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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Oilers in unfamiliar position of being deadline buyers

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Like yard sales and cherry blossom festivals, Edmonton selling at the deadline is an annual springtime tradition.

But this year, that’s set to change.

The Oilers currently sit third in the Pacific Division, nine points up on fourth-place Calgary. It’s too early to call it a lock, but Edmonton sure seems like it’ll be participating in the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Which means, in all likelihood, the Oilers will be buyers at this year’s deadline.

“It’s our job to make it hard on a management team to decide whether it is going to add or subtract,” head coach Todd McLellan said this week, per the Journal. “In the past it’s been fairly easy, he’s been able to look at the standings and understand where we’re going to end up.”

“He” in this instance is Peter Chiarelli, who’s only in his second year as Edmonton GM yet has already experienced selling at the deadline. Last year, with his club en route to the worst record in the Western Conference, he shipped several assets — Justin Schultz, Teddy Purcell and Anders Nilsson — out of town, in exchange for a handful of picks.

That followed in a long tradition of Oilers GMs (Craig MacTavish, Steve Tambellini, Kevin Lowe) that did the same during the club’s current 11-year playoff drought.

So let’s assume the Oilers break with tradition this year, and are in a position to add. If Chiarelli’s going to be a buyer, what’s he going to buy?

Answer: Probably a blueliner.

Back in late December, McLellan addressed his club’s need for more on the back end.

“It’s Christmas and we all have wish lists,” said McLellan, per the Edmonton Journal. “We’re coaches and we’re never happy but when you talk of those type of players … say a power play quarterback, somebody who puts up points, we don’t have that.”

History suggests Chiarelli will be more than happy to oblige. In Boston, he made it a near-annual tradition of stocking up on defensemen at the deadline: Andrej Meszaros in ’14, Wade Redden in ’13, Greg Zanon/Mike Mottau in ’12 and Tomas Kaberle in ’11.

Will be interesting to see if that trend continues in Edmonton this year.

Skidding Panthers welcome back Bjugstad, Petrovic

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For most of this year, Florida’s injury situation has been rough — but on Wednesday, things took a turn for the better.

D-man Alex Petrovic, out since Nov. 15 with a broken ankle, is expected to return to the lineup when the Panthers host Tampa Bay tomorrow. Also expected back is center Nick Bjugstad, who’s missed the last nine games with a groin issue.

Petrovic, 24, scored one goal and five points in 16 games this year, averaging just under 18 minutes per night. He broke his ankle blocking a shot against Montreal over two months ago, underwent surgery, and has subsequently missed the last 34 contests.

Bjugstad, also 24, has had an injury-plagued campaign. He missed the first 19 games with a broken hand — which pushed his season debut to late November — and appeared in 21 games before injuring his groin.

Unsurprisingly, he’s had a tough time finding his groove this season. Bjugstad has just one goal and two points, well off the good offensive numbers he posted in each of the last two years. He scored a team-high 24 goals in ’14-15, and 15 more last season.

With these two back in the lineup, the Panthers are the healthiest they’ve been in a while. And that’s key, because the club has lost four straight and five of its last six. But thanks to OT losses in Edmonton and Arizona, they’re still in the thick of the playoff chase.

Florida is also still waiting for medical clearance for two of their most prized forwards — Aleksander Barkov, who hasn’t played since Dec. 28 while dealing with an upper-body issue, and Jonathan Huberdeau, who hasn’t played at all after suffering a lacerated Achilles in the preseason.

Malkin out with lower-body injury, will miss All-Star Game

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One of the two Pittsburgh Penguins named to this year’s All-Star Game (Sunday, 3:30 pm ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app) won’t be participating in the festivities.

On Wednesday, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan announced that Evgeni Malkin has suffered a lower-body injury, one that will keep him out of tomorrow’s game in Boston and the league’s annual All-Star gala in Los Angeles.

Malkin and Sidney Crosby were the two Pittsburgh players named to the Metropolitan Division team. No word yet on a potential replacement.

It’s unclear exactly when No. 71 suffered his ailment. He played a healthy 18:27 in last night’s 3-0 loss to St. Louis but, per the Post-Gazette, appeared to be shaken up on a hard hit from Blues d-man Joel Edmundson.

Tied with Crosby for 2nd in NHL scoring (54 points), Malkin’s injury comes at the end of a month in which he’s been on fire. The 30-year-old has six goals and 11 points through nine games, and netted his first hat-trick of the season in a wild 8-7 OT win over Washington on Jan. 16.

Pens waive tough guy Oleksy

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Steve Oleksy, the rugged Pittsburgh blueliner that’s appeared in nine games this season, has been placed on waivers, per ESPN.

Oleksy, 30, has been up with the Pens for a while, but his presence in the lineup’s been sporadic. He’s sat as a healthy scratch on a number of occasions, and hasn’t dressed since getting just over 10 minutes in a loss to Ottawa on Jan. 12.

A veteran of 71 career NHL contests, Oleksy caught on with the Pens organization in ’15-16 following a lengthy stint with the Caps. He’s been a willing combatant throughout his professional career, which included a career-high 14 scraps (three NHL, 11 AHL) during the ’12-13 campaign.

Today’s move could suggest that fellow d-man Kris Letang, out since mid-January with a knee injury, is close to returning. Letang took part in Tuesday’s morning skate, though Pens head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t provide a specific date for Letang’s return.

 

Devils claim Noesen off waivers from Ducks

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Yesterday, in passing along news that Anaheim waived former first-rounder Stefan Noesen, we noted that — because Noesen is only 24 and carrying a light cap hit — there was a decent chance of him getting claimed.

Today, that exact scenario played out.

Noesen has been claimed by the New Jersey Devils, the club announced this afternoon. The move comes after they lost another forward, Reid Boucher, on waivers to Vancouver — just one day after claiming him. The Devils are also currently without winger Beau Bennett, who’s on injured reserve with a lower-body ailment.

Noesen, 23, has appeared in 14 career NHL contests — all coming with Anaheim, and 12 of them this season in what amounted to his first extended look at the NHL level. The 21st overall pick in 2011 scored two goals in those 12 games, but only averaged 6:33 TOI per night.

The biggest reason Noesen’s struggled to establish himself is his health — or, specifically, the lack thereof. He missed almost all of the 2013-14 season with torn ligaments in his left knee, then missed four months during the ’14-15 campaign after an opponent’s skate blade nearly severed his right Achilles tendon.

When healthy, he’s shown to be an effective scorer at the AHL level. He had six goals and 15 points in 22 games for San Diego this season.

As for the financials, Noesen’s on a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level. That appears to be where he’ll stick for now, given the Devils have an open roster spot with Bennett on IR.