Mike Halford

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

Pens announce Fleury as Game 2 starter, Jarry to back up

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The injury that knocked Matt Murray out of Pittsburgh’s series-opening win against Columbus will keep him out of Game 2 as well.

And perhaps even longer.

On Thursday, the Pens announced that Marc-Andre Fleury — who, after Murray was hurt in warmup, stopped 31 of 32 shots in yesterday’s 3-1 win — will start Game 2 on Friday at PPG Paints.

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets: Stream on NBC Sports

Fleury will be backed up by AHL recall Tristan Jarry. Murray didn’t practice on Thursday, nor did he have a dressing room stall at the club’s practice facility in Cranberry. Per the Post-Gazette, it’s believed Murray re-aggravated a groin injury suffered in his last outing, a 7-4 win over New Jersey last week.

Though Murray sat for the final two games of the regular season, he was declared fit enough to be Pittsburgh’s playoff starter. Head coach Mike Sullivan declined to discuss the severity of Murray’s injury, or a potential timetable for return.

For Hitch, ‘Stars hockey is reckless energy — with proper positional play’

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Ken Hitchcock knows his second tour of duty in Dallas won’t be the same as the first.

The game has changed, and the league has changed.

He said his old Stars teams won because they were positionally sound on defense, and good on the counter-attack. He said you can’t play like that anymore.

To be successful in the modern NHL — where speed and skill reign supreme — you need to win between the bluelines. You have to control the neutral zone.

Dallas certainly has the speed and skill. Now, it’s on Hitchcock to give it some structure.

“To me, Dallas Stars hockey is reckless energy — with proper positional play,” he said on Thursday, during his introductory presser as the club’s new head coach. “And I’ll bring that forward. But I don’t want to ever lose that reckless energy they had. I don’t want to see the guys lose that reckless enthusiasm they play with, because that’s what makes the team special.

“You never felt when you played Dallas that you were in control of anything. You always felt like you were right on the edge of getting steamrolled.”

That anecdote was curious, because it came from a question asking Hitch about Dallas’ perceived weakness. The veteran bench boss explained that, while coaching the Blues against the Stars in the ’15 playoffs, the goal was for St. Louis to match Dallas’ incredibly high energy level. If they did that, Hitch explained, the Blues’ structure would give them the edge.

Interesting.

If there was another major takeaway from today’s conference, it’s that Hitch and the club’s brass — GM Jim Nill, president Jim Lites — believe that the focus shouldn’t be on what the Stars did this season, but two rather two seasons ago. When their speed, energy, aggressiveness and explosiveness saw them win 50 regular season games and advance to the second playoff round.

As for this year?

Now, Hitch’s challenge is to take that “reckless energy” and provide it with shape. Organize it. One of the great failings in Lindy Ruff’s final year in charge is that, having built a gameplan off speed and creativity, players started to go rouge when things weren’t going their way.

“We had some frustrated players who, instead of trying to stay with it and trying to play a 200-foot game, it became more of an individual try,” Ruff said just prior to his dismissal, per the Morning-News. “And those individual tries a lot of times turned into opportunities for the opposition.”

You can expect Hitch to try and eradicate those issues, and quickly. One of the more intriguing moments of today’s presser is when he told the players in attendance — Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and Dan Hamhuis — there will be some uncomfortable times ahead, as he inevitably drills his vision for structure, systems play and strategy.

“This is not going to be fun everyday,” Hitchcock said. “But forming a partnership with you guys is more important than anything.”

More…

— Hitchcock wasn’t asked about goaltending, a curious development given how profound a role netminding played in his departure from St. Louis and, as has been well documented, how bad the goaltending has been in Dallas over the last two years.

— Nill confirmed that Hitchcock has a multi-year deal in place with the Stars. When that contract is up, he has another deal in place to remain with the club as a consultant.

— Hitchcock said the club will begin interviewing assistant coaches next week. Longtime Ruff assistant James Patrick was let go and the other assistant from last year, Curt Fraser, will be allowed to interview with Hitch.

— Lites did make mention that part of the reason for the hire was Hitchcock’s traditionally strong special teams. They were a nightmare in Dallas last year (20th on the power play, 30th on the penalty kill).

Letang undergoes successful neck surgery

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Some good news on the Kris Letang front — on Thursday, Pittsburgh announced that Letang underwent successful surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.

The club also re-confirmed that his window for recovery is 4-6 months.

Though losing Letang is a significant blow, the Pens have to be pleased that this week’s procedure went well, and that the star defenseman is expected to make a full recovery.

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets: Stream on NBC Sports

Pittsburgh played its first playoff game without Letang on Wednesday night, earning a 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints. With Letang out, the Pens used a six-man defensive unit of Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz, Trevor Daley, Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole and Ron Hainsey.

Ice time was distributed pretty evenly. Cole was the low man at 18:21, Schutlz the high at 20:07.

Iginla ‘definitely’ wants to keep playing after Kings stint

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Jarome Iginla feels rejuvenated after his late-season trade to the Los Angeles Kings, and the 39-year-old forward would like to play in the NHL again next season.

Iginla confirmed his hopes in a conference call Wednesday, three days after the Kings’ season ended.

Los Angeles acquired the 20-year veteran on March 1 to aid in its ultimately fruitless playoff push. Iginla had six goals and three assists in 19 games for the Kings, his fifth NHL franchise.

Before the trade, Iginla occasionally felt worn down by a miserable season with the Colorado Avalanche. The chance to reconnect with Darryl Sutter, his former coach in Calgary, and to play in meaningful games again rekindled his passion for hockey.

“I would like to (play next season),” Iginla said. “But at the same time, I’ve got to wait and see what the options are. So it’s not 100 percent, but I definitely would like to. But I’ve got to wait and see what options, and where things are at.”

Iginla was a definite improvement to the low-scoring Kings’ offense, and his speed even impressed his younger teammates on a sometimes plodding team. He scored three power-play goals and four game-winning goals during his six weeks in Los Angeles, which faded from the playoff race late and finished 10th in the Western Conference.

Iginla said he would definitely consider returning to Los Angeles, but nobody knows what the Kings will be seeking. They fired Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi on Monday, appointing Hall of Fame defenseman Rob Blake as their new GM.

“I don’t know if they’re an option from their point of view,” Iginla said. “They have to take time and do what they do in their analysis and stuff. But from my point of view, that would be an option. I did enjoy it. It was great for me.”

Iginla might want to join a team closer to Stanley Cup contention as he continues to chase his first NHL title. Yet he wouldn’t be surprised by a quick rebound from the Kings, who won championships in 2012 and 2014 with largely the same core that has won just one playoff game in three seasons since.

“It is a top organization,” Iginla said. “You go there and you see the core that they have with (Drew) Doughty, (Jake) Muzzin, some of the young (defensemen), one of the best goalies in the world (in Jonathan Quick), some of the best centermen in the world with (Jeff) Carter and (Anze) Kopitar. I know it’s a tough time there right now, but if anyone can turn it around quickly, they would be one of the organizations with that kind of core that can bounce back and have a great year.”

Iginla has 625 goals and 675 assists, giving him an even 1,300 points in 1,554 career NHL games. He spent his first 15 1/2 seasons with the Calgary Flames before suiting up for Pittsburgh, Boston, Colorado and Los Angeles over the past five years.

NHL adding iPads on benches for playoffs

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NHL coaches will have more technology on the bench than ever before as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.

Three iPad Pros will be available for coaches on every bench and officials will also have them to review coach’s challenges, The Associated Press has learned. All 16 playoff arenas have been outfitted with the iPads and also Macs for video coaches as part of a collaboration with Apple.

This season, coaches have been able to use video monitors on the bench to help them decide when to challenge offside and goaltender interference situations. With the iPads, which were tested late in the regular season, they’ll have real-time video capabilities to show players their own shifts minutes after they happen as they discuss adjustments.

The monitors had already become a game-changer for coaches, giving them more information on challenges and for player feedback. The technology will be even more valuable in the playoffs when goals are scarcer and the offside and goaltender interference challenges can decide a game – or a series.

The St. Louis Blues lost Game 2 to the Chicago Blackhawks last year when a coach’s challenge wiped out a go-ahead goal by Vladimir Tarasenko, and even though they won the series they felt the attrition of needing seven games to advance.

“It’s going to be huge in the playoffs,” Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “The referees, the league wants to get it right, the coaches want to get it right.”

During the season, 86 of 313 coach’s challenges were successful in overturning calls. With the aid of the monitors, headsets and video coaches watching live, each team developed its own step-by-step process in deciding when to challenge a goal for goalie interference or offside and tried to perfect it.

Speed will be key as the league cracks down on coaches who dawdle before deciding to challenge.

“When you have challenges, to have the ability to quickly look at what you’re doing and now they’re trying to expedite it even that much more,” Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “When you’re in those critical moments, you’ve got to make that decision in a hurry. You better have somebody good back there that knows what you want to see and the ability to make the decision quick.”

Having iPads in the hands of assistant coaches will provide a crucial benefit for player adjustments. Late in the season, Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan looked at film of Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray on the bench before a shootout, and coach Guy Boucher has also used the advanced technology beyond challenges.

“We look at it because sometimes we’re not seeing everything that’s going on on the ice,” Boucher said. “It’s good also for feedback with our players and, yeah, it’s good for challenges and all that. I think it’s been important since the beginning of the year. It helps is also between periods because instead of looking at 12 different things between periods, we might have to look at five or six, so it’s quicker for us to get back to our players and tell them about adjustments because sometimes we already know a few adjustments and a lot of times we’ll address it right on the bench.”

But the biggest impact all season has been on coaches because they can point out the exact time of a potential offside or explain to an official what they see as goaltender interference.

Trotz recalled a goaltender interference challenge earlier this season where he was able to point out how an opponent was pushing down on Braden Holtby‘s blocker and keeping him from being able to rotate and make the save.

“We explained it and we won it,” he said.