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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Accolades keep pouring in for Aho

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It’s been a nice run lately for Carolina’s Sebastian Aho.

Last week, he was narrowly edged out for January’s rookie of the month honors by Leafs forward Mitch Marner.

Over the weekend, Tucker profiled Aho’s stellar freshman campaign, which included GM Ron Francis calling the 19-year-old “extremely competitive, extremely smart and extremely talented.”

Today, another feather in Aho’s cap — he was named the NHL’s first star of the week.

From the league:

Aho tied for the League lead with four goals (4-1—5) including two game-winning tallies as the Hurricanes (24-20-7, 55 points) won all three of their games.

On Jan. 31, Aho recorded his first career hat trick, including the game-winning goal, and added one assist in a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

He added another game-winning goal in a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 3 before being held pointless in a 5-4 overtime victory over the New York Islanders on Feb. 4.

Chosen 35th overall by Carolina in the 2015 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old Rauma, Finland native ranks third among rookies with 16 goals and tied for sixth with 31 points (16-15—31).

One has to wonder if Aho can work his way into this year’s Calder discussion. It’s a loaded one, with the likes of Marner, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matt Murray, William Nylander and Matthew Tkachuk all in the mix — but if Aho continues to score at this clip, he’ll almost certainly be in the conversation.

Sabres extend Falk — one year, $650,000

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Buffalo has re-upped with depth defenseman Justin Falk.

Falk, who’s appeared in 35 games this season, has signed a one-year extension worth $650,000, the club announced. The 28-year-old has averaged 13:11 TOI through those 35 games, while chipping in with three assists.

A veteran of over 200 career NHL contests, Falk — a big body, at 6-foot-5, 222 pounds — could be someone the Sabres choose to expose in this year’s expansion draft.

He’s closing in on that “40/70” threshold that’s reportedly part of the expansion draft rules, in which teams must expose at least two forwards and a defenseman that have played 40 games this year, or 70 over the two previous years combined.

Falk, obviously, is five games away from 40.

We’re starting to see more and more expansion draft-related moves lately. Last week, the Wild inked AHL netminder Alex Stalock to a two-year deal, with the first year of the contract being of the one-way variety, as he looks to be the goalie Minnesota will expose.

Goalie nods: Murray starts eighth straight for Pittsburgh

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Matt Murray has all but locked up the No. 1 gig in Pittsburgh — we wrote about Marc-Andre Fleury’s side of things earlier — and tonight, Murray will make his eighth straight start when the Pens host the Jackets at PPG Paints.

Murray hasn’t been lights-out over this recent stretch — 2.72 GAA, .916 save percentage — but Pittsburgh has gotten results, going 5-2-0. Tonight’s game will also be a shot at redemption, because the last time Murray faced the Jackets, he got lit up. Columbus scored six times on 23 shots before head coach Mike Sullivan mercifully gave Murray the hook.

For the Jackets, Sergei Bobrovsky‘s in goal.

More: Torts, Sully renew ‘rivalry’ tonight

Elsewhere…

— The red-hot Thomas Greiss, who’s won five of six while posting a .955 save percentage, will start for the Isles in Detroit. The Red Wings will counter with Petr Mrazek.

James Reimer, who’s wife gave birth earlier this week, returns to action for Florida as the Panthers host the Ducks. John Gibson, who has been on fire lately, will go for Anaheim.

— “Win and you’re in” continues for the Flames, as Brian Elliott makes his third-straight start. The host Devils will go with Cory Schneider, coming off a 27-save win over Detroit on Tuesday.

— No surprises from the Oilers, who will yet again start Cam Talbot in goal. Cam Ward, another of the league’s busiest workhorses, should be in for Carolina, though head coach Bill Peters classified him as a game-time decision.

No concussion, but also no timetable for Spezza after big Lowry hit

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Health problems have plagued the Stars all season, and that trend continued on Thursday as forward Jason Spezza was knocked out of action in a loss to the Jets.

Now, it sounds like Spezza will be out for the foreseeable future.

“Right now we really don’t have a time frame on it, but it’s more than days,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said, per the Stars’ Sean Shapiro. “I’ll just be honest. It’s an upper body injury that doesn’t have anything to do with anything old.

“It’s not a concussion. It’s going to take a week or two, maybe longer.”

The hit in question:

As mentioned above, it’s been a nightmare season for Dallas in terms of injuries. Only two players have appeared in all 52 games — Tyler Seguin and Devin Shore — while the likes of Cody Eakin, Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky and Jiri Hudler have all missed at least 20 games each.

As a result, Dallas has struggled with consistency and developing chemistry. It’s also been robbed of a projected lineup that was armed to the teeth with offensive ability.

The Stars are only three points back of St. Louis for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but also need to leapfrog three teams — Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary — to get there. Being without Spezza, who sits third on the team in assists, will make that task more difficult.

Torts, Sully renew ‘rivalry’ tonight

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Columbus coach John Tortorella and Pens bench boss Mike Sullivan have been buddies for a long time. Sullivan was on Tortorella’s staff in Tampa Bay, New York and Vancouver, and the two reunited to coach Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey.

But that doesn’t mean they always like each other.

Flash back to December of 2015. In a game in which his Penguins were beating up on Torts’ Blue Jackets, Sullivan sent out his top power-play unit with a minute to go — in a 5-2 game. That one stuck in Tortorella’s craw.

Now, flash forward a year later, to Columbus’ 7-1 thrashing of Pittsburgh on Dec. 22. This time, it was Torts rolling out his top PP guys late in the game, effectively running up the score.

That led to some jawing and a staring contest between the two.

So, what did Tortorella have to say ahead of tonight’s big rematch?

“(The power plays) came up,” Tortorella said, per the Dispatch. “But he was the (jerk) first, let’s get that straight. He went first, and I told him that. I said, ‘You were (a jerk).’ He told me I was (a jerk).

“We were like two little kids, but we both agreed that we are both (jerks).”

Tonight’s tilt in Pittsburgh should be a good one. The two clubs had a mutual dislike prior to the Torts-Sully hi-jinx — culminating in an emotional first-round playoff series in ’14 — and the Brandon DubinskySidney Crosby feud has been well established.

And if it’s a blowout, be sure to keep an eye on any late power plays.