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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‘Pretty crazy’ how bad scoring slump has become, says Duchene

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With his team on pace for the worst regular season in franchise history, Matt Duchene is dealing with his own personal ignominy.

“This is probably the worst (slump) I’ve ever been through,” Duchene told the Denver Post on Monday, after his pointless streak hit 11 games. “It’s been pretty crazy just in terms of how bad it’s gone.

“Sometimes you can’t really read too much into it and just realize it’s part of the game.”

The Avs lost 1-0 against the Coyotes last night, a result that’s hardly new for Duchene and company. Colorado is the worst offensive team in hockey — averaging 1.9 goals per game — and has been shut out in three of its last eight games.

Duchene’s production has fallen off a cliff. He has just one goal in his last 25 contests, a dramatic reversal after scoring a career-best 30 last season.

Though it’s easy to pin his offensive woes on his situation — the Avs could end up being the worst team of the salary cap era — one has to wonder how big a hit Duchene’s stock is taking. It’s widely anticipated Colorado GM Joe Sakic will look to try and move Duchene and/or captain Gabriel Landeskog this summer, and it’ll be curious to see what teams would be willing to offer up in exchange.

Duchene is still only 26 years old, an elite skater and could still crack the 20-goal plateau this season (for a team that’s historically bad on offense). But he only has two years left on a five-year, $30 million contract that carries at $6 million average annual cap hit.

That’s not a lot of term left. Any team interested in bringing Duchene aboard does so with the looming specter of unrestricted free agency in 2019.

After 11-game absence, Bobby Ryan back for Sens

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Some good news for Ottawa on Tuesday, one day after losing Mark Stone week-to-week with a lower-body ailment.

Bobby Ryan, who’s been out since Feb. 18 with a broken finger, will make his return to the lineup tonight when the Sens host Tampa Bay. Ryan’s missed the last 11 games with the injury, and his comeback with coincide with that of Kyle Turris, who also draws back in this evening after missing the last three games from a finger injury of his own.

Ryan will play alongside center Derick Brassard and trade deadline pickup Alex Burrows on the second line. Turris will play No. 1 center minutes between Zack Smith and Ryan Dzingel.

It’ll be interesting to see if Ryan can get his offensive game on track. A three-time 30-goal scorer, he’s only found the back of the net 12 times in 50 games this year, putting him on pace for just 16.

 

Pre-game reading: What’s it like to play the longest hockey game ever?

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— By now you’ve probably heard about that insane Norwegian League playoff game that went 11 periods (if not, click here). Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reached out to Storhamar Hockey’s Joey Tenute to ask what it was like to participate in a contest that started at 6 p.m. local time… and didn’t finish until 2:30 in the morning.

“I can’t describe the feeling of really thinking the game would never end,” Tenute said. “I can’t imagine that that could even exist. Playing in something like that, it’s surreal. The longer it got, it almost seemed like it was dangerous to an extent. Guys are getting their groins taped, guys are battling, everyone’s cramping up – it was just something I’ve never experienced before.

“You don’t even know what to do: Guys are eating pizza in between periods. You’re just kind of doing what you’ve got to do to get through the game. The trainers are coming around and passing out fruit and bread and peanut butter and jam. There was pizza and pasta in the dressing room.”

According to the IIHF, the Storhamar vs. Sparta Sarpsborg game is the longest in hockey history, surpassing the 176-minute, 30-second game between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons in 1936.

No word on what the Wings and Maroons crammed down their gullets between periods.

— With a number of NCAA teams getting eliminated from postseason play, college free agent season is officially underway. TSN has a good primer of some of the names to keep an eye on, including Northeastern senior senior Zachary Aston-Reese. He’s a 6-foot, 204-pound forward who had 31 goals and 63 points this year, in just 38 games. Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Detroit are among the many teams hoping to acquire his services.

— We’ve written about Cam Talbot‘s hefty workload in Edmonton this season (see here and here), and now CBC is asking — are the Oilers at risk of burning him out?

No NHL goalie has made more starts (61), played more minutes (3,621), faced more shots (1,792) or made more saves (1,648) than Talbot this season.

Talbot has said he thrives on a heavy workload, and head coach Todd McLellan hasn’t been concerned. He keeps asking Talbot if he wants to play and the goalie nods in the affirmative.

Part of the reason for Talbot’s workload is the lack of a capable No. 2. The Jonas Gustavsson experiment failed, and now the club is relying on untested Laurent Brossoit to fill the void.

Goalie nods: Bolts start Budaj, even though Vasilevskiy’s on fire

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An interesting decision from Lightning head coach Jon Cooper — even though Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s been a huge part of his club’s recent surge back into playoff contention, it’ll be Peter Budaj who starts in tonight’s crucial tilt against the Rangers.

“We’ve had a lot of success with Vasy,” Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “And playing him every third day, he’s played really well. When he went through this stretch of playing back-to-backs in December, I just don’t know if it was too much, too soon either we weren’t good in front of him or he wasn’t at the top of his game.

“Our No. 1 goal is to make the playoffs, but still our goaltender is young and developing. We’ve got him in a really good grove here, there’s no sense in breaking that groove. There’s a lot of games he still has to play.”

Vasilevskiy is 5-0-1 over his last six starts and has posted a .951 save percentage over his last five appearances, so going to Buadj tonight is a pretty significant move.

The veteran only has one start since coming over from L.A. in the Ben Bishop trade, and there’s so much on the line — with a win and and Isles regulation loss (to the ‘Canes), Tampa Bay would draw even with New York on points, and move one back of idle Toronto for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

No word yet on a Rangers starter for tonight, though it’s expected Antti Raanta will get the call.

Elsewhere…

— Clinging to their slim playoff chances, the Flyers will go back to Steve Mason when they host the Jackets. Mason allowed two goals on 27 shots in a loss to Boston over the weekend, and has played well lately. No word yet on a Columbus starter.

Jean-Francois Berube gives Thomas Greiss the night off as the Isles host the ‘Canes. Cam Ward is in for Carolina.

— With no other options really available, Connor Hellebuyck will start again for the Jets, despite his recent struggles. It looks as though the host Preds will counter with Pekka Rinne.

— Coming off a 31-save shutout of Winnipeg over the weekend, the red-hot Brian Elliott starts again for the Flames. Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s also played well of late, goes for Pittsburgh.

Ryan Miller was brilliant against Pittsburgh on Saturday, stopping 45 of 47 shots, and will go right back in when the Canucks host the Bruins. No word yet on a Boston starter.

— In a huge game for Western Conference wild card jockeying, the Kings and Blues will roll with their No. 1s: Jonathan Quick for Los Angeles, Jake Allen for St. Louis.

Mike Smith‘s in goal when the Coyotes host the Avs. No word yet on a Colorado starter.

Fresh out of Swiss League, Shore to make Canucks debut tonight

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On Saturday, Drew Shore was playing for EHC Kloten in Switzerland’s National League A.

Life moves fast.

On Monday, the Canucks announced that Shore — signed over the weekend on a prorated deal for the remainder of the year — would make his season debut tonight, when Vancouver hosts Boston at Rogers Arena.

“He’s a good two-way player,” head coach Willie Desjardins said, per the team’s Twitter account. “Has some size and experience.”

Shore, 26, is the older brother of Kings forward Nick Shore, and had appeared in 80 games with the Flames and Panthers prior to heading overseas this year. As Desjardins mentioned, he does have good size — 6-foot-3, 205 pounds — and was extremely productive in the Swiss League this year, scoring 48 points in 50 games.

That made Shore the league’s sixth-leading scorer, and put him among some familiar names. NHL journeyman Mark Arcobello led all scorers with 55 points, and the top-10 included the likes of Shore, Roman Cervenka, Robert Nilsson and Dustin Jeffrey.

“That league is no joke,” Canucks forward (and Swiss native) Sven Baertschi said, per the Province. “There are great players over there.”

Shore’s arrival is just the latest for a team that’s seen plenty of new faces over the last few weeks. Following the trade deadline departures of veterans Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows, the Canucks have worked in the likes of Nikolay Goldobin (acquired in the Hansen deal with San Jose) and Joseph Cramaraossa (scooped off waivers from Anaheim).

Prior to that, injuries and a team-wide mumps outbreak saw the likes of AHLers Evan McEneny, Borna Rendulic, Alexandre Grenier, Joseph Labate and Richard Bachman all get action at the NHL level.