Mike Halford

Brad May, Kevin Hodson, Jiri Fischer, Aaron Ward

Charges against ex-NHLer Ward dismissed

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Former NHL defenseman Aaron Ward, arrested in October for “assault on a female” in North Carolina, had his charges dismissed last Friday, per TSN.

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Ward, 43, was arrested on Oct. 9, 2015, in Cary, N.C., and charged with two misdemeanours, for assault on a female and interfering with emergency communications. Both charges have been dropped by the Wake County District Attorney’s Office.

“After review of this case and discussions with the victim, it appears that further prosecution is not warranted,” Wake County first assistant district attorney Howard J. Cummings wrote in the dismissal, according to court documents.

Per WRAL, Ward’s arrest came after his wife called 9-1-1 following an altercation between the pair. Police later confirmed Ward was arrested at his home in Cary.

A 16-year veteran that appeared in over 800 games, Ward was working as an analyst for TSN at the time of his arrest.

Ward also spent five years of his career in Carolina, helping the ‘Canes capture the Stanley Cup in 2006.

After 15-game absence, Kronwall back for Detroit tonight

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall (55) scores on Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens (30) in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Monday, March 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Losers in five of their last six, the Red Wings will get arguably their best defenseman back in time for tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets.

Niklas Kronwall, who has missed the last 15 games with a knee injury, will draw back in for the first time since Jan. 17, per MLive.

The 35-year-old was a huge contributor upon getting hurt. In his first 45 games of the season, Kronwall sat second among Wings d-men in scoring, with 17 points, and led all skaters in ice time, at 22:45 TOI per night.

Needless to say, the Wings are happy about his return.

The club has not played especially well in Kronwall’s absence, going 6-6-3 in his 15 games away.

Defensively, the club suffered through a really bad stretch from Feb. 12-18, in which it surrendered 19 goals over four games and won just once — a wild 6-5 victory over Boston two Sundays ago.

 

Canucks trade ’13 first-rounder Shinkaruk to Flames for Granlund

Hunter Shinkaruk
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A rather curious move between two struggling Pacific Division clubs on Monday, as the Canucks sent former first-round pick Hunter Shinkaruk to Calgary in exchange for forward Markus Granlund.

Granlund, 22, has a far more extensive NHL resume, with 86 games to his credit compared to Shinkaruk’s one. That said, Shinkaruk would appear — at least at first glace — to have more upside, given he only turned 21 in October, is a former first-round pick (24th overall, ’13) and has been very good in the American League this year, with 21 goals in 45 games.

Shinkaruk was also named to this year’s AHL All-Star Classic.

In Granlund, the Canucks get a center with four goals and seven points in 31 games this year. He’s been a healthy scratch on a few occasions by head coach Bob Hartley, and has also spent time with Calgary’s AHL affiliate in Stockton.

Upon being recalled in December, Granlund won the praise of Flames head coach Bob Hartley.

“If we look at his entire game, he’s strong, he’s solid defensively, he’s moving the puck well, he’s skating, and this guy can shoot the puck,” Hartley said, per the Herald. “He’s been big for us.”

Contractually, this trade is pretty interesting.

Granlund’s a pending RFA, in the final year of his entry-level deal. Shinkaruk, meanwhile, is in the first of his three-year ELC and is under contract through 2018.

The deal also brings Shinkaruk back to his hometown of Calgary.

Current road trip ‘make or break’ for Arizona’s playoff chances

Los Angeles Kings v Arizona Coyotes
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For most of the year, folks wondered if — or, when — the Arizona Coyotes would eventually fall out of playoff contention.

And now — as they’re about to embark on a five-game road swing through Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — the Coyotes are talking about it themselves.

“We’re looking at it as a huge part of the season,” Kevin Connauton said, per the Arizona Republic. “We gotta go on this road trip, and we gotta play some good hockey. We gotta grind out a couple of road wins because this is a key point in the season.

“This could really, at the end of the day, make or break things for us.”

The Coyotes are in a pretty curious spot.

Realistically, they’re probably not going to make the postseason. Heading into tonight’s game at Verizon, they’re five points back of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, and would need to leapfrog Minnesota to get there.

But the fact Arizona’s in this conversation at all is surprising.

Picked by many to be one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Coyotes have impressed, thanks in large part to the outstanding play of rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. Throw in some surprisingly good netminding from another rookie, Louis Domingue, and the usual solid contributions from blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and the Coyotes have put together what has to be seen as a successful campaign — playoffs or no.

Which is why, regardless of how this trip goes, the club’s immediate future might already be decided.

While GM Don Maloney said there won’t be a purge similar to last year, it’s likely that Arizona will be a seller at the Feb. 29 deadline. There’s been a ton of rumored interesting around pending UFA Mikkel Boedker, while veteran free agents like Nicklas Grossmann and Boyd Gordon could also be flipped for picks.

Add it all up, and Connauton was right — this road trip could make or break the Coyotes’ playoff chances.

Yet it’s entirely possible those chances won’t be broken by wins or losses.

Goalie nods: Allen’s back, but Elliott remains Blues’ starter

St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) lunges to make a save against the Nashville Predators during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Sanford Myers)

Jake Allen has been activated from injured reserve and is ready to go.

He won’t, however, go this evening.

When the Blues host the Sharks at Scottrade, it’ll be Brian Elliott making his 18th consecutive start, looking to expand on a five-game winning streak over which he’s posted a 1.99 GAA and .931 save percentage.

Those numbers are a big part of the reason why he’s facing the Sharks.

Elliott has been a revelation since Allen went down to injury on Jan. 8. The Blues have gone 12-3-2 over their last 17 games, despite the fact the offense has sputtered — there was a five-game stretch from Jan. 20 to Feb. 4 in which the Blues only scored five times, and a three-game stretch from Feb. 14-18 in which they won three straight games by a 2-1 scoreline.

(With two of those wins coming in OT.)

For the Sharks, Martin Jones gets the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Joonas Korpisalo makes his 12th straight start for the Blue Jackets, who are in Boston. The B’s look as though they’ll give Tuukka Rask a rest, and start Jonas Gustavsson.

Louis Domingue, yanked in a loss to St. Louis over the weekend, is back in goal as the Coyotes play in Washington. Braden Holtby assumes his usual starter’s role for the Caps.

— It’s Pekka Rinne versus Mike Condon as the Preds take on the Habs in Montreal.