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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Benching Athanasiou ‘coach’s decision,’ says Blashill

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Plenty of things went right for Detroit in its 3-2 OT win over Ottawa on Thursday, but Andreas Athanasiou‘s third period wasn’t one of them.

Athanasiou was benched for the entire final frame — and all 1:07 of the OT session — after being on the ice for both of the Sens’ goals in the first and second.

When asked about why the speedy forward was a spectator, Red Wings bench boss Jeff Blashill told the Free Press it was a “coach’s decision.”

All told, Athanasiou finished with just seven shifts for 5:13 of ice time. It was, quite obviously, the lowest total on the team.

This year has been a struggle for the 22-year-old, who missed nearly a month of action after suffering a knee injury against Vancouver on Nov. 10. He has just two points in his last nine games and has seen his ice time chopped in previous instances as well — like a 6-4 win over Anaheim back on Dec. 17, in which he played just 7:47.

One of the fastest players on the team, Athanasiou off to a pretty solid start before getting knocked out of the lineup. He had four goals and five points in 13 games, and was averaging 12:06 TOI per night.

 

 

Update: Brian Campbell’s ironman streak ends with a healthy scratch

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Update: The Chicago Blackhawks did indeed make Brian Campbell a healthy scratch.

Instead, their six defensemen includeDuncan Keith, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrrok, Michal Kempny and Michal Rozsival.

***

Eventful day in the world of Brian Campbell news.

Earlier, we wrote about Campbell being undecided on his future, other than only wanting to play in Chicago beyond this year.

Now, he’s on the verge of missing his first game in a long time.

Campbell “could be out” for tonight’s tilt in Nashville, per ‘Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville. As the Sun-Times reports, the 37-year-old was one of the defensemen out late at today’s morning skate — along with rookie Gustav Forsling — which is usually a good indicator of a healthy scratch.

The Sun-Times did note that Campbell looked like a healthy scratch earlier this season in Columbus, only for Quenneville to insert him into the lineup. So things are still up in the air.

Whatever the case, this is still newsworthy. Campbell has one of the NHL’s longest-active ironman streaks, at 423 games, and hasn’t missed a single tilt since the 2010-11 campaign.

Signed to a one-year, $2.25 million deal in free agency — his version of a hometown discount, given he was making $7.1M annually on his last contract — the veteran has three goals and 10 points this season, averaging just under 19 minutes per night.

But while he’s been an every-night contributor — one of only six ‘Hawks to appear in all 37 games this season — Campbell is one of eight defensemen at Quenneville’s disposal. Coach Q did also note that d-men Michal Kempny and Michal Roszival have been sitting out “probably a little too long.”

Columbus draftee Thurkauf suspended at WJC for slew-footing

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Calvin Thurkauf, a Blue Jackets prospect and captain of the Swiss team at the World Juniors, has been suspended one game by the IIHF for slew-footing Sweden’s Rasmus Dahlin on Wednesday.

From the IIHF:

The incident occurred at the end (20:00) of the first period when both players were along the boards and had light shoulder-to-shoulder contact. Thurkauf hit the Swedish player behind him, Dahlin, first backwards with his arm, followed by a kick with his foot. Dahlin subsequently fell on the ice.

The player explained in the hearing today that he lost his emotional control for that short moment due to previous incidents, that he did not want to injure the opponent and that he acknowledges the misconduct.

The Disciplinary Panel determined that the player’s action constituted a slew-foot (IIHF Rule 160) and that it was a dangerous and unsportsmanlike behaviour, which according to the Rule Book should have resulted in a match penalty. Fortunately, Dahlin was not seriously injured and was able to continue playing.

Thurkauf, taken by Columbus in the seventh round of this year’s draft, will now miss Switerland’s next game — tomorrow, against Denmark.

The 19-year-old winger is enjoying a good campaign otherwise. Thurkauf, who plies his trade for WHL Kelowna, currently sits second on the team in scoring with 31 points through 28 games, and had three through Switzerland’s first two games of the WJC.

Goalie nods: Leafs give Bibeau second career start

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Antoine Bibeau is hoping his second-ever NHL start will go better than the first.

Not that he played badly against the Avalanche on Dec. 11 — Bibeau stopped 26 of 28 shots, good for a .929 save percentage. But the Leafs lost that night, and Bibeau’s counterpart, Colorado netminder Seymon Varlamov, put forth a brilliant 51-save effort in the win.

Tonight, Bibeau will have a shot at his first career win in Tampa Bay, facing a Bolts team that rallied for a comeback OT win over Montreal last night. He should have a reasonable crack at the W — Toronto is surging right now, having won four of its last five, and currently boasts the NHL’s seventh-best offense.

For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy gets his second nod in as many nights, after stopping 22 shots in Wednesday’s win over the Habs.

Elsewhere…

— After making 40 saves in a win over Detroit on Tuesday, Robin Lehner is back in for Buffalo. No word yet on a Boston starter.

Keith Kinkaid gives the struggling Cory Schneider a night off in Washington. The Caps will go with Braden Holtby, who has played well of late despite losing three of his last four starts.

— Speaking of nights off, Carey Price and Roberto Luongo each get one in Florida. The Panthers are going with James Reimer, and the Habs are going with Al Montoya.

— The Wings will give Jared Coreau his third career start when they take on the Sens in Ottawa. Mike Condon is in the other net.

Sergei Bobrovsky and the red-hot Jackets are in Winnipeg tonight. Bobrovsky is looking for his 11th straight win and the Jackets are looking for their 13th in a row. For the Jets, Michael Hutchinson starts.

— Coming off a win against Washington on Tuesday, Jaroslav Halak is back in goal for the Isles, who visit Minnesota. No surprises from the Wild, who will continue to ride Devan Dubynk. Dubnyk is looking for his 10th win in a row.

Corey Crawford has played well in both of his games since returning from an appendectomy, but failed to register a win. He’ll look to change that in Nashville this evening. Looks as though the Preds are going with Pekka Rinne.

— Colorado is still without the services of Semyon Varlamov (groin), so Calvin Pickard starts again. He allowed six goals on 31 shots in his last outing against Calgary on Tuesday. Pickard will face Kari Lehtonen, who is playing well of late, allowing just four goals on his last 68 shots faced.

Chad Johnson is back in goal for the Flames, who had started Brian Elliott in three of the last four. He’ll be up against John Gibson.

— The Kings are on the second of a back-to-back, and played Peter Budaj in Vancouver last night. They’ve yet to announce a starter. Edmonton will start Cam Talbot for the 33rd time this year.

— Henrik Lunqvist is still out with illness, so Antti Raanta makes a second consecutive start for the Rangers. The Coyotes, as per usual, are going with veteran Mike Smith.

Ducks unveil another good young d-man, as Montour makes NHL debut

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Anaheim already boasts a nice collection of under-25 blueliners — Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm Josh Manson and Shea Theodore, specifically — and will get a look at another tonight in Calgary.

Brandon Montour, the 55th overall pick in 2014, will make his NHL debut tonight on a pairing with Fowler, per the O.C. Register. The debut comes with Montour leading the AHL in shots on goal, co-leading San Diego in scoring (with 21 points in 27 games) and sitting sixth among all league d-men in points.

The 22-year-old has been a productive scorer since he turned pro. Last year, he was named to the AHL’s First All-Star Team after scoring 12 goals and 57 points in 68 games.

His first NHL game comes at the expense of Vatanen, who is sidelined with the flu.

Montour’s development will be worth monitoring. As mentioned above, the Ducks have a surplus good young d-men and there are more in the pipeline, like ’15 first-rounder Jacob Larsson (who made his NHL debut earlier this year) and Swedish blueliner Marcus Pettersson, who was taken 17 spots ahead of Montour in ’14.

If Montour steps in right away and proves he can play, it could re-ignite those Fowler trade rumors we heard throughout the summer.