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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Goalie nods: Anderson looks to continue red-hot November

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.”

Gallant still concerned about lack of toughness in Florida

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Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov are gone, Alex Petrovic is hurt and Shawn Thornton is a regular in the press box.

So no surprise, then, that Florida’s had difficulty matching opponents in the toughness department this season — something that irked head coach Gerard Gallant in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Flyers.

From the Sun-Sentinel:

The Panthers had no suitable enforcer to respond Tuesday when Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds got feisty or when Radko Gudas flattened Vincent Trocheck with a headshot. Gallant said he regretted not having Thornton available.

“You always think that when things happen to your team. It’s frustrating to see that happen, especially in your own building,” Gallant said. “The Simmonds situation and then the Gudas hit on Trocheck, you’d like a response on that.

“But when you don’t have personnel to put out there for that it shows.”

We don’t want this to devolve into a new-school-vs.-old-school debate, but facts are facts — right now, Florida is without four of its most physically engaging players from last year. Petrovic and Gudbranson are both huge (6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, respectively) and finished first and third on the team in hits.

Kulikov finished fifth — routinely playing larger than his 6-foot-1, 204-pound frame — and Thornton was an active pugilist, scrapping six times.

It’s not like Florida hasn’t tried to replace some of the sandpaper element. The Dylan McIlrath acquisition was viewed as a direct response, and the club named grinding veteran forward Derek MacKenzie as team captain this season. MacKenzie has routinely been one of the club’s leaders in hits, and will toss the mitts when required.

But on nights like Tuesday, the toughness void was apparent. One has to wonder if team president Dale Tallon and GM Tom Rowe won’t try to address this as February’s trade deadline draws closer.

Deadline target? Iginla will ‘cross that bridge when it comes’

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So, here’s where things are at for 39-year-old Avs forward Jarome Iginla:

He has just two goals in 19 games this year, playing largely in a third-line role alongside Blake Comeau and John Mitchell. He’s a pending UFA, in the last of a three-year, $16 million deal with a $5.33M average annual cap hit.

Colorado isn’t very good — 9-10-0, dead last in the Central Division — and could miss the playoffs for a third straight year.

You probably see where this is going.

“I’d still like to win. I won’t lose hope in that,” Iginla said this week, per the Edmonton Journal. “Hopefully we can be in the playoffs but I understand how it works at the deadline if we’re not (going well).

“I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”

Though he’s in the midst of a down year, Iginla would warrant interest on the trade market. He’s racked up back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons in Colorado — 29 in his first season, 22 last year — and has a ton of playoff experience, with 81 career games on his resume.

What’s more, he’s been through this before.

You’ll recall the great Iginla sweepstakes of 2013, when Boston and Pittsburgh rallied hard to land him at the deadline (Pittsburgh, quite infamously, beat out the B’s). Though history will likely remember the acquisition as a borderline flop, Iginla was actually a quality offensive producer for the Pens — 11 points in 13 regular-season games, and 12 more in 15 playoff contests.

That year, Iginla and the Pens advanced to the Eastern Conference final, one of the longest playoff runs of his career. He’s still looking for that elusive Stanley Cup win, having come achingly close with Calgary in ’04.

The Avs are rumored to be in the market for a defenseman — or defensemen, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman — so there could be an opportunity to utilize Iginla as an asset to get blueline help in return.

Assuming Colorado isn’t in a playoff spot by late February, that is.