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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After missing five of first seven games, Murray back for Jackets

Columbus will get a big piece of its defense back on Tuesday, as Ryan Murray will suit up for the first time in four games when the Jackets host Dallas.

Murray, out since Oct. 21 with a head injury following a hit from Chicago d-man Brent Seabrook, had also missed time earlier in the season with a lower-body ailment after blocking a Brad Marchand shot in Columbus’ season-opener against Boston.

Injuries are a recurring theme for Murray.

The 23-year-old, taken second overall by Columbus in 2012, missed a ton of time over his first two professional campaigns, though rebounded nicely to appear in all 82 contests for Columbus last season (finishing with 25 points).

This fall, he represented Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey, along with fellow Blue Jackets d-man Seth Jones.

When healthy, Murray is a vital cog in the Columbus defense. He averaged nearly 23 minutes per game last season and features prominently on the power play.

As such, his return will be a welcome one for the Blue Jackets, who have performed reasonably well after getting off to an 0-2 start. They’re 3-1-1 in their last five, which includes an impressive 4-0 shutout win in Anaheim on Friday night.

A big reason for that success? The play of Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been excellent — and busy — for the Jackets.

Cap-strapped Wild recall three

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Yesterday we passed along news about the undermanned Minnesota Wild, who were dealing with major salary cap issues ahead of tonight’s game against Buffalo.

Today, they got their house in order.

Three skaters have been recalled: Christoph Bertschy, Tyler Graovac and Jordan Schroeder, the latter having just been named the AHL’s Player of the Week.

Graovac and Bertschy were in the Wild lineup for Saturday’s 4-0 win over Dallas — Bertschy registered his first NHL point (an assist), while Graovac scored his first big-league goal — but were quickly returned to AHL Iowa in an effort to save cap space.

Those departures, along with injuries to Zach Parise, Marco Scandella, Zach Dalpe, Erik Haula and Chris Stewart (illness), meant that head coach Bruce Boudreau was woefully shorthanded for Monday’s practice.

(The Wild later announced that Dalpe is out 4-6 weeks after knee surgery.)

Thankfully for the Wild, the club will have a full lineup tonight. Stewart is over his illness to the point where he can suit up, meaning Minnesota won’t have to platoon defenseman Nate Prosser as a forward.

So they’re missing some key players, but the Wild continue to chug along. That continues the narrative written throughout the first month of the season, as Minnesota jumped out to a 6-2-1 start to sit atop the Central Division.

Related: They ‘don’t have superstars,’ but the Wild are off to a hot start

Flyers lose veteran center Gordon (upper body) for at least a week

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Already down the services of Michael Raffl, Michael Del Zotto and Scott Laughton, the Flyers suffered another blow on the injury front Tuesday, announcing that Boyd Gordon would be out at least a week with an upper-body ailment.

Gordon, a veteran penalty killer and bottom-six checking forward, signed over from Arizona this past summer. One of Philly’s more active guys on the dot, he sits fourth on the team in faceoffs taken but leads in winning percentage (52.4).

In eight games, Gordon has one goal while averaging 8:31 TOI per night.

Beyond this injury, the Flyers could be making some lineup adjustments for tomorrow’s game against Detroit (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Raffl could make his return to the lineup at the expense of Chris Vande Velde.

Soshnikov recalled as Leafs’ youth movement continues

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Toronto continued to get younger on Tuesday, as Russian forward Nikita Soshnikov was recalled from the AHL Marlies.

Soshnikov, 23, joined the Leafs as an undrafted free agent last year and played 11 games at the NHL level, scoring two goals and five points.

His time in North America has largely been spent with the Marlies — last year, he had 18 goals and 28 points in 52 games (plus seven more in 11 playoff contests). This year, he’s racked up three points in six games.

Not overly large — listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds — Soshnikov is high on skill and could be fun to watch alongside the likes of Toronto’s other young talents like Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner.

His roster spot with the Leafs opened up yesterday, when the club placed veteran d-man Matt Hunwick on IR.

St. Louis’ penalty kill is great, but Hitch doesn’t want to talk about it

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The Blues have killed off 93.9 percent of penalties taken this season — the second-best mark in the NHL — and have allowed just one PPG over the last eight games, when they were shorthanded 29 times.

For most, that’s cause for praise (heck in Chicago, it would be cause for a parade.)

Yet for head coach Ken Hitchcock… well there’s this, from the Post-Dispatch:

Hitchcock will talk about just about anything. Except his team’s penalty kill.

Ken, your penalty kill …

“Don’t want to talk about it,” he said last week.

Is that a bad omen?

“Don’t want to talk about it.”

It hasn’t seemed to miss a beat with Rick Wilson taking over for Brad Shaw …

“Don’t want to talk about it. Next question.”

Hitchcock’s refusal to talk could come from a fear of upsetting the hockey gods — thou shall not speak glowingly of thy PK — or maybe he just doesn’t want to draw attention to unit that, historically, has been really good for a really long time.

Last year, the Blues had the league’s third best penalty kill, at 85.1 percent.

The year prior, they finished ninth at 83.7 percent.

The year prior to that? Second, at 85.7 percent.

A big part of this is consistency. Even though the coaching changed over from Shaw to Wilson, several of the contributors stay the same: Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo see the most shorthanded TOI per night, while the likes of Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and David Perron — back for his second tour of duty in St. Louis — log big minutes up front.

Effective penalty killing is part of the Blues’ DNA, and often leads to success. So it’s probably worth noting that, in last year’s Western Conference Final loss to San Jose, the Blues surrendered four power play goals over the final five games of the series (and had their hands full with Brent Burns).

Related: ‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs on for one final year in St. Louis