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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Zero wins, too many penalties force Ducks to ‘look in the mirror’

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The slow start in Anaheim was predictable.

The Ducks opened their season with a “very difficult” road trip — five straight games through Dallas, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, Newark and Philly. They’re also without two key pieces in Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell, and just 12 months removed from a ghastly 1-7-2 start last season.

So the built-in excuses are there.

But the team wants no part of them.

“Everybody has to look themselves in the mirror,” Ryan Kesler said following Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Devils, per the O.C. Register. “I don’t think anybody was good enough tonight to win that hockey game. We’re close but once again we’re not there.

“We’ve been through it before. We’re probably going to go through it again during the stretch of this year. We just need everybody collectively to look in the mirror.”

If the Ducks follow Kesler’s urging for self-reflection, they’ll probably see the penalty box somewhere in the background.

Discipline’s been an issue thus far. The Ducks have been whistled for 19 minor penalties already — fifth-most in the league — and while they did a good job of killing them in their first three games, it cost them last night.

New Jersey converted two of its seven power play opportunities. Things were especially bad in the second period, when Anaheim was dinged for five straight penalties — Kesler, Emerson Etem, Antoine Vermette, Nick Sorensen and Kevin Bieksa, if you’re keeping track — a procession that head coach Randy Carlyle called “unacceptable” and “frustrating.”

Add it all up, and the Ducks now head into Thursday’s game at Wells Fargo sporting a 0-3-1 record.

It’s hardly the end of the world — three of the four losses came by one goal, and the club got a point off the Islanders — but one can sense pressure mounting.

Remember, GM Bob Murray faced criticism for bringing Carlyle back into the fold to replace Bruce Boudreau. Rakell is now signed, but still needs to obtain a work visa and recover from abdominal surgery.

Everything remains quiet on the Lindholm front.

The bottom-six forward group is a work in progress — Etem, claimed off waivers from Vancouver, made his team debut against New Jersey — and the defense is still without the services of Simon Despres, who’s dealing with a possible concussion.

The Ducks showed last year they can rebound from a bad start, finishing with 103 points and the Pacific Division title.

Bet they’d like to avoid digging out of a similar hole this year, though.

Now’s a good time to examine the goalie market

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Jonathan Quick is out with a groin injury — one that could be long-term — and that’s left Los Angeles with Jeff Zatkoff as its No. 1 goalie.

Mike Smith was hurt last night in Ottawa — the second straight year he’s picked up an injury — which has once again pushed Louis Domingue into Arizona’s starting role.

And with those two developments, the NHL’s goalie carousel is in full spin.

To be fair, the ride started this summer. There was confirmation of an expansion draft, followed by the Brian Elliott-to-Calgary trade at the draft, and all the rumors involving Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Then the season started, and injuries hit.

Spin baby spin.

The calls for L.A. to bring in a goalie got louder last night as Zaktoff struggled, again, in a 6-3 loss to Minnesota. Whether it’s him in goal or Peter Budaj, neither seems like an adequate solution, especially for a Kings team with playoff aspirations.

Arizona’s not quite in a similar boat. The severity of Smith’s injury is still unknown, and the club has faith in Domingue, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Coyotes contemplate some sort of move.

When Smith got hurt last year, then-GM Don Maloney said he was “willing to pay up an asset” to get a “top end goaltender” and while Maloney has since been replaced by John Chayka, a similar — but more tempered — strategy could be employed.

If Smith is badly hurt, the Coyotes might have to bring another guy in, though not necessarily someone to challenge for starts. Justin Peters and Marek Langhamer are the No. 3 and 4 goalies on the depth chart, and Chayka will probably want to avoid a repeat of last season, when the likes of Anders Lindback and Niklas Treutle tried, but failed, to stabilize the backup position behind Domingue.

So that’s the situation at hand.

Now… what’s out there?

For the purposes of keeping this realistic, let’s skip over Bishop and Fleury. Both would be insanely expensive acquisitions, and it’s tough to see either getting moved right now.

If you’re looking for a guy with plenty of No. 1 experience, you can call the Jets for Ondrej Pavelec or the Red Wings for Jimmy Howard. Of course, both acquisitions are tough to stomach because of their cap hits. OK, Howard is completely un-stomachable (not a word) while Pavelec is somewhat stomachable (still not a word) if the Jets retained salary.

But there’s a reason Pavelec’s currently in the American League. Two reasons, actually — a .907 career save percentage, and a .904 last season.

The Flyers have two potential No. 1 netminders, and affordable ones in Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason (what’s more, both pending unrestricted free agents.) But if Flyers GM Ron Hextall is going to trade one of them, is he going to do it now?

As Brough wrote today: “Not for nothing, that’s for sure.”

Some look at Carolina and wonder if GM Ron Francis would move one of Cam Ward ($3.3 million through 2018) or Eddie Lack ($2.75 million).  But those same people also realize Ward has value this summer, when the ‘Canes will be forced to expose a goalie in the expansion draft.

The Islanders have a three-goalie situation right now with Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube. But GM Garth Snow was comfortable rolling with it last year, and this year appears no different.

The ideal solution for teams looking for goalie help, of course, is to do what Minnesota did a couple of seasons ago — find a potential reclamation project on the cheap, like Devan Dubnyk, and cross your fingers.

Problem is, not many current candidates fit the mold. Pittsburgh’s Mike Condon has had some success at the NHL level, and will likely come available when Matt Murray returns from his hand injury, but let’s be honest — Condon’s a reach.

Darcy Kuemper is interesting, and sitting behind Dubnyk in Minnesota. But GM Chuck Fletcher is probably content with his goalie situation, and therefore would feel no need to mess with it (unless the price was right).

Whatever the case, this market is something to watch in the coming days and weeks.

Poor attendance numbers an early story in Ottawa

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The headlines from Ottawa’s local rags say it all.

Now we know how low the season ticket base is
Wayne Scanlan, Ottawa Citizen

Senators outscore Coyotes before a lot of empty seats
Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun

Attendance a growing concern for Senators
Don Brennan, Ottawa Sun

The Senators’ crowd numbers have been a problem right from the get go.

Ottawa opened the year with home dates against Toronto and Montreal, two games that — on paper — should’ve been sellouts. The Leafs are arguably the Senators’ biggest rival, and they arrived on opening night with No. 1 pick Auston Matthews in tow.

Wednesday’s attendance figure at the Canadian Tire Centre, which has a capacity of 19,153?

Just 17,618.

Surely, though, things would improve for Game 2.

This one was against Montreal, an original six club and another of the organization’s fiercest rivals. What’s more, the game was on a Saturday night and Habs fans routinely travel well to Ottawa, given the proximity between the two cities.

Saturday’s attendance? 18,195.

Things bottomed out completely against Arizona on Tuesday. A non-conference foe on a midweek night going up against the Blue Jays — who were fighting for their playoff lives against Cleveland — was always going to be a tough draw.

Really tough, apparently. Only 11,061 showed up to watch the club put up seven goals in a win over the Coyotes.

That offense is something worth mentioning. Though the sample size is small, Ottawa has emerged as one of the most offensively productive teams in the league, having found the back of the net 16 times through the first four games.

(Ottawa’s defensive issues also make for some high-scoring games: 5-4, 4-3, 5-1 and 7-4 thus far, with the first two going to overtime and a shootout respectively.)

You’d think those high scores and entertainment value alone would draw in the crowds, but it’s more complicated than that.

The Canadian Tire Centre is located in Kanata, an Ottawa suburb that’s not especially easy to get to. But there are other issues at play — outlined here, by SensNation’s Tyler Ray — which include traditionally “soft” attendance numbers at the beginning of the NHL campaign, and rumblings of a new arena location.

That, of course, is the proposed LeBreton Flats project, a 21.6-hectare parcel of land that Sens owner Eugene Melynk is bidding on. In his bid, Melnyk promised that a new Senators arena would be ready for the puck to drop by September of 2021.

The Senators don’t play again until Saturday, with another compelling matchup at home — Tampa Bay, an Eastern Conference powerhouse led by captain Steve Stamkos (who just so happens to be from Markham, Ontario, a five-hour drive away from Ottawa).

Should be interesting to see what kind of numbers the Sens get at the gate.

Veteran NHLer Moss calls it a career

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David Moss, the nine-year veteran that spent time with both Calgary and Arizona, announced his retirement from professional hockey via his Twitter account on Wednesday morning.

“I’ll always be humbled to say I played in the NHL,” Moss said in a statement. “I will miss all of my teammates and the great relationships I made over the last 10 years, the hockey world is something special and I was lucky to be part of it!”

Moss, 34, was Calgary’s seventh-round pick at the 2001 draft. Following a solid career at the University of Michigan, Moss transitioned to the pro game in 2005 and made his NHL debut two years later, with the Flames.

His best year came in 2008-09, when he scored a career-high 20 goals and 39 points.

Moss spent the majority of his career in Calgary, appearing in over 300 games during a six-year span. He spent the final three years with the Coyotes, before a brief stint with Biel of the Swiss League last season.

Goalie nods: Dell, 27, to make NHL debut for Sharks

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No shortage of storylines tonight, but here’s a neat one — Aaron Dell, the 27-year-old that’s captured the backup gig behind Martin Jones in San Jose, will make his first-ever NHL start when the Sharks take on the Isles in Brooklyn.

Dell was undrafted out of the University of North Dakota, and kicked around the CHL, ECHL and AHL after leaving school. He caught on with the Sharks organization a couple seasons ago, and won backup job by putting up solid numbers for the AHL Barracuda in ’15-16.

He posted a 17-16-6 record — with a .922 save percentage, 2.42 GAA and six shutouts — and used that, along with a strong training camp and preseason, to beat out Troy Grosenick and Mantas Armalis for the No. 2 job.

Given Dell’s relative obscurity, there was some question if San Jose would go out and snag a goalie to back up Jones this season. There were rumblings the club might look at Scott Wedgewood after the Devils exposed him to waivers, given the Peter DeBoer connection (DeBoer was the head coach in New Jersey while Wedgewood was tending goal for AHL Albany.)

That rumor never came to fruition, though, and the Sharks opted to go with Dell.

For the Isles, Jaroslav Halak will be in net.

Elsewhere…

John Gibson is back in goal for the Ducks, after allowing three goals on 30 shots in an OT loss to the Isles on Sunday. He’ll be up against Cory Schneider, who starts for the Devils.

Philipp Grubauer makes his first start of the season for Washington, giving Braden Holtby the night off. Semyon Varlamov goes for the Avs after Calvin Pickard beat the Penguins in OT on Monday.

Al Montoya starts his third game in a row for Montreal, as the Habs host the Pens. As mentioned, Pittsburgh played Colorado last night and didn’t skate this morning, so it could be Mike Condon making his team debut… against his former team, the Canadiens. If not, it’ll be Marc-Andre Fleury going back-to-back.

More: Canadiens don’t know if Price will play Thursday

Craig Anderson goes for Ottawa after Andrew Hammond was ventilated last night in Detroit. The visiting Coyotes are going with Mike Smith.

— An all-Finnish matchup in Nashville as Kari Lehtonen and the Stars visit Pekka Rinne and the Predators.

— The Flyers are going back to Michal Neuvirth in goal after Steve Mason started Saturday in Los Angeles. Corey Crawford counters for Chicago.

Jeff Zatkoff continues his run as the No. 1 in L.A., filling for the injured Jonathan Quick. Tonight he’ll face off against Darcy Kuemper, who will play his first game of the year for the Wild.

James Reimer makes his Panthers debut in the Battle of Florida. He’ll be up against Ben Bishop, who returns to start for the Lightning after Andrei Vasilevskiy beat the Devils on Saturday.

More: There’s no bad blood between Bishop and Vasilevskiy

Robin Lehner, fresh off his first win of the year Sunday in Edmonton, goes for the Sabres in Calgary. The Flames are making an interesting move by going with Chad Johnson for the second straight game, ahead of No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott, who struggled mightily to start the year.

— Battle of the Cams in Edmonton: Cam Talbot for the Oilers, Cam Ward for the ‘Canes.

Jacob Markstrom gets the nod for Vancouver, as Ryan Miller is dealing with tightness. It was an optional skate for St. Louis today, so no word on a starter.

Updated: Miller’s out for tonight. Vancouver, in need of an emergency backup, have signed University of British Columbia goalie Matt Hewitt. Hewitt, 23, used to play for WHL Regina but has spent the last four seasons at the Canadian University level.