Mike Halford

Ron Francis

Carolina’s six-game road trip to start year ‘not ideal’ says Francis

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Last year, the ‘Canes played eight of their first 10 games on the road and didn’t fare all that well, going 4-6-0.

Now they’re hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.

“I mean, six in a row and eight of the first 10 on the road, with a young team – that’s not an ideal situation for us,” Carolina GM Ron Francis said, per the News & Observer. “But it is what it is. And hopefully we get out there and get a few wins under our belt.

“There’s no sense in complaining about what we face. Let’s go make the most of it.”

The ‘Canes open tonight in Winnipeg, then have a couple nights off before playing in Vancouver on Sunday. From there, it’s Edmonton on Oct. 18, Calgary on Oct. 20, Philly on Oct. 22 and Detroit on Oct. 25.

That means Carolina won’t play its first home games until Friday, Oct. 28 (versus the Rangers) and Sunday, Oct. 30 (versus Philly). And once those are done, the ‘Canes are back out for another pair of road games in Ottawa and Nashville.


As Francis mentioned, that kind of schedule can be tough on a young, inexperienced team unfamiliar with the rigors of NHL travel. The ‘Canes certainly are young — the defense is highlighted by four guys under the age of 23 (Noah Hanifin, Roland McKeown, Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin), while the forward group includes 19-year-old Sebastian Aho, 21-year-old Elias Lindholm and 22-year-old Teuvo Teravainen.

But if the opening night of the year showed anything, it’s that the game is all about the kids right now. Auston Matthews lit it up for the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, and Connor McDavid did the same in Edmonton.

Francis is hopeful his young charges can do something similar.

Related: A ‘very difficult road trip’ is looming for the Ducks

Columbus sends No. 3 overall pick Dubois back to junior

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Pierre-Luc Dubois celebrates after being selected third overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Pierre-Luc Dubois‘ stint as a NHLer was brief.

On Wednesday, the Jackets did as expected and returned Dubois — the No. 3 overall pick at this year’s draft — to his junior club in QMJHL Cape Breton.

Yesterday, some eyebrows were raised when Dubois was listed on Columbus’ opening-night roster, only for various outlets to report the move was purely salary cap related. Alex Wennberg, who was sent down to AHL Lake Erie on Tuesday, has since been recalled and will be available for selection when the Jackets take on the Boston in their season-opener tomorrow.

Dubois, 18, was always a longshot to make the Blue Jackets this year, even though he liked his chances. Some of that could’ve been posturing, as Kekalainen and the Jackets surprised many by taking Dubois at the draft ahead of Jesse Puljujarvi, the talented Finnish winger who will make his NHL debut tonight for Edmonton.

At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, Dubois has NHL size and should be in line for a monster season with the Screaming Eagles. He had 42 goals and 99 points in just 62 games last year.

One day after signing, Versteeg on Flames’ No. 1 line with Monahan and Gaudreau

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 19: Kris Versteeg #32 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New Jersey Devils in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on April 19, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils shutout the Panthers 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

He never left the province of Alberta, but Kris Versteeg has undergone a major change of scenery.

After spending all of training camp and the preseason in Edmonton on a PTO, Versteeg flipped the script on Tuesday by signing a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames.

Today, he found himself on Calgary’s top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, ahead of tonight’s game where he and the Flames will face — yup, the Edmonton Oilers.

The hope is that Versteeg, 30, can become something of a Jiri Hudler 2.0. In Hudler’s first year playing alongside Monahan and Gaudreau, he posted career highs across the board — 31 goals, 76 points — and captured the Lady Byng trophy.

Versteeg certainly has the potential to produce.

A four-time 20-goal scorer, he found the back of the net 15 times last year, split between Los Angeles and Carolina.

Gaudreau sounded excited about his new linemate.

“[Versteeg’s] skilled, he’s smart,” he said, per the Flames’ Twitter account. “Hopefully we can build some chemistry right away.”

Goalie nods: Andersen debuts for Leafs, healthy Allen goes for Blues

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs attends the 2016 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Toronto fans will get their first regular season look at their new No. 1 netminder on Wednesday, as Frederik Andersen starts in goal against Ottawa.

Andersen, acquired from Anaheim in June — then immediately signed to a five-year, $25 million deal — had a scare during the offseason, when he suffered an upper-body injury playing for his native Denmark in Olympic qualifying.

The ailment prevented him from playing for Team Europe at the World Cup, but did recover to play in three of the Leafs’ exhibition contests, allowing 11 goals on 68 shots faced.

The 27-year-old is expected to shoulder a heavy workload in Toronto this year, possibly surpassing the carer-high 53 starts he made with the Ducks in ’14-15.

For the Sens, Craig Anderson will get the start in goal.

Allen (leg) ready to face Chicago

There was a bit of concern out of St. Louis over the weekend when Jake Allen‘s leg injury forced the Blues to recall Jordan Binnington from AHL Chicago.

But those concerns have been wiped away.

Allen, now the clear-cut starter after Brian Elliott was dealt to Calgary at the draft, is good to go for tonight’s season opener against the ‘Hawks, with Carter Hutton serving as the backup.

This promises to be a pivotal year for Allen. Armed with a new four-year, $17.4 million extension (that kicks in next season), the 26-year-old is primed to build upon his successful ’15-16 campaign, in which he started 44 times and finished with a .920 save percentage.

It’ll be a pivotal year for the Blues as well. It’s been a long time since the club’s had a clear-cut No. 1 — in fact, you have to go all the way back to 2010-11 to find the last St. Louis netminder to start more than 50 games in a single season (that year, Jaroslav Halak got the nod 57 times).

For Chicago, no surprises tonight. Longtime starter Corey Crawford will be in goal.


Cam Talbot will be in goal for the Oilers as they play their first regular-season game at Rogers Place. He’ll be up against Elliott, who’s making his first regular-season start for the Flames.

Martin Jones, coming off a terrific Stanley Cup Final performance, will get the nod for San Jose. No confirmation from L.A. yet, but it’s expected Jonathan Quick will be in goal.

Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup? Here are PHT’s picks


The struggle was real with our Stanley Cup picks last year. Nobody picked the Penguins to win it all. Heck, only one person picked them to even make the Cup Final.

Undaunted, we’re back to try again. As always, feel free to add your picks in the comments section. Also, don’t forget to suggest we have no idea what we’re talking about. That’s important, too. 

Mike Halford: Tampa Bay over St. Louis

I picked the Bolts last year and they did reasonably well, falling one game short of the final. So I’ll show some loyalty and pick them again. This year’s team is a virtual carbon copy — they kept Steve Stamkos and he looks to be fully recovered from his blood-clotting issue; Tyler Johnson is good to go after his wrist bugged him for much of last season; and they’re going to get a full year of Jonathan Drouin, who’s primed for a breakout campaign. Best of all, they didn’t have to lose anyone to get Nikita Kucherov signed.

Jason Brough: Pittsburgh over Chicago

It’s not impossible to repeat. Some team will do it again someday, and this year’s Penguins are a good bet to be that team. Unlike previous champs in the salary-cap era, the Pens didn’t have to cast off a bunch of key players. (I like Ben Lovejoy, but I think they can overcome his loss.) I do admit that I considered picking the Lightning. If it wasn’t Pittsburgh, it was gonna be Tampa Bay. But when Halford took the Bolts, it was an easy decision. I’ll take the team with Sidney Crosby on the first line, Evgeni Malkin on the second, and Phil Kessel on the third, with Kris Letang playing big minutes on the back end. As we saw last spring, that’s a tough team to beat. (Note: I’m assuming Crosby will be fine.)

Cam Tucker: Washington over Nashville

In our season preview, I predicted the Capitals would finally get beyond the second round of the playoffs, so why not pick them to go all the way? They have a loaded roster, led of course by Alex Ovechkin, and with the talent they have, they will eventually go deep into the postseason. Yes, even if that means going through Pittsburgh. If the Caps get hot in the playoffs — look out. They have the tools. It’s just a matter of putting it all together at the right time.

James O’Brien: Dallas over Pittsburgh

Allow yourself a moment to dream: two spectacularly entertaining teams — boasting flaws that actually make them more fun to watch — trading blows at the highest level. The Penguins ran roughshod over their competition once Mike Sullivan took over, but they will fall to an even better version of themselves. The Stars take the next step in aping the Penguins’ formula of dominating chances and camouflaging defensive shortcomings with fast puck movement. They only need slightly improved goaltending to win the Stanley Cup, and my vote is that they’ll get just that.

Joey Alfieri: Tampa Bay over Dallas

The Lightning have come close to hoisting the Cup in the last couple of seasons, but they’ve ultimately come up just short. I think this is the year they get the job done. They have a number of quality offensive weapons (Stamkos, Kucherov, Drouin, Palat, Killorn, Johnson), some strong depth on the blue line (Hedman, Stralman, Garrison, Coburn) and probably the best one, two punch in the league between the pipes with Bishop and Vasilevskiy. Tampa Bay may also be able to use Bishop as a bargaining chip to land themselves another quality piece before the trade deadline.

Adam Gretz: Nashville over Tampa Bay

I am buying the Nashville hype. Adding P.K. Subban to a defense that already has Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis probably makes it the best group in the league (and if it’s not the best, it is definitely in the discussion). In front of them they have an underrated group of forwards that has two cornerstone pieces in Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, as well as another 30-goal guy in James Neal. They were one of the top possession teams in the league last season and have impact players all over the roster. Goaltending is a bit of a question mark at this point, but if the rest of the roster plays up to its potential they shouldn’t need *great* goaltending to win.