Mike Halford

No hearing for McLeod after concussing Baertschi

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Nashville forward Cody McLeod has escaped punishment for his hit on Vancouver’s Sven Baertschi, per ESPN.

McLeod won’t be subjected to a disciplinary hearing for the incident, which forced Baertschi from Tuesday’s game with a concussion.

The hit, which occurred early in the first period, was deemed an “accidental collision” by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety (again, per ESPN).

But that’s not quite how Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins saw it:

It’s worth noting McLeod wasn’t penalized on the play.

Martin Havlat calls it a career

OTTAWA - APRIL 21:  Martin Havlat #9 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on April 21, 2006 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Senators defeated the Lightning 4-1.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
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Martin Havlat, the speedy forward that scored nearly 600 points in close to 800 career games, has announced his retirement after 14 seasons in the NHL.

“That was fast,” Havlat said in a statement, released by the NHLPA. “I feel like I was just getting started in the NHL a short while ago. I would love to continue playing but my body will not allow me to play at the level I expect from myself.

“I feel very fortunate to have played in the NHL for 14 years. Rest assured, I am retiring as a grateful man.”

Some career highlights, per the PA:

— Armed with great speed and a blistering wrist shot, Havlat impressed in his debut season (19-23—42) to finish as a Calder Memorial Trophy finalist in 2000-01, and he was also named to the NHL All-Rookie team. A testament to his knack for timely goal-scoring in Ottawa, with 23 game-winning goals in 298 regular season games, Havlat was recently named to the Senators’ 25th anniversary team as voted by the fans.

— Havlat spent three seasons in Chicago, which he punctuated with an impressive 2008-09 season when he set career-best marks in assists (48), points (77) and plus/minus (+29) in 81 games. He led the team in assists and points, while he placed second behind teammate Jonathan Toews’ 34 goals. For his efforts, he was named the Blackhawks’ team MVP. 

— Havlat signed a six-year contract as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild in July 2009. In 2011, he made his second NHL All-Star Game appearance. Havlat averaged 58 points in 75 games during his two years in Minnesota (40-76—116 in 151 GP). 

Havlat also spent time in San Jose, New Jersey and St. Louis. Internationally, he starred at numerous tournaments for his native Czech Republic, which included gold medal-winning performances at the 2000 World Juniors and World Championships.

“I will miss playing the game I love so much, Havlat said. “It is time to start a new chapter in my life.”

Goalie nods: Lack primed for first start in 40 games

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 15: Goalie Eddie Lack #31 of the Carolina Hurricanes in action against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Big night for Carolina’s Eddie Lack.

Lack, who has missed most of the season dealing with a concussion, will start for the first time since Nov. 6 when the ‘Canes take on the Caps at Verizon.

Though he made another appearance following that contest — a brief 28-second relief spot on Nov. 10 — Lack hasn’t played at all in nearly three months, save a conditioning stint with AHL Charlotte.

The injury really stretched the ‘Canes thin.

Equipment manage Jorge Alves was called into repeated practice duty, and even got into a game back in December. Veteran journeyman Michael Leighton and young prospect Alex Nedeljkovic were also thrown into the mix, but duties have primarily — and often — fallen to Cam Ward, who is among the league leaders in starts (44) and shots faced (1,197).

It’ll be curious to see how Lack fares tonight. It’s a tough matchup against a powerhouse offense like Washington but, if he can perform well, it could lighten Ward’s load down the stretch, and prevent him from getting fatigued as the ‘Canes try make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Elsewhere…

— The Sharks begin their Eastern road swing tonight in Buffalo, and they’ll do it with Martin Jones in goal. Anders Nilsson goes for Buffalo, after Robin Lehner started the last four.

— After getting last game off, John Gibson is back in for the Ducks as they take on the Rangers at MSG. Henrik Lundqvist goes for New York, after making 29 saves in a win over Calgary on Sunday.

Brian Elliott lost the aforementioned Flames-Rangers game, so he’s out and Chad Johnson‘s in. The host Penguins will start Matt Murray.

— Los Angeles will go back to Peter Budaj after he was roasted for four goals on 15 shots in Sunday’s ugly loss in Washington. Tampa Bay will go with Ben Bishop, coming off a win over the Ducks.

Petr Mrazek, coming off a stellar 42-save shutout of Nashville, is right back in for the Red Wings. The visiting Blue Jackets didn’t have a morning skate, so no word on who starts.

Jake Allen returns to the starter’s crease for St. Louis, after Carter Hutton shut out Philly last night. The Sens are giving workhorse Mike Condon a break, and going with Andrew Hammond.

— It’s Antti Niemi versus Curtis McElhinny as the Stars and Leafs do battle in Toronto.

Jacob Markstrom gets his first start since Jan. 25 when the Canucks take on the Preds in Nashville. He’ll be up against Pekka Rinne, who is playing well lately (.932 save percentage over last six starts).

Ondrej Pavelec makes his eighth start in nine games since his recall, as the Jets host the Wild. Minnesota, per usual, is going with Devan Dubnyk.

— After getting Sunday off, Carey Price starts as the Habs take on the Avs in Denver. Calvin Pickard counters for the home side.

Kings to debut LaDue, who’s been in the news lately

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Paul LaDue #38 of the Los Angeles Kings takes control of the puck during a preseason game at Staples Center on September 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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For a 24-year-old defenseman that’s never played in the NHL, there’s plenty of intrigue around Paul LaDue.

LaDue, the former North Dakota rearguard, is set to make his big-league debut tonight when the Kings take on the Bolts in Tampa Bay. LaDue’s recall came after an impressive stint with AHL Ontario — six goals and 18 points in 36 games — in his first full year of professional hockey.

The debut also comes with his name making the rounds.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, in speaking with Fan 960 radio (per FanRag), said he’s “hearing that this might be a showcase,” for Kings GM Dean Lombardi, to potentially generate interest in LaDue heading into the trade deadline.

But Friedman also pointed to reports from dialed-in Mayors Manor scribe John Hoven, which said the opposite:

LaDue is nearly untouchable when it comes to trades being considered by GM Dean Lombardi. That’s not to say it’s impossible (we all know the adage, even Wayne Gretzky was traded); but more to the point that it would have to be an overpayment of epic proportions to pry him from the pipeline. This label is not something we throw around lightly either.

We used it with [Tyler] Toffoli a few years ago, when people wanted to connect the dots and throw him into trade talks – while all of our internal sources laughed at the mere suggestion. The same thing went with a pair of players last season. And now with LaDue. At the very least, know this; LaDue’s recent call-up was not to showcase him for a trade.

If the latter holds true, it doesn’t necessarily shutter trade talks. If LaDue shows well and earns the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter, he could be an effective replacement on the back end — and, most importantly, an inexpensive one ($925,000 cap hit).

Friedman noted that L.A. is tight to the cap, adding that when it comes to teams calling about a trade, “everybody talks [Jake] Muzzin or [Alec] Martinez.”

Which is were LaDue might come in. Though it seems risky to lean on such an untested guy, the Kings have worked the likes of Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel into the mix this year, with the former having acquitted himself well.

Three months after MS diagnosis, Bickell set to rejoin ‘Canes

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Carolina forward Bryan Bickell received life-altering news earlier this season when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Bickell was unsure if he’d ever play hockey again, let alone this season.

Which makes today’s news quite incredible.

Per NHL.com, Bickell is aiming to return to the ‘Canes following their upcoming bye week, for a home date against the Avalanche on Feb. 17.

“It all depends too on what other guys are doing if they’re going on a huge streak,” Bickell explained. “I like to see them win. If they need me, I’m sure an extra week of me skating is not going to hurt me.

“We’re just going to wait until after the next treatment and after the bye week and go from there.”

Bickell’s treatment is a monthly intravenous of Tysabri, a drug which helps limit the effects of MS. The 30-year-old said he began feeling better upon taking the medication, and has since increased his skating workload to get up to NHL speed.

He’s been skating for a month, and said he’d be open to the idea of an AHL conditioning stint. He hasn’t played since Oct. 30.

The ‘Canes, meanwhile, have two games left before their break.

In the short-term, Bickell is set to have another round of Tysabri later this week, resume skating activity, then see where how he’s feeling.

Whatever the case, he’s already taken a big step in a very positive direction.