Mike Halford

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Kings’ Pearson suspended for preseason, two regular season games for ‘forceful’ headshot

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has come down on L.A.’s Tanner Pearson for his illegal check to the head of Oilers d-man Brandon Davidson.

The incident, which occurred Monday evening, earned Pearson a game misconduct. Davidson left the contest and did not return.

“[Pearson] takes an angle of approach that makes a full bodycheck impossible to deliver,” the DoPS said in a video release. “Pearson then extends his body up and outward, picking Davidson’s head with a forceful blow.”

The DoPS said it accepted Pearson’s explanation that he wasn’t intentionally targeting Davidson’s head, but mitigating factors resulted in a suspension — specifically, the fact that Davidson suffered an injury on the play.

Pearson, who had never previously run afoul of the player safety department, will now miss the Kings’ final two preseason contests — Friday against Dallas, Saturday against Colorado — and the first two games of the regular season: Wednesday, Oct. 12 in San Jose and Friday, Oct. 14 versus Philadelphia.

He’s eligible to return on Oct. 18, when L.A. takes on the Wild in Minnesota.

In addition to the suspension, Pearson will also forfeit $15,555.56 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Devils lose Merrill (finger), Gazdic (foot) for four weeks

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Not a great day in New Jersey as this morning, the Devils announced a pair of injuries: Jon Merrill will miss the next four weeks with a right finger injury, while tough guy Luke Gazdic will miss the same amount of time with a broken foot.

Of the two, Merrill is the more profound loss.

The 24-year-old, who underwent major shoulder surgery this summer, only played in 47 games last year due to a variety of injuries. He’s looking to rediscover the form shown during impressive rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Merrill’s problem, obviously, is his inability stay healthy.

Gazdic, 27, caught on with the Devils this summer after several seasons fighting his way through the Western Conference, with Dallas and Edmonton. He split last year between the Oilers and their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, and made his “mark” on the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, when he fought 15 times.

Gazdic signed a two-way deal back in July, so it was expected he’d be on his way to AHL Albany at some point.

Florida continues overhaul on defense, waives Kindl

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What do Jakub Kindl, Brian Campbell, Erik Gudbranson, Willie Mitchell, Dylan Olsen and Dmitry Kulikov all have in common?

They all played defense for the Florida Panthers last year.

That’s where the similarities end, however — on Wednesday, Kindl joined the ranks of the (potentially) departed as the Panthers placed him on waivers, per Sportsnet.

Kindl, picked 19th overall by Detroit in 2005, was acquired by Florida at last year’s deadline, but failed to make much of an impact. He had just two points in 19 regular season games — averaging 13:59 per night — and was largely a spectator in the playoffs, appearing in just a single contest during an opening-round loss to the Islanders.

But while Kindl’s time in Florida with brief, he still spent time there. And now he’s gone.

And that was the Panthers’ big narrative this offseason. The defense had a major overhaul: Campbell was allowed to walk in free agency, Gudbransona and Kulikov were traded, Mitchell’s concussion problems effectively ended his career and Olsen is still without a contract for this season.

To fill the holes, Florida went out and acquired the likes of Keith Yandle, Jason Demers and Mark Pysyk. It’s also expected prospects Mike Matheson and Ian McCoshen will push for minutes.

To be fair, there is a financial component to this transaction as well. Kindl makes quite a bit of money for what he projected to give the Panthers — $2.4 million AAV, and $3 million in salary this season — so dispatching him to the American League, or having a taker on waivers, would free up some cash.

Habs waive veteran d-man Barberio

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Montreal’s opening-night roster continued to take shape on Wednesday as the club placed blueliner Mark Barbeiro on waivers, per TSN.

Barbeiro, 26, is a Montreal native that broke in with Tampa Bay in 2013 but caught on with the Habs last season, scoring 10 points in 30 games.

With a modest salary ($750,000 cap hit) and good NHL experience — over 130 games — it’s quite possible Barberio gets plucked off the wire.

The bigger implications, though, are for those left on Montreal’s defense. There are now eight guys in the mix: Shea Weber, Nathan Beaulieu, Andrei Markov, Jeff Petry, Alexei Emelin, Zach Redmond, Greg Pateryn and rookie phenom Mikhail Sergachev.

More: Prized Habs prospect Sergachev survives another round of cuts

Sergachev, still just 18 years old, has been tantalizing onlookers in Montreal since becoming the second d-man selected in this year’s draft (Vancouver took Olli Juolevi four spots earlier). He starred at prospects camp, and impressed in his preseason debut against Ottawa.

“He played a great first game,” head coach Michel Therrien told the CP of Sergachev’s debut, in which the Russian rearguard played nearly 20 minutes. “He played with a lot of confidence for a young player. He was composed with the puck, never got rid of it for no reason.

“He was poised, he’s a good skater and he’s strong. He’s a heck of a hockey player.”

Montreal could still send Sergachev back to OHL Windsor, which is likely what’ll happen. That said, the club could keep him around for a nine-game cameo at the NHL level, and give him a taste of the big leagues.

Zetterberg to start at wing, centered by Nielsen

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This summer, Detroit GM Ken Holland announced that prized prospect Dylan Larkin would be making the move to center, after finishing top-five in Calder voting last year as a winger.

Now, it looks like the Wings are going all in with the move.

On Wednesday, head coach Jeff Blashill said Henrik Zetterberg will play the wing to start the campaign, with Frans Nielsen as his center.

That ties directly into the Larkin move — last year, the two were mates on a line centered by Zetterberg, who “took a lot of the responsibility off Dylan,” according to Holland.

So, what does it mean for Larkin?

Speed, potentially.

During the exhibition campaign, Blashill toyed with an intriguing line of Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou — a trio loaded with youth, skill and skating ability.

It looks like a trio Detroit could go to early and often this season, which would allow the Zetterberg-Nielsen and Vanek-Helm duos to stick together, and try and establish some chemistry.

Related: Zetterberg admits he ‘ran out of gas’ the last couple of seasons