Mike Halford


The Torts-Johansen relationship continues to deteriorate


Since John Tortorella took over for Todd Richards in Columbus, star center Ryan Johnansen has been told he’s out of shape, sent away from the club for a few games (to deal with a mystery illness) and demoted to the fourth line.

Now, he’s been benched.

Johansen didn’t play a single shift in the third period of Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to Dallas, and finished with a season-low 11:03 TOI.

“That was coach’s decision,” Tortorella explained, per the club website. “No explanation. I just didn’t play him.”

Knee-jerk reactions to this focused largely on Tortorella, because it’s Tortorella.

But for further context, do consider what the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline wrote about Johansen’s “effort.”

Johansen played a lethargic first two periods. Many of his passes were way off-line, and there were several neutral-zone turnovers and failed clearing attempts.

I’ve seen suburbanites skate harder on the Columbus Zoo’s holiday pond.

I’ve mentioned this a few times, but it bears repeating — Johansen is a client of agent Kurt Overhardt. Some of Overhardt’s other clients include Kyle Turris (who forced a trade out of Arizona) and Ryan Kesler (who reportedly forced a trade from Vancouver, which Overhardt later denied).

Knowing that, now consider the existing contention between the Johansen camp and Columbus prior to the Tortorella hire — Johansen’s now-infamous holdout, which cost him all of the 2014 preseason.

Doesn’t this situation sound like one that’ll end with a “fresh start?”

Related: Welcome Ryan Johansen to the trade rumor mill

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Penguins renew acquaintances on Rivalry Night


No shortage of storylines heading into tonight’s Rivalry Night tilt on NBCSN.

Beginning at 8 p.m. ET, the Penguins will visit Boston to take on the Bruins. Before we get into the actual preview stuff, a reminder you can catch the game on TV, or online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

As for tonight’s tilt, Pittsburgh comes in with a myriad of distractions — a new head coach (Mike Sullivan, who replaced the fired Mike Johnston), a new starting netminder (TBD, but Marc Andre-Fleury is definitely out with a concussion) and a losing skid (four of their last five, after Monday’s 4-1 loss to Washington).

The Bruins, meanwhile, are a little more steady.

The club has points from all but one game this month — a 3-2 home loss to Nashville on Dec. 7. That’s put the B’s at 16-9-4 on the year, right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase (at the time of writing, Boston held the first wild card spot).

Tonight’s call will be handled by Mike “Doc” Emrick, Ed Olczyk and Pierre McGuire. A reminder that studio coverage will be provided by Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.

This evening’s broadcast will also feature insight and analysis from NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

Report: New Panthers jerseys, logo will look ‘completely different’


As we passed along last week, the Florida Panthers are getting new duds for the 2016-17 campaign.

Now, the Miami Herald has some details on what the new look entails — a “completely different” look, according to an anonymous player.

More, from the Herald’s George Richards:

From what I’ve been told, my latest idea of the ‘101st Airborne’ patch/logo/shield is apparently on mark.

Instead of an eagle, a Panther head will adorn the front of the jersey.

And the Panther head is a complete change from what the team has used before. The new Panther is said to look more natural, like the big cats who roam the Everglades.

The Canadiens’ style horizontal stripe across the jersey is what they’re going with.

The biggest change in the color palate apparently is blue is being minimized, red is the signature color and the yellow gold is going to be a much deeper gold.

It’ll be interesting to see how much of this re-branding is tied into the club’s youth movement, possibly in the Dallas Stars mold.

The Stars, you’ll remember, did a complete jersey-and-logo overhaul in June of ’13 — a month later, they pulled off the Tyler Seguin blockbuster and, two months after that, named Jamie Benn team captain.

The two have since gone on to become the faces of the franchise, and are now synonymous with Dallas’ distinctive “Victory Green” look.

It’s possible Florida could be doing the same with a new look for the likes of future franchise cornerstones Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad — all of whom are under the age of 24.

The Panthers’ new look also comes after striking a new lease agreement with Broward County, one that’s given the organization optimism for the future.

“It makes the team a sustainable business now,” Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko explained, per Sportsnet. “You can be committed knowing there will be some losses, but when they become unsustainable, it’s difficult to operate and, quite honestly, have fun doing it.

“We can focus on winning.”

Goalie nods: Bernier versus Vasilevskiy in battle of conditioning stints

Jonathan Bernier

It’s Bolts-Leafs at the ACC tonight, but in goal it’ll be Crunch-Marlies.


See, Tampa Bay is going to start Andrei Vasilevskiy, just two days after he was recalled from a conditioning stint with AHL Syracuse. And Toronto, as you might’ve heard, is going with Jonathan Bernier, just three days after he was recalled from a conditioning stint with the Marlies.

Interesting times in the crease, to say the least.

Of the two netminders, Bernier had the more successful American League stint, going 3-0-1 with a .948 save percentage and 1.25 GAA. All three of his wins were shutouts.

Vasilevskiy, meanwhile, made two starts after being reassigned to Syracuse on December 10, posting a 0-1-1 record with a .892 save percentage and a 3.47 GAA.


— After getting yanked against the Isles in his last outing, Cory Schneider goes for the Devils in Buffalo. The Sabres will counter with Linus Ullmark, who hasn’t played since beating the Kings on Saturday.

Roberto Luongo will look to snap his three-game losing streak when he and the Panthers take on the Isles in Brooklyn. New York is going with Jaroslav Halak.

— A rematch of last week’s wild 7-5 shootout in Edmonton tonight at MSG: Henrik Lundqvist goes for the Rangers, Anders Nilsson goes for the Oilers.

Michal Neuvirth makes his third straight start when the Flyers host the ‘Canes. No word yet on a Carolina starter.

— Potential changing of the guard in Montreal? Dustin Tokarski will make his third straight start ahead of Mike Condon. Martin Jones goes for the Sharks.

— After Jonas Hiller started the last couple of games, Calgary is going back to Karri Ramo against the Preds. Nashville will stick with Pekka Rinne.

Ryan Miller for Vancouver tonight in Minnesota, while the Wild stick with Darcy Kuemper for another game. Devan Dubnyk will back up.

— Battle of two young, talented goalies in Winnipeg as the Blues go with Jake Allen, while the Jets counter with Connor Hellebuyck.

— The red-hot Semyon Varlamov goes for Colorado in Chicago tonight, while the ‘Hawks go with the equally in-form Corey Crawford.

— Uncertainty out of Dallas: Kari Lehtonen looks likely for the Stars, and the Jackets said they won’t announce their starter until later this afternoon.

World Cup: Blues associate Shaw named to Team Europe coaching staff

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Team Europe has added a veteran hockey mind to its coaching staff for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Brad Shaw, currently an associate coach to Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis, will serve under bench boss Ralph Krueger in next year’s tourney, the NHL announced on Tuesday.

“Brad adds an excellent new dimension and a wealth of knowledge to our coaching staff,” Krueger said in a release. “He is a perfect culture fit and his depth of experience will be valuable as we reach hard to find the potential of Team Europe.”

Shaw, 51, has been in the coaching game since 1995, when he caught on with the IHL’s Detroit Vipers as a player-assistant. From there, he spent time with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Springfield Falcons (AHL), Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (AHL) before landing with the Isles in 2005-06.

Originally hired as Steve Stirling’s assistant, Shaw took over as a mid-season replacement following Stirling’s dismissal, leading the team to an 18-18-4 record.

After his stint with the Isles, Shaw moved to St. Louis, where he’s spent the last 10 years.

With Team Europe, Shaw will work alongside Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice, who will serve as Krueger’s other assistant coach.

The team also announced that Edmonton’s Myles Fee has come aboard as the club’s video coach.

Related: Maurice, Bondra, Burke named to Team Europe staff for ’16 World Cup