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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Vatrano medically cleared, headed to B’s AHL affiliate

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Frank Vatrano, the Boston winger that scored 11 points in 39 games as a rookie last season, has been medically cleared to return to action following torn foot ligaments, and will suit up with the B’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Vatrano, 22, is eligible to play tonight, when Providence takes on Bridgeport. It will mark a return to the league he had great success in last year — Vatrano led the AHL in goals, with 36, and finished as a first-team All-Star.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes him to work his way back to the NHL level, having been sidelined for nearly three months.

He was expected to replace some of the goalscoring lost when Loui Eriksson signed in Vancouver this summer, and could create an exciting young pairing alongside 20-year-old David Pastrnak, who leads Boston with 19 goals through 27 games this season.

 

Goalie nods: Isles finally give Berube a start

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A new chapter in the NHL’s weirdest goalie situation will be written tonight in Buffalo.

The visiting Islanders will give Jean-Francois Berube his first start of the year. This is the same Berube that’s been on the active roster since the opening day of the regular season, and the same Berube that’s played a grand total of five minutes and 37 seconds this year, which came in relief of Jaroslav Halak during Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Jackets.

After making a name for himself with the Kings’ AHL affiliate — helping them win the Calder Cup in 2015 — Berube was claimed off waivers by the Isles in October of last season. He then proceeded to appear in seven games for New York, going 3-2-1 with a  2.71 GAA and .914 save percentage.

This year, the 25-year-old has been stuck behind Halak and Thomas Greiss. He’s also been stuck in limbo — if the Isles wanted to send him down to the American League to get some playing time, they’d have to expose him to waivers. And apparently there’s a big fear he’d get claimed, because carrying three goalies this year has proven to be a headache.

More: Isles don’t seem to know what to do with Berube

For the Sabres, Robin Lehner gets the call.

Elsewhere…

Matt Murray has been terrific lately, and looks to start again when the Pens host the Kings. No word yet on a L.A. starter.

— Excellent matchup in Montreal, as Martin Jones and the Sharks take on Carey Price at the Habs. These two squared off two weeks ago in San Jose, and Jones bested Price in a 2-1 win.

Braden Holtby gets a night off in Carolina, as the Caps will start Philipp Grubauer. The ‘Canes will go back to Cam Ward, who was yanked from a wild game on Tuesday against the Canucks. Ward surrendered three goals on 18 shots, but Carolina came back to beat Vancouver 8-6.

— It’s expected that James Reimer will give Roberto Luongo a breather, after Luongo was yanked from Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota. Calvin Pickard is in for Colorado, replacing the injured Semyon Varlamov.

As we wrote about earlier, Chad Johnson makes his eighth straight start tonight when Calgary hosts Columbus. The Jackets are expected to go with Sergei Bobrovsky, as per usual.

Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the nod ahead of Ben Bishop, as the Bolts visit Vancouver. Ryan Miller, who was also hooked in that aforementioned Canucks-‘Canes game, goes right back in for the start.

Elliott’s ‘resetting’ continues as Flames give Johnson eighth straight start

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Chad Johnson made his seventh consecutive start on Wednesday against Tampa Bay and didn’t fare well, getting hooked after allowing four goals on 21 shots.

His replacement, Brian Elliott, proceeded to stop 12 of 13 in his first game action in over two weeks.

But this development hasn’t changed anything in the mind of head coach Glen Gulutzan, who will go right back to Johnson tonight when the Flames host the Blue Jackets in Calgary.

“Chad is going to go,” Gulutzan said, per the Flames’ Twitter account. “Get him right back in there.”

This is just the latest in what’s been a tough year for Elliott. Acquired at the draft from St. Louis, he was hailed by Flames GM Brad Treliving as “one of the best goaltenders in the league for the last number of years.” The belief was Elliot would finally solve Calgary’s longstanding goalie problem and, at the tail end of the preseason, there were reports the two sides were discussing a contract extension.

Wonder where those talks are at now.

One would think Elliott will eventually get another crack at the No. 1 gig. Johnson’s never had extended success as an NHL starter, serving almost exclusively as a backup in Boston, Buffalo and New York. But to hear Gulutzan explain it, this is Johnson’s net — and it sounds like Elliott is still trying to work out whatever issues got him off to a 3-9-1 start (3.31 GAA, .886 save percentage).

“Ells has been brilliant in practice,” Gulutzan said, per the National Post. “Sometimes you just need a resetting and he’s put a lot of work in the last few weeks and worked with Siggy (goalie coach Jordan Sigalet) a lot.”

Looking ahead, Elliott might get a shot soon. Calgary has three games in the next five nights, including a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back in Arizona and San Jose.

Enroth up, Bibeau down as Toronto’s goalie carousel keeps spinning

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Less than two weeks after getting waived and demoted to the AHL, Jhonas Enroth is back with the Leafs.

Per The Athletic, Toronto recalled their one-time backup netminder from the Marlies, sending down Antoine Bibeau in the process. Bibeau, the 22-year-old taken in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, made his NHL debut against the Avs on Sunday and fared reasonably well — even though he was tagged for the loss, Bibeau stopped 26 of 28 shots to finish with a .929 save percentage.

But now he’s gone — at least for now.

And Enroth is back.

The diminutive Swede’s had a tough time this year. He was waived just four days after a 3-0 loss to Calgary on Nov. 30, which dropped him to 0-3-1, with a 3.94 GAA and .872 save percentage.

“Obviously, wasn’t going good enough,” head coach Mike Babcock said of Enroth’s performance, per TSN. “We’re just in a situation where we’re making a change.”

Shortly after waiving Enroth, Toronto signed ex-Flames netminder Karri Ramo to a PTO with the Marlies. There was widespread speculation the move was a precursor to Ramo becoming Frederik Andersen‘s understudy in Toronto, but the club was quick to point out that wasn’t the case — and thus far, they were right not to raise expectations too high.

Ramo has struggled with the Marlies thus far, going 0-3 with a 3.80 GAA and .880 save percentage. Part of that, it’s assumed, has to do with the rust factor — Ramo is coming off ACL surgery, and was basically shelved for 10 months.

Glass gunning for NHL return, either with Rangers ‘or someone else’

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Here’s a name to keep an eye on as the trade deadline draws closer:

Tanner Glass.

Glass, the 33-year-old veteran with 500 games of NHL experience, has been plying his trade with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford this season, racking up five goals and seven points through 25 contests. But his story in Hartford goes beyond the numbers.

Head coach Ken Gernander — who’s raved about Glass’ character and dressing room presence — has utilized the former Dartmouth product in a way designed to keep his big-league skills sharp.

“We’re still hoping that he makes his return to the NHL and to do that he’s going to be a role player who finishes his checks, is a penalty killer, a reliable guy defensively to help his team late in the game protect a lead,” Gernander said, per the Hartford Courant. “And that’s how we like to use him here.

“We’re trying to do right by him by continuing to use him in a role that will give him the chance to show what he can offer an NHL team.”

It appears both parties are on the same page. Glass, who’s appeared in 60 Stanley Cup playoff games — including the ’11 Final with Vancouver — told the Courant his goal is to get back up with the Rangers, “or someone else.”

Waived just prior to the start of the regular season, Glass is in the last of a three-year, $4.35 million deal with a $1.45M cap hit, and that minimal financial impact could sway teams into inquiring. Specifically, teams that are looking to add some toughness. Glass has been a willing combatant throughout his career, and led the Rangers in fights in each of the last two seasons.

We’ve already seen a few teams make moves to harden up their lineups this season. Florida acquired d-man Dylan McIlrath from the Rangers for that exact reason and, on Thursday, the Devils gave tough guy Luke Gazdic his season debut after head coach John Hynes said they were “too easy to play against.”

Among the potential fits for Glass? Buffalo (he’s long been a favorite of head coach Dan Bylsma) or possibly Nashville, a team that has recent history of employing a veteran physical presence (Matt Hendricks, Paul Gaustad, Brian McGrattan, Rich Clune, etc.)