Mike Halford

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Blues ‘need to get that competitive nature back’ after ugly road swing

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One would think Ken Hitchcock would be an unhappy man on Monday, given he was on the heels of a two-game losing streak in which his club surrendered a whopping 11 goals.

But instead, Hitch was happy.

Calling it the best practice the Blues have had in nearly two years, Hitchcock praised his team’s “focus, the energy, the communication, disposition, compete level,” just two days after getting drilled 8-4 in Columbus.

Captain Alex Pietrangelo said the response was sorely needed.

“That’s the reality of the situation,” he said, per the Post-Dispatch. “I thought we went out there today, we battled each other and we played each other honest. We need to get that competitive nature back.”

November has been a month to forget for the Blues. They’ve been crushed on three separate occasions — 5-0 against the Rangers, 6-2 against the Stars and the Blue Jackets beating, after which Kevin Shattenkirk said the Blues were “dazed” by the situation.

Needless to say, there have been issues.

Health-wise, the club has been thinned out on defense due to injuries to Joel Edmundson and Robert Bortuzzo.

The Blues also haven’t gotten enough offense from key forwards like Jori Lehtera, Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz — a trio that’s only combined for five goals and 12 points thus far.

The schedule hasn’t done a ton of favors, either. St. Louis has played seven games in 12 nights in November, with a couple of travel heavy two-game sets.

Thankfully for them, the last issue will be rectified soon. Starting tomorrow against Buffalo, the Blues will begin a stretch that sees them play eight of their next 10 at Scottrade, which will be a great opportunity to make up ground in the Central.

Goalie nods: After shouldering blame last game, Halak back in for Isles


Just one game on the ledger tonight, but there’s still a goalie storyline to follow — in Brooklyn, the Isles will continue to ride Jaroslav Halak when they host the Bolts at Barclays.

Halak has received almost all the minutes since Thomas Greiss was on the hook for a 6-1 loss to Tampa Bay back on Nov. 1.

Since then, Greiss has only made one appearance — in relief of Halak in a 4-1 loss to the Lightning on Nov. 10 — in what’s become another twist in New York’s ongoing goalie saga.

Halak’s most recent outing came on Saturday, in which he made 40 saves in a 3-2 OT loss in Florida. On paper, it looked like a strong effort — especially since the Isles were out-shot 43-21 — but, afterward, the veteran ‘tender stepped up and took blame for Jonathan Marchessault‘s game-tying goal with 13.6 seconds left.

“It shouldn’t go in. That’s on me,” Halak said, per Newsday. “Obviously it was a better game, but the second goal really bugs me. I can’t let it happen.”

These are certainly tough times for the Isles. The club has been thinned out on defense, with Ryan Pulock and Dennis Seidenberg on IR, and Travis Hamonic making an early return from a suspected broken thumb.

They’ve also been collectively outscored 10-2 by Tampa Bay this season, and the head-to-head series is only two games deep. Tonight’s game will be the third and final meeting of the year.

For the Bolts, Andrei Vaslievskiy gets the start. His last outing came in the aforementioned Nov. 10 win over the Isles, in which he made 31 saves on 32 shots.

Hamburglar helper? Sens reportedly testing market for Hammond


Ottawa’s goaltending situation has been in a state of flux this year, and could now get… fluxier?

(It’s a perfectly cromulent word.)

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Sens are reportedly testing the market on Andrew Hammond, this after acquiring Mike Condon via trade in the wake of Craig Anderson‘s wife’s cancer diagnosis.

The report would suggest that Condon’s leapfrogged Hammond for the No. 2 gig. In two starts, Condon has stopped 58 of 59 shots and secured a pair of victories, including one shutout.

Hammond, 28, is best known for his magical run at the tail end of the ’14-15 campaign, during which he went 20-1-2 with a .941 save percentage to propel the Sens into the playoffs.

He finished seventh in Vezina voting that season, and even scored a handful of Hart Trophy votes.

Since then, Hammond has struggled to rediscover similar form. He went 7-11-4 last season with a .914 save percentage — making just 21 starts — and has really struggled in his two starts this year, sitting with a ghastly .793 save percentage and 4.50 GAA.

Hammond does have a history of success, though, and is on a reasonably cheap contract ($1.35M cap hit through 2018). And given the current goaltending landscape, he could be an option.

Dallas’ much-maligned duo of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen continues to struggle, and the Kings are back to the Peter BudajJack Campbell combo after Jeff Zatkoff got hurt on Friday night (playing against the Sens, curiously enough.)

After getting boarded by Clifford, Connor placed on IR


The hit that temporarily forced Kyle Connor from Sunday’s game — and the one that earned Kyle Clifford a five-minute boarding major — has now forced Connor out of action indefinitely.

On Monday, the Jets announced their prized rookie had been placed on injured reserve, with Chase De Leo getting the recall from AHL Manitoba.

Connor, the former University of Michigan star taken 17th overall in 2015, had four points through 16 games this year while averaging 13:31 TOI per night.

He took the Clifford hit early in Sunday’s tilt against L.A., exited for a while, but returned in the second period to finish with just under six minutes of ice time.

Clifford, as mentioned, was given a major on the play but did stay in the contest. He later fought Jets tough guy Chris Thorburn.

Per an NHL spokesman, Clifford isn’t scheduled to face any disciplinary hearing for the Connor hit.

Ducks waive Wagner — again


Just when Chris Wagner started to feel comfortable — he was assigned his preferred No. 21 to start the year, and appeared in 15 of Anaheim’s 16 games — it happened.


“It,” of course, is being subjected to waivers, and on Monday the Ducks did exactly that with the 25-year-old forward, putting Wagner on the wire for the second time in 12 months (per TVA).

The club’s fifth-round pick in 2010, Wagner had two goals this season while averaging 10:43 TOI per night.

The writing may have been on the wall, though, when he was scratched from Anaheim’s ugly 5-0 loss to Nashville on Saturday.

More on Wagner’s back story, from the O.C. Register:

It took four years for Wagner to truly call Anaheim home.

There has been a move from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego and last season’s detour through Denver between the call-ups to Anaheim and the demotions. The 25-year-old grinder landed on the waiver wire twice – and was claimed both times.

“I guess last year leaves a bad taste in your mouth just because of how many times I changed spots,” Wagner said. “Yeah, I’m enjoying it for sure. But I can’t really be complacent, especially the way the league is now.”

As the Register alludes to, Wagner was waived by Anaheim last November and claimed by Colorado. He appeared in 26 games for the Avs before they waived him — and watched the Ducks re-claim the former Colgate standout.

Wagner then finished the year with the Ducks, and appeared in two games during their opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

Anaheim’s bottom-six forward group has been in a state of flux this season. Wagner, Mason Raymond, Emerson Etem, Ondrej Kase, Nick Sorensen, Michael Sgarbossa and Joseph Cramarossa have all been used to varying degrees, while veteran enforcer Jared Boll has been a pretty consistent staple of the fourth line.