Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
Getty

Goalie nods: Lack primed for first start in 40 games

1 Comment

Big night for Carolina’s Eddie Lack.

Lack, who has missed most of the season dealing with a concussion, will start for the first time since Nov. 6 when the ‘Canes take on the Caps at Verizon.

Though he made another appearance following that contest — a brief 28-second relief spot on Nov. 10 — Lack hasn’t played at all in nearly three months, save a conditioning stint with AHL Charlotte.

The injury really stretched the ‘Canes thin.

Equipment manage Jorge Alves was called into repeated practice duty, and even got into a game back in December. Veteran journeyman Michael Leighton and young prospect Alex Nedeljkovic were also thrown into the mix, but duties have primarily — and often — fallen to Cam Ward, who is among the league leaders in starts (44) and shots faced (1,197).

It’ll be curious to see how Lack fares tonight. It’s a tough matchup against a powerhouse offense like Washington but, if he can perform well, it could lighten Ward’s load down the stretch, and prevent him from getting fatigued as the ‘Canes try make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Elsewhere…

— The Sharks begin their Eastern road swing tonight in Buffalo, and they’ll do it with Martin Jones in goal. Anders Nilsson goes for Buffalo, after Robin Lehner started the last four.

— After getting last game off, John Gibson is back in for the Ducks as they take on the Rangers at MSG. Henrik Lundqvist goes for New York, after making 29 saves in a win over Calgary on Sunday.

Brian Elliott lost the aforementioned Flames-Rangers game, so he’s out and Chad Johnson‘s in. The host Penguins will start Matt Murray.

— Los Angeles will go back to Peter Budaj after he was roasted for four goals on 15 shots in Sunday’s ugly loss in Washington. Tampa Bay will go with Ben Bishop, coming off a win over the Ducks.

Petr Mrazek, coming off a stellar 42-save shutout of Nashville, is right back in for the Red Wings. The visiting Blue Jackets didn’t have a morning skate, so no word on who starts.

Jake Allen returns to the starter’s crease for St. Louis, after Carter Hutton shut out Philly last night. The Sens are giving workhorse Mike Condon a break, and going with Andrew Hammond.

— It’s Antti Niemi versus Curtis McElhinny as the Stars and Leafs do battle in Toronto.

Jacob Markstrom gets his first start since Jan. 25 when the Canucks take on the Preds in Nashville. He’ll be up against Pekka Rinne, who is playing well lately (.932 save percentage over last six starts).

Ondrej Pavelec makes his eighth start in nine games since his recall, as the Jets host the Wild. Minnesota, per usual, is going with Devan Dubnyk.

— After getting Sunday off, Carey Price starts as the Habs take on the Avs in Denver. Calvin Pickard counters for the home side.

Kings to debut LaDue, who’s been in the news lately

Getty
3 Comments

For a 24-year-old defenseman that’s never played in the NHL, there’s plenty of intrigue around Paul LaDue.

LaDue, the former North Dakota rearguard, is set to make his big-league debut tonight when the Kings take on the Bolts in Tampa Bay. LaDue’s recall came after an impressive stint with AHL Ontario — six goals and 18 points in 36 games — in his first full year of professional hockey.

The debut also comes with his name making the rounds.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, in speaking with Fan 960 radio (per FanRag), said he’s “hearing that this might be a showcase,” for Kings GM Dean Lombardi, to potentially generate interest in LaDue heading into the trade deadline.

But Friedman also pointed to reports from dialed-in Mayors Manor scribe John Hoven, which said the opposite:

LaDue is nearly untouchable when it comes to trades being considered by GM Dean Lombardi. That’s not to say it’s impossible (we all know the adage, even Wayne Gretzky was traded); but more to the point that it would have to be an overpayment of epic proportions to pry him from the pipeline. This label is not something we throw around lightly either.

We used it with [Tyler] Toffoli a few years ago, when people wanted to connect the dots and throw him into trade talks – while all of our internal sources laughed at the mere suggestion. The same thing went with a pair of players last season. And now with LaDue. At the very least, know this; LaDue’s recent call-up was not to showcase him for a trade.

If the latter holds true, it doesn’t necessarily shutter trade talks. If LaDue shows well and earns the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter, he could be an effective replacement on the back end — and, most importantly, an inexpensive one ($925,000 cap hit).

Friedman noted that L.A. is tight to the cap, adding that when it comes to teams calling about a trade, “everybody talks [Jake] Muzzin or [Alec] Martinez.”

Which is were LaDue might come in. Though it seems risky to lean on such an untested guy, the Kings have worked the likes of Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel into the mix this year, with the former having acquitted himself well.

Three months after MS diagnosis, Bickell set to rejoin ‘Canes

4 Comments

Carolina forward Bryan Bickell received life-altering news earlier this season when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Bickell was unsure if he’d ever play hockey again, let alone this season.

Which makes today’s news quite incredible.

Per NHL.com, Bickell is aiming to return to the ‘Canes following their upcoming bye week, for a home date against the Avalanche on Feb. 17.

“It all depends too on what other guys are doing if they’re going on a huge streak,” Bickell explained. “I like to see them win. If they need me, I’m sure an extra week of me skating is not going to hurt me.

“We’re just going to wait until after the next treatment and after the bye week and go from there.”

Bickell’s treatment is a monthly intravenous of Tysabri, a drug which helps limit the effects of MS. The 30-year-old said he began feeling better upon taking the medication, and has since increased his skating workload to get up to NHL speed.

He’s been skating for a month, and said he’d be open to the idea of an AHL conditioning stint. He hasn’t played since Oct. 30.

The ‘Canes, meanwhile, have two games left before their break.

In the short-term, Bickell is set to have another round of Tysabri later this week, resume skating activity, then see where how he’s feeling.

Whatever the case, he’s already taken a big step in a very positive direction.

Slumping Flyers lose Konecny for 4-6 weeks

Getty
3 Comments

Philly’s struggling offense took another hit on Tuesday, as GM Ron Hextall announced rookie forward Travis Konecny would miss the next 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury.

The injury occurred in last night’s shutout loss to the Blues.

Konecny, 19, is in the midst of a solid rookie campaign, with seven goals and 22 points through 51 games. Though he did sit as a healthy scratch recently, Konecny remains tied for fifth on the team in points with fellow rookie Ivan Provorov.

Philly has just 12 goals in its last nine games and have been shut out in back-to-back contests, so losing any offensive contributor stings.

This injury, though, could have more ramifications — the Flyers are fighting for a playoff spot, and Konecny will now be out until after the trade deadline.

If his recovery takes four weeks, that puts him on track for a Mar. 7 return against Buffalo. If it goes the full six, he’s looking at a Mar. 21 tilt against Winnipeg.

Konecny averages 14:36 TOI, so it’s a decent-sized hole to fill.

Myers, who’s missed the last 39 games, now out 6-8 weeks after surgery

Getty
1 Comment

Chances are Tyler Myers won’t be looking back at this season fondly.

Myers, who’s already miss the last three months with a lower-body injury, underwent surgery on Monday to deal with said ailment, and will miss the next 6-8 weeks.

The 27-year-old Jets rearguard last suited up on Nov. 11, in what was just his 11th game of the year. Since then, his has been a story of rehab, timetables, an attempt to resume skating and a subsequent “plateau” in recovery.

Frustrating, no doubt.

Looking at the timetable, Myers could be back in action by around Mar. 21 if his recovery is on the six-week side of things. That would give him 9-10 regular season games.

If recovery goes the full eight weeks, Myers is looking at an early April return, with maybe 3-4 games left. The x-factor in all this, it would seem, is if the Jets are still in playoff contention at that point.

If not, there’s a case to be made for shutting down Myers for the remainder of the season and starting fresh next year.