Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

Bolts send Stamkos (knee) home from road trip, will be evaluated in Tampa


The knee injury Steven Stamkos suffered during Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Detroit is serious enough to end his road trip.

Well, presumably end it.

On Wednesday, the Lightning announced that Stamkos had been returned to Tampa Bay for further medical evaluation, adding they had “no other updates at this time.”

The Bolts are currently two games into a five-game road swing, with dates remaining in Buffalo, Philly and Nashville — meaning that, barring a good diagnosis and speedy recovery, Stamkos won’t rejoin the team until it returns home for a date with Philly on Nov. 23.

Losing Stamkos for any length of time would hurt.

He’s off to a fantastic start this year, with 20 points through his first 17 games, and established terrific chemistry alongside Nikita Kucherov on the club’s top line. Despite playing just 2:07 against Detroit last night, Stamkos still managed to score his ninth goal of the year.

Of course, Tampa Bay does have experience dealing with Stamkos’ absence. He missed more than half of the ’13-14 regular season with a broken leg, and missed almost all of last year’s playoff run while dealing with ramifications from a blood clotting issue.

Snow gives beleaguered Capuano a vote of confidence


The Islanders are mired in the Eastern Conference basement with a 5-8-3 record, which has many calling for the head of bench boss Jack Capuano.

But Isles GM Garth Snow isn’t having it.

“Jack is an excellent coach,” Snow told TSN, giving his head coach a vote of confidence in the process. “We have good players. I love our coaching staff.”

The Isles have been bad to start the season, and there are several reasons for it. Prized free agent signing Andrew Ladd has just three points through 16 games. Jason Chimera has struggled to produce as well. On defense, the club has dealt with injuries to Ryan Pulock, Dennis Seidenberg and Travis Hamonic — the latter now playing through a suspected broken thumb.

Capuano, though, is the one that’s ended up in the crosshairs.

He’s been taken to task for an inability to replace the offense lost when Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo left in free agency. At times, he’s shouldered the blame — in Monday’s shutout loss to the Bolts, he said it was “on him” to find better line combinations — but at other times, he’s alluded to the fact a good chunk of his offense walked out the door this summer.

“Where are we going to get point production?” Capuano asked reporters after a shootout win over the Flyers. “One hundred and thirty-four points out of our lineup that we lost. Now we have to find a way. Like everything gets magnified, I get it. You guys are talking about the (losses) lately…but we have to find a way to get some balanced offense in our hockey team.”

Some saw those remarks as a shot at Snow, which in turn led some to predict Capuano’s firing was on the horizon.

It still might be. The Isles have a really tough stretch of the schedule coming up — a game this Friday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, then a three-game western road swing through Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose.

Related: No production from Ladd among many concerns for Isles

Smith, Hanzal ‘real close’ to rejoining Coyotes


Arizona, one of the youngest teams in the NHL this season, will soon get a veteran injection into the lineup.

Martin Hanzal, who’s been out the last two weeks with a lower-body injury, is traveling with the club for its upcoming two-game swing through Vancouver and Calgary.

So too is No. 1 netminder Mike Smith, who has missed the last 12 games with a lower-body ailment of his own.

Getting the pair back would be a huge boon for the Coyotes. Hanzal, 29 is one of the club’s best centers — if not the best center — and had four points through nine games prior to getting hurt.

Smith, 34, has been missed. His absence has forced Louis Domingue into the starter’s position and while Domingue has fared well at times, he’s struggled with consistency.

“Some good games this year and some not so good,” head coach Dave Tippett said of Domingue’s season, per the Arizona Republic.

The Coyotes made waves at the start of the year by putting a bunch of kids on their opening-night roster: Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, Jakob Chychrun and Christian Dvorak, most notably.

Each has had varying degrees of success, but overall the club has struggled and currently finds itself in the Pacific Division basement, with a 5-9-0 record.

Update: In moves that further suggest Smith and Hanzal are close, Dvorak and backup netminder Justin Peters have been assigned to AHL Tucson.

I was saying Boo-urns: Rangers’ Nieves to make NHL debut

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There’ll be a new face in the Rangers lineup tonight when they take on the Canucks in Vancouver.

Cristoval “Boo” Nieves — who essentially goes by the “Boo” nickname, given to him as a child — will make his big league debut on Tuesday, the club has announced.

Nieves, taken 59th overall at the 2012 draft, enjoyed an impressive four-year career at the University of Michigan before turning pro last season. He signed his entry-level deal in March, played eight games with AHL Hartford — scoring five points — then got off to a good start with the Wolf Pack this season, notching six points in 13 games prior to his recall on Monday afternoon.

The 22-year-old’s debut comes at the expense of Chris Kreider, currently sidelined with an upper-body injury, and Pavel Buchnevich, who is out with back spasms.

At the morning skate, Nieves was skating on the club’s fourth line with Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Pirri.

Considered to be a potential first-round pick in his draft year, Nieves has a solid frame — 6-foot-3, 200 pounds — and can really skate for a player of his size. Per Newsday, he might also get a look on the Rangers’ penalty kill this evening.

Goalie nods: With Rinne hurt, Preds turn to Mazanec


It’s a significant night of change for the Nashville Predators.

Pekka Rinne, fresh off being named the NHL’s third star of the week, has suffered a lower-body injury — one that will keep him sidelined day-to-day — meaning Marek Mazanec will make just his second start of the year on Tuesday in Toronto.

Mazanec, who inherited the backup gig from now-departed Carter Hutton, has struggled this year, posting a 5.06 GAA and .806 save percentage. Those struggles led to Nashville recalling prospect Juuse Saros from AHL Milwaukee last week, after Saros had previously done well — back on Oct. 22, he stopped 34 of 35 shots in Nashville’s 5-1 win over Pittsburgh.

So needless to say, the pressure is on Mazanec just a bit.

In terms of the big picture, though, the loss of Rinne is the main focus. After some erratic play to start the year, the veteran Finn looked terrific last week, posting a 3-0-0 record with a 0.67 GAA, .976 save percentage and one shutout.

Given how uneven Nashville had been to start the year, it was an important series of performances.

For Toronto, Frederik Andersen gets the start tonight.


Craig Anderson, who’s been red-hot in November (1.77 GAA, .947 save percentage) will go for Ottawa. The Flyers will counter with Steve Mason, who should be the No. 1 for the foreseeable future with Michal Neuvirth sidelined by injury.

Aaron Dell makes just his second start of the year when the Sharks take on Carolina. Cam Ward appears likely for the ‘Canes.

— Rarity for the Caps, as Philip Grubauer will make his second straight start (Braden Holtby faces the Penguins tomorrow). Host Columbus is going with Sergei Bobrovsky, as per usual.

— Marquee matchup in Montreal, where Carey Price and the Canadiens host Roberto Luongo and the Panthers.

Ben Bishop is expected to get the start for Tampa Bay, after Andrei Vasilevskiy shut out the Islanders last night. The Red Wings will give Jimmy Howard a breather, and go with Petr Mrazek. Mrazek replaced Howard in Saturday’s ugly 5-0 loss to Montreal.

— It’s Corey Crawford versus Connor Hellebuyck, as the ‘Hawks begin their annual Circus Trip in Winnipeg.

— Calgary gives Brian Elliott the night off, meaning Chad Johnson faces the Wild in Minnesota. He’ll be up against Devan Dubnyk, who has been terrific this season.

Jake Allen, hooked after allowing four goals in a disastrous 8-4 loss to Columbus on the weekend, is back in for the Blues. He’ll be up against Robin Lehner, who gets the start for Buffalo.

— Tale of two very different goaltending situations in Dallas: Cory Schneider, one of the big reasons for New Jersey’s surprising start, goes for the Devils. He’s likely to face Antti Niemi, after Kari Lehtonen allowed five goals against Vancouver on Sunday.

— After making 44 saves in a loss to Boston on the weekend, Semyon Varlamov is right back in for the Avs. The visiting Kings are expected to go with Peter Budaj.

— Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom gets another shot at the Rangers, after beating them at MSG last week. No word yet on New York’s starter.

John Gibson was the first goalie off at Anaheim’s skate this morning, so he appears likely. The visiting Oilers have yet to announce a starter.