Mike Halford

Travis Zajac, Mike Hoffman

Devils put Zajac on IR, recall former OHL sniper Blandisi

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The Devils could get a look at an intriguing young prospect tomorrow against Detroit.

On Thursday, the club put veteran center Travis Zajac on injured reserve with an upper-body injury and, in a corresponding move, recalled forward Joseph Blandisi from AHL Albany.

Blandisi, 21, is best known as “the guy that finished second to Connor McDavid in OHL most outstanding player voting” in 2014-15. Blandisi got there by leading the Ontario League in goals, with 52 in 68 games, while finishing with a whopping 112 points.

A late-round pick by Colorado in 2012, Blandisi didn’t sign with the Avs and briefly spent time with Buffalo before catching on with the Devils.

He’s had a very good start to his professional career — in 18 games with Albany this season, he has seven goals and 16 points, good enough for third on the team in scoring.

Blandisi is eligible for selection tomorrow as, when mentioned above, the Devils take on the Wings at Prudential on Friday.

Report: Panthers to unveil new uniforms next season

Derek MacKenzie, Erik Gudbranson, Roberto Luongo
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Per the Miami Herald, the Florida Panthers will change their look next season — dramatically.

According to the Herald’s George Richards, the Panthers are “completely re-branding” themselves for the 2016-17 campaign, complete with a new logo and, potentially, a new color scheme.

More:

Since breaking into the league in ’93, Florida’s been pretty consistent with the “Leaping Cat” logo on the sweater front, though it did alter that design with the now-defunct “JetBlue” jerseys (the Panthers stopped wearing them three years ago).

For those of you not familiar with the JetBlue thing — the story behind the jerseys is they were developed, in part, to lure in the discount airline to become one of Florida’s major sponsors.

Whether or not that’s true is the stuff of urban legend, but JetBlue did sign on… so there’s that.

 

Goalie nods: After getting hooked last night, Jones back in for San Jose

Markus Granlund, Martin Jones

Peter DeBoer is going right back to his No. 1.

Less than 24 hours after giving Martin Jones the hook in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Calgary, the Sharks head coach announced he’ll give Jones another start tonight when San Jose takes on the Oilers at Rexall.

Jones, who allowed three goals on 14 shots last night, has lost three straight games while posting a 3.39 GAA and .882 save percentage.

It’s been an up-and-down campaign for the former Kings backup, as Jones — named the NHL’s first star of the week on Nov. 23 — won his first four games of the year, then lost five of his next seven, then won five straight, then lost four of his next five.

For the Oilers, Anders Nilsson is in goal.

Elsewhere…

Tuukka Rask goes up against Mike Condon as the B’s take on the Habs in Rivalry Night action. Rask is coming off a relatively easy 17-save shutout against Vancouver on Saturday, while Condon allowed three goals on 29 shots in a loss to Carolina that same evening.

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s in for Pittsburgh, while the Avs will go with Reto Berra. Berra hasn’t played since Dec. 1, when he made 27 saves in a 2-1 win in New Jersey.

Henrik Lundqvist goes for the Rangers in Vancouver, while the Canucks counter with Ryan Miller. Lundqvist is on fire at the moment, having stopped 59 of his last 61 shots faced for a .967 save percentage.

McLellan faces former Sharks team for first time tonight

Todd McLellan

He’s the longest-tenured and winningest coach in San Jose history.

But tonight, he’ll be trying to deal the Sharks a loss.

That, of course, is Todd McLellan, currently in his first year as Oilers bench boss after spending the previous seven seasons in the Bay Area.

Tonight, the Oilers will host the Sharks at Rexall — the first meeting of the year between the two clubs — and, prior to, McLellan discussed how he felt about facing his former club.

“It’s different,” he explained, per the team website. “I can downplay it, but it’s different. I probably know that team better than I know our team here in Edmonton now, at least personally, family-wise and what a lot of those players and individuals have gone through.

“I was invested with them. So that’s a little bit different.”

Tonight’s game features two teams going in different directions.

The Sharks have lost four straight and five of their last six, including Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat in Calgary.

The Oilers have won three straight and four of their last five, including Sunday’s 4-2 victory over Buffalo.

Edmonton’s recent streak came after a lousy stretch in which it went 1-3-1 on a five-game road trip, which was punctuated by an ugly 3-0 loss in Toronto — and McLellan calling out certain underachieving players.

While pundits thought that could’ve been a breaking point, it seemed to have the opposite effect as the Oilers have since played some of their best hockey of the year.

Perhaps that’s what McLellan was talking about when he was introduced as the new bench boss, saying his goal was to “build that mental strength” he thought the club lacked.

Related: Oilers waive d-man Fayne, he of the $14.5M contract

Amid concussion issues, veteran d-man Ballard retires

Minnesota Wild v Dallas Stars
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After 10 years and over 600 games, longtime NHL defenseman Keith Ballard has officially announced his retirement.

Ballard, 33, is walking away from the game nearly one year after suffering three facial fractures — and what ended up being his last concussion — in a collision against the Isles on Dec. 9, 2014:

Ballard, who had a history of concussion issues prior to that incident, never played again following the Islanders game and has since re-enrolled as a student at the University of Minnesota, where he starred from 2001-04.

“I didn’t want to retire at this time, but with the bigger picture in mind, it was a no-brainer,” Ballard said, per the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “You look at so many athletes and they struggle for so long and I don’t want that to be me.

“I want to live a healthy life, be there for my wife and kids.”

Ballard said he still experiences headaches, dizziness and fogginess, but explained the symptoms “aren’t bad like they were.”

Prior to finishing his career with the Wild, Ballard had spent time with the Coyotes, Panthers and Canucks. His most prolific season was in his rookie campaign, when he scored a career-high eight goals and 39 points.