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

I was saying Boo-urns: Rangers’ Nieves to make NHL debut

1 Comment

There’ll be a new face in the Rangers lineup tonight when they take on the Canucks in Vancouver.

Cristoval “Boo” Nieves — who essentially goes by the “Boo” nickname, given to him as a child — will make his big league debut on Tuesday, the club has announced.

Nieves, taken 59th overall at the 2012 draft, enjoyed an impressive four-year career at the University of Michigan before turning pro last season. He signed his entry-level deal in March, played eight games with AHL Hartford — scoring five points — then got off to a good start with the Wolf Pack this season, notching six points in 13 games prior to his recall on Monday afternoon.

The 22-year-old’s debut comes at the expense of Chris Kreider, currently sidelined with an upper-body injury, and Pavel Buchnevich, who is out with back spasms.

At the morning skate, Nieves was skating on the club’s fourth line with Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Pirri.

Considered to be a potential first-round pick in his draft year, Nieves has a solid frame — 6-foot-3, 200 pounds — and can really skate for a player of his size. Per Newsday, he might also get a look on the Rangers’ penalty kill this evening.

Goalie nods: With Rinne hurt, Preds turn to Mazanec

Getty

It’s a significant night of change for the Nashville Predators.

Pekka Rinne, fresh off being named the NHL’s third star of the week, has suffered a lower-body injury — one that will keep him sidelined day-to-day — meaning Marek Mazanec will make just his second start of the year on Tuesday in Toronto.

Mazanec, who inherited the backup gig from now-departed Carter Hutton, has struggled this year, posting a 5.06 GAA and .806 save percentage. Those struggles led to Nashville recalling prospect Juuse Saros from AHL Milwaukee last week, after Saros had previously done well — back on Oct. 22, he stopped 34 of 35 shots in Nashville’s 5-1 win over Pittsburgh.

So needless to say, the pressure is on Mazanec just a bit.

In terms of the big picture, though, the loss of Rinne is the main focus. After some erratic play to start the year, the veteran Finn looked terrific last week, posting a 3-0-0 record with a 0.67 GAA, .976 save percentage and one shutout.

Given how uneven Nashville had been to start the year, it was an important series of performances.

For Toronto, Frederik Andersen gets the start tonight.

Elsewhere…

Craig Anderson, who’s been red-hot in November (1.77 GAA, .947 save percentage) will go for Ottawa. The Flyers will counter with Steve Mason, who should be the No. 1 for the foreseeable future with Michal Neuvirth sidelined by injury.

Aaron Dell makes just his second start of the year when the Sharks take on Carolina. Cam Ward appears likely for the ‘Canes.

— Rarity for the Caps, as Philip Grubauer will make his second straight start (Braden Holtby faces the Penguins tomorrow). Host Columbus is going with Sergei Bobrovsky, as per usual.

— Marquee matchup in Montreal, where Carey Price and the Canadiens host Roberto Luongo and the Panthers.

Ben Bishop is expected to get the start for Tampa Bay, after Andrei Vasilevskiy shut out the Islanders last night. The Red Wings will give Jimmy Howard a breather, and go with Petr Mrazek. Mrazek replaced Howard in Saturday’s ugly 5-0 loss to Montreal.

— It’s Corey Crawford versus Connor Hellebuyck, as the ‘Hawks begin their annual Circus Trip in Winnipeg.

— Calgary gives Brian Elliott the night off, meaning Chad Johnson faces the Wild in Minnesota. He’ll be up against Devan Dubnyk, who has been terrific this season.

Jake Allen, hooked after allowing four goals in a disastrous 8-4 loss to Columbus on the weekend, is back in for the Blues. He’ll be up against Robin Lehner, who gets the start for Buffalo.

— Tale of two very different goaltending situations in Dallas: Cory Schneider, one of the big reasons for New Jersey’s surprising start, goes for the Devils. He’s likely to face Antti Niemi, after Kari Lehtonen allowed five goals against Vancouver on Sunday.

— After making 44 saves in a loss to Boston on the weekend, Semyon Varlamov is right back in for the Avs. The visiting Kings are expected to go with Peter Budaj.

— Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom gets another shot at the Rangers, after beating them at MSG last week. No word yet on New York’s starter.

John Gibson was the first goalie off at Anaheim’s skate this morning, so he appears likely. The visiting Oilers have yet to announce a starter.

The Blue Jackets don’t have to take morning skates anymore

PHT
1 Comment

There’s something new going on in Columbus — head coach John Tortorella will no longer require players to show up at the rink on game day mornings.

“We bring them in here one time a day on practice days, but on game days we bring them in twice,” Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch. “It doesn’t make any sense. With our schedule coming up the way it is, we are trying to get our guys out of the building as much as we can.”

Per the Dispatch, Tortorella is the first coach in franchise history to implement this policy, adding that no previous bench boss has given the club more days off in between games.

The move, it would appear, is in lockstep with the franchise’s desire to keep players as fresh and healthy as possible.

Injuries have been a major issue in Columbus over the last few years. Which is why it was no huge surprise when the Jackets announced in July that they’d hired a “high performance” consultant by the name of Nelson Ayotte. The idea in bringing Ayotte aboard was to “bridge the gap between the medical staff and the staff of strength and conditioning coach Kevin Collins, so that players don’t get injured and injured players get comprehensive treatment that gets them back on the ice quickly.”

Two years ago, the Jackets led the NHL with 508 man-games lost to injury. Last season wasn’t nearly as bad, but there were still issues — a recurring groin injury limited Sergei Bobrovsky to just 37 appearances, Jack Johnson underwent season-ending shoulder surgery after just 60 games played, and David Savard missed extensive time with an oblique injury.

Nill ‘not even worried’ about upgrading Stars’ goaltending

Getty
2 Comments

The latest from Dallas’ never-ending goalie saga…

After Kari Lehtonen allowed five goals on 30 shots in a very winnable OT loss against Vancouver, Stars GM Jim Nill once again fielded questions about his club’s netminding issues.

From the Dallas Morning-News:

Q: How about the goaltending? The numbers aren’t good right now, does that concern you?

Nill: “The numbers aren’t good, but at the same time I get back to the injuries and the team that’s in front of them. It’s a challenge for both of them, and I think there have been times when they have really stepped up. I think they both had great training camps, and they both have stepped up a times. We just need to strive to improve every game, but that’s the same for the whole team.”

Q: Could you be looking for an upgrade if one presents itself?

Nill: “I’m not even worried about that. I’m worried about our team right now.”

As Brough wrote yesterday, there’s no easy solution to this mess.

Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have save percentages of .891 and .892 this year. And with cap hits of $5.9 million and $4.5 million through next year, respectively, they’re practically untradeable.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, Nill can do. There’s no real alternative in the AHL. Jaroslav Halak has been floated as a potential trade candidate, given he’s now on the block, and the Ben Bishop rumors have been around for a while. But neither seem very likely (and neither would be cheap).

Andrew Hammond is reportedly available, but would he be a significant enough upgrade to warrant a trade?

Nill did acknowledge that he could place Ales Hemsky ($4 million AAV) and Mattias Janmark ($800,000) on LTIR, and gain some valuable cap space.

But at this stage of the game, his focus appears to be on the players in front of Lehtonen and Niemi — not Lehtonen and Niemi themselves.

Parise (foot) returns from six-game absence tonight

Getty
4 Comments

Having lost three of their last five — and having only scored eight goals over that span — the Wild are no doubt excited to get one of their best forwards back into the lineup tonight versus Calgary.

Zach Parise, who has missed the last six games with a foot injury, will make his return this evening, per the Star-Tribune. The 32-year-old hasn’t played since a 4-0 win over Buffalo back on Oct. 27, and his ailment derailed what was a very solid start to the campaign.

Parise had six points in Minnesota’s first eight games, while shouldering his customary heavy workload (18:22 TOI per night). The Wild, in turn, had a very good start to the year as well.

Minnesota will no doubt hope that Parise’s return to health is something of a foreshadow for the rest of the club. The Wild have dealt with a rash of injuries lately and, because of salary cap concerns, have been rotating through AHL recalls at forward. Erik Haula returned from injury five days ago, and it looks like Haula could play on a line with Parise and Jason Pominville tonight.