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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Hasn’t exactly been roses for San Jose’s key free agent signings

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In the aftermath of their Stanley Cup Final loss to Pittsburgh, the Sharks knew where they needed upgrades — on defense, and in the speed department.

So in free agency, GM Doug Wilson went to work.

His splashiest move was signing Danish winger Mikkel Boedker to a four-year, $16 million deal. On paper, it was an ideal fit. Boedker was coming off a solid 17-goal, 51-point campaign split between Arizona and Colorado, played under head coach Peter DeBoer in junior and was lauded by Wilson, who praised Boedker’s “tremendous speed.”

Next, Wilson signed former Devils blueliner David Schlemko, who was coming off career highs in virtually every statistical category. This, too, looked like a great fit — San Jose needed a more mobile, skilled and offensive defenseman to replace the outgoing Roman Polak — and, like he did with Boedker, Wilson sung Schlemko’s praises.

“David is a solid puck-moving defenseman with good speed who can play the game at both ends,” Wilson said, shortly after giving Schlemko a four-year deal of his own. “He is coming off of a very productive season in New Jersey and we think he will fit well with our group.”

That was then.

Today, some of the luster has worn off both signings. Boedker has been a huge disappointment, with just two goals through 33 games, and was benched earlier this month in a game against Anaheim.

“I would hope he was pissed off,” DeBoer said in explaining the move. “It’s always a last resort as a coach.”

The Schlemko situation is a little more puzzling. He was made a healthy scratch earlier this week, for reasons that remain unknown. Classified simply as a “coach’s decision,” Schlemko’s stint in the press box came after he appeared in 28 of 32 games, while averaging over 17 minutes per night.

He’s been a decent contributor offensively — sitting third behind Brent Burns and Paul Martin in d-man scoring, with eight points — and has solid possession metrics. In speaking with the Mercury News, he seemed just as befuddled about the scratch as everybody else.

“Just trying to turn the page — it’s out of my hands — and move on from there,” he explained. “I’m confident in what I can do and what I can bring. But at the end of the day, it’s a coach’s decision.”

Despite all this, the Sharks have still enjoyed a pretty good start to the year. They head into tonight’s action first in the Pacific Division, with a 20-12-1 record, and have won eight of their last 11.

Part of that is because the club has embraced youth in a major way, and the youth has responded in kind. Kevin Labanc, the 21-year-old AHL sniper, was recalled in early November and has become a lineup fixture. Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick in ’15, is up with the big club as well. And in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Calgary, 23-year-old d-man Dylan DeMelo — who drew into the lineup over Schlemko — played a season-high 20:02.

As such, Schlemko and Boedker will be worth watching as the season continues to unfold.

No hearing for Kassian after Ekman-Larsson crosscheck, match penalty

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Edmonton tough guy Zack Kassian won’t have a disciplinary hearing for his match penalty late in Edmonton’s 3-2 win over the Coyotes on Wednesday, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.

Kassian was give the match and a two-minute roughing minor following a retaliatory crosscheck on Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who had drilled Oilers forward Matt Hendricks seconds earlier.

Hendricks beat the Coyotes blueliner in a puck chase to negate an icing call, and got walloped into the end boards. Which, in turn, set off a bit of a melee.

Mark Letestu and Martin Hanzal, who’d been going at each other all night, fought in the aftermath while Coyotes captain Shane Doan went directly after Kassian and received a roughing minor of his own.

Kassian had a very eventful night. In addition to the penalties, he also recorded a pair of assists — including one on Hendricks’ game-winning goal — and finished with four hits in just under 13 minutes of ice time.

 

 

It’s Mike Condon’s net in Ottawa for the foreseeable future

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Third team’s a charm, apparently.

Mike Condon, who has found a home in Ottawa this year after brief stints in Montreal and Pittsburgh, looks to be the Sens’ starter for the foreseeable future, based on a pair of developments Thursday.

First, backup Andrew Hammond has been listed week-to-week with a high ankle sprain. The Hamburglar was hurt in Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Isles — just his third start of the year — which forced Condon into duty, and he hasn’t left the crease since.

Then, there’s No. 1 Craig Anderson, who’s been away from the team while his wife goes through cancer treatment. Sens head coach Guy Boucher said he spoke to Anderson recently, but not about hockey or a return to the team.

“Family first,” Boucher said, per the Sun. “He will let us know how it’s going.”

It doesn’t sound like Ottawa’s planing to have Anderson back anytime soon.

That means that former Boston University standout Matt O’Connor will — at least for the time being — stick with the Sens and serve Condon’s backup. Just don’t expect him to get many starts. O’Connor has exactly one game of NHL experience on his resume and has struggled at the AHL level, going 7-9-0 with a .898 save percentage and 2.78 GAA this year.

All of this points to Condon getting plenty of action over the next few weeks. He’s certainly earned it, going 7-3-0 with a .919 save percentage since being acquired, and will be in tonight when the Sens take on the Ducks.

 

Luongo out tonight, so Panthers make emergency recall

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Florida will be without its trusty veteran goalie tonight when it hosts Boston at BB&T.

Roberto Luongo, who was on the ice this morning, won’t dress this evening, meaning James Reimer will get the start — and third-stringer Mike McKenna, brought up on an emergency recall earlier this morning, will serve as Reimer’s backup.

Looking at the schedule, Luongo’s “injury” (he’s listed as day-to-day) is probably designed to get him some rest. After tonight’s game, the Panthers play Detroit tomorrow and are then off through the holiday break. They won’t play again until Dec. 28, when they take on the Maple Leafs.

Luongo’s been a busy man through the first three months of the season, having played the 16th-most minutes among goalies (Carey Price is 15th, to put that in perspective).

Reimer, signed on this summer to lighten Luongo’s load, hasn’t played especially well and with Florida fighting for a playoff spot, Luongo has been relied upon more than the club probably would’ve liked.

Lack back for ‘Canes following 14-game concussion absence

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Carolina will have its regular goalie tandem back prior to the holiday break.

Eddie Lack, out since late November with a concussion, has been activated from IR and will rejoin the team ahead of tomorrow’s game against Buffalo.

In conjunction with the Lack news, the ‘Canes also announced that veteran netminder Michael Leighton has been reassigned to AHL Charlotte.

Lack missed the last 14 games with the concussion, and during that time Cam Ward started the majority of Carolina’s games, and fared well. So it’ll be interesting to see when the lanky Swede returns to game action, and how he fares.

Lack struggled to start this year and, at the time of his injury, had all but ceded the net to Ward.

Before the concussion, Lack played just twice in November — one was a 4-1 loss to New Jersey, in which he allowed three goals on 20 shots. The other was a 28-second appearance against Anaheim on Nov. 10.