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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Puempel to make Rangers debut today

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Big Black Friday for Matt Puempel.

Puempel, the former first-round pick the Rangers claimed off waivers from Ottawa this week, will make his Blueshirts debut this afternoon in a Black Friday matinee against the Flyers (1 p.m. ET, on NBC).

He’ll likely debut on the club’s fourth line, alongside Josh Jooris and Jesper Fast. Oscar Lindberg will be in the press box to make room.

Prior to getting claimed, Puempel, 23, appeared in 13 games for the Sens, going scoreless with a minus-5 rating. In 52 career NHL contests, he’s scored just four goals and six points.

A former OHL standout, Puempel was a quality goalscoring winger in junior, and carried that over to the American League. In his first full year with AHL Binghamton, he found the back of the net 30 times in 74 games — but that form hasn’t translated to the big league level.

Another defensive shakeup in Dallas, as Johns sent to minors

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So far this season, Lindy Ruff has healthy scratched Dan Hamhuis, parked John Klingberg for missing a team meeting, lost Johnny Oduya to injury and given Julius Honka his NHL debut.

Needless to say, there have been plenty of developments on Dallas’ defense — and another one occurred on Friday, when the Stars sent Stephen Johns down to AHL Texas.

Johns, 24, was a fairly regular presence in the lineup this year, appearing in 16 of 21 games while racking up four points. He led the team with 44 hits, and sat tied for third in blocked shots (with 32).

But he, like several other Dallas d-men this season, has had his struggles. Johns sat as a healthy scratch on a few occasions — including a two-game stretch in late October — and really struggled in his last outing, going minus-3 in just under 18 minutes of action in a loss to Edmonton on Saturday.

Johns hasn’t played since the Oilers defeat, sitting out Monday’s win over Minnesota and Wednesday’s loss to Nashville.

Looking ahead, it’s tough to predict what will happen on Dallas’ blueline.

Honka’s emergence has given Ruff another option, and Ruff appears willing to use it. Honka, the 14th overall pick in 2014, played 21 minutes in his NHL debut versus Minny, then 18 against the Preds. Towering rearguard Jamie Oleksiak has also been used more in November, after getting just two games in October.

Esa Lindell has started to emerge of late, and there’s always the reliable Jordie Benn in the mix (Benn is actually having a solid year, with six points through 19 games, averaging 19:14 TOI).

Dallas hosts Vancouver tonight at American Airlines.

Goalie nods: Anderson looks to continue red-hot November

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Just two games on the ledger tonight (Happy Thanksgiving, by the way), so let’s begin in Ottawa.

The Sens will roll with Craig Anderson for the second straight game, after he bested Carey Price in Tuesday’s 4-3 win in Montreal. Anderson stopped 36 of 39 shots faced against the Habs, for a .923 save percentage — pretty much on par with what he’s done for the majority of November.

Amid personal tragedy — his wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with cancer — Anderson has performed extremely well, going 4-3-1 with a .933 save percentage this month. That includes banner efforts against the Wild (40 saves in an OT loss) and the Flyers (stopping 33 of 35 shots in a win).

All told, Anderson’s save percentage has dipped below .900 in just one of his last eight games.

For the visiting Bruins, no word on a starter yet. Tuukka Rask has played a ton lately — the goalie of record in each of the last six games — but lost his last outing, a 4-2 decision to the Blues.

Elsewhere…

— Carey Price is back in for Montreal, to take on the visiting Hurricanes. Carolina hasn’t announced a starter yet, but all signs point to Cam Ward making his eighth consecutive appearance. Backup Eddie Lack is out with a concussion (Michael Leighton, recalled from AHL Charlotte, is the new No. 2), and Ward has been excellent lately, allowing just five goals over his last five starts — all of which were wins.

 

Canucks extend ’emerging core player’ Hutton — two years, $5.6 million

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One of the brightest young talents on Vancouver’s defense has re-upped for the next two years.

Ben Hutton, who leads all Canucks d-men in goals and is tied for the blueline lead in points, has agreed to a two-year, $5.6 million extension, one that carries a $2.8M average annual cap hit through 2019.

“Ben is developing into one of our young, emerging core players and is an important part of our future,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said, in a release. “We’re excited to see him further elevate his game and help this team compete for years to come.”

Hutton, 23, surprised many last year after making the team out of training camp, then putting together an impressive campaign. The former University of Maine standout — a fifth-round pick in 2012 — finished tied for second with Colton Parayko in rookie d-men in assists (24), trailing only Flyers standout Shayne Gostisbehere.

Hutton was then named to Team Canada’s gold-medal winning side at the 2016 World Hockey Championships.

This year, Hutton is averaging over 21 minutes a night while appearing in all 20 contests. So it’s no surprise the Canucks locked him in.

It’s worth noting that, earlier this month, Hutton had been linked to the Evander Kane-to-Vancouver trade rumors, as Buffalo GM Tim Murray was reportedly interested in acquiring a defenseman.

Looking ahead, the Canucks will now work on another extension for a talented youngster — Bo Horvat, who’s currently the team leader in goals (with seven) and tied with Daniel Sedin for tops in points (13). Horvat, 21, was the ninth overall draft pick in 2013 and will see his entry-level deal expire in July.

Related: Horvat making big strides for Vancouver

Forbort’s finally arrived, which is vital for the Kings

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For a while, Derek Forbort‘s claim to fame was somewhat ignominious — he was the last first-round pick from 2010 to make his NHL debut.

But now, Forbort is a mainstay on the Kings’ defense. Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times has a good piece on his emergence — read more on that here — which includes the following:

Given a chance this season to fill a key role when Brayden McNabb sustained an upper-body injury, Forbort has seized the opportunity. He logged a season-high 23 minutes, 44 seconds’ ice time against New Jersey last Saturday and had 23:17 of ice time against the Ducks on Sunday while matching his season-best total of five blocked shots.

Forbort has played at least 20 minutes in six of his last seven games. He has contributed a goal and six points.

This is a big development for Forbort, and equally big for the Kings.

When L.A won its second Stanley Cup in 2014, it did so with five regular d-men in the mix: Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov, Willie Mitchell and Alec Martinez (Matt Greene, Robyn Regehr and Jeff Schultz platooned in the No. 6 spot).

Voynov, Mitchell, Regehr and Schultz are now gone.

The Kings have tried various stopgap solutions — Jamie McBain, Andrej Sekera, Christian Ehrhoff, Rob Scuderi, Luke Schenn, Tom Gilbert — and received middling results. None proved to be a long-term solution, and some weren’t even a short-term one.

Which is why Forbort, 24, is so important.

This year, head coach Darryl Sutter has relied heavily on Doughty, Muzzin and Martinez. Each averages over 22 minutes per night, and McNabb was the only other blueliner getting 20-plus (prior to his injury). L.A. could certainly use another guy with top-four potential and, to hear Doughty explain it, Forbort could be exactly that.

“[Forbort] has some good offensive abilities too, but for the most part he’s a good puck mover, plays hard in the D-zone, but no he can be a very good player for us,” Doughty said, per L.A. Kings Insider. “You can see how much he’s improved in such little time here in the NHL and I think he’s just going to keep getting better and he could be one of our top guys going down the road.”