Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
Getty

Subban’s lingering injury puts first game against Habs in doubt

1 Comment

P.K. Subban has missed Nashville’s last five games with an upper-body injury, an ailment that will now cost him the final two games of 2016 as well.

So what about that big tilt on Jan. 3, when he’s set to face his former Habs team for the first time since this summer’s blockbuster trade?

Doesn’t sound promising.

Per the Tennessean, Subban didn’t practice today and, after meeting with doctors, the decision was made to hold him out of Thursday’s game against Chicago, and Friday’s tilt in St. Louis.

This comes after Preds GM David Poile told a local radio station he “thought that there was a good chance” Subban would skate on Tuesday, “with the idea of maybe playing later this week.”

Obviously, none of that happened.

Subban hasn’t seen game action since Dec. 15, when he racked up over 25 minutes in a 5-2 loss to Minnesota. Given this latest development, he’ll have gone two full weeks without playing when the Preds enter their mini-break over New Year’s, and it could be tough to jump right back into action for the aforementioned Habs contest.

This development is a tough ending to what’s already been a difficult month of December. Nashville is just 4-5-3 over its last 12 games, and is coming off back-to-back home defeats to Los Angeles and Minnesota.

Tampa Bay signs first-rounder Howden to ELC

Getty

Brett Howden, the big forward taken 27th overall by Tampa at this year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Wednesday.

Howden, 18, is the younger brother of Jets farmhand Quinton Howden, who was taken 25th overall in 2010. The younger Howden is also familiar with current Bolts rookie Brayden Point — the two played together with WHL Moose Jaw — and Point’s “scouting report” was part of the reason why the Lightning targeted Howden near the end of the first round.

“[The Lightning] are getting a good two-way guy,” Point said. “He plays good D, was on the power play and penalty kill for us this year. He did it all. He’s good on faceoffs, a good centerman, a big body obviously.”

At 6-foot-3 and 191 pounds, Howden has good size and 32 points through 21 games this season with Moose Jaw, so the offensive capability is there as well.

He was one of the cuts from the Canadian team currently participating at the 2017 World Junior Championships in Montreal and Toronto.

Bolts begin crucial home stand, knowing margin for error is gone

AP
1 Comment

With just 17 wins from their first 35 games of the year, the Lightning are aware they’ll be fighting for a playoff spot over the second half of the season.

Which is why this upcoming stretch is massively important.

The Bolts kick off a five-game home stand tonight against Montreal — a team that’s owned them recently — and head coach Jon Cooper admitted the club can’t squander this opportunity to secure points.

“What we need to do now is [pay] attention to detail, especially in this home stand here to kick off the second half or whatever you want to call it,” Cooper said, per the Bolts’ Twitter account. “Because I’ve said this before, our margin for error now is gone. We’ve used that all up.”

Tampa Bay heads into tonight’s action sitting fourth in the Atlantic Division, three points back of Boston for the last playoff spot. In terms of the wild card, they’re even further out — seven points back of Philly — which is why there’s so much importance placed on this upcoming stretch.

Things are trending upward for the Bolts, though.

Firstly, they’ll welcome back Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat to the lineup this evening. Kucherov, the team’s leader in goals, hasn’t played since Dec. 10 and Palat, who has 13 points through 30 games, hasn’t played since Dec. 14.

Those two should be a huge help in trying to finally defeat the Habs. Montreal has won five straight against Tampa Bay, including a 3-1 win in late October at the Bell Centre.

“We owe them a few here, because they’ve taken us out the last few games,” Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ll be ready for them.”

With Devils in free fall, Schneider vents frustrations

Getty
3 Comments

The Devils beat Cory Schneider‘s old team, the Canucks, on Dec. 6 to move to 12-7-1 on the year.

Things looked pretty good.

What’s transpired since, though, has been anything but.

The Devils lost for the ninth time in 10 games last night, dropping a 5-2 decision at home to the Penguins. And Schneider, who has struggled and been tagged with many of the losses during this recent skid, voiced frustrations in the aftermath.

“I don’t know what happened,” Schneider said, per NorthJersey.com. “Again, a late goal in the second, 3-2, you would have thought the game was over. You would have thought it was 5-1 at that point. We just need to be stronger in the last minutes of periods, myself included, come up with the save, get to the third tied.

“But the last couple of games that’s been an issue. I just don’t know. They get the next one and there’s the game.”

Fortitude — be it mental or physical — has been an issue for the Devils all season long. Head coach John Hynes said the team was too easy to play against, and made a statement earlier this month by healthy scratching P.A. Parenteau and Beau Bennett, and giving tough guy Luke Gazdic his season debut.

Management was even more blunt.

“Play harder,” Hynes said of the message GM Ray Shero and his front office staffers had for the team. “Really. Play [bleeping] harder. That’s what I’m talking about. There’s a will they need. There’s a passion and emotion to our game. How many scrums have we been involved with? No one is mad at us. There’s got to be pushback in your game and pride in your game.

“Someone takes your lunch money, what the [expletive]? It’s not good. That’s something we established last year. It’s a tenacity to your game. Our team last year, we never gave up. That, to me, is what you’re trying to build, and that’s pride.”

Pride is another word that’s been thrown around lately. New Jersey sits 25th in the NHL in goals allowed per game, and Schneider’s numbers are among the worst for full-time starters: 10-12-5, 2.90 GAA, .904 save percentage.

“We’ve got to take some pride in not giving up four or five a night and bearing down and believing we can get back in these games,” he said. “We just have to change that mindset and be better going forward.”

Things don’t get any easier for the Devils moving forward. They’ll close out the year with a home-and-home series against the Caps, who’ve won seven of their last 10.

Panthers ‘need more’ from slumping Bjugstad

Getty
2 Comments

Nick Bjugstad plays a pretty key role in Florida — he scored a team-high 24 goals two years ago, and 15 last season — so it’s fair to suggest his slow start is a big reason for the Panthers’ slow start.

Now, it’s time to shake things up.

Bjugstad, who normally plays center, will be moved to the wing to play alongside Vincent Trocheck and Jussi Jokinen on the Panthers’ second line, in the hopes of getting his game on track. The former first-round pick has just one goal and two points in 16 games this year, missing extensive time with a broken wrist.

“I want to give [Bjugstad] some top-six minutes to get him going,” head coach Tom Rowe said, per the Sun-Sentinel. “We talked about him getting off the schneid a little bit.

“He’s got one but we need more out of him.”

Bjugstad’s utilization is an interesting look into Rowe’s coaching strategy — specifically, how it differs from his predecessor, Gerard Gallant. Rowe leans far more heavily on his top six. Per the Sun-Sentinel, Trocheck’s TOI has jumped from 17:46 last season to 21:20 this year and, conversely, Bjugstad is way down — averaging just 13:22 — because he’s largely been serving as a bottom-two center.

The Panthers head into tonight’s game against the Leafs on 36 points, sitting fifth in the Atlantic Division. So it’s clear they need a spark, and it’s clear they’re hoping Bjugstad’s promotion will do the trick.