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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Goalie nods: Marquee matchup in Montreal, as Price takes on Dubnyk

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Devan Dubnyk leads the NHL in goals against average (1.55) and save percentage (.948).

Carey Price sits third in both those categories, at 1.87 and .936.

As such, it’s hard to expect much offense tonight when Dubnyk and the Wild take on Price and the Habs at the Bell Centre.

Both sides and most fans are bracing for a low-scoring affair between the two best goalies in the league right now (all apologies to Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray who, statistically, is right there with Price and Dubnyk).

Yet to hear Dubnyk explain it, it’s not really him “versus” Price — because Price remains in a class all by himself.

“He’s the guy everybody is pushing to get to,’’ Dubnyk told the Star-Tribune. “He’s the best. He does it every year. To be able to be talked about in the same sentence as him, it’s exciting for me.’’

Should be a fun one. Unless you like goals.

Elsewhere…

Cam Ward, who hasn’t played since Saturday due to Carolina’s postponed game against Detroit on Monday, will get the nod in Buffalo. He’ll be up against Robin Lehner, who had 36 saves in a shootout loss to Florida two nights ago.

The slumping Cory Schneider goes for the Devils, who host Philly. No word yet on a Flyers starter yet, but Steve Mason did face 38 shots in last night’s shootout win over Washington. This could be an Anthony Stolarz game.

— Excellent matchup in Columbus, where the aforementioned Matt Murray starts for Pittsburgh. The Jackets will counter with their star netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky.

A night off in Florida for Roberto Luongo, meaning James Reimer gets the call. He’ll take on Tuukka Rask, who was yanked from his last start (a loss to the Isles on Tuesday).

— Life without Ben Bishop begins for Tampa Bay, who will start Andrei Vasilevskiy at home against the Blues. Jake Allen is in the other net.

— No surprise that Ottawa is going with Mike Condon, as it’s essentially his net for the foreseeable future. The visiting Ducks have yet to name a starter.

Peter Budaj, who continues to exceed expectations as Jonathan Quick‘s replacement in L.A., gets another start. He’ll go up against Pekka Rinne, who stopped 31 of 32 shots in a shootout win over the Flyers last time out.

Frederik Andersen, who’s played very well lately despite losing three of his last four, goes for the Leafs in Colorado. The slumping Avs counter with Semyon Varlamov.

— In Vancouver, Ryan Miller gets the call for the second of a two-game series against the Jets (Jacob Markstrom beat them on Tuesday). It looks like Winnipeg will make a switch as well, as Michael Hutchinson gets a turn after Connor Hellebuyck lost two nights ago.

‘It’s pretty surreal’ — Megan, 26, to play first-ever NHL game tonight

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Pretty good week for guys that made it the hard way.

In the wake of Minnesota giving 30-year-old Pat Cannone his NHL debut on Tuesday, the St. Louis Blues will do the same with 26-year-old Wade Megan, who draws into the lineup tonight in Tampa Bay in place of the injured Paul Stastny.

“Obviously a lot of emotion, it’s pretty surreal,” Megan said, per the Post-Dispatch. “A lot of thoughts going through your head. Here I am, so it’s good, I’m excited.”

A four-year Boston University product that played alongside the likes of Nick Bonino, Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Chiasson, Megan was taken by Florida in the fifth round of the 2009 draft and spent time in both the ECHL and AHL while with the Panthers organization.

Never an impact scorer, Megan did raise a couple eyebrows in AHL Portland last year, scoring 14 goals. He then broke out in a major way this season, with 13 goals and 24 points in 28 games. The 24 points are already a career high.

It remains to be seen where Megan will line up tonight. The Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford noted he arrived at the Blues hotel around 1:15 p.m. ET, roughly six hours to puck drop. So he didn’t get a chance to participate in the morning skate.

It’s worth noting Megan and Cannone weren’t the only AHL veterans to make their NHL debuts this year. Buffalo gave 27-year-old Eric Burgdoerfer a shot last month.

Hasn’t exactly been roses for San Jose’s key free agent signings

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In the aftermath of their Stanley Cup Final loss to Pittsburgh, the Sharks knew where they needed upgrades — on defense, and in the speed department.

So in free agency, GM Doug Wilson went to work.

His splashiest move was signing Danish winger Mikkel Boedker to a four-year, $16 million deal. On paper, it was an ideal fit. Boedker was coming off a solid 17-goal, 51-point campaign split between Arizona and Colorado, played under head coach Peter DeBoer in junior and was lauded by Wilson, who praised Boedker’s “tremendous speed.”

Next, Wilson signed former Devils blueliner David Schlemko, who was coming off career highs in virtually every statistical category. This, too, looked like a great fit — San Jose needed a more mobile, skilled and offensive defenseman to replace the outgoing Roman Polak — and, like he did with Boedker, Wilson sung Schlemko’s praises.

“David is a solid puck-moving defenseman with good speed who can play the game at both ends,” Wilson said, shortly after giving Schlemko a four-year deal of his own. “He is coming off of a very productive season in New Jersey and we think he will fit well with our group.”

That was then.

Today, some of the luster has worn off both signings. Boedker has been a huge disappointment, with just two goals through 33 games, and was benched earlier this month in a game against Anaheim.

“I would hope he was pissed off,” DeBoer said in explaining the move. “It’s always a last resort as a coach.”

The Schlemko situation is a little more puzzling. He was made a healthy scratch earlier this week, for reasons that remain unknown. Classified simply as a “coach’s decision,” Schlemko’s stint in the press box came after he appeared in 28 of 32 games, while averaging over 17 minutes per night.

He’s been a decent contributor offensively — sitting third behind Brent Burns and Paul Martin in d-man scoring, with eight points — and has solid possession metrics. In speaking with the Mercury News, he seemed just as befuddled about the scratch as everybody else.

“Just trying to turn the page — it’s out of my hands — and move on from there,” he explained. “I’m confident in what I can do and what I can bring. But at the end of the day, it’s a coach’s decision.”

Despite all this, the Sharks have still enjoyed a pretty good start to the year. They head into tonight’s action first in the Pacific Division, with a 20-12-1 record, and have won eight of their last 11.

Part of that is because the club has embraced youth in a major way, and the youth has responded in kind. Kevin Labanc, the 21-year-old AHL sniper, was recalled in early November and has become a lineup fixture. Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick in ’15, is up with the big club as well. And in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Calgary, 23-year-old d-man Dylan DeMelo — who drew into the lineup over Schlemko — played a season-high 20:02.

As such, Schlemko and Boedker will be worth watching as the season continues to unfold.

No hearing for Kassian after Ekman-Larsson crosscheck, match penalty

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Edmonton tough guy Zack Kassian won’t have a disciplinary hearing for his match penalty late in Edmonton’s 3-2 win over the Coyotes on Wednesday, an NHL spokesman has confirmed.

Kassian was give the match and a two-minute roughing minor following a retaliatory crosscheck on Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who had drilled Oilers forward Matt Hendricks seconds earlier.

Hendricks beat the Coyotes blueliner in a puck chase to negate an icing call, and got walloped into the end boards. Which, in turn, set off a bit of a melee.

Mark Letestu and Martin Hanzal, who’d been going at each other all night, fought in the aftermath while Coyotes captain Shane Doan went directly after Kassian and received a roughing minor of his own.

Kassian had a very eventful night. In addition to the penalties, he also recorded a pair of assists — including one on Hendricks’ game-winning goal — and finished with four hits in just under 13 minutes of ice time.

 

 

It’s Mike Condon’s net in Ottawa for the foreseeable future

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Third team’s a charm, apparently.

Mike Condon, who has found a home in Ottawa this year after brief stints in Montreal and Pittsburgh, looks to be the Sens’ starter for the foreseeable future, based on a pair of developments Thursday.

First, backup Andrew Hammond has been listed week-to-week with a high ankle sprain. The Hamburglar was hurt in Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Isles — just his third start of the year — which forced Condon into duty, and he hasn’t left the crease since.

Then, there’s No. 1 Craig Anderson, who’s been away from the team while his wife goes through cancer treatment. Sens head coach Guy Boucher said he spoke to Anderson recently, but not about hockey or a return to the team.

“Family first,” Boucher said, per the Sun. “He will let us know how it’s going.”

It doesn’t sound like Ottawa’s planing to have Anderson back anytime soon.

That means that former Boston University standout Matt O’Connor will — at least for the time being — stick with the Sens and serve Condon’s backup. Just don’t expect him to get many starts. O’Connor has exactly one game of NHL experience on his resume and has struggled at the AHL level, going 7-9-0 with a .898 save percentage and 2.78 GAA this year.

All of this points to Condon getting plenty of action over the next few weeks. He’s certainly earned it, going 7-3-0 with a .919 save percentage since being acquired, and will be in tonight when the Sens take on the Ducks.