Mike Halford

Ray Shero
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‘No hard feelings’ from Shero ahead of first game back in Pittsburgh


Ray Shero accomplished many things during his eight years as Penguins GM — one Stanley Cup, two Finals appearances and nine straight playoff appearances.

Yet despite all that, he was relieved of his duties in May of 2014, paving the way for him to accept the GM gig in New Jersey almost exactly one year later.

Tonight, Shero’s new team will take on his old team at Consol.

More, from the Tribune-Review:

“No hard feelings on my end,” Shero said while driving to the house in Upper St. Clair that he still owns, where his family spent the Christmas break.

Proof came three weeks after his firing, when Shero phoned Rutherford to wish his replacement well. Shero also phoned Mike Sullivan, whom he knows well, to congratulate the Penguins’ new coach on his return to a top NHL job.

Of his first game as a visiting GM in the building he opened, Shero said: “It’s closure more than anything.”

“Not that it’s not there anyway, but if I went back (into Consol Energy Center) as a pro scout, it’s probably not the same thing.”

Shero’s first year in New Jersey has gone very well. Two of his best acquisitions — acquiring Kyle Palmieri from Anaheim, signing Lee Stempniak in free agency — have pushed the club into playoff contention; with a win tonight, the Devils could leapfrog Tampa Bay for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Shero’s other move of significance, hiring John Hynes as head coach, also has a decidedly Pittsburgh feel. Hynes was the longtime coach of the Pens’ AHL team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and interviewed for the head coaching job after Dan Bylsma was fired (which eventually went to Mike Johnston).

“It was disappointing in a sense that you had an opportunity that you didn’t get,” Hynes said, per NorthJersey.com. “I think anyone that’s in that situation would like to move on (to coach in the NHL), but it was handled well. It wasn’t a bad situation by any means.

“I wasn’t at the right point the right guy for the job and that’s part of coaching.”

Versteeg ‘would not be shocked’ if he’s traded by deadline

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Kris Versteeg #32 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates during a game against the Anaheim Ducks  at Honda Center on December 11, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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With little fanfare, Kris Versteeg has put together a very solid season in Carolina — which, oddly enough, is part of the reason why he might be on the move by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

“If it happens I would not be shocked,” Versteeg said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “At the same time, I’ve really enjoyed my time in Carolina and I’d really like to be part of this young team and help them win.”

Versteeg, 29, is in the last of a four-year, $17.6 million deal with a $4.4M average annual cap hit. That hit might seem a little high, but it becomes easier to stomach when you consider 50 percent of his salary was retained in an earlier trade — meaning that $4.4M hit is now down to $2.2M.

What’s more, Versteeg’s a UFA at season’s end, so he’d be an ideal rental-type for a team looking for depth at forward.

Or perhaps more.

With 30 points in 49 games this year, Versteeg’s scoring at a 0.61 ppg clip, the third-highest total of his eight-year career. He’s also averaging a healthy 16:30 TOI per night and, per head coach Bill Peters, can be trusted in a variety of situations.

“Steeger makes a lot of plays, a lot of the little plays in the offensive zone that some guys in the league and on our team can’t make,” Peters explained. “Lot of poise and patience with the puck.”

The other plus for Versteeg is his playoff experience. He’s appeared in 84 postseason games and won a pair of Stanley Cups, scoring 14 points in 22 games en route to the ’10 title.

Pens recall AHL leading goalscorer Wilson (Update: Kunitz, Bennett out)

in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 24, 2015 in New York City.
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Scott Wilson‘s banner American League campaign has earned him another shot at the NHL.

Wilson, who sits tied atop the AHL goalscoring chart with 20 markers this season, has been recalled by Pittsburgh in the wake of injuries to Beau Bennett and Chris Kunitz, per the Tribune-Review.

Wilson, 23, was the Pens’ seventh-round pick in 2011 and is in just his second AHL campaign, having scored 19 goals and 41 points in 55 games last season. This year, he’s been a consistent producer, which is part of the reason why Pittsburgh gave him a four-game cameo in late December and early January.

Though undersized (five-foot-11, 183 pounds), Wilson has some skill and could get some quality minutes when the Pens take on the Devils tonight at Consol. Bennett has already been ruled out with what appears to be a re aggravated shoulder injury, while Kunitz is a game-time decision with a lower-body ailment.

Update: Kunitz has officially been ruled out for tonight, per head coach Mike Sullivan.

Goalie nods: Rask a game-time decision for B’s in Philly

Tuukka Rask

Bit of intrigue between the Boston pipes tonight, as we don’t know whether Tuukka Rask will resume starting duties after being a late scratch for Saturday’s shootout win over the Jackets.

“If he’s 100 percent he’s going,” B’s head coach Claude Julien said of Rask’s availability for tonight’s game at Wells Fargo, per NHL.com. That hasn’t been answered yet.”

Rask was a full participant at this morning’s skate, and was the first goalie off the ice — suggesting he will be back in goal. That said, the club could opt to play it conservatively and give Jonas Gustavsson another start. “The Monster” played well on Saturday, and the Bruins only have two games left until the All-Star break.

Rask has been pretty solid in January, though it pales in comparison to his banner month of December. The Finnish netminder allowed just 15 goals on 287 shots, good for a .948 save percentage.

For the Flyers, Michal Neuvirth‘s in goal tonight.


— After Jimmy Howard got a rare start on Saturday, the Wings will return to Petr Mrazek in Brooklyn. The Isles are going back to Jaroslav Halak after he made 30 saves in a win over Ottawa on Friday.

Mike Condon‘s in for Montreal, while the Jackets are turning to Joonas Korpisalo now that Sergei Bobrovsky’s out injured again.

Chad Johnson goes for the Sabres at MSG, while the Rangers have yet to announce a starter.

— Despite getting yanked after allowing three goals on 19 shots last night, Karri Ramo is right back in for the Flames in Dallas. The Stars look like they’re going with Antti Niemi.

Devan Dubnyk returns to the net after Darcy Kuemper started the last two for the Wild. He’ll be up against Louis Domingue.

Beau Bennett is out injured again

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins
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Beau Bennett is back on the shelf.

Bennett, the oft-injured Penguins forward, has “obviously aggravated” an earlier ailment and will sit out Tuesday’s game against New Jersey, head coach Mike Sullivan announced.

The 24-year-old appeared to damage his shoulder during Saturday’s come-from-behind victory against the Canucks.

Bennett only played one 22-second shift in the third period, and missed time in the first as well.

As the headline suggests, injuries are nothing new for the former first-round pick. Since debuting during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, Bennett has suffered a myriad of injuries and only played 121 of a possible 259 games.