Mike Halford

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

Sabres could ‘hear the disappointment in the building’ last night


Dan Bylsma hoped his team had enough pain and anguish.

The answer? Nope.

The Sabres continued skidding on Tuesday night, dropping a 6-3 decision at home to Philadelphia. It was their third straight loss and second straight at home, and whatever playoff hopes the team might’ve had — remember, they were 26-23-10 on Feb. 18 — have been dashed, thanks to an ugly 1-5-2 mark over its last eight games.

“You can clearly hear the disappointment in the building,” goaltender Robin Lehner said, per the Buffalo News. “It’s been a long season. It’s disappointing where we are.”

With last night’s loss, Buffalo’s points percentage dropped to .493 on the year. That’s down (albeit ever so slightly) from last year’s .494 which, regardless size of decrease, is troubling. This was supposed to be a Sabres team on the rise, one ready to challenge for the playoffs. That was the impetus behind splashy free agent signing Kyle Okposo, to build on a trajectory that saw Buffalo improve by a whopping 27 points from ’14-15 to ’15-16.

This year?

The Sabres are on pace for 81… just like last year.

The biggest concern from this recent stretch is the club’s resiliency. Specifically, the lack of it.

Bylsma and the Sabres could have, at least previously, hung their hats on their ability to keep the bad times from going too long. They have just two three-game regulation losing streaks this year, finding ways to eke out OT ans shootout points. They also played some solid hockey in late January and early February, to ignite talks of snapping their six-year postseason drought.

From Jan. 20 to Feb. 18, Buffalo went 9-5-1 behind some quality play from Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Those those two have put forth good campaigns — Eichel’s been a point-a-game player since returning from his ankle injury, with 45 in 46 games, while Kane leads the team with 24 goals.

But those efforts haven’t masked some larger, looming issues. The defense is a mess. Lehner’s been criticized for his inability to deliver a big save. And there are questions about Dan Bylsma’s job security, to the point where GM Tim Murray was asked recently about it.

Murray defended his coach, putting the blame on the players’ shoulders. As you’d expect him to. But heading into an offseason that projects to be filled with options — Ken Hitchcock, Gerard Gallant, Jack Capuano, Michel Therrien among them — one has to wonder if a coaching change will be considered.

Blues prospect Thompson goes pro, signs ELC


It’s been a pretty good year for Tage Thompson, and it just got better.

On Tuesday, the Blues announced that Thompson — taken 26th overall at last year’s draft — has signed his entry-level contract, forgoing his final two years at the University of Connecticut as a result. He’ll report to the club’s AHL affiliate in Chicago.

Thompson, 19, has enjoyed a banner campaign. He racked up 32 points in 36 games to lead UConn in scoring this season, and captured gold with Team USA at the World Juniors. Thompson had five points in seven games, registering an assist in the gold medal win over Canada.

At 6-foot-5 and 201 pounds, Thompson has good NHL size, and pedigree to boot. He’s the son of former Kings, Jets and Coyotes blueliner Brent Thompson, who’s currently serving as head coach of the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.

Goalie nods: Peters gives Lack second straight start


Eddie Lack is back in his coach’s good graces.

Lack, who on Friday was lambasted for his poor play by ‘Canes bench boss Bill Peters, will make his second consecutive start tonight when the ‘Canes take on the Avs in Colorado.

Lack stopped 25 of 26 shots in a win over Arizona on Sunday, a result that came just 48 hours after Peters let loose on the Swedish ‘tender.

“Well, you’ve got to push,” Peters said to the assembled media. “One guy has played 10 games. Eddie has played 10 games and was poor in his last outing, let’s not kid ourselves, right? There were 16 shots, four went in. Not good enough. You look at his numbers in the league, they’re not good enough.”

Peters continued by saying Lack “better earn some respect” from his teammates, before punctuating the rant by staring at Lack’s dressing room stall and saying “make an [expletive] save.”

On Saturday, Peters didn’t back down from his critique, saying he was “just being honest.” But after Lack’s strong performance on Sunday, Peters acknowledged he and his goalie had a good talk at the airport prior to departing for Arizona.

Peters later added ripping on Lack was “not my proudest moment.”

Lack only has nine starts on the year, and back-to-back appearances have been a rarity. So it’ll be interesting to see how he fares, especially given this is a pretty great matchup — Colorado has the worst offense in the league, and scored just two goals in its last four games.

For the Avs, Calvin Pickard gets the start.


Keith Kinkaid gets a rare start, his first since Feb. 19, when the Devils take on the Blue Jackets. Columbus will counter with Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s coming off a 20-save shutout against the Devils on Sunday.

James Reimer looks to snap a three-game losing streak when the Panthers host the Rangers. The skid is by no means his fault, though, as he’s posted a .951 save percentage over the three games. No word yet on a New York starter, but Antti Raanta did play last night.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Robin Lehner as the Flyers take on the Sabres in Buffalo.

Frederik Andersen has been great over his last four games, posting a .942 save percentage, but the Leafs don’t have a single win to show for it. They hope to change that tonight as they host Petr Mrazek and the Red Wings.

Jake Allen, fresh off a shutout of Colorado on Sunday, gets the start in Minnesota. No surprises for the Wild, who will continue to ride Devan Dubnyk‘s hot hand.

— After getting pulled in Calgary on Sunday, Thomas Greiss resumes his starting duties in Edmonton. The Oilers are going with Cam Talbot, as per usual.

Carey Price is surging under new head coach Claude Julien, so the Habs will keep rolling with Price tonight in Vancouver. Ryan Miller‘s back in for the Canucks, after AHL recall Richard Bachman starred in a win over Anaheim on Sunday.

John Gibson‘s still hurt, so Jonathan Bernier gets another start for the Ducks. The visiting Preds are going with Pekka Rinne.

Caps ink NCAA standouts Bindulis, Gustafsson


Washington continued to be a major player in the college free agent pool on Tuesday, signing Lake Superior d-man Kris Bindulis and Merrimack forward Hampus Gustafsson to two-year, entry level contracts.

The pair will immediately report to AHL Hershey.

Bindulis, 21, is probably the more enticing prospect. The lanky Latvian (6-foot-3, 181 pounds) is a raw talent, making the leap to pro hockey after just one year at the collegiate level. He caught management’s eye while participating in Washington’s prospect development camp last summer.

“I really enjoyed my time over there,” Bindulis said, per the Washington Post. “It’s a really high-level in the NHL. Everything was really professional and coaches were really professional. I enjoy my time being over there. … I’m humbled and grateful for the incredible opportunity that they gave me to become a professional hockey player.”

Gustafsson, 23, was shortlisted as a Hobey Baker Award finalist after scoring 15 goals and 26 points in 36 games for Merrimack this season. Another big body — 6-foot-4, 205 pounds — Gustafsson just wrapped his fourth year of college hockey, having previously played for IF Troja-Ljungby in his native Sweden.

Last week, the Caps kicked off their collegiate free agent signing period by inking Alaska-Anchorage forward Mason Mitchell.

No extension talks between Flames and Versteeg, but he wants to re-sign

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All things considered, Kris Versteeg‘s one-year, $950,000 deal with Calgary has paid off nicely.

The Flames have received good bang for their buck, as Versteeg’s racked up 12 goals and 25 points in 54 games. And Versteeg’s revived his NHL career, something that appeared in doubt after he signed in Switzerland last summer — only for the deal to fall apart due to insurance complications.

So, no surprise to hear Versteeg would like to re-sign.

From the Calgary Herald:

Versteeg revealed that contract discussions haven’t started between him and the Flames yet. But his preference is to stay in Calgary.

“Me and my agent have talked a lot about different scenarios and situations,” he said. “Being in Calgary is obviously No. 1 for me. I have my family, I have my friends. I feel like I’ve made a lot of good friends on the team and in the organization. Here is where my heart is, especially right now.”

The Versteeg decision may come down to June’s expansion draft.

Calgary’s in the fairly unique position of having no players they’re required to protect, so GM Brad Treliving has options. It also might behoove the Flames to wait until the expansion draft is finished to sign Versteeg, so they don’t have to make the choice to either protect or expose him.

Of course, Treliving will have plenty of other business to attend to this summer. Both his goalies — Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson — are pending UFAs, as are d-men Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland and Michael Stone.

Treliving will also need to negotiate new deals for RFA forwards Sam Bennett, Curtis Lazar, Micheal Ferland and Alex Chiasson.