Mike Halford

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Paul LaDue #38 of the Los Angeles Kings takes control of the puck during a preseason game at Staples Center on September 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Kings to debut LaDue, who’s been in the news lately

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For a 24-year-old defenseman that’s never played in the NHL, there’s plenty of intrigue around Paul LaDue.

LaDue, the former North Dakota rearguard, is set to make his big-league debut tonight when the Kings take on the Bolts in Tampa Bay. LaDue’s recall came after an impressive stint with AHL Ontario — six goals and 18 points in 36 games — in his first full year of professional hockey.

The debut also comes with his name making the rounds.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, in speaking with Fan 960 radio (per FanRag), said he’s “hearing that this might be a showcase,” for Kings GM Dean Lombardi, to potentially generate interest in LaDue heading into the trade deadline.

But Friedman also pointed to reports from dialed-in Mayors Manor scribe John Hoven, which said the opposite:

LaDue is nearly untouchable when it comes to trades being considered by GM Dean Lombardi. That’s not to say it’s impossible (we all know the adage, even Wayne Gretzky was traded); but more to the point that it would have to be an overpayment of epic proportions to pry him from the pipeline. This label is not something we throw around lightly either.

We used it with [Tyler] Toffoli a few years ago, when people wanted to connect the dots and throw him into trade talks – while all of our internal sources laughed at the mere suggestion. The same thing went with a pair of players last season. And now with LaDue. At the very least, know this; LaDue’s recent call-up was not to showcase him for a trade.

If the latter holds true, it doesn’t necessarily shutter trade talks. If LaDue shows well and earns the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter, he could be an effective replacement on the back end — and, most importantly, an inexpensive one ($925,000 cap hit).

Friedman noted that L.A. is tight to the cap, adding that when it comes to teams calling about a trade, “everybody talks [Jake] Muzzin or [Alec] Martinez.”

Which is were LaDue might come in. Though it seems risky to lean on such an untested guy, the Kings have worked the likes of Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel into the mix this year, with the former having acquitted himself well.

Three months after MS diagnosis, Bickell set to rejoin ‘Canes

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Carolina forward Bryan Bickell received life-altering news earlier this season when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Bickell was unsure if he’d ever play hockey again, let alone this season.

Which makes today’s news quite incredible.

Per NHL.com, Bickell is aiming to return to the ‘Canes following their upcoming bye week, for a home date against the Avalanche on Feb. 17.

“It all depends too on what other guys are doing if they’re going on a huge streak,” Bickell explained. “I like to see them win. If they need me, I’m sure an extra week of me skating is not going to hurt me.

“We’re just going to wait until after the next treatment and after the bye week and go from there.”

Bickell’s treatment is a monthly intravenous of Tysabri, a drug which helps limit the effects of MS. The 30-year-old said he began feeling better upon taking the medication, and has since increased his skating workload to get up to NHL speed.

He’s been skating for a month, and said he’d be open to the idea of an AHL conditioning stint. He hasn’t played since Oct. 30.

The ‘Canes, meanwhile, have two games left before their break.

In the short-term, Bickell is set to have another round of Tysabri later this week, resume skating activity, then see where how he’s feeling.

Whatever the case, he’s already taken a big step in a very positive direction.

Slumping Flyers lose Konecny for 4-6 weeks

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Travis Konecny #80 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on before a face off against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Rangers 5-3.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Philly’s struggling offense took another hit on Tuesday, as GM Ron Hextall announced rookie forward Travis Konecny would miss the next 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury.

The injury occurred in last night’s shutout loss to the Blues.

Konecny, 19, is in the midst of a solid rookie campaign, with seven goals and 22 points through 51 games. Though he did sit as a healthy scratch recently, Konecny remains tied for fifth on the team in points with fellow rookie Ivan Provorov.

Philly has just 12 goals in its last nine games and have been shut out in back-to-back contests, so losing any offensive contributor stings.

This injury, though, could have more ramifications — the Flyers are fighting for a playoff spot, and Konecny will now be out until after the trade deadline.

If his recovery takes four weeks, that puts him on track for a Mar. 7 return against Buffalo. If it goes the full six, he’s looking at a Mar. 21 tilt against Winnipeg.

Konecny averages 14:36 TOI, so it’s a decent-sized hole to fill.

Myers, who’s missed the last 39 games, now out 6-8 weeks after surgery

Tyler Myers
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Chances are Tyler Myers won’t be looking back at this season fondly.

Myers, who’s already miss the last three months with a lower-body injury, underwent surgery on Monday to deal with said ailment, and will miss the next 6-8 weeks.

The 27-year-old Jets rearguard last suited up on Nov. 11, in what was just his 11th game of the year. Since then, his has been a story of rehab, timetables, an attempt to resume skating and a subsequent “plateau” in recovery.

Frustrating, no doubt.

Looking at the timetable, Myers could be back in action by around Mar. 21 if his recovery is on the six-week side of things. That would give him 9-10 regular season games.

If recovery goes the full eight weeks, Myers is looking at an early April return, with maybe 3-4 games left. The x-factor in all this, it would seem, is if the Jets are still in playoff contention at that point.

If not, there’s a case to be made for shutting down Myers for the remainder of the season and starting fresh next year.

What’s next for Claude Julien?

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As we wait to hear from Boston brass on the firing of head coach Claude Julien — GM Don Sweeney will meet with the media later this morning, smack in the middle of the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade — we should turn our focus to the recently departed.

What’s next for Julien?

The well-regarded bench boss, known as one of the NHL’s best defensive minds, shouldn’t be out of work very long — assuming he wants to get right back in. With the ’11 Stanley Cup and ’09 Jack Adams on his resume, Julien boasts the kind of credentials only a handful of active coaches can match.

And oh yeah, he’s the winningest coach in Bruins franchise history.

Let’s take a quick look at some potential landing spots.

Las Vegas: This seems like the most obvious one. The NHL’s newest expansion franchise really couldn’t do much better in terms of landing its first-ever coach, and owner Bill Foley said there’s a chance they hire their man prior to the end of this season.

What’s more, Foley said GM George McPhee is looking for a guy with experience.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Vancouver: It’s easy to connect the dots on this one. The team is led by GM Jim Benning, who for years worked with Julien in Boston. The pair won the aforementioned Stanley Cup together. Current bench boss Willie Desjardins has been under heavy scrutiny at times this year and, though the club did climb back into playoff contention over the last month, it’s about to embark on its toughest part of the schedule.

If they crater, the Canucks could be looking for a change.

Florida: While the Panthers seem committed to interim head coach Tom Rowe, could the allure of having Julien on board for a playoff push — and beyond — change things up?

The bottom line is that Julien’s the hottest free agent coach to hit the market since Barry Trotz in 2014. The Caps, you’ll recall, fired Adam Oates with a year left on his deal in order to land their guy, as it was reported both Carolina and Florida were in the mix for Trotz’s services at the time.

That last bit is important. If teams are uncertain with their current coaching situation and knows this could be their one shot at getting Julien, how big a splash will they be willing to make?