Mike Halford

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More accolades for Matthews, who wins first rookie of the month award

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Fresh off capturing the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, Toronto’s Auston Matthews garnered more accolades today by capturing December’s rookie of the month award.

More, from the league:

Matthews edged Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (6-6—12 in 14 GP), Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (1-11—12 in 13 GP), Carolina Hurricanes right wing Sebastian Aho (4-5—9 in 14 GP) and Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (6-1-1, 2.34 GAA, .926 SV%, 1 SO) for the honor.

Matthews, who also paced all rookies with eight goals, registered at least one point in nine of his 12 December appearances, highlighted by a five-game point streak to close the month (4-3—7). He also recorded three multi-point performances, two power-play goals and one game-winning goal (Dec. 22 at COL).

Matthews now joins Leafs teammate William Nylander (October) and Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (November) as rookie of the month winners this season.

Related:

Everything’s coming up Matthews!

Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages

 

Is Anaheim readying to move a defenseman?

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Last week, we wrote about the latest good young d-man to debut for AnaheimBrandon Montour, the 22-year-old that’s starred for AHL San Diego this year.

Some thought Montour’s time with the Ducks would be brief, given his recall coincided with Sami Vatanen falling ill. But Vatanen is back, and Montour is still around — rather than sending him back, Anaheim opted to send another good young d-man, ’13 first-rounder Shea Theodore, to the minors.

Why?

“We know [Theodore will] be back,” head coach Randy Carlyle said, per the O.C. Register. “It’s not a question of if, it’s just when. And it gives us an opportunity to take a longer look at Montour here, who was recalled. Given him a couple games so far, and we’ll have an opportunity for him to stay with our hockey club and practice with us.

“Kind of get more up to speed on where he’s at in his development.”

Montour played, albeit sparingly, in the first two games following his recall — 17:54 in his debut against Calgary, and 10:06 in a shootout loss to Vancouver. The 55th overall pick in ’14 was then scratched for Sunday’s win over Philly, so it’s not as if he’s ready for a full-time role with the Ducks.

But the fact Anaheim wants an extended look at Montour could be telling. As mentioned above, he’s one of several Ducks d-men that are 25 or younger, along with Theodore, Fowler, Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson. The latter three already established as full-time NHLers.

Beyond those, there’s also ’15 first-rounder Jacob Larsson (who made his NHL debut earlier this year) and Swedish blueliner Marcus Pettersson, who was taken 17 spots ahead of Montour in ’14.

Fowler’s name has been floated in trade rumors for a while. There was widespread speculation he’d be moved at the draft, to the point where even he expressed surprise that he wasn’t dealt.

“It’s been an interesting week or so, that’s for sure,” the 24-year-old Ducks defenseman told ESPN.com back in June. “You hear your name tossed out there. I’ve heard that before even at recent trade deadlines, but this time with the position the Ducks are in and some of the salaries, it just seemed like it was pretty real.

“I was 100 percent prepared for something to happen. And was honestly pretty surprised when it didn’t.”

Financially speaking, it seems inevitable Anaheim will have to eventually make some kind of move. The Ducks are pressed right up against the cap ceiling, and that’s with d-man Simon Despres‘ $3.7 million cap hit on LTIR (concussion). Don’t forget GM Bob Murray waived veteran blueliner Clayton Stoner earlier this year, he of the $13 million contract.

(Stoner is currently on IR following abdominal surgery.)

The big question, it seems, is if Anaheim will make a move by next month’s trade deadline. Because there are a number of teams looking for good young defensemen, even if the acquisition price is sky-high.

Just ask Peter Chiarelli.

Devils waive Boucher, one day after claiming him (and a month after waiving him the first time)

At first glance, it looks like the Devils are playing a cruel prank on Reid Boucher.

But rest assured, it’s not nefarious.

On Tuesday, the Devils placed Boucher on waivers, just 24 hours after claiming him from Nashville — and roughly one month after waiving him the first time (which is how he ended up with the Predators).

For the explanation, here’s NJ.com:

The Devils reclaimed the 23-year-old forward in hopes of sending him to Albany to get more playing time, but they were not the only team to claim Boucher on Monday. Had the Devils been the lone NHL team to claim him, he would have been eligible to go directly to the AHL.

But since another team put a claim in, Boucher needed to be added to the NHL roster, per CBA rules. The Devils put Boucher back on waivers Tuesday in another attempt to get him to Albany.

If he clears on Wednesday, Boucher will be be sent down. If another team claims Boucher, he’ll be out of New Jersey once again.

Boucher started the year in New Jersey and appeared in nine games, going goalless with a pair of assists.

He then scored one goal in three games with the Preds, notching five points in five games for their minor-league affiliate in Milwaukee.

That’s sort of been the story of Boucher’s professional career — a really good point producer at the American League level, but one that’s bounced in and out of NHL lineups.

That said, it’s not entirely surprising New Jersey wanted to get Boucher back in the fold — or that another team was interested in his services. He’s a guy, after all, that scored 62 goals in 68 games in his final year of junior, and did some good things for the Devils, including a ’15-16 campaign in which he scored 19 points in 39 games.

Unlike Rex Ryan, Dan Bylsma doesn’t report directly to the Pegulas (Updated)

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Buffalo was collectively up in arms on Monday, when Bills GM Doug Whaley told reporters that former head coach Rex Ryan — fired last week after two years on the job — directly reported to owners Terry and Kim Pegula, rather than Whaley.

That caused quite a stir given, y’know, chain of command and all that. It also cast doubt as to how much control Whaley had in Buffalo, if any at all.

So in the aftermath, the Buffalo News decided to ask Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma who he reports to, given the Pegulas also own the Sabres.

“I report to Tim [Murray, Sabres GM] every day, am talking to Tim every day. And Tim talks to Terry and Kim,” Bylsma explained. “There are times when it’s all of us together. I think that’s a little bit more on the football side of it.

“We have communication with Terry and Kim. But I talk to Tim every day and Tim talks to Terry and Kim every day.”

Much like the Bills, the Sabres are under heavy scrutiny right now. Expected to improve on last year’s effort, the club has woefully under performed and heads into tonight’s action sitting dead last in the Atlantic Division, with 34 points.

(The Sabres are on pace for 77 points this year. Last season, they had 81.)

Bylsma has felt the heat, and has drawn constant comparisons to Ryan — both were hired within a month of each other, and both worked under the same ownership group.

Ryan, of course, was dismissed after missing the playoffs in each of his two years on the job. It’s too early to say if Bylsma will be held to the same standard, but his job could be in serious danger if the Sabres don’t show any improvement over the second half.

Updated: Wouldn’t call this a “clarification” per se, but Bylsma did try to further explain the chain of command on WGR 550 today.

“I ultimately report to Kim and Terry. But I report to Tim and I talk to Tim daily, and interact with Tim, and Tim interacts with Kim and Terry. That’s how the daily, day-to-day works with our team.”

Lack’s concussion problems continue in Carolina

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Carolina backup Eddie Lack, who returned from a concussion two weeks ago, has been diagnosed — or, re-diagnosed — with another concussion, the ‘Canes announced on Tuesday.

With Lack sidelined, the club has recalled goaltender Daniel Altshuller from AHL Charlotte.

Lack’s season has largely been derailed by concussions and post-concussion symptoms. He’s only appeared in five games for Carolina this year, the last of those coming on Nov. 10, and didn’t play at all since being activated off IR on Dec. 21.

As a result, Cam Ward has carried a remarkably heavy workload this season. The veteran netminder currently sits fifth in the NHL in starts, with 30.

Lack’s absence has also caused a bit of a stir with regards to Carolina’s depth chart in goal. Last week, the club was forced to dress 37-year-old equipment manager Jorge Alves for a game against Tampa Bay.