent back to San Antonio.

Colorado plays Philly tonight, then has a huge tilt against Minnesota on Saturday.

So, what’s the plan for Rantanen?

“Ask me the question on Sunday, I’ll be very happy to answer the question,” head coach Patrick Roy said, per the Denver Post. “As of right now, the focus is on tonight. He’s been working very hard on his game and let’s see where he is after those two games.”

Guess we’ll find out in 96 hours, then.

 

Sharks recall tough guy Haley ahead of rematch with Nurse, Oilers

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Remember when Darnell Nurse jumped Roman Polak, bloodying the Sharks d-man and getting suspended three games for it?

Well, it looks like San Jose remembers.

In a roster move that’s raising some eyebrows, the Sharks have recalled tough guy Micheal Haley from their AHL affiliate — ahead of tonight’s home game against the Oilers, the first time the two sides have met since the Nurse-Polak incident.

Haley has played in 10 games for the Sharks this year, though most of them came early in the season. He did appear in two games earlier this month and, as is his nature, racked up 11 PIM (including one fight against Vancouver’s Derek Dorsett).

When Haley’s been in the San Jose lineup this year, he’s been an active fighter. He’s scrapped five times in those 10 games.

Nurse was asked about the possibility of San Jose seeking revenge for his earlier actions, but didn’t seem overly concerned about it.

“You get suspended and there’s obviously something amongst players (on the other team),” he told the Edmonton Journal. “I dunno, I’ll worry about that when the game starts.”

Ducks send home two more from trip: Kesler (personal), Despres (undisclosed)

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This is turning into a pretty forgettable road swing for the Ducks.

Having already lost David Perron to a shoulder injury, Anaheim has now returned Ryan Kesler and Simon Despres back home — Kesler to attend to a personal matter, Despres with an undisclosed injury.

Despres, who played just over 18 minutes in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss in Montreal, had missed 42 games earlier this season with a concussion, so it’s understandable the Ducks are taking a cautious approach with his health.

“He got hit last game and he wasn’t feeling right,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said, per the O.C. Register. “With his history, we wanted to make sure that he’s completely better before he plays.”

Kesler has 17 goals and 44 points this season, and is Boudreau’s defensive shutdown option against opposing centers. He’ll be missed.

Anaheim has three games left on its five-game Canadian swing: tonight in Toronto, Saturday in Ottawa and Monday in Edmonton.

Grounded Jet: Myers to undergo knee and hip surgeries, facing lengthy rehab

Winnipeg Jets v St Louis Blues
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Towering Winnipeg defenseman Tyler Myers won’t be having a fun offseason.

On Thursday, the Jets announced that Myers will be undergoing knee and hip surgeries, the latter of which is more “significant” and will sideline him for 4-5 months.

The club said Myers will first undergo the knee procedure, then hip. That initial surgery will happen tomorrow, meaning he’s done for the remainder of this season.

The 26-year-old played big minutes for the Jets this year. He was one of only three skaters to play in all 73 games thus far and averaged 22:37 TOI. Myers had a decent offensive campaign, too, with nine goals and 27 points — the nine goals were two off his career high of 11.

According to the Jets, Myers is expected to be rehabbed by the start of training camp.

‘I hope I can be part of’ Leafs rebuild, says Bozak

Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak celebrates after his empty-net goal to complete a hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Denver. The Maple Leafs won 7-4. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Tyler Bozak has witnessed Toronto’s new managerial regime clear out some of the previous regime’s bigger contracts, like Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.

Which, in turn, has made Bozak well aware he could be the next one out the door.

“I think there is going to be changes this summer like there always is,” Bozak said, per the Toronto Sun. “We are not finishing in a great spot in the standings, so we have not done our job. I am sure things will be changed in the room, but who knows?”

The Bozak contract has long been a point of controversy in Toronto. A five-year, $21 million pact signed back in 2013, he’ll carry a $4.2 million cap hit through 2018 — at which time he’ll be 32 years old. Signed largely because of his chemistry with Kessel, Bozak was essentially miscast as a top-line center at the time of his signing, and now might not fit in the club’s future plans.

Given how swiftly GM Lou Lamoriello has worked on rebuilding the Leafs’ roster, it’s logical that Bozak could be shopped this summer. And it wouldn’t be that hard a sell — Bozak is a good offensive producer (31 points in 47 games this year, despite missing significant time with a concussion) and that $4.2M hit isn’t a killer, especially for teams with cap space looking for depth down the middle.

Of course, Bozak’s made it clear he wants to stay.

“I think the guys have been doing really good and have been earning their keep up here and staff and management have been really pleased with them,” he said. “That’s bright for the future. I hope I can be part of it.”

Bozak will be back in the lineup for the first time in 21 games tonight, when the Leafs take on the Ducks at the ACC.