Mike Halford

Scott Gomez, Erik Gustafsson
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Ottawa signs Gomez: one year, $575,000

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The Ottawa Senators added some veteran center depth on Wednesday, signing Scott Gomez for the remainder of the season.

Gomez, 36, has split this year between St. Louis and, most recently, Washington’s AHL affiliate in Hershey. He had eight points in 21 games with the Blues and 24 points in 18 games with the Bears, apparently showing more than enough to land with yet another NHL club.

A veteran of over 1,000 NHL contests, Gomez has — on a few occasions — looked as though his playing career might be done, only to resurrect with a new team. Last year, he hung around New Jersey before signing a contract nearly halfway through the year, then went on to post an impressive 34 points in 58 games.

The Gomez signing makes sense for Ottawa as, earlier this week, the club announced that top center Kyle Turris had been shut down indefinitely with an ankle injury.

In last night’s shutout loss to the Blues, center duties were mostly handled by Mika Zibanejad, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Curtis Lazar and Zack Smith.

Panthers sign WHL sniper Hunt to entry-level deal

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The Florida Panthers continued to stockpile young talent on Wednesday, announcing they’ve reached an agreement with WHL Moose Jaw scoring phenom Dryden Hunt.

Hunt, 20, went undrafted during his eligible years but has gained serious interest during a breakout ’15-16 campaign. Currently, he has a whopping 50 goals and 102 points through 63 games for the Warriors, sitting second in the Western League in both goals and points.

Hunt, who’d previously attended Carolina’s and Montreal’s prospect camps, is known for his dynamic shooting ability.

“He can shoot it quick. He can pull it in and disguise the release. But the one thing he does really well is he shoots it hard, whether it’s going to be quick or he is pulling it in to change the angle on the shot,” Moose Jaw head coach Tim Hunter said, per the Nelson Star. “He’s got an NHL shot for sure.

“Not many guys in the NHL shoot it as hard as he does, actually.”

Earlier this week, Florida inked ’14 second-rounder Jayce Hawryluk to an entry-level deal as well.

Horcoff returns to Ducks practice, regrets substance ban

skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 22, 2015 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime.
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Forward Shawn Horcoff has returned to practice with the Anaheim Ducks while serving his 20-game suspension for violating the terms of the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances program.

Horcoff practiced on Tuesday, the first day he was eligible to come back. His suspension lasts until March 11.

Horcoff says he regrets taking an unspecified substance to deal with a hand injury in November. He says he didn’t know the treatment was banned by the league, but took responsibility for his error.

Horcoff has six goals and four assists in 45 games during his first season with the Ducks. He will lose nearly $360,000 in salary during the suspension.

The Ducks have been on a spectacular run in Horcoff’s absence, going 13-1-1 with an eight-game winning streak.

Finns announce preliminary roster for World Cup led by Rask, Koivu

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Finland joined Russia in announcing its 16-man initial roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Wednesday, a roster heavily influenced by the team that captured bronze at the ’14 Olympics in Sochi.

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and Wild captain Mikko Koivu headline the list, along with a pair of participants at this year’s All-Star Game in Nashville — Preds goalie Pekka Rinne, and Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov.

The roster, in full:

G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

D Esa Lindell, Texas Stars (AHL) – Dallas Stars hold NHL rights
D Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins
D Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres
D Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks

F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks
F Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild
F Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers
F Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
F Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Lauri Korpikoski, Edmonton Oilers
F Jori Lehtera, St. Louis Blues
F Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks

Among the notable “snubs” for Finland? Minnesota’s Erik Haula, who sits 10th among all Finnish forwards this year with 23 points, was left off. So too was Detroit’s Teemu Pulkkinen, Vancouver’s Markus Granlund (Mikael’s brother), Winnipeg’s Joel Armia, Boston’s Joonas Kemppainen and Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki.

On defense, it’s worth pointing out that one Dallas prospect, Lindell, made it over one of the club’s recently departed — Jyrki Jokipakka, who was traded to Calgary on Monday in the Kris Russell deal.

It’s also worth noting two of the country’s brightest young prospects failed to make it: Kasperi Kapanen, who recently made his NHL debut with Toronto, and Mikko Rantanen, the promising Colorado forward taken 10th overall in ’15.

Rantanen currently sits fifth in the AHL in scoring, with 48 points through 39 games.

Finally, in goal, it’ll be interesting to see who claims the No. 3 spot behind Rask and Rinne. Right now, the leading candidates would have to be Dallas’ Antti Niemi (or, Kari Lehtonen), Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo or the Rangers’ Antti Raanta.

Ovechkin, Malkin highlight Russia’s initial World Cup roster

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Russia became the first team to unveil its preliminary 16-man roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Wednesday and, to nobody’s surprise, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are two of the players on it.

The rest of the makeup is a bit interesting.

The Russians only named three defensemen: Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov, Montreal’s Andrei Markov and Washington’s Dmitry Orlov. That those three made it isn’t a huge surprise — they’re the leading Russian d-men scorers in the NHL this season — but it is curious to note the likes of Philly’s Evgeny Medvedev, Detroit’s Alexey Marchenko, Montreal’s Alexei Emelin and Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin all failed to make the initial cut.

Up front, things were a little more straightforward.

Joining Malkin and Ovechkin are Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit), Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis), Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington), Artem Anisimov (Chicago), Artemi Panarin (Chicago), Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), Vladislav Namestnikov (Tampa Bay) and Nikolay Kulemin (New York Islanders).

Among the more notable snubs at forward? Dallas’ Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado’s Mikhail Grigorenko, Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov and Winnipeg’s Alexander Burmistrov.

In goal, there were no big surprises. Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy all made the cut, and were the only real candidates in the mix.

It should be noted that, by the time the World Cup rolls around in September, the Russian roster could have a decidedly different look. Per Sportsnet, the Russian Hockey Federation made the decision not to name any KHL players to the initial roster.

“Right now we’re going to put 16 players from NHL,” Russian head scout Alexei Zhamnov explained. “(For the remaining) seven spots, we’ll discuss. Maybe some players from KHL, too. Right now it’s most important for us to make the list of 16 players.”