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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Goalie nods: Dell gives Jones the night off in San Jose

Aaron Dell will make his first start since Dec. 10 tonight, when the Sharks host the Flyers in San Jose.

Dell’s nod means Martin Jones will get a well-deserved break. Jones had started each of San Jose’s last seven games and played very well over that stretch, going 6-1. That included an impressive final outing, Tuesday’s 3-2 OT win over the Ducks in which he stopped 34 of 36 shots.

As for Dell, the 27-year-old has shown relatively well in his first campaign as Jones’ backup — albeit in a very limited role. He’s 3-1-0 with a 2.16 GAA and .926 save percentage this season, and comes into tonight carrying a modest two-game winning streak.

For the Flyers, Steve Mason‘s in net.

Elsewhere…

Cam Ward makes his 29th start of the year when the ‘Canes host the Blackhawks in Carolina. Chicago has yet to announce a starter, but all signs point to Scott Darling after Corey Crawford made 36 saves in a win over Nashville last night.

— The Blues will go back to Jake Allen after Carter Hutton got the nod on Wednesday. Nashville, as mentioned above, played Chicago last night, so the Preds have also not yet named a starter. Pekka Rinne went on Thursday night, however.

Ryan Miller, coming off a terrific 36-save win against the Kings on Wednesday, is back in goal for the Canucks. No word yet on who goes for the visiting Ducks, but John Gibson did play last night against Calgary.

Flyers healthy scratch Konecny, who’s coming off a two-point outing

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In Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Blues, Flyers rookie Travis Konecny had a pair of assists — just his second multi-point game of the year — and finished plus-1 in over 16 minutes of ice time.

Tonight, he’ll follow that up… with a seat in the press box.

Konecny will be a healthy scratch when the Flyers take on the Sharks in San Jose, head coach Dave Hakstol confirmed:

Konecny, a 19-year-old rookie, has been a big part of Philly’s success this year. He has four goals and 18 points while appearing in all 37 games — so yes, this healthy scratch will be his first of the season — and averages just under 15 minutes per night.

The timing might be odd, given Konecny’s production last game, but Hakstol is a big advocate of sitting guys out so they can learn by watching. He did the same with Michael Del Zotto and Shayne Gostisbehere earlier this season.

Kesler the latest to target Johnny Gaudreau

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If it wasn’t obvious already, it is now — there’s a big ol’ target on Johnny Gaudreau.

Gaudreau, one of the league’s most dynamic offensive talents, is also one of the most diminutive. As such, there’s been plenty of attention paid by opponents this season in the form of hacks, whacks and physical play.

He’s already missed 10 games this year to a broken finger — which, per Flames GM Brad Treliving, happened on the 11th slash Gaudreau received in a game against Minnesota on Nov. 15 — and on Thursday night, Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler shared his strategy on shutting down Johnny Hockey.

“They embarrassed us last time [8-3, on Dec. 4] and we wanted a response,” Kesler said, per the O.C. Register. “I thought our team responded pretty well. We’re good when we’re hard to play against. Particularly me. I thought if I had a chance to get a lick on him, I would.

“Obviously he’s a smaller guy and he likes to have his skating room. Doesn’t like to get touched. You can see the way their team reacted when you do that.”

It’s a telling statement, and not just because of targeting Gaudreau. Kesler also noticed how the Flames reacted.

That’s key.

In the aftermath of slash-gate, Calgary was livid. Players and management talked plenty about the treatment of their leading scorer, and Treliving acknowledged he spoke with NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom about the situation.

Kesler wasn’t the only opponent to notice the Flames’ response.

Two weeks after the Nov. 15 game, Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau said Calgary “made a mountain out of a molehill” over the Gaudreau slash. Boudreau also apparently anticipated a reaction because, in the rematch between the two clubs on Dec. 2, he gave 6-foot-4, 211-pound tough guy Kurtis Gabriel his season debut.

Moving forward, this will be a situation worth monitoring, because teams are realizing that rattling Gaudreau isn’t just about ratting Gaudreau — it’s also about rattling the Flames.

Related: Gaudreau injury a reminder to how star players are defended and treated

Jets put Dano on IR after scary end boards crash

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Winnipeg’s had its fair share of major injuries this season, and suffered another one on Thursday night.

Marko Dano, the former first-round pick acquired in the Andrew Ladd-to-Chicago trade, has been placed on IR after a nasty crash in last night’s loss to Columbus.

“It’s not good,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said of Dano’s lower-body injury, per the Winnipeg Sun. “We’re talking about weeks, easy.”

Dano went feet-first into the end boards behind the Columbus goal during the second period, and immediately began writhing in pain. He had to be helped off the ice by teammates and, obviously, did not return to the game.

The 22-year-old opened the year with Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate, but has been fairly productive since being recalled in early November. Dano had 10 points through 28 games, while averaging 11:28 TOI per night.

With Dano out, the Jets recalled Andrew Copp from Manitoba. Winnipeg is still without injured forward Alexander Burmistrov and blueliner Tyler Myers.

 

A pair of rookies are playing ‘huge roles’ for streaking Sharks

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On the surface, things are the same as they’ve always been in San Jose. The club is still really good (22-12-1, first in the Pacific Division) and the same veteran guys are still doing the business (Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton lead team in scoring).

Dig a little deeper, though, and there have been some significant changes.

The Sharks have quietly embraced a youth movement this season, though it might not remain quiet for long. Rookies Timo Meier, 20, and Kevin Labanc, 21, have both made significant impacts on the lineup.

Just ask Jumbo.

“[Labanc], just the ability to get in position to score – I think he’s a very, very smart hockey player. He wants to score every night, which is fun to see as an older player,” Thornton said, per CSN Bay Area. “Timo, just his speed stands out, and how strong he is.

“Both guys are playing huge roles on our team right now.”

The Sharks will go for their ninth win in 10 games tonight when they host Philly, and both Labanc and Meier will play key parts. Despite appearing in just 22 games this year and only averaging 13:03 TOI, Labanc sits fifth on the team in goals, with six — the same kind of sniping prowess he displayed with the AHL Barracuda.

He’s now on the club’s second line, centered by Logan Couture, and is on the Sharks’ second power-play unit as well.

Meier, the ninth overall pick in 2015, has an even smaller body of work, with just five games played thus far. Still, he’s been impressive — scoring in his NHL debut — and head coach Peter DeBoer suggested a bigger role could be in the cards.

“He’s looking dangerous out there,” DeBoer said. “I think he’s knocking on the door to do some real good things here.”

Labanc and Meier couldn’t have emerged at a better time. Mikkel Boedker, one of GM Doug Wilson’s biggest acquisitions in free agency, has been a disappointment and veteran winger Joel Ward has really struggled, with just two goals through 33 games.

Last year, Ward found the back of the net 21 times, the second-highest total of his career.