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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Versteeg: Breaking Brouwer’s finger ‘definitely had me rattled’

Broken fingers have been a sensitive subject in Calgary this year — remember Johnny Gaudreau and slash-gate? — so it came as little surprise that the latest busted digit, on the hand of veteran winger Troy Brouwer, caused some consternation.

With good reason, though.

Unlike Gaudreau, Brouwer’s finger wasn’t broken by an opponent’s incessant chopping but, rather, a slapshot from teammate Kris Versteeg.

“It’s a buddy on your team. It was definitely in my head the rest of the night and kind of rattled me,” Versteeg said, per the Calgary Herald. “Thankfully we got the win. I talked to him right when it happened, and the day after, and the day after that just to see what was going on.

“It definitely had me rattled. He’s a friend and a teammate and a big part of this team.”

Versteeg and Brouwer go way back. The two spent three years together in Chicago, capturing the Stanley Cup in 2010, and recently reunited as linemates under Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan.

The two had formed a fairly effective unit as wingers between Sean Monahan, but all that came crashing down on Dec. 23 when, in a win over the Canucks, Versteeg unloaded a slapper late in the first period…right around the time Brouwer skated in front of him.

And that was it. Broken finger, sidelining Brouwer “week-to-week.”

It’s a tough blow, given Brouwer’s production — eight goals and 17 points through 36 games this year — and his veteran leadership. Despite only joining Calgary this offseason, Brouwer was immediately named one of the club’s alternate captains and, as GM Brad Treliving explained, was an important voice in the dressing room.

“Troy has a strong voice and a presence,” Treliving said. “He holds people accountable.”

Ducks say Stoner out 4-6 weeks following abdominal surgery

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Anaheim blueliner Clayton Stoner, who’s already missed significant time to injury this season, will be out another 4-6 weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery, the club announced yesterday.

Per the O.C. Register, Stoner had the procedure on Dec. 21 in Philadelphia. As mentioned, he’d already been sidelined by a lower-body ailment — no word if it’s related to the abdominal issue — and hadn’t played a game since Nov. 15, when he skated just over 17 minutes in a win over Edmonton.

Waived at the beginning of the year in what appeared to be a cap-relief move, Stoner played reasonably well when healthy. He had three points in 14 games while racking up 35 hits, but is still saddled with an albatrossian contract — he’s only in the third of a four-year, $13 million deal with a $3.25M average annual cap hit.

 

Goalie nods: Blues reward Hutton, who has ‘competed like heck’

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Jake Allen has been a workhorse and was banged up prior to the holiday break. He’s probably due for a rest. But Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock wasn’t about to use that as his logic for starting backup Carter Hutton tonight against the Flyers.

“I just feel like I want to reward a guy that … he’s competed like heck, he’s played really well in his last game,” Hitchcock said, per KSDK. “I feel like I want to reward that.

“We know that Jake (Allen’s) got a lot of games in him, this gives him a chance to reset the dial for three practices in a row and then get ready to play on the 30th and the 2nd.”

Hutton’s reward is just his fourth start in the last 21 games, and first since a 3-2 OT loss to the Oilers on Dec. 19. The 31-year-old performed reasonably well that night — stopping 32 of 35 shots for a .914 save percentage — in what, as Hitchcock alluded to, was one of his better outings of the year. Hutton has struggled since coming over from Nashville in free agency, posting a 2-4-2 record with a 2.91 GAA and .893 save percentage.

For the Flyers, Steve Mason gets the nod.

Elsewhere…

Roberto Luongo, who allowed three goals on 39 shots in a shootout loss to Detroit last Friday, goes for Florida. He’ll be up against Frederik Andersen, who starts the first of a back-to-back for the Leafs.

— Carolina will continue to ride Cam Ward when it takes on Pittsburgh tonight. No word yet on a Pens starter, though Marc-Andre Fleury did play last night against New Jersey.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s been up-and-down since taking over starting duties from the injured Ben Bishop, goes for the Bolts. The visiting Habs will start Carey Price, who hasn’t played since last Thursday.

— A veteran affair in Vancouver, as 36-year-old Ryan Miller takes on 34-year-old Peter Budaj.

Subban’s lingering injury puts first game against Habs in doubt

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P.K. Subban has missed Nashville’s last five games with an upper-body injury, an ailment that will now cost him the final two games of 2016 as well.

So what about that big tilt on Jan. 3, when he’s set to face his former Habs team for the first time since this summer’s blockbuster trade?

Doesn’t sound promising.

Per the Tennessean, Subban didn’t practice today and, after meeting with doctors, the decision was made to hold him out of Thursday’s game against Chicago, and Friday’s tilt in St. Louis.

This comes after Preds GM David Poile told a local radio station he “thought that there was a good chance” Subban would skate on Tuesday, “with the idea of maybe playing later this week.”

Obviously, none of that happened.

Subban hasn’t seen game action since Dec. 15, when he racked up over 25 minutes in a 5-2 loss to Minnesota. Given this latest development, he’ll have gone two full weeks without playing when the Preds enter their mini-break over New Year’s, and it could be tough to jump right back into action for the aforementioned Habs contest.

This development is a tough ending to what’s already been a difficult month of December. Nashville is just 4-5-3 over its last 12 games, and is coming off back-to-back home defeats to Los Angeles and Minnesota.

Tampa Bay signs first-rounder Howden to ELC

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Brett Howden, the big forward taken 27th overall by Tampa at this year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Wednesday.

Howden, 18, is the younger brother of Jets farmhand Quinton Howden, who was taken 25th overall in 2010. The younger Howden is also familiar with current Bolts rookie Brayden Point — the two played together with WHL Moose Jaw — and Point’s “scouting report” was part of the reason why the Lightning targeted Howden near the end of the first round.

“[The Lightning] are getting a good two-way guy,” Point said. “He plays good D, was on the power play and penalty kill for us this year. He did it all. He’s good on faceoffs, a good centerman, a big body obviously.”

At 6-foot-3 and 191 pounds, Howden has good size and 32 points through 21 games this season with Moose Jaw, so the offensive capability is there as well.

He was one of the cuts from the Canadian team currently participating at the 2017 World Junior Championships in Montreal and Toronto.