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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Blues bring back Jackman as coach, a ‘great benefit to our young defensemen’

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St. Louis continues to make coaches of guys only just removed from their playing days.

Following the hire of Steve Ott an assistant coach — just weeks after Ott was playing for Montreal in the playoffs — the Blues have brought back longtime defenseman Barret Jackman as a development coach.

“We are excited to have Barret back with the Blues organization,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in a release. “Barret’s leadership and understanding of the game will be a great benefit to our young defensemen.”

Originally drafted by the Blues 17th overall in 1999, Jackman went on to dress in over 900 games for the club and captured the franchise’s first and only Calder Trophy in 2003. He spent a short spell in Nashville before signing a one-day contact to retire with the Blues last October.

Now, Jackman will have plenty of good blueline prospects to work with. Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson are already established at the NHL level, but still only 24 and 23 years old respectively.

The Blues also have a good one in Vince Dunn, the 56th overall pick in 2015 that had a great rookie year in AHL Chicago. And there are high hopes for Jake Walman, the 82nd overall pick in ’14 that left Providence last year, turned pro, and played a handful of games with the Wolves.

Detroit and Tampa affiliates meet again in Calder Cup Final

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For the second time in four years, the Syracuse Crunch and Grand Rapids Griffins will battle for the AHL championship.

The 2017 Calder Cup Final gets underway tonight in Grand Rapids, and it promises to be an engaging affair.

Why? Well based on history, the series could be a jumping off point for a number of NHLers.

Four years ago, the Rapids defeated the Crunch four games to two to capture the first Calder Cup in franchise history. Here’s a list of the now-notable players that appeared in those playoffs.

Grand Rapids: Gustav Nyquist, Petr Mrazek, Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco.

Syracuse: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas, Brett Connolly, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Andrej Sustr, Mark Barberio.

Now, granted, Tampa and Detroit are two of the more — how should we put this — AHL-enthusiastic clubs in the league. Detroit is renowned for letting its prospects spend extensive time in the minors, while Tampa’s had tremendous success transitioning individuals from the AHL, including current head coach Jon Cooper.

So, who to keep an eye on this year?

In terms of prospects, 22-year-old Grand Rapids forward Tyler Bertuzzi — the 58th overall pick in 2013 — has enjoyed a breakout postseason. He’s scored 13 points in 13 games and, according to Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, will be gunning for a spot in Detroit next season.

The same can be said of Evgeni Svechnikov, the club’s first-round pick in 2015. He’s been close to a point-per-game player as well, with 11 in 13 contests.

For the Crunch, 23-year-old Matthew Peca — who made his NHL debut earlier this year — has been terrific, with 12 points in 16 games. Ben Thomas, the defenseman taken in the fourth round in 2014, has been solid in his rookie campaign and sits second among d-men in scoring.

Here’s the entire Calder Cup Final schedule:

Game 1: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Friday, June 2

Game 2: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 3

Game 3: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7

Game 4: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Friday, June 9

Game 5: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 10 (if necessary)

Game 6: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 13 (if necessary)

Game 7: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 14 (if necessary)

‘We’re going to win the next game,’ says Subban

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PITTSBURGH — Consecutive losses to start the Stanley Cup Final hasn’t shaken P.K. Subban‘s confidence.

“The focus shifts to, ‘We don’t lose in our building,'” Subban said in the aftermath of a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 2 on Wednesday night. “We’re going back home, we’re going to win the next game. Then, we’ll go from there.”

The remarks came after an eventful evening. Subban played 24:33, blocked a team-high three shots, was the only Preds d-man not to finish with a negative rating and, in something of a stunner, dropped the gloves with Evgeni Malkin late in the third period.

As such, some might chalk Subban’s comments up to raw emotions spilling over to the postgame scrum. But he insisted the moment wasn’t getting the best of him, or the Preds.

“There’s no frustration. We’re learning,” he explained. “We’ve got guys in here that are learning. We’re going to learn from those two games, and there’s not one ounce of doubt in this locker room.

“We’re going to learn from our mistakes, and we’re going to get better. And like I said, we’ll be ready to play next game.”

And hey, Subban does have reasons to be confident.

Nashville has been terrific at home this postseason, going 7-1 — with the lone loss coming in overtime to Anaheim in the Western Conference Final. Bridgestone Arena has become one of the most raucous rinks in the NHL, and Preds fans have provided the team with incredible energy and excitement throughout this run.

It’s something head coach Peter Laviolette alluded to in his postgame remarks.

“Our building is great, the atmosphere is great,” Laviolette said. “There’s going to be a lot of energy in the building. We’re happy to get home. Our home building’s been a good place for us.”

On Saturday, it’s going to have to be.

Guentzel sparks huge third period as Pens whip Preds in Game 2

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PITTSBURGH — Things were going pretty well for Nashville through 40 minutes on Wednesday night.

Then, the final 20 happened.

In a stunning surge — or collapse, depending where your allegiances lie — the Pittsburgh Penguins exploded for three goals in the first 3:28 of the third period to beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Jake Guentzel played the hero, scoring Pittsburgh’s opening goal before adding the eventual game-winner 10 seconds into the final frame. The GWG was also was the fastest goal to start a period in Penguins playoff history.

Scott Wilson and Evgeni Malkin also found the back of the net, the latter chasing beleaguered Preds netminder Pekka Rinne from the game. Rinne has now surrendered eight goals on 36 shots in the Cup Final, giving him a ghastly .777 save percentage — and giving the Predators some major questions in net as the series shifts back to Nashville.

One of the guys primarily responsible for Rinne’s struggles?

Guentzel.

The 22-year-old rookie has three of those aforementioned eight goals, and continues to etch his name into the history books. With 12 goals this postseason, he now ranks second all-time in goals by a rookie in a single playoff, two back of Dino Ciccarelli’s 14 in 1981. He also set an American-born rookie record for goals and points (19), surpassing the mark Joe Mullen hit 35 years ago.

What’s crazy about Guentzel is that he’s scored those three goals on just four shots. It’s very emblematic of Pittsburgh’s offensive output thus far.

The Penguins have been extremely opportunistic this series, a trend that’s been on display all postseason long. Tonight marked the 15th time in 21 games they’ve been outshot, but it’s hardly been an issue, something head coach Mike Sullivan alluded to after a Game 1 victory in which they scored five times on just 12 shots.

“I think our team has an ability to win games different ways,” said Sullivan. “I think one of the strengths of this team is the quick strike-ability. We can be opportunistic. When we get high-quality chances, we have some people that can finish.”

In many ways, Game 2 was like Game 1. The Preds out-shot the Pens and, for long stretches, out-possessed them. There was a disallowed goal due to a successful offside challenge — though it was Pittsburgh that had a tally wiped out this time, with Nashville doing the wiping — and there was another short, furious burst of scoring.

In the series opener, the Pens scored three times in 4:11 in the opening period. They did it even faster tonight.

The Preds are hoping most, if not all, of these trends will cease to continue on Saturday, when the series shifts to Bridgestone. They can take confidence from their great home record these playoffs — 7-1 in Nashville, with no regulation losses — and the old adage that no series truly begins until a home team loses.

That said, home ice won’t mean a thing if the Penguins continue to be as opportunistic as they’ve been.

Or if Rinne continues to struggle like he has.

Notes…

Matt Murray had a terrific night in goal, stopping 33 of 34 shots… P.K. Subban and Evgeni Malkin engaged in a rare fight late in the third period, as frustrations boiled over… Pontus Aberg provided one of the few Nashville highlights on the night, with his terrific solo goal in the first period…Teams winning Game 2 have gone on to hoist the Stanley Cup 74 percent of the time since the final went to the best-of-seven format in 1939 (57-of-77 series), but only at a 50 pecent clip over the past eight years (4-4).

Bolts trade unsigned draftee Imama to Kings

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Boko Imama, the QMJHL Saint John assistant captain taken by Tampa in the sixth round in 2015, has been traded to the Los Angeles Kings, the Bolts announced on Wednesday.

If the Kings can sign Imama by tomorrow’s 5 p.m. EST deadline, the Lightning will receive a seventh-round pick in 2018.

Imama, 20, is a burly power forward that scored 41 goals in 66 games this year, finishing as the Sea Dogs’ top sniper. He helped the club capture the Quebec League title and advance all the way to the Memorial Cup semifinals, where it lost to OHL Erie.

Listed at 6-foot-1, 221 pounds, Imama was also adept with his fists, fighting a combined 26 times in the ’13-14 and ’14-15 campaigns.