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 Murray as Game 1 starter

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The guy who backstopped Pittsburgh to last year’s Stanley Cup will begin this year’s title defense.

On Wednesday, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the fairly obvious — Matt Murray would be the club’s starting netminder when it kicks off its opening round series against the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints.

Stream Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on NBC Sports

Sullivan did, however, leave the door slightly open for Marc-Andre Fleury to make an appearance at some point in this series.

It was widely assumed Murray would be in goal when the postseason began. But Fleury made things interesting down the stretch.

The veteran ‘tender was great in March, going 3-1-2 with a .931 save percentage, posting a shutout. Murray, meanwhile, got hurt late in the year and missed a pair of games. His last action came on Apr. 6, when he allowed four goals on 38 shots in a win over the Devils.

On the year, though, Murray has been solid and justified his grip on the No. 1 job. He’s gone 32-10-4 with a 2.41 GAA and .923 save percentage, this coming after winning a Cup at the tender age of 21.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday

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It’s on!

The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs officially get underway tonight, with a massive quintupleheader across the NBC Sports group. Here’s what you need to know:

New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Call: Gord Miller, Ray Ferraro

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Network: NHL Network (Stream online here)

Call: Bob Cole, Greg Millen

Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: USA Network (Stream online here)

Call: Doc Emrick, Pierre McGuire

St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild

Time: 9:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Call: John Forslund, Brian Boucher

San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers

Time: 10 p.m. ET

Network: USA Network (Stream online here)

Call: Brendan Burke, Mike Johnson

Cooper to coach Canada at Worlds, Gallant and Hakstol to assist

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Hockey Canada has put together an impressive coaching staff for the upcoming World Championships.

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper will be the head man behind the bench, joined by assistants Gerard Gallant, Philly’s Dave Hakstol and veteran national team coach Dave King, Hockey Canada announced on Tuesday.

More:

“Canada has tremendous depth in both its player and coaching pool, and we are fortunate to welcome a blend of experience and new faces to our program for this year’s IIHF World Championship,” said Tom Renney, president and CEO, Hockey Canada. “This is always an exciting event that brings Canadian hockey fans together to cheer on the red-and-white, and our players have four talented coaches and leaders in this group to work with and learn from.”

This will mark Cooper’s first stint with Hockey Canada. Gallant was an assistant on the 2007 World Championship team (and, it should be noted, worked with Cooper on the Team North America staff at the World Cup).

Hakstol’s inclusion comes shortly after his GM with the Flyers, Ron Hextall, was appointed general manager of the Canadian squad.

Thornton ‘confident’ about playing in opener, but doubts remain

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The Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks will kick off their opening-round series tomorrow at Rogers Place, and it remains unclear if Joe Thornton will play.

Thornton, who missed the final two games of the year after suffering a knee injury on Apr. 4, has been a sporadic participant in practices and skates lately. Despite saying he had “no doubt” he’d be ready for the opener, Tuesday’s session suggested otherwise.

“I’m confident,” Thornton said, per the Sharks’ Twitter account. “But it’s still day-to-day, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers on NBC Sports

Jumbo skated on a makeshift fourth line today, between Micheal Haley and Kevin Labanc. He also wasn’t out with the club’s top power play unit, throwing major doubt on his availability for tomorrow.

This could all be posturing from head coach Peter DeBoer. It wouldn’t be the first time a bench boss played coy with his lineup decisions in the postseason, and don’t forget there’s an added element of drama given DeBoer is going up against Todd McLellan.

The same Todd McLellan that coached Thornton and the Sharks for seven seasons, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in wins.

In other San Jose injury news, looks as though Logan Couture is ready to return from a nasty facial injury. Couture sat out the final seven games of the year, but has been outfitted with a protective shield on his helmet and, today, took reps as the club’s No. 1 center.

 

 

Johnson still hurt, so Gillies to start playoffs as Calgary’s backup

The injury that sidelined Chad Johnson at the end of the regular season will keep him out for the start of the playoffs.

Per Sportsnet, Johnson will travel with the Flames to Anaheim for their opening-round series — which begins on Thursday — but it will be young prospect John Gillies that backs up No. 1 Brian Elliott.

Gillies, 23, is a former Providence College standout taken in the third (75th overall) at the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s considered to be the club’s potential goalie of the future and looked good in his big-league debut, stopping 27 of 28 shots in a late season win over L.A.

Sportsnet reports that Johnson could suit up later in the series, suggesting his lower-body injury isn’t that serious.

That said, not having Johnson available could be problematic. Though Elliott had emerged as Calgary’s No. 1 over the second half of the season, Johnson played a key role this year — especially early on, when Elliott was struggling.

The 30-year-old went 18-15-1 with a .910 save percentage and 2.59 GAA prior to getting hurt.