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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Guerin, Drury named to U.S. management team for Worlds

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USA Hockey is going with a collaborative approach for selecting this year’s roster for the World Hockey Championships.

The National Team Advisory Group — led by USA Hockey’s Jim Johannson — was announced on Monday, and included a pair of former NHLers now in managerial roles: Bill Guerin, currently the assistant GM in Pittsburgh, and Chris Drury, who serves the same role for the Rangers.

More:

[The National Team Advisory Group also] includes NHL general managers Stan Bowman (Chicago Blackhawks), Dean Lombardi (L.A. Kings), David Poile (Nashville Predators), and Ray Shero (New Jersey Devils), along with Florida Panthers President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon and Carolina Hurricanes President Don Waddell.

Guerin, 46, retired from playing in 2010 and moved immediately into hockey ops. He spent three years as the Penguins’ developmental coach before transitioning to front office work in 2014.

Drury, 40, wrapped up his career in ’11, only to circle back with the Rangers four years later. He came on in ’15 as the director of player development and, last summer, was promoted to work under GM Jeff Gorton.

It’s worth noting that both Guerin and Drury are members of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Tavares hopeful for extension with Isles, Weight hopeful to return

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Though the offseason is usually filled with various subplots, it’s safe to predict which two will be front and center for the Isles this summer.

The first is the negotiation of captain John Tavares‘ contract.

The second is the decision to keep interim head coach Doug Weight, or go in a different direction.

Under the CBA, Tavares is eligible to sign a new deal with the Isles on July 1. Back at January’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, the 26-year-old said he was hoping to get something done.

“Yeah, of course. Yeah, for sure,” Tavares said. “I mean, I’ve always stated how much I enjoy playing on Long Island, and the organization, how well they’ve supported me. Obviously, we’ve had some new ownership come in. They’ve brought some real good commitment and show their vision for the future.

“I’m excited about where the Islanders are headed, and hopefully we can work something out.”

Today, he reiterated as much.

Tavares is heading into the last of a six-year, $33 million deal with a $5.5M cap hit. It’s already been suggested he could join Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar in the $10 million cap hit club, but deals of that magnitude take time to negotiate. Kopitar, you’ll recall, had to wait until January of the final year of his contract before securing an eight-year, $80 million extension from the Kings.

In addition to extension talks, Tavares also touched on Weight today.

“[He] sparked the great finish we had, a lot of guys responded,” No. 91 said, per WRHU Sports. “Have a lot of respect for [Weight].”

The Isles went 24-12-4 after Weight took over from Jack Capuano, and made a furious push for the playoffs. New York’s two big veteran free agent signings, Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera, seemed to come alive under Weight after struggling to start the campaign under Capuano.

Unsurprisingly, Weight said he really wanted to be back behind the bench next season.

“It’s going to be healthier for us as a franchise and an organization to move forward as quick as we can and figure things out,” Weight said Sunday, per NHL.com. “That’s where I’ll leave that. I’m going to meet with everybody. First of all, no matter where I am, hopefully in this organization somewhere whether it’s here or somewhere else helping this team win, the city, the fans get what they deserve, a consistent winner.

“We’ve got to get the players off and talk about what they have to do in the offseason and talk about this year and to focus on getting off to a good start next year. But I’m going to think everything over, I’m going to talk to my bosses, which I think we all know we have to do, and figure this out.

With Ruff gone, who are some coaching candidates for Dallas?

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The Lindy Ruff era in Dallas is over.

And with that, the search for a new head coach begins.

Replacing Ruff — who, on Sunday, learned he wouldn’t be brought back for a fifth year behind the bench — will be a crucial decision from GM Jim Nill. The Stars floundered this year after a banner ’15-16 campaign, and there were constant issues about the club’s style of play, organization and structure. There were also concerns about individual players too often going off-script to search for offense.

With that said, here’s a quick look at some names making the rounds.

Ken Hitchcock: This one has been out there for quite some time, and with good reason. Hitchcock is one of the most celebrated figures in franchise history, the bench boss responsible for leading Dallas to its first and only Stanley Cup back in ’99.

At 65, he’s probably looking for a team that’s closer to competing — rather than overseeing a rebuild project — and in that regard, the Stars do fit the bill. Hitch is also still known as one of the NHL’s better defensive tacticians, which could alleviate some of the aforementioned structural concerns.

Kirk Muller: Another guy with major ties to the organization. Muller spent his final four years playing in Dallas, helping the team to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2001, and has since honed his coaching craft as the head man in Carolina, along with assistant gigs in Montreal and St. Louis (where he worked under Hitchcock).

Muller has a reputation as an innovative, creative coach. That creativity earned him praise with the Habs this year, as he helped orchestrate the NHL’s 13th-best power play.

Gerard Gallant: His ties are more to Nill than with the Stars organization, but they’re still pretty deep. Gallant and Nill played together in Detroit. A Jack Adams finalist with Florida last season, Gallant was controversially fired by the Panthers this year and has been linked to a number of jobs since, including the still-to-be-filled Vegas gig.

Paul MacLean: Currently an assistant in Anaheim, MacLean has a terrific resume (winning the Adams in ’13) and, like Gallant, has ties to Nill. MacLean was a longtime Mike Babcock assistant in Detroit — while Nill held a similar AGM title under Ken Holland — and the pair won a Cup together in 2008.

Todd Nelson: A darkhorse candidate, but one worth mentioning. Currently the head coach of AHL Grand Rapids, Nelson is another guy with ties to Nill (he actually played for Detroit’s minor-league affiliate while Nill was there) and is considered one of the better bench bosses on the minor league circuit. Nelson has NHL experience, having served an interim stint in Edmonton, and has enjoyed good success with the Griffins over the last two years.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round schedule

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Here are the schedules and TV information for the first round. For the sixth consecutive year, every Stanley Cup playoff game will be presented nationally across the platforms of NBC Sports Group and select NBCUniversal networks.

(Games listed by date, start time, teams and network.)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers

Wednesday, April 12 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Montreal NBCSN (Game 1 highlights)
Friday, April 14 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Montreal USA (Game 2 highlights)
Sunday, April 16 7 p.m. Montreal at NY Rangers NBCSN (Game 3 highlights)
Tuesday, April 18 7 p.m. Montreal at NY Rangers NBCSN (Game 4 highlights)
Thursday, April 20 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Montreal USA (Game 5 highlights)
Saturday, April 22 8 p.m. Montreal at NY Rangers NBC (Watch)
*Monday, April 24 TBD NY Rangers at Montreal TBD

Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Thursday, April 13 7 p.m. Toronto at Washington USA (Game 1 highlights)
Saturday, April 15 7 p.m. Toronto at Washington NBCSN (Game 2 highlights)
Monday, April 17 7 p.m. Washington at Toronto NBCSN (Game 3 highlights)
Wednesday, April 19 7 p.m. Washington at Toronto NBCSN (Game 4 highlights)
Friday, April 21 7 p.m. Toronto at Washington NBCSN (Watch)
*Sunday, April 23 TBD Washington at Toronto TBD
*Tuesday, April 25 TBD Toronto at Washington TBD

Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins

Wednesday, April 12 7 p.m. Boston at Ottawa NHL Network (Game 1 highlights)
Saturday, April 15 3 p.m. Boston at Ottawa NBC (Game 2 highlights)
Monday, April 17 7 p.m. Ottawa at Boston CNBC (Game 3 highlights)
Wednesday, April 19 7:30 p.m. Ottawa at Boston USA (Game 4 highlights)
Friday, April 21 7:30 p.m. Boston at Ottawa USA (Watch)
*Sunday, April 23 TBD Ottawa at Boston TBD
*Wednesday, April 26 TBD Boston at Ottawa TBD

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Wednesday, April 12 7:30 p.m. Columbus at Pittsburgh USA (Game 1 highlights)
Friday, April 14 7 p.m. Columbus at Pittsburgh NHL Network (Game 2 highlights)
Sunday, April 16 6 p.m. Pittsburgh at Columbus CNBC (Game 3 highlights)
Tuesday, April 18 7:30 p.m. Pittsburgh at Columbus CNBC (Game 4 highlights)
Thursday, April 20 7 p.m. Columbus at Pittsburgh NHL Network (Game 5 highlights)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

Thursday, April 13 8 p.m. Nashville at Chicago NBCSN (Game 1 highlights)
Saturday, April 15 8 p.m. Nashville at Chicago NBC (Game 2 highlights)
Monday, April 17 9:30 p.m. Chicago at Nashville CNBC (Game 3 highlights)
Thursday, April 20 8 p.m. Chicago at Nashville NBCSN (Game 4 highlights)

Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues

Wednesday, April 12 9:30 p.m. St. Louis at Minnesota NBCSN (Game 1 highlights)
Friday, April 14 8 p.m. St. Louis at Minnesota NBCSN (Game 2 highlights)
Sunday, April 16 3 p.m. Minnesota at St. Louis NBC (Game 3 highlights)
Wednesday, April 19 9:30 p.m. Minnesota at St. Louis NBCSN (Game 4 highlights)
Saturday, April 22 3 p.m. St. Louis at Minnesota NBC (Watch)
*Monday, April 24 TBD Minnesota at St. Louis TBD
*Wednesday, April 26 TBD St. Louis at Minnesota TBD

Anaheim Ducks vs. Calgary Flames

Thursday, April 13 10:30 p.m. Calgary at Anaheim NBCSN (Game 1 highlights)
Saturday, April 15 10:30 p.m. Calgary at Anaheim NBCSN (Game 2 highlights)
Monday, April 17 10 p.m. Anaheim at Calgary NBCSN (Game 3 highlights)
Wednesday, April 19 10 p.m. Anaheim at Calgary USA (Game 4 highlights)

Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks

Wednesday, April 12 10 p.m. San Jose at Edmonton USA (Game 1 highlights)
Friday, April 14 10:30 p.m. San Jose at Edmonton NBCSN (Game 2 highlights)
Sunday, April 16 10 p.m. Edmonton at San Jose NBCSN (Game 3 highlights)
Tuesday, April 18 10 p.m. Edmonton at San Jose NBCSN (Game 4 highlights)
Thursday, April 20 10:30 p.m. San Jose at Edmonton NBCSN (Game 5 highlights)
Saturday, April 22 10:30 p.m. Edmonton at San Jose NBCSN (Watch)
*Monday, April 24 TBD San Jose at Edmonton TBD

*if necessary

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round matchups

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Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens

Season series: Montreal 3-0-0, New York 0-2-1

This one’s been locked in for a while, with Montreal claiming the Atlantic Division crown and the Rangers locking up the Eastern Conference’s first wild card berth a few days ago. This will mark the first time these two Original Six foes have met in the playoffs since 2014, when the Rangers upended the Habs in the Eastern Conference Final.

That series is perhaps best remembered for the start of the Carey PriceChris Kreider feud. Price suffered a playoff-ending injury on a crease collision with Kreider in Game 1, and exacted a measure of revenge when the two teams met early in the following season.

Watch Rangers vs. Canadiens live on the NBC Sports app

Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins

Season series: Ottawa 4-0-0, Boston 0-3-1

This marks the first time the Sens will face the B’s in a playoff series. Ottawa’s back in the dance after missing last year, while Boston returns following a two-year postseason absence. There’s not a ton of history here, but both enter with some compelling storylines — the Sens, under first-year head coach Guy Boucher, overcame losing Clarke MacArthur to a concussion suffered during the preseason, and were without No. 1 netminder Craig Anderson for long stretches while his wife underwent cancer treatment.

Boston, meanwhile, pulled it together after the midseason dismissal of head coach Claude Julien, and rallied under new bench boss Bruce Cassidy. Several pieces of the ’11 Cup-winning squad still remain — Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand, most notably — and it’s worth mentioning that one of the few Cup winners on the Ottawa roster is Chris Kelly… who won it all six years ago with the B’s.

Watch Bruins vs. Senators live on the NBC Sports app

Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Season series: Washington 1-1-1, Toronto 1-1-1

All the pressure versus no pressure, really. The Caps head into the postseason as the NHL’s top team, boasting an absolutely loaded roster — which includes the blockbuster trade deadline acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk — and firmly in year two of GM Brian MacLellan’s two-year Stanley Cup window.

Simply put, the time in now for Washington.

For Toronto, this season was supposed to be about building for the future. But the future arrived early. The Leafs are in the playoffs after a miraculous turnaround, which saw them go from the worst team in the NHL to one of the league’s most entertaining squads. Three of the club’s top four scorers — Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner — are all rookies, and will make their Stanley Cup playoff debuts.

Watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs live on the NBC Sports app

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Season series: Columbus 2-1-1, Pittsburgh 2-1-1

The Blue Jackets are going to the playoffs for just the third time in franchise history, but will face the Penguins for the second time in three years. Back in ’14, Columbus lost 4-2 to Pittsburgh in the opening round, but the series provided some unforgettable moments at Nationwide, including a pair of OT victories (one of which was Columbus’ first-ever postseason win).

For most of this season, Pittsburgh was a popular pick to repeat as back-to-back champion, but those predictions took a hit when No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang was lost for the year with a neck injury. Letang was a vital cog to last year’s Stanley Cup win, and he’ll be undoubtedly missed. How that absence plays out against Columbus will be a focal point of the opening round.

Watch Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on the NBC Sports app

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

Season series: Chicago 4-1-0, Nashville 1-4-0

This has turned into a pretty healthy playoff rivalry, and will be the third series between the two in the last seven years. Chicago enjoyed another terrific regular season — 50 wins, 109 points — and now looks to get back to another Stanley Cup Final, after bowing out in the opening round to St. Louis last season. The ‘Hawks have never lost a series to the Preds, and they’ll aim to keep that streak going.

Nashville’s had an up-and-down campaign, and it’ll be interesting to see if that trend carries over to the postseason. Something worth keeping an eye on? The Preds were dynamite at home this year, posting a 24-9-8 record at Bridgestone, but weren’t great on the road. No playoff team had a worse away record than Nashville’s 17-20-4 mark.

Watch Blackhawks vs. Predators on the NBC Sports app

Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues

Season series: Minnesota 2-2-1, St. Louis 3-2-0

The big storyline here will be Blues head coach Mike Yeo going up against his former club. The Wild fired Yeo last February after five years at the helm, but he wasn’t unemployed long — St. Louis hired him four months later as the coach-in-waiting behind Ken Hitchcock, who was in his final year behind the bench.

Yeo’s ascendancy happened quicker than expected. Blues GM Doug Armstrong fired Hitchcock on Feb. 1, and the team quickly righted the ship under Yeo, eventually finishing third in the Central Division (thanks in large part to the improved play of goalie Jake Allen).

The Wild have an interesting coaching angle of their own. Bruce Boudreau, who was fired by Anaheim after crashing out in the opening round last year, has done a terrific job in his first season in Minnesota. The Wild won 49 games and racked up 106 points, to finish as the second-best team in the Western Conference.

Watch Wild vs. Blues on the NBC Sports app

Anaheim Ducks vs. Calgary Flames

Season series: Anaheim 4-1-0, Calgary 1-4-0

This one was decided late — very late. Anaheim waited until the final night of the regular season to secure top spot in the Pacific Division and for that, they’ll face a fairly familiar foe in Calgary.

The Ducks and Flames met in the second round of the ’15 playoffs, with Anaheim breezing to a relatively easy 4-1 series win. As mentioned above, the Ducks were a major disappointment last year — losing in Round 1 to Nashville — and shook things up by firing Boudreau, and hiring Randy Carlyle. Carlyle is, of course, the same coach that led Anaheim to its first and only Stanley Cup championship back in 2007.

For the Flames, first-year bench boss Glen Gulutzan has one mission: Win a game in Anaheim. It’s been an incredible 11 years since Calgary last tasted victory in Orange County. Given the Ducks have home ice advantage, the Flames will have to win at least one game at Honda.

Watch Ducks vs. Flames on the NBC Sports app

Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks

Season series: Edmonton 3-1-1, San Jose 2-3-0

The NHL’s longest playoff drought is over, as Edmonton will go dancing for the first time since 2006. Led by potential Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid and workhorse netminder Cam Talbot, the Oilers now get to face off against… the defending Western Conference champs.

On paper, a tough draw.

But on the ice, this has all the makings for a really intriguing series. Aside from McDavid’s playoff debut, there’s also Todd McLellan factor to consider. McLellan took the job in Edmonton after an incredibly successful seven-year run in San Jose. He’s still the club’s all-time leader in wins.

Health will be a big factor for San Jose, as both Joe Thornton and Logan Couture were hurt late in the season.

Watch Oilers vs. Sharks on the NBC Sports app