Mike Halford

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  (l-r) Gerard Gallant and Peter Mahovlich of the Florida Panthers attend the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Gallant still concerned about lack of toughness in Florida

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Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov are gone, Alex Petrovic is hurt and Shawn Thornton is a regular in the press box.

So no surprise, then, that Florida’s had difficulty matching opponents in the toughness department this season — something that irked head coach Gerard Gallant in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Flyers.

From the Sun-Sentinel:

The Panthers had no suitable enforcer to respond Tuesday when Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds got feisty or when Radko Gudas flattened Vincent Trocheck with a headshot. Gallant said he regretted not having Thornton available.

“You always think that when things happen to your team. It’s frustrating to see that happen, especially in your own building,” Gallant said. “The Simmonds situation and then the Gudas hit on Trocheck, you’d like a response on that.

“But when you don’t have personnel to put out there for that it shows.”

We don’t want this to devolve into a new-school-vs.-old-school debate, but facts are facts — right now, Florida is without four of its most physically engaging players from last year. Petrovic and Gudbranson are both huge (6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, respectively) and finished first and third on the team in hits.

Kulikov finished fifth — routinely playing larger than his 6-foot-1, 204-pound frame — and Thornton was an active pugilist, scrapping six times.

It’s not like Florida hasn’t tried to replace some of the sandpaper element. The Dylan McIlrath acquisition was viewed as a direct response, and the club named grinding veteran forward Derek MacKenzie as team captain this season. MacKenzie has routinely been one of the club’s leaders in hits, and will toss the mitts when required.

But on nights like Tuesday, the toughness void was apparent. One has to wonder if team president Dale Tallon and GM Tom Rowe won’t try to address this as February’s trade deadline draws closer.

Deadline target? Iginla will ‘cross that bridge when it comes’

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So, here’s where things are at for 39-year-old Avs forward Jarome Iginla:

He has just two goals in 19 games this year, playing largely in a third-line role alongside Blake Comeau and John Mitchell. He’s a pending UFA, in the last of a three-year, $16 million deal with a $5.33M average annual cap hit.

Colorado isn’t very good — 9-10-0, dead last in the Central Division — and could miss the playoffs for a third straight year.

You probably see where this is going.

“I’d still like to win. I won’t lose hope in that,” Iginla said this week, per the Edmonton Journal. “Hopefully we can be in the playoffs but I understand how it works at the deadline if we’re not (going well).

“I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”

Though he’s in the midst of a down year, Iginla would warrant interest on the trade market. He’s racked up back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons in Colorado — 29 in his first season, 22 last year — and has a ton of playoff experience, with 81 career games on his resume.

What’s more, he’s been through this before.

You’ll recall the great Iginla sweepstakes of 2013, when Boston and Pittsburgh rallied hard to land him at the deadline (Pittsburgh, quite infamously, beat out the B’s). Though history will likely remember the acquisition as a borderline flop, Iginla was actually a quality offensive producer for the Pens — 11 points in 13 regular-season games, and 12 more in 15 playoff contests.

That year, Iginla and the Pens advanced to the Eastern Conference final, one of the longest playoff runs of his career. He’s still looking for that elusive Stanley Cup win, having come achingly close with Calgary in ’04.

The Avs are rumored to be in the market for a defenseman — or defensemen, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman — so there could be an opportunity to utilize Iginla as an asset to get blueline help in return.

Assuming Colorado isn’t in a playoff spot by late February, that is.

With another shutout win, Johnson tightens grip on Calgary’s starting gig

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 23:  Chad Johnson #31 of the Calgary Flames stops a shot from Brandon Saad #20 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period on November 23, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Journeyman goalie Chad Johnson, in his first season with Calgary, is beginning to show he can be a source of stability for the up-and-down Flames.

Johnson made 34 saves for his second shutout in five starts, leading Calgary over the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 on Wednesday night.

“We just wanted to come in here and stick to our system,” said Johnson, who also blanked the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 15. “Get some pucks deep and wait for our opportunities and we did that and capitalized on the chances that we had.”

Johnson is 4-1 in his past five starts.

Troy Brouwer and Micheal Ferland scored for Calgary, which has sought consistency between the pipes during the early part of the season. The Flames, whose maligned special teams came up big in this one, have traded wins and losses for five games.

“Johnny made some big saves for us and that breeds confidence throughout the lineup,” Calgary’s Matt Stajan said.

Columbus dropped to 10-3-3 in its last 16 and has lost two straight at home since rolling off seven wins in a row, a franchise record.

“We were on the outside all night long,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “Chad saw every shot. I thought our first period was good but from then it went downhill.”

Calgary, ranked 29th in penalty killing entering the game, was perfect during a long Columbus power play in the second period, and then its league-worst power play added a goal in the third.

Calgary led 1-0 despite being significantly outshot before Ferland snapped one past Sergei Bobrovsky from the slot at 6:25 of the third. Leading to the score, Dennis Wideman kept the puck in the zone on a play that Markus Hannikainen tried to skate out of danger.

Johnson did the rest, calmly turning aside shot after shot.

“There were times when we were on our heels but I think we still stuck together and battled as a group,” he said.

After a scoreless first period, the action picked up in the second. Matthew Tkachuk‘s double minor for high-sticking 14 seconds in put the Blue Jackets on the man advantage, but the league’s top power play only mustered one shot. The Flames allowed three power-play scores Monday in a loss at Buffalo.

“Sloppy, it hurt us momentum wise,” Tortorella said. “Four minutes we really had nothing accomplished. I think they end up with a couple of scoring chances.”

Calgary took the lead shortly after aided by a bad sequence for Seth Jones. He was flat footed in his own zone when his pass was easily intercepted by Brouwer at the blue line. Kris Versteeg got the puck and marched around Jones, threading a pass back to Brouwer for the doorstep tap-in to make it 1-0 at 6:35.

“I just tried to make a play and get it over to Brouwer going to the net,” Versteeg said.

Five minutes later, Cam Atkinson zoomed in on a breakaway, but Johnson gloved his shot.

“We were able to turn a corner after he (Johnson) stopped that breakaway in the second and we know it wasn’t pretty before that,” Stajan said. “But then we started to get pucks deep and shots on net. We played a solid third period. It’s a good road win.”

NOTES: Brouwer’s goal was his first in 10 games. … Jones played his second game since missing six with a foot injury. … Columbus LW Matt Calvert, who last Friday scored an overtime goal to down the Rangers after getting 36 stitches in his forehead during the game, was scratched with an upper-body ailment. … Versteeg returned after missing nine games with a bad groin. …Calgary C Sam Bennett skated in his 100th career game.

UP NEXT

Blue Jackets: Visit Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Flames: Play the third of a season-long six-game road trip Sunday in Boston.

Here are the 66 veteran NHLers that have to be protected at expansion draft

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The NHL has released a memo to all 30 teams outlining which 66 veteran NHLers are currently exempt from the expansion process — meaning they have to be protected — because of their no-movement clauses.

And Sportsnet has the memo.

Per Chris Johnston, the list was finalized late Tuesday evening after the league reviewed “the parameters of each individual contract” with the NHL Players’ Association.

The league was unable to institute a “blanket rule” to all NMCs, because those clauses are entirely negotiable and can be worded in whatever way the club or player — or, agent — sees fit.

You can read about some of the more surprising developments (Rick Nash has to be protected, Bobby Ryan doesn’t) here.

As for the list of players, here you go. Chicago leads the way with eight veterans requiring protection while Calgary, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington don’t have any.

Anaheim: Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry

Arizona: Alex Goligoski

Boston: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci

Buffalo: Kyle Okposo

Carolina: Jordan Staal

Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky, David Clarkson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell

Chicago: Artem Anisimov, Corey Crawford, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews

Colorado: Francois Beauchemin, Erik Johnson

Dallas: Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza

Detroit: Frans Nielsen

Edmonton: Milan Lucic, Andrej Sekera, Cam Talbot

Florida: Keith Yandle

Los Angeles: Anze Kopitar

Minnesota: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Ryan Suter

Montreal: Jeff Petry, Carey Price

Nashville: Pekka Rinne

New Jersey: Ryane Clowe

N.Y. Islanders: Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ladd, John Tavares

N.Y. Rangers: Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Marc Staal

Ottawa: Dion Phaneuf

Philadelphia: Claude Giroux

Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin

Tampa Bay: Ryan Callahan, Valtteri Filppula, Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos

Toronto: Nathan Horton

Vancouver: Loui Eriksson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin

Winnipeg: Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom

As established earlier this year, teams have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:

a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender

b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender

Also, all first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits).

After failing to catch on with Blues, Galiardi signs in KHL

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T.J. Galiardi, the journeyman forward that attended St. Louis’ training camp on a PTO, has signed with Medvescak Zagreb of the KHL, the club announced on Wednesday.

Galiardi, 28, came back to North America this fall after spending last season in the Swedish League, with the Malmo Redhawks. The former Avalanche, Shark, Flame and Jet appeared in over 300 NHL contests over a seven-year span, which included a career-high 15 goals and 39 points for Colorado during the 2009-10 campaign.

Galiardi was at Blues camp with a number of other veterans — Eric Nystrom, Mike Weber, Chris Porter — none of whom cracked the opening-night roster.

With Medvescak, Galiardi will skate alongside a slew of ex-NHLers, including Drew MacIntyre, Shaone Morrisonn, Alex Bolduc, Bobby Butler and Lucas Lessio