Mike Halford

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San Jose’s racking up the AHL awards

The Sharks have to be thrilled with what the Barracuda are doing.

(This is a hockey post. Honest.)

Today, San Jose’s AHL affiliate earned its third major year-end accolade as Danny O’Regan captured the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award for outstanding rookie.

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With two games remaining in the regular season, O’Regan is pacing all AHL rookies in scoring with 56 points (22 goals, 34 assists) while skating in 61 games for the Barracuda.

The leading point-getter for the team with the AHL’s top-ranked offense, O’Regan has also notched 10 power-play goals and recorded five game-winning tallies, and has a plus/minus rating of plus-9 while accruing just 10 minutes in penalties all season.

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET

O’Regan, 23, is a former fifth-round pick that joined San Jose this year after a solid career at Boston University. He’s appeared in three NHL contests — scoring once — and also represented the Barracuda at the AHL All-Star Game.

As mentioned above, O’Regan isn’t the only Barracuda to score some hardware this season. Yesterday, head coach Roy Sommer won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award for coach of the year, after guiding the club to the Pacific Division title.

Prior to that, another Sharks farmhand — Troy Grosenick — took home the Baz Bastien Award for most outstanding goalie. Grosenick, 27, finished with a 30-9-3 record, 1.98 GAA and .930 save percentage while posting a whopping 10 shutouts.

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    Carlyle plays coy, but Gibson looks to be Game 1 starter

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    John Gibson was first off at Thursday’s morning skate, and appears to be the Ducks’ No. 1 goalie as they open their series against the Flames.

    Just don’t ask head coach Randy Carlyle to confirm it.

    “Did I make that decision?” Carlyle said during today’s media availability, when asked about the choice to go with Gibson. “I didn’t make any decision on who’s going to play in net tonight. You guys, obviously, can surmise, and I know how much you like to have your input to what goes on.

    Watch Ducks vs. Flames on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

    “We think that we have both [Jonathan] Bernier and Gibson at our disposal.”

    Anaheim’s starting goalie debate has been going on for the last six weeks. After Gibson missed significant time in March with an injury, Carlyle classified his netminding scenario as a “1A and 1B” situation. Bernier catapulted himself into contention with a brilliant month of March, going 10-1-2 with a .941 save percentage.

    Gibson, meanwhile, only made one appearance over a 14-game stretch due to a lingering lower-body ailment.

    But then the calendar turned to April, and Gibson returned to health. He’s started three games month and looked terrific, stopping 97 of 101 shots for a .960 save percentage.

    He also had some things to say about the playoff starter debate.

    “I didn’t forget how to play, right?” Gibson said, per the O.C. Register. “Just had an injury.”

    When asked if he felt there was competition with Bernier to be the Game 1 starter, Gibson re-iterated his point.

    “You’d have to ask Randy what he thinks,” he explained. “I’ve been here for the whole year. I got hurt for a month.”

    Give the reporters credit. They tried to ask Randy what he thinks.

    Tootoo clarifies remarks about being on ‘right side’ of ‘Hawks-Preds rivalry

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    On Thursday, Chicago forward Jordin Tootoo discussed his comments about being on the “right side” of the Blackhawks-Predators rivalry.

    “I think there was a little misinterpretation there,” Tootoo said, per the Tennessean. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m very, very happy and content and grateful for the opportunity to play for the Blackhawks.

    “I respect the city of Nashville and everything that it’s given to me. It’s that time of the year where every man is for himself. I’m a Blackhawk now.”

    Blackhawks vs. Predators: Stream on NBC Sports

    Following Wednesday’s practice, Tootoo — who spent the first eight years of his career with the Preds organization — raised some eyebrows with remarks made to the Chicago Tribune.

    “Personally, when you play a team in the playoffs you learn to hate them quick, and it’s obviously a divisional rival,” he said of his former team. “Nashville and Chicago has always been a heated battle and it finally feels great to be on the right side.”

    Tootoo, 34, was a fan favorite during his time in Nashville, a period that included personal struggles with alcohol abuse. He’s often credited Preds GM David Poile and former head coach Barry Trotz for helping him into the NHL’s substance abuse and behavioral health program seven years ago.

    Tootoo has appeared in 50 games for Chicago this season, scoring two goals and three points. Based on yesterday’s line rushes, it looks as though he’ll open this series on the fourth line with Tanner Kero and John Hayden.

    The ‘Hawks and Preds have faced each other twice in the last seven postseasons, with Chicago winning both series. The third installment gets underway tonight at the United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

    Pens announce Fleury as Game 2 starter, Jarry to back up

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    The injury that knocked Matt Murray out of Pittsburgh’s series-opening win against Columbus will keep him out of Game 2 as well.

    And perhaps even longer.

    On Thursday, the Pens announced that Marc-Andre Fleury — who, after Murray was hurt in warmup, stopped 31 of 32 shots in yesterday’s 3-1 win — will start Game 2 on Friday at PPG Paints.

    Penguins vs. Blue Jackets: Stream on NBC Sports

    Fleury will be backed up by AHL recall Tristan Jarry. Murray didn’t practice on Thursday, nor did he have a dressing room stall at the club’s practice facility in Cranberry. Per the Post-Gazette, it’s believed Murray re-aggravated a groin injury suffered in his last outing, a 7-4 win over New Jersey last week.

    Though Murray sat for the final two games of the regular season, he was declared fit enough to be Pittsburgh’s playoff starter. Head coach Mike Sullivan declined to discuss the severity of Murray’s injury, or a potential timetable for return.

    For Hitch, ‘Stars hockey is reckless energy — with proper positional play’

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    Ken Hitchcock knows his second tour of duty in Dallas won’t be the same as the first.

    The game has changed, and the league has changed.

    He said his old Stars teams won because they were positionally sound on defense, and good on the counter-attack. He said you can’t play like that anymore.

    To be successful in the modern NHL — where speed and skill reign supreme — you need to win between the bluelines. You have to control the neutral zone.

    Dallas certainly has the speed and skill. Now, it’s on Hitchcock to give it some structure.

    “To me, Dallas Stars hockey is reckless energy — with proper positional play,” he said on Thursday, during his introductory presser as the club’s new head coach. “And I’ll bring that forward. But I don’t want to ever lose that reckless energy they had. I don’t want to see the guys lose that reckless enthusiasm they play with, because that’s what makes the team special.

    “You never felt when you played Dallas that you were in control of anything. You always felt like you were right on the edge of getting steamrolled.”

    That anecdote was curious, because it came from a question asking Hitch about Dallas’ perceived weakness. The veteran bench boss explained that, while coaching the Blues against the Stars in the ’15 playoffs, the goal was for St. Louis to match Dallas’ incredibly high energy level. If they did that, Hitch explained, the Blues’ structure would give them the edge.

    Interesting.

    If there was another major takeaway from today’s conference, it’s that Hitch and the club’s brass — GM Jim Nill, president Jim Lites — believe that the focus shouldn’t be on what the Stars did this season, but two rather two seasons ago. When their speed, energy, aggressiveness and explosiveness saw them win 50 regular season games and advance to the second playoff round.

    As for this year?

    Now, Hitch’s challenge is to take that “reckless energy” and provide it with shape. Organize it. One of the great failings in Lindy Ruff’s final year in charge is that, having built a gameplan off speed and creativity, players started to go rouge when things weren’t going their way.

    “We had some frustrated players who, instead of trying to stay with it and trying to play a 200-foot game, it became more of an individual try,” Ruff said just prior to his dismissal, per the Morning-News. “And those individual tries a lot of times turned into opportunities for the opposition.”

    You can expect Hitch to try and eradicate those issues, and quickly. One of the more intriguing moments of today’s presser is when he told the players in attendance — Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and Dan Hamhuis — there will be some uncomfortable times ahead, as he inevitably drills his vision for structure, systems play and strategy.

    “This is not going to be fun everyday,” Hitchcock said. “But forming a partnership with you guys is more important than anything.”

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    — Hitchcock wasn’t asked about goaltending, a curious development given how profound a role netminding played in his departure from St. Louis and, as has been well documented, how bad the goaltending has been in Dallas over the last two years.

    — Nill confirmed that Hitchcock has a multi-year deal in place with the Stars. When that contract is up, he has another deal in place to remain with the club as a consultant.

    — Hitchcock said the club will begin interviewing assistant coaches next week. Longtime Ruff assistant James Patrick was let go and the other assistant from last year, Curt Fraser, will be allowed to interview with Hitch.

    — Lites did make mention that part of the reason for the hire was Hitchcock’s traditionally strong special teams. They were a nightmare in Dallas last year (20th on the power play, 30th on the penalty kill).