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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Another day, another slew of injuries in Tampa Bay

Yesterday, things were going well for the Lightning. They returned Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat from injuries and opened a five-game homestand with a win over Montreal.

Then, today happened.

The Bolts announced a trio of injuries on Thursday, the biggest being rookie Brayden Point‘s upper-body ailment, which will sideline him for the next 4-6 weeks.

Forwards Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov — who took a huge hit from Habs d-man Shea Weber last night — were also hurt, and are listed as day-to-day.

Point, one of just six Bolts to play in all 36 games this year, is a pretty big loss. The rookie forward has been a pleasant surprise, sitting fourth on the team with 12 assists, and is averaging nearly 16 minutes per night.

Injuries, as alluded to in the headline, have been a major issue in Tampa Bay. Steve Stamkos is the most notable — his knee surgery led to Point moving to center, a position switch Cooper was eager to see — but others have been banged up as well.

Ryan Callahan has been dealing with rehab from offseason hip surgery. Ben Bishop is on IR with a lower-body ailment. Jonathan Drouin missed time with injury issues, as did J.T. Brown.

In related moves today, the Bolts recalled Erik Condra and Yanni Gourde from AHL Syracuse. Gourde could be in line for his season debut, joining the likes of Matthew Peca, Michael Bournival, Tanner Richard, Joel Vermin and Luke Witkowski as farmhands to log minutes for the Bolts this season.

Campbell in ‘no rush’ to decide future, but only wants to play in Chicago

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At 37, Brian Campbell is the NHL’s 13th-oldest skater (non-goalie division), and the fifth-oldest blueliner. He’s appeared in over 1,000 career games and won a Stanley Cup, which has led to the inevitable question:

When you gonna hang ’em up?

“I’m going to decide at the end of the season what I’m going to do, as in whether I play or not,” Campbell said this week, per the Daily Herald. “I’ll sit down with the wife and figure it out, see what we want to do and see what our options are from there.

“As of right now, I feel good and I feel like I’m playing good and feel like I can still contribute. But there’s no rush to make any sort of decision.”

Campbell’s second stint with the ‘Hawks has gone pretty well. 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.

That last figure is interesting, though.

Campbell is a durable workhorse, as always — he’s played in all 37 games this year, and hasn’t missed one since ’10-11 — but his minutes are down from Florida, where he averaged 23:13 and 22:17 TOI the last two campaigns.

Obviously, some of this has to do with Chicago’s other d-men — Duncan Keith plays 26 minutes per night, Brent Seabrook 22:35, and Niklas Hjalmarsson 21:45 — but one wonders if head coach Joel Quenneville might be holding back a bit, knowing Campbell will be relied upon more in the playoffs.

And, potentially, next season.

Campbell told the Daily Herald “I don’t want to go anywhere else,” in ’16-17, adding the ‘Hawks are “well aware” of his stance and plans. Of course, Campbell also said he probably wouldn’t come back for a bargain basement price — “you’ve got to get up and want to do it for what you’re being paid,” he said — which could be a problem, given GM Stan Bowman just shelled out $12 million for Artemi Panarin.

Something to keep an eye on this offseason, for sure.

Versteeg: Breaking Brouwer’s finger ‘definitely had me rattled’

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Broken fingers have been a sensitive subject in Calgary this year — remember Johnny Gaudreau and slash-gate? — so it came as little surprise that the latest busted digit, on the hand of veteran winger Troy Brouwer, caused some consternation.

With good reason, though.

Unlike Gaudreau, Brouwer’s finger wasn’t broken by an opponent’s incessant chopping but, rather, a slapshot from teammate Kris Versteeg.

“It’s a buddy on your team. It was definitely in my head the rest of the night and kind of rattled me,” Versteeg said, per the Calgary Herald. “Thankfully we got the win. I talked to him right when it happened, and the day after, and the day after that just to see what was going on.

“It definitely had me rattled. He’s a friend and a teammate and a big part of this team.”

Versteeg and Brouwer go way back. The two spent three years together in Chicago, capturing the Stanley Cup in 2010, and recently reunited as linemates under Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan.

The two had formed a fairly effective unit as wingers between Sean Monahan, but all that came crashing down on Dec. 23 when, in a win over the Canucks, Versteeg unloaded a slapper late in the first period…right around the time Brouwer skated in front of him.

And that was it. Broken finger, sidelining Brouwer “week-to-week.”

It’s a tough blow, given Brouwer’s production — eight goals and 17 points through 36 games this year — and his veteran leadership. Despite only joining Calgary this offseason, Brouwer was immediately named one of the club’s alternate captains and, as GM Brad Treliving explained, was an important voice in the dressing room.

“Troy has a strong voice and a presence,” Treliving said. “He holds people accountable.”

Ducks say Stoner out 4-6 weeks following abdominal surgery

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Anaheim blueliner Clayton Stoner, who’s already missed significant time to injury this season, will be out another 4-6 weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery, the club announced yesterday.

Per the O.C. Register, Stoner had the procedure on Dec. 21 in Philadelphia. As mentioned, he’d already been sidelined by a lower-body ailment — no word if it’s related to the abdominal issue — and hadn’t played a game since Nov. 15, when he skated just over 17 minutes in a win over Edmonton.

Waived at the beginning of the year in what appeared to be a cap-relief move, Stoner played reasonably well when healthy. He had three points in 14 games while racking up 35 hits, but is still saddled with an albatrossian contract — he’s only in the third of a four-year, $13 million deal with a $3.25M average annual cap hit.

 

Goalie nods: Blues reward Hutton, who has ‘competed like heck’

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Jake Allen has been a workhorse and was banged up prior to the holiday break. He’s probably due for a rest. But Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock wasn’t about to use that as his logic for starting backup Carter Hutton tonight against the Flyers.

“I just feel like I want to reward a guy that … he’s competed like heck, he’s played really well in his last game,” Hitchcock said, per KSDK. “I feel like I want to reward that.

“We know that Jake (Allen’s) got a lot of games in him, this gives him a chance to reset the dial for three practices in a row and then get ready to play on the 30th and the 2nd.”

Hutton’s reward is just his fourth start in the last 21 games, and first since a 3-2 OT loss to the Oilers on Dec. 19. The 31-year-old performed reasonably well that night — stopping 32 of 35 shots for a .914 save percentage — in what, as Hitchcock alluded to, was one of his better outings of the year. Hutton has struggled since coming over from Nashville in free agency, posting a 2-4-2 record with a 2.91 GAA and .893 save percentage.

For the Flyers, Steve Mason gets the nod.

Elsewhere…

Roberto Luongo, who allowed three goals on 39 shots in a shootout loss to Detroit last Friday, goes for Florida. He’ll be up against Frederik Andersen, who starts the first of a back-to-back for the Leafs.

— Carolina will continue to ride Cam Ward when it takes on Pittsburgh tonight. No word yet on a Pens starter, though Marc-Andre Fleury did play last night against New Jersey.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s been up-and-down since taking over starting duties from the injured Ben Bishop, goes for the Bolts. The visiting Habs will start Carey Price, who hasn’t played since last Thursday.

— A veteran affair in Vancouver, as 36-year-old Ryan Miller takes on 34-year-old Peter Budaj.