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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NBC Sports issues statement on NHL’s Olympic decision

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Shortly after the NHL announced it wouldn’t be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, an NBC Sports spokesperson released the following statement:

“The Olympics have long been the world’s greatest international hockey tournament irrespective of whether professionals or amateurs are playing.

“Although we’re disappointed that NHL players will not get the chance to experience and compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics next February, we’re confident that hockey fans and Olympic viewers will tune in to watch the unique style of play that occurs at the Olympic Winter Games when athletes are competing for their country.”

This will mark the first time in 24 years — dating back to the ’94 Games in Lillehammer, Norway — that the NHL will not be sending its players to the Winter Olympics.

NBC’s Olympic coverage begins Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. It will mark the first time ever that NBC will broadcast all of its programming live across all time zones.

Related: 

— Bettman points finger at IOC for opening a ‘whole can of worms’

— Ovechkin vows to play in Olympics even if NHL doesn’t participate

Prout suspended two games for ‘exacting retribution’ on Gudas

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New Jersey defenseman Dalton Prout has been suspended two games for a retaliatory hit on Philly’s Radko Gudas, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Monday.

The incident occurred midway through the second period of Saturday’s game, shortly after Gudas delivered a hard — but deemed legal — bodycheck on New Jersey forward John Quenneville.

Prout jumped onto the ice and went directly at Gudas. He was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for interference.

“Prout comes off the bench, makes no attempt to join the play in any manner, and instead targets a vulnerable player for the sole purpose of exacting retribution for an earlier play,” the DoPS explained. “And while the hit itself is not incredibly violent, the fact that Gudas is in no way prepared for a hit of any kind makes any type of body contact dangerous.”

As a result, Prout will now miss New Jersey’s next two games — including Tuesday’s rematch versus the Flyers — and will be eligible to return on Saturday, Apr. 8, when the Devils take on the Isles.

 

After 12-game absence, Lehtera ready to return from concussion

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Blues forward Jori Lehtera, who’s missed nearly a month with a concussion, declared himself healthy and able to return to the lineup ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Jets.

But when will he draw back in?

Lehtera has missed 12 games in a row and, during that spell, St. Louis has played extremely well, going 9-1-2 to move into third spot in the Central Division. That includes Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Preds — the team chasing St. Louis in the Central — and it’s reasonable to suggest head coach Mike Yeo won’t tinker much with a winning lineup.

Lehtera had a difficult year prior to getting hurt, scoring just six goals and 19 points through 61 games. Concussion issues derailed the start of his campaign and, in December, former head coach Ken Hitchcock made the 29-year-old a healthy scratch, saying the Blues needed more from him.

With Lehtera, Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri out, Yeo has been forced to integrate some of the organization’s younger forwards into the NHL mix, and the kids have responded. Ivan Barbashev has played well, as has Zach Sanford, one of the assets acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Washington trade.

Habs send Weber home from trip, will miss next two games

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Montreal can clinch first in the Atlantic with a win over Florida tonight, but won’t have Shea Weber to help the cause.

Weber has been sent home from the club’s current three-game road trip to have his lower-body injury evaluated, the club announced on Monday. The veteran blueliner played 22:46 in Saturday’s 2-1 OT win in Tampa Bay, but will now miss his first action of the year.

Needless to say, it’s a massive hole to fill. Weber is tied for second among NHL defensemen with 17 goals, and sits third on the team in scoring (42 points). He also averages a club-high 25:04 TOI per night.

As mentioned, Montreal is in action tonight, then again on Wednesday in Buffalo. From there, the Habs have two games remaining: Friday, Apr. 7 versus Tampa Bay, then a road date in Detroit to close things out on Apr. 8.

Per Sportsnet, Weber’s injury isn’t believed to be of the long-term variety. Today’s move could be purely precautionary, as the Habs will almost certainly lock up top spot in the division.

 

Panarin wins first star of week, with contract bonuses in sight

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From the “this might have something to do with that” file: Chicago forward Artemi Panarin captured the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, after racking up five goals and six points over his last four games.

That put Panarin on 29 goals and 72 points for the season. The 25-year-old Russian is now tied with Evgeni Malkin for 10th in the NHL in scoring, but sits ninth among all forwards — and that’s pretty important, because Panarin will receive $1.725 million in bonus money by finishing in the top 10.

More, from the Chicago-Tribune:

The category of total points will be Panarin’s best chance to secure the bonus, most of which will go against the Hawks’ cap for next season.

Panarin, who also has a two-year, $12 million extension beginning next season, is well positioned to secure another $850,000 in “Schedule A” bonuses for reaching various team milestones for points, plus-minus rating and minutes played.

Panarin and the ‘Hawks went through a similar situation last year. It led to some asking about potential awkwardness — pressed up against the cap ceiling, it would’ve financially behooved the ‘Hawks to have Panarin fall short of his bonus targets — but GM Stan Bowman shot down any talk of organizational unease.

“Our team wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Bowman told Blackhawks Insider near the end of last season (audio). “What he’s done here as a rookie, I don’t want to say it’s unprecedented, but it hasn’t happened in a long, long time for a guy, his first year in the league, to finish in the top 10 in scoring.

“That’s why those bonuses are rarely earned. He’s done something very, very special this year.”

While Chicago was pleased with Panarin’s season, the financial strain did lead (in part) to the club shipping out Andrew Shaw at the draft.

As for the remainder of this year, the ‘Hawks have little to play for, so there’ll be a decent amount of focus on Panarin over final three games.  Chicago closes out with a road swing through Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles, and it’s worth noting Panarin has faced those clubs a combined six times this year — racking up eight points.