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 surfacing in trade rumors, Dougie Hamilton’s turned it on

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Whether it’s cause-and-effect or pure coincidence, one can’t help but notice Dougie Hamilton‘s recent offensive surge, one that came after Flames president Brian Burke aggressively shot down trade rumors involving the young d-man.

Burke’s rant happened on Nov. 30.

In the five games since, Hamtilon’s scored four goals and five points, earning massive praise in the process.

“There have been a lot of games that I’ve thought Dougie is one of the most dominant players on the ice,” Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan said, per the Herald. “There’s been a few of those lately.”

“He’s been great,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano added. “It’s so easy to play with him. It’s hard to explain. He’s been jumping in and making plays and shooting the puck — he’s doing everything well right now.”

Gulutzan and Giordano have both played instrumental roles in the turnaround.

The former paired the latter with Hamilton about 15 games ago. It was a significant switch, given Hamilton had spent the early parts of the year skating alongside the likes of Dennis Wideman and Jyrki Jokipakka.

Giordano’s proven to be a stabilizing presence for Hamilton who, many often forget, is still only 23 years old. The new pairing has also meant an uptick in Hamilton’s ice time, which had previously been an issue (he was at 19:17 TOI, down from 19:46 in his first season with Calgary).

In a six-game stretch to close out November, Hamilton played at least 20 minutes per night, including a season-high 24:28 in a (regulation) loss to the Flyers.

The creation of the Giordano-Hamilton pairing is one of the three big reasons why Calgary’s shot to within one point of first in the Pacific Division. The return of Johnny Gaudreau is the second, and Chad Johnson taking over No. 1 goaltending duties is the third.

Hamilton’s rebound, though, has had a domino effect. Aside from helping turn the Flames’ fortunes around, it also silenced any lingering trade rumors that might still be out there.

Related: Gulutzan sees great promise in the Flames, a team that’s ‘on the cusp’

NHL issues statement on passing of ‘passionate fan’ Thicke

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In the wake of actor Alan Thicke’s passing — the 69-year-old suffered a heart attack on Tuesday evening — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued the following release, remembering Thicke as an ardent hockey supporter and a frequent collaborator with the league for some of its more marquee events.

“In addition to being a passionate fan, Alan was an energetic participant in many of our events, including All-Star, charity games and Awards shows.

“He frequently attended games, and was with us as recently as September’s World Cup.

“Alan always displayed humor and grace and he will be greatly missed. We send condolences to Alan’s wife, Tanya, and the rest of his family as well as to his countless friends and the multitudes he entertained.”

Thicke, best known for his role as Jason Seaver on the TV series Growing Pains, was also a close friend of Wayne and Janet Gretzky.

There’s a really interesting Grantland piece on all his connections to the hockey world — we recommend checking it out.

Goalie nods: Canucks get Miller back from injury

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Ryan Miller‘s last game was one of his finest of the season, but he wasn’t able to finish it.

Miller, who made 38 saves in Vancouver’s win over Tampa Bay last Thursday, suffered an injury late in the contest and was forced to exit. Jacob Markstrom came on in relief and started the next two games — losses in Florida and Washington — but tonight, Miller will finally get his chance to follow up on that Bolts win, as he’ll take on the ‘Canes in Carolina.

Vancouver’s goalie situation has been a curious one. Markstrom hasn’t capitalized on many of the opportunities afforded, and is just 6-6-2 on the year with a 2.71 GAA and .905 save percentage.

Miller, meanwhile, was up and down through the early stages of the season, but really seemed to hit a groove over the last few weeks. He won three of his last four starts before getting hurt, with a .931 save percentage — in addition to the 38-save win over the Bolts, he also stopped 38 in wins over Toronto and Minnesota.

For the ‘Canes, Cam Ward starts in goal.

Elsewhere…

Peter Budaj, fresh off a 19-save win over Ottawa on Saturday, will start for the Kings. He’ll be up against Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, who is winless in three starts in December.

— Washington will stick with Braden Holtby after he shut out the Canucks on Sunday. The host Isles are going with Jaroslav Halak, who was torched for six goals in a loss to Columbus over the weekend.

— Battle of the backups at MSG: Scott Darling for the ‘Hawks, Antti Raanta for the Rangers. (More on Raanta here)

Mike Smith was hooked after allowing four goals in last night’s 7-0 loss in Pittsburgh, and will get a crack at the Red Wings tonight. Detroit is going with Jimmy Howard.

— Good matchup in Toronto, as Martin Jones and the Sharks take on Frederik Andersen and the Leafs. These two saw a lot of each other over the last few seasons, when Andersen was playing in Anaheim.

Jake Allen goes for the Blues in Nashville. No word on a Preds starter yet.

Roberto Luongo, who made 37 saves in a win over Vancouver on Saturday, is back in for Florida. He’ll take on the white-hot Devan Dubnyk, who has won four games in a row.

John Gibson versus Antti Niemi as the Ducks visit Dallas.

Cam Talbot gets the nod for Edmonton, as the Oilers host the Blue Jackets. Columbus has yet to name a starter but it’ll be zero surprise if Sergei Bobrovsky is the guy.

Blues unite Fabbri-Schwartz-Tarasenko, who are ‘playing some of the best hockey they’ve ever played’

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There’s a youth movement at play in St. Louis.

Tonight against the Preds, head coach Ken Hitchcock will unveil his version of the ‘Kid Line,’ putting Jaden Schwartz at center between Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Tarasenko is 25, Schwartz is 24, Fabbri is 20. What’s more, they’re the Blues’ three leading scorers this year, combining for 33 goals and 67 points.

“It’s a bunch of young guys that are pretty excited to play together,” Hitchcock explained, per the Blues website. “They’re quite frankly playing some of the best hockey they’ve ever played. But I looked at it from a balance standpoint; we need more participants in our game.

“Too much one and done.”

As Hitch alluded to, St. Louis could use a spark.

The club has been inconsistent lately, alternating wins and losses over a six-game stretch. That includes Sunday’s 3-1 defeat in Minnesota, a game in which the Blues only managed to put 23 shots on goal.

“All these games are right there, but we’re not getting a big enough push back against these teams that really check hard,” Hitcock said afterward, per ESPN. “They checked hard. We really checked them hard, but as the game wore they started to get a little bit control of it.”

Today’s line juggling resulted in a second line centered by Paul Stastny, with Alex Steen and David Perron on his wings. The third line has Patrik Berglund in between the slumping Jori Lehtera and Nail Yakupov, who will dress for just the second time this month.

Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves will make up the fourth line.

Captain’s back: Toews returns for ‘Hawks after nine-game absence

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Jonathan Toews has been out of the Chicago lineup since. Nov. 23 with a back injury. He’s admitted his length of time on the shelf has been frustrating, and is itching to play again.

Tonight, he scratches.

(So to speak.)

Toews will return from his nine-game absence tonight as the ‘Hawks take on the Rangers at MSG, per CSN Chicago. The captain took line rushes on the top unit alongside Marian Hossa and Ryan Hartman at the morning skate.

The return is massive for Chicago, quite obviously. Though the club has fared reasonably well in Toews’ absence, going 5-2-2, the offense has dried up a bit. Chicago has found the back of the net just nine times over the last five games (which includes a shutout loss to the Rangers last week).

Toews was off to a modest start offensively, with 12 points through his first 21 games played.

In other lineup news, Brent Seabrook will also return for Chicago tonight. He’s missed the last two games with an upper-body injury.