Mike Halford

WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 11: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets prepares for the faceoff in second period action in an NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the MTS Centre on February 11, 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

Byfuglien: Playing forward ‘definitely not my favorite,’ experiment could be over


WASHINGTON (AP) The Dustin Byfuglien at forward experiment might be a short-lived one for the United States.

Byfuglien played on the wing during the Americans’ 3-2 victory over Finland in their final exhibition game Tuesday night and had the lowest ice time of any player. Coach John Tortorella explained the move earlier in the day as a way to see the six other defensemen on the roster.

“We’re still trying to make some decisions on where people fit and in our mind we always felt Buff was kind of a wild card moving into a couple of different positions, so we’ll see,” Tortorella said.

Byfuglien had a big hit on Finland’s Olli Maatta, but skated just 10:32 in a fourth-line role. After splitting his NHL career between forward and defense, the 31-year-old Byfuglien became an All-Star defenseman the past couple of seasons with the Winnipeg Jets and didn’t seem too comfortable going back up front Tuesday.

“It’s definitely not my favorite spot,” Byfuglien said afterward. “It’s just something they wanted to try and that was it.”

Asked about his hit and some other impacts he made, Byfuglien said: “It’s my ice time. I’ve got to do what I got to do, what I’m told to do.”

Byfuglien should be back on the blue line when the U.S. opens the tournament Saturday against Team Europe. Tortorella loves what the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Byfuglien brings with his shot on the power play.

“We’re not putting him in front of the net,” Tortorella said. “We’re going to have him shoot the puck because he can shoot it pretty hard. I hope he’s a weapon.”

Byfuglien is a unique player because of his skating ability for his size, physicality and his shot. U.S. winger Patrick Kane, who won the 2010 Stanley Cup with Byfuglien as a forward on the Chicago Blackhawks, appreciates the Minneapolis native’s versatility.

“He kind of plays that rover style of game, anyway, where he’s all over the ice and in front of the net he’s a big body,” Kane said.

“He’s a special player. He’s one of those guys that’s kind of a rare breed of skill and power and he’s fast for his size. He’s pretty much got everything. He’s very physical, as well. He can do anything out there.”

Report: Flames to bring Grossmann to camp on PTO

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 22:  Nicklas Grossmann #2 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Gila River Arena on December 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Calgary is on the verge of offering a training camp tryout to Nicklas Grossman, according to a report from The Fan 960.

Grossmann, 31, spent last season in Arizona, where he racked up three goals and seven points in 58 games, averaging just under 18 minutes per night.

Prior to his stint in the desert, Grossmann played four years in Philly and six in Dallas, and it’s that time in Dallas that might’ve scored him a tryout with the Flames.

Calgary’s new head coach, Glen Gulutzan, coached Grossmann with the Stars during the ’11-12 campaign. Gulutzan played Grossmann a lot — 18:59 per game, one of the highest TOI averages of the big Swede’s career — so it’s easy to see why the Flames are giving Grossmann a look-see.

Of course, he remains a longshot to actually make the roster. Grossmann’s had issues with his skating and keeping pace, and Calgary doesn’t have a ton of open spots on defense.

Based on their current depth chart, the Flames have Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman, Dougie Hamilton, Ladislav Smid, Jyrki Jokipakka and Deryk Engelland slotted in as the top seven, though Smid did miss a bunch of time last season with a neck injury.

Report: Canucks to offer Sheppard training camp PTO

James Sheppard

James Sheppard, the ninth overall pick at the 2006 draft, is reportedly close to securing a training camp invite from the Canucks, per the Vancouver Sun.

Sheppard, 28, spent last year with Kloten of Switzerland’s National League A, scoring 11 goals and 25 points in 37 games. He last played in the NHL during the ’14-15 campaign, which he split between the Sharks and Rangers.

Once a promising prospect, Sheppard suffered a major knee injury in 2010 while riding an ATV, which proved to be a significant detour in his progression as a player. He did have one decent season in San Jose — scoring 20 points in 67 games in ’13-14 — and appeared in 13 playoff games for the Rangers in the spring of 2015.

Sheppard has also been down the PTO road before. Last September, he caught on with the Blue Jackets for training camp but didn’t last long, and was released just 20 days after joining the team.


Pacioretty knows he needs to do more, but also knows these are exhibition games

Max Pacioretty
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There are two ways to interpret how Max Pacioretty responded to Team USA coach John Tortorella saying he “needs more” from the Montreal captain.

One, Pacioretty agrees with Torts.

Two, Pacioretty would like to remind Torts — and everybody else, for that matter — that these are exhibition games.

Here’s the video:

The (brief) transcript:

“I mean, it’s two exhibition games. Obviously I know I need to do more.

“Hopefully I can improve my game for the third exhibition game.”

You can tell he was hammering home “exhibition” for emphasis.

And to be fair, Pacioretty is partially right. He’s only played two exhibition games in preparation for what’s basically an exhibition tournament, so it’s difficult to get all worked up about a lackluster start.

On the flip side, though…

It was clear to everybody that the Team USA-Team Canada exhibitions weren’t ordinary warmup games. With the amount of jump and intensity on display, it was fairly easy to see who wasn’t bringing it, which is exactly what Tortorella pointed out after Saturday’s tilt (in which Pacioretty finished minus-2 in just 10:05 of ice time.)

“All the top players, even you look at Canada’s team, your minutes are going to be down. But Max hasn’t … he’s got to give me some reason to give him more minutes here,” Torts said. “We’ll see where it goes.

“We know he’s a really good player, great kid, we’ve just got to get a bit more out of him.”

In a related development, Pacioretty will skate alongside Ryan Kesler and T.J. Oshie tonight against the Finns. Kesler and Oshie were major catalysts in the two game set against Canada.

Rinne looks to be Finland’s World Cup starter

OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 11:  Pekka Rinne, goalkeeper of Finland, refreshments himself during the IIHF World Championship group B match between Finland and Belarus at CEZ Arena on May 11, 2015 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)

As we inch closer to the start of the World Cup of Hockey, No. 1 goalie gigs are beginning to come into focus.

Like the battle between Finnish netminders Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask, for example.

Tonight, Rinne will start versus the U.S. and is slated to play the entire contest, per NHL.com. It will be Rinne’s second nod of the exhibition campaign — after going the distance in a 3-2 OT win over Sweden — and comes after Rask allowed five goals on 28 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Swedes on Saturday.

So, reading the tea leaves, it sure looks like Rinne is Finland’s No. 1.

The Preds netminder looked reasonably sharp in his first outing, stopping 18 of 20 shots, and made a very nice save on Anton Stralman.

Rask, conversely, looked average at best in his audition for the starting gig.

All this said, the door is probably wide open for Rask to get some action in this tournament. The Finns open with a difficult game against the high-flying North American squad on Sunday and, if “TNA” has shown anything thus far, it’s an ability to find the back of the net — and chase netminders.