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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Oilers loan Puljujarvi to Finland for Worlds

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Interesting decision from Edmonton today, regarding the immediate future of prized prospect Jesse Puljujarvi.

With AHL Bakersfield eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs, Puljujarvi — who scored 28 points in 39 games for the Condors this year — isn’t joining the Oilers as a Black Ace, but will rather join Team Finland at the upcoming World Hockey Championship.

From the club:

Edmonton is able to recall Puljujarvi at any time during the assignment.

Puljujarvi, 18, is in his first season with the Oilers organization, after being selected fourth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The 6’4”, 215-pound forward appeared in 28 games with the Oilers, registering eight points (1G, 7A) and 10 penalty minutes.

Given that Puljujarvi didn’t expect to figure in Edmonton’s playoff run, lending him to the Finnish team makes sense. He’s starred on the international scene in the past, which included winning tournament MVP at the 2016 World Juniors.

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers: Game 5 on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports app)

Facing elimination, Calgary sticks with Elliott in goal

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No goalie change tonight as the Flames look to keep their season alive against Anaheim.

On Wednesday, Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan announced that Brian Elliott would remain the club’s starter for a do-or-die Game 4 at the Saddledome.

Yesterday, there were rumblings the Flames might make a switch to Chad Johnson after Elliott struggled in a 5-4 OT loss in Game 3. Elliott looked shaky, and was unable to close the door after his teammates raced out to a 4-1 lead.

Stream Ducks vs. Flames: Game 4 on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, USA)

The unraveling began with this Shea Theodore marker late in the second period:

It ended with another odorous goal in OT, one in which Elliott’s rebound ricocheted off teammate Michael Stone and into the back of the net.

“It’s not an easy [loss], especially personally,” Elliott said following the game, per the Herald. “I didn’t feel I played very well. I let the team down a little bit. It’s tough to lose off a bounce like that.

“You want to help the team more than you hurt it. It’s tough to swallow right now. The guys spotted four goals, and we should win a game like that.”

Yesterday, Gulutzan wouldn’t commit to Elliott as his Game 4 starter, which led to speculation a change might be in the cards.

Elliott has struggled since a strong performance in Game 1, in which he made 38 saves on 41 shots. He’s since allowed eight goals on 48 shots for an .833 save percentage.

Related: Lazar, Hamilton to make series debuts

 

Draisaitl to have hearing for spearing Tierney in groin

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The ugly incident that got Leon Draisaitl tossed from Edmonton’s 7-0 loss in San Jose last night has landed him in hot water.

On Wednesday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Draisaitl would have a disciplinary hearing for his spear to the groin of Sharks forward Chris Tierney.

Draisaitl was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for his actions, which came late in the second period of the blowout defeat. Afterward, Sharks forward Logan Couture said there was malice in Draisaitl’s actions.

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers: Game 5 on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports app)

“I think it’s dangerous,” Couture said, per the Mercury News. “Any time you spear a guy like that you’re intending to injure him. I don’t like those types of plays in this game, but the refs made a good call with throwing him out.”

Back in the 2014 playoffs, two players were fined — but not suspended — for spearing: Boston’s Milan Lucic, and Dallas’ Ryan Garbutt.

Just how big is the rift between Eichel, Bylsma?

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First, the major news out of Buffalo this morning — per WGR 550 radio, sophomore sensation Jack Eichel reportedly isn’t interested in signing an extension if Dan Bylsma remains head coach.

Eichel’s agent, Peter Fish, shot the rumor down, saying his client is “100 percent” on board with an extension, adding the decision has nothing to do with Bylsma’s status.

“I don’t know where anyone is getting these reports,” Fish said, per the Buffalo News. “But they are ridiculous.”

Fish’s remarks may snuff out reports about an extension, but questions remain about the coach-player dynamic.

Eichel, the team’s best player and face of the franchise, just wrapped year two of his three-year, entry-level deal and is eligible to sign on July 1.

In his end-of-year media address last week, Sabres GM Tim Murray said extending Eichel was a massive priority, adding that if he didn’t hear by Fish on July 1, he’d be calling him the very next day.

But now it appears Murray’s in quite the bind.

Bylsma has three years left on his contract at $3 million per, according to CapFriendly. He was hand-picked by Murray as head coach just weeks before Buffalo selected Eichel second overall in 2015 and, at the time, people were already connecting the dots: Bylsma’s experience coaching superstars, like Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, made him uniquely qualified to coach Eichel.

“You understand immediately the spotlight that is on those types of players, the star quality players,” Bylsma said of his experience coaching elite talent. “I think you understand the pressure they’ll be going through, the analysis and the little eyes on them from just about everybody.”

Two years in, there are obvious problems with the Bylsma-Eichel dynamic.

This latest report comes after widespread speculation the 20-year-old was both displeased and frustrated with his head coach throughout the season. Eichel seemed to be at odds with how Bylsma conducted things, right down to player discipline. When teammate Sam Reinhart was benched for an entire game after showing up five minutes late to a team stretch, Eichel suggested the punishment didn’t necessarily fit the crime.

“We’re obviously not going to hold it over his head here,” he said. “[Reinhart] really didn’t do too much wrong.”

Which brings us back to the headline. How big is this rift? And can Murray fix it?

He has several reasons to do so. The first, as mentioned above, is that Bylsma is his guy. The hire was a signature moves of Murray’s GM tenure and, in order to get Bylsma, he had to dismiss Ted Nolan — with Nolan still owed two years on his contract.

Which brings us to another reason Murray needs to make this work.

Bylsma’s five-year, $15 million deal made him one of the NHL’s richest coaches. Paying him not to work for the club could be a large request — especially, as many have pointed out, since Murray would have to ask owner Terry Pegula for permission. Pegula, remember, is already shelling out substantial bucks for Rex Ryan not to coach the Bills.

This could be why Murray’s putting the heat on Bylsma. There were some telling comments at the GM’s end-of-year presser, especially when he said players had “legitimate gripes” about the coaching, before dropping his now-infamous ‘coffee’ line.

“The video that they do and the preparation is exhausting,” Murray explained. “I do have an opinion, and think that sometimes maybe they’re stuck in that room preparing and working hard, but maybe they can put a coffee in their hand once in a while and do two hours of video instead of three, and get out and get to know our players and talk to our players.

“It’s about coaching individuals a little more and coaching system a little less. That’s my opinion and I believe that’s the right way.”

Reading between the lines, it sure sounds like Murray was telling Bylsma he needed to change — and, in doing so, told Eichel he’s confronted the coach about adjusting his style.

This might help in repairing the Eichel-Bylsma relationship.

Unless it’s past the point of repair.

Carlyle knows his Game 4 starter, but won’t say who it is

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Through the first two games of their series against Calgary, the Ducks had zero questions in goal. John Gibson started both, stopping 65 of 69 shots for a .942 save percentage.

He was playing great.

But then came Game 3.

Gibson started yet again, but was hooked after allowing four goals on 12 shots. It was at that point head coach Randy Carlyle made the switch to Jonathan Bernier and, with it, changed the entire complexion. Bernier stopped all 16 shots faced, and the Ducks rallied for a 5-4 OT win.

Stream Ducks vs. Flames: Game 4 on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, USA)

“[Bernier] came in and calmed things down,” Carlyle said on Tuesday. “His whole demeanor, and the way he approached and played in the situation, he was a guy that settled everything down.

“He made some big stops, and he wasn’t rattled. He wasn’t scrambling. He didn’t do anything that he hasn’t done for the last 20 games he’s played for us. He just came in and played his game.”

Carlyle re-iterated a few times Wednesday how calming an influence Bernier was. Which is funny, because he was very brief on everything else goalie-related.

Very, very brief.

From the transcript:

Q: Would you come back with [Gibson] for Game 4? Would that be the right message to send to him?

Carlyle: Well, I’m going to pick one goalie. It’s going to be one of them.

Q: Have you made up your mind?

Carlyle: Have I made up my mind? Oh yeah.

To be clear, nobody pinned Gibson’s removal on Gibson. The Ducks came out flat, and even Carlyle said the team had to get through “hurdles of our inefficiency” before staging its remarkable comeback.

And hey, Carlyle has played coy about his starting goalies in the past, only to stick to Gibson as the club’s No. 1.

But at least he’s making things interesting.