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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Oilers expected to sit Puljujarvi after ugly loss

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Busy news day in Edmonton ahead of tonight’s contest against Carolina.

First, the lineup stuff — Jesse Puljujarvi, the No. 4 overall pick at this year’s draft, looks to be a healthy scratch following Sunday’s 6-2 home loss to the Sabres.

The decision comes after Puljujarvi scored in his NHL debut — a 7-4 win over the Flames — but appeared to take a step back in the following two contests. He played just 7:26 in Friday’s 5-3 win over Calgary, and went minus-1 with a giveaway in just over 12 minutes of action on Sunday (though he did have a relatively solid night in terms of possession metrics.)

“He’s going through a cultural adjustment as much as he’s going through a hockey adjustment,” head coach Todd McLellan said of Puljujarvi, per CHED 630 radio. “At 18, that’s a tough thing, so we want to keep him in a central environment where he’s familiar with his surroundings, his coaching staff and with his teammates.

“If he continues to develop and evolves and we feel this is the right spot for him, he’ll stay here. If not, we have the luxury of him playing some games at the American League level.”

Anton Slepyshev, who hasn’t played since the season opener, will draw in for Puljujarvi on a line with Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl. Defenseman Mark Fayne, who hasn’t played this year, will come in and replace Eric Gryba.

More: ‘We can’t handle prosperity yet’ — McLellan rips Oilers after ugly loss to Sabres

In other Oiler news, McLellan updated the statuses of injured forwards Drake Caggiula (hip), Matt Hendricks (lower body) and Iiro Pakarinen (knee).

With Gustavsson out, the Oilers will give Cam Talbot another start and Laurent Brossoit, recalled from AHL Bakersfield, will serve as the backup.

KHL signee Lyubimov to make Flyers debut

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Welcome to the big stage, Roman Lyubimov.

Lyubimov, the 24-year-old Russian signed out of the KHL this summer, will make both his Flyers and NHL debut tonight when Philly takes on the Blackhawks in Chicago.

“He’s a big guy, he skates well,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall upon signing Lyubimov in June, per CSN Philly. “He plays a solid, two-way game. Kind of an up-and-downer.

“We’ve had our eye on him for a couple years, but he kind of really popped at the World Championships this past year.”

Lyubimov, 24, hardly stood out in the KHL — just 34 points in 185 games over six seasons — but, as Hextall mentioned, burst onto the scene at the Worlds. He had eight points in 10 games, helping Russia capture bronze, and his size (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) caught the eye of several scouts in attendance.

Lyubimov will draw in for Nick Cousins this evening, who was one of the club’s most productive forwards through the first two games of the year, with two points in just over 13 minutes of action per night.

The Russian will skate on a line with Boyd Gordon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

It’s the Battle of Florida tonight, which is actually a thing now

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When one thinks of great Floridian sports rivalries, they usually think of the Gators, Seminoles or Hurricanes.

But on Tuesday night, the Lightning and Panthers will take center stage in the Battle of Florida at Amalie Arena.

“It should be a pretty good clash,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, per the Associated Press. “They’re a really good team. They won our division last year. They’re strong on defense. They’re strong down the middle.

“They’ve had a year to win together, so they’re that much more confident in what they’re doing.”

Cooper knows of what he speaks.

Despite his club being the more successful of the two recently — the Bolts have made back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Final, punctuated with a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2015 — the Lightning had trouble with the Panthers last season.

Florida went 4-1-0 in five head-to-head matchups, outscoring its in-state rival 16-11.

The big story this offseason, of course, was Florida refusing to rest on its laurels. Despite a franchise-best 47 wins and 103 points — and the first playoff appearance since 2012 — the Panthers literally remade their defense, overhauling the group with a new focus on puck movement.

Through two games, things look good.

The Panthers are off to a perfect start, beating New Jersey 2-1 in OT, then Detroit 4-1 on Saturday. They’ve done this minus the services of key forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, and while the new defense has yet to break through — Keith Yandle, Jason Demers and Mark Pysyk are still looking for their first points — Florida’s depth forwards have been terrific.

Jonathan Marchessault — who spent the last two seasons in Tampa Bay — leads the team with four points, while fellow newcomers Colton Sceviour (signed from Dallas) and Denis Malgin (a 19-year-old draftee out of Switzerland) have hit the scoresheet as well.

Roberto Luongo, the NHL’s reigning third star of the week, has been rock solid, posting a .957 save percentage and 0.98 GAA.

Tampa Bay is off to a good start as well, going 2-0-0 against those dame Devils and Red Wings.

The Bolts offense has been more flush than Florida’s — nine goals so far, with seven different players finding the back of the net — but they have conceded six times, with tonight’s starter (Ben Bishop) surrendering four goals on 32 shots in an opening-night win over Detroit.

Speaking of goalies, another wrinkle to add to tonight’s affair. James Reimer will make his Panthers debut, taking over for the red-hot Luongo.

No hearing scheduled for Virtanen after Nordstrom incident

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Vancouver forward Jake Virtanen isn’t scheduled for a disciplinary hearing after shoving the head of Carolina’s Joakim Nordstrom into the boards, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

As seen above, the incident occurred early in the third period of Sunday’s game, which the Canucks won 4-3 in overtime.

Virtanen wasn’t penalized on the play and Nordstrom was able to complete the contest, finishing with 14:25 TOI.

Virtanen has a history with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Last season, he was suspended two games for a “late, forceful, blindside check” on San Jose defenseman Roman Polak.

The sixth overall pick at the 2014 draft, Virtanen was on the receiving end of a heavy Lance Bouma check in Vancouver’s season-opening win over Calgary. Bouma wasn’t penalized on the play.

Related:

Canucks author another comeback win, which was rare last season

A frustrating start for the ‘Canes, who’ve already blow a pair of 3-goal leads

Goalie nods: Raanta goes for Rangers, Lundqvist gets early rest

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After a season in which Henrik Lundqvist struggled down the stretch and admitted he felt fatigued, the Rangers wanted to lighten their starting netminder’s workload.

Tonight, that plan will come into effect — after Lundqvist went 1-1 over the first two games of the year, the Blueshirts will turn to Antti Raanta tonight when they host the Sharks at MSG.

“Last year, it was more games where [there were] more scoring chances, more shots,” Lundqvist said earlier this month, per the New York Post. “That can take a toll.”

Lundqvist, 34, did not have a very good finish to the ’15-16 campaign. He had an .867 save percentage in five playoff games versus the Penguins. And just prior to that, he’d struggled down the stretch of the regular season, allowing 39 goals in his last 13 games combined.

Raanta, meanwhile, was one of the league’s better backups, going 11-6-2 with a 2.24 GAA and .919 save percentage.

Though it’s a small sample size, Lundqvist’s numbers haven’t been great this year. He’s allowed six goals on 46 shots, an .870 save percentage.

Per the Post, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said research showed that successful teams start their No. 1 between 50-58 regular season games, so it’ll be interesting to see how that effects Lundqvist.

Traditionally, the veteran Swede has been a workhorse, often starting more than 60 times a year. Last season Lundqvist started the first six games before Raanta made his debut.

For the Sharks, Martin Jones will be in goal tonight.

Elsewhere…

Calvin Pickard will make his season debut for the Avs tonight in Pittsburgh. Semyon Varlamov was in goal for a wild 6-5 win over Dallas in the season opener and, with Colorado in the first of a back-to-back set, Varlamov is expected to be back in goal tomorrow in Washington. For the Pens, Marc-Andre Fleury gets the start.

Andrew Hammond makes his season debut for the Sens in Detroit. The Wings will go with Petr Mrazek for the third straight game.

More: A final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, and the Wings need to be better

— After ceding Saturday’s game in Toronto to Anton Khudobin, Tuukka Rask is expected to start for the Bruins tonight in Winnipeg. Connor Hellebuyck returns to the Jets net, after Michael Hutchinson played in Saturday’s loss to the Wild.