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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Rangers to sit McDonagh, Nash, Zuccarello and Fast against Caps

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The Rangers have little to play for down the stretch — they’ve clinched the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and know they’re playing Montreal in Round 1 — so head coach Alain Vigneault has decided to rest some veterans.

Starting tomorrow.

On Tuesday, Vigneault announced that captain Ryan McDonagh and forwards Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast would all sit out Wednesday’s game against the Capitals.

“They’ve all been playing through certain bumps and bruises,” Vigneault explained, per the club website. “So we can at this time give them a couple days here but I’m not exactly sure how things are going to unfold here.”

Vigneault went on to say none of the injuries were significant, and all four will play when the Rangers open up the posteason next week.

That said, it does create some confusion for tomorrow. Here’s what the makeshift lines will look like:

Pavel Buchnevich into Zuccarello’s spot with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.

Brandon Pirri will skate with Mika Zibanejad and Jimmy Vesey.

The Kevin Hayes unit with J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner was reunited, while Oscar Lindberg will skate between Matt Puempel and Tanner Glass.

New York didn’t unveil what the defensive pairings will be without McDonagh in the mix.

This will be Zuccarello’s first missed game of the year, as he was one of just four Rangers to play in all 79 contests (Miller, Stepan and d-man Nick Holden are the others).

McDonagh, who leads all Rangers by averaging 24:24 TOI per night, has appeared in 76 games, having missed a few recently with an undisclosed ailment.

Calgary looking for first win in Anaheim in 11 years

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The last time the Flames won a game in Orange County, things were much different. Darryl Sutter was the head coach, Jarome Iginla was the captain and Miikka Kiprusoff was the starting netminder.

The date? Apr. 26, 2006. Game 3 of their opening-round playoff matchup with the Ducks. Calgary won that night, 5-2, but Anaheim would go on to win the series four games to three.

Since then, the Flames have taken the L every time they’ve been to Anaheim. That includes this season, when they dropped a 4-1 decision in their first of two visits to the Honda Center back on Nov. 6.

Tonight, Calgary gets another shot at busting the slump. It’s the Flames’ last kick at the can for the year, and it comes just two nights after the Ducks went into the Saddledome and won, 4-3.

“If we play like we did (Sunday), we’re not going to end that thing either,” Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan said, per the Calgary Herald. “We need to be better. We’re not thinking about a streak or anything. We’re just thinking about being better.”

The Calgary-Anaheim matchup is getting extra attention lately. If the season ended today, the two would meet in the first playoff round, a rematch of their ’15 second-round series that the Ducks won in five games (Anaheim laid the boots at Honda that series, outscoring Calgary 12-3 over three contests).

Of course, much can change in the ultra tight Pacific Division.

The Ducks sit atop with 99 points, the Flames are fourth with 92, and two teams — Edmonton, with 97 and San Jose, with 95 — are sandwiched in between.

The Ducks, Sharks and Flames all have three games left, while the Oilers have four.

After getting back into Olympics, German players irate about not going

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Last September, Pittsburgh forward Tom Kuhnhackl scored the decisive goal in Germany’s 3-2 win over Lativa in Olympic qualifying, giving the Germans the final spot in Pyeongchang.

Washington’s Philipp Grubauer stopped 26 of 28 shots to secure the victory.

For the Germans, this was a pretty big deal. The program had fallen on hard times. A disappointing 11th place finish in Vancouver was followed by a significant blow four years later, when they failed to qualify for Sochi.

It was the first time Germany didn’t make the Winter Olympics since NHLers began participating in ’98.

So, as you’d expect, getting back in was a major accomplishment. And that’s why Kuhnackl and Grubauer were upset in the aftermath of the NHL’s decision not to go to South Korea.

“Obviously it’s really frustrating,” Kuhnhackl said, per the Tribune-Review. “Especially for a country like Germany, it’s not an everyday thing where we get to go to the Olympics.

“I think for players, going to the Olympics is a privilege. It’s an awesome thing, especially for Germany. Obviously it would’ve been nice to go there. It’s just really frustrating.”

Kuhnhackl added he “for sure” would consider leaving the Penguins to represent Germany, but clarified it would be “if Pittsburgh lets me go.”

As for Grubauer, here’s what he told The Athletic’s James Mirtle:

The current German squad has a large NHL makeup.

In addition to Kuhnhackl and Grubauer, those that helped the club qualify include Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, Arizona’s Tobias Rieder, Anaheim’s Korbinian Holzer and New York’s Dennis Seidenberg.

Former NHLers Marcel Goc and Christian Ehrhoff also played, and the club is coached by Marco Sturm.

Related:

Ovechkin thinks the NHL’s bluffing about Olympics

Crosby disappointed about league’s decision not to go

Crosby disappointed in NHL’s Olympic decision

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The scorer of Canada’s golden goal won’t be headed back to the Olympics next year.

Needless to say, he’s not happy about it.

“It’s disappointing,” Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said on Tuesday, per Upgruv. “I think when you hear about the negotiations and things like that, I really thought something was going to be able to get worked out.

“Unfortunately, that’s not the case.”

It’s not surprising to learn of Crosby’s disappointment. He’s carved out a terrific international hockey resume and, given he turns 30 this summer, might not have many opportunities left to represent Canada. It’s a role he clearly cherishes. He’s captured two Olympic gold medals for his country — famously scoring the OT winner against the U.S. in 2010 in Vancouver, then captaining the Canadians to victory at the ’14 Games in Sochi.

Crosby was asked if he’d still consider going to the Olympics next year.

“I haven’t even really thought that far, to be honest,” he explained. “It’s a difficult situation to be in, no doubt, and I know some guys have been vocal about going regardless, but I’m not sure if I’m going to take it quite that far yet.”

Crosby isn’t the only player to voice his displeasure about the NHL’s decision not to participate in South Korea. San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist were two of the more prominent names to express displeasure on Twitter, while a number of other players told reporters they were also disappointed.

Related: NHLPA ‘extraordinarily disappointed’ with Olympic decision

 

 

NBC Sports issues statement on NHL’s Olympic decision

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Shortly after the NHL announced it wouldn’t be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, an NBC Sports spokesperson released the following statement:

“The Olympics have long been the world’s greatest international hockey tournament irrespective of whether professionals or amateurs are playing.

“Although we’re disappointed that NHL players will not get the chance to experience and compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics next February, we’re confident that hockey fans and Olympic viewers will tune in to watch the unique style of play that occurs at the Olympic Winter Games when athletes are competing for their country.”

This will mark the first time in 24 years — dating back to the ’94 Games in Lillehammer, Norway — that the NHL will not be sending its players to the Winter Olympics.

NBC’s Olympic coverage begins Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. It will mark the first time ever that NBC will broadcast all of its programming live across all time zones.

Related: 

— Bettman points finger at IOC for opening a ‘whole can of worms’

— Ovechkin vows to play in Olympics even if NHL doesn’t participate