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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Trump nominates Panthers owner Viola for Secretary of Army (Updated)

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Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola, a West Point graduate, has been nominated by president-elect Donald Trump to serve as the Secretary of the Army, the club announced on Monday.

“Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge,” Trump said in a statement, per the Miami Herald.  “He is a man of outstanding work ethic, integrity, and strategic vision, with an exceptional ability to motivate others.

“The American people, whether civilian or military, should have great confidence that Vinnie Viola has what it takes to keep America safe and oversee issues of concern to our troops in the Army.”

Viola, who purchased the Panthers in 2013, is well known for his ties to the Army. He founded the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point following the 9/11 attacks, and has hired fellow West Point graduates for several positions within the Panthers organization — including president and CEO Matthew Caldwell.

Ownership of the franchise will remain within the Viola family, per the Herald. The club announced that, pending confirmation of Viola’s nomination, current vice chairman Doug Cifu would become chairman and governor of Sunrise Sports and Entertainment.

Update: The NHL has released the following…

“We proudly congratulate Vincent Viola on his nomination to this important position – which, pending Senate approval, obviously will require his full-time attention.

“The Club has assured us that the day-to-day operations of the Panthers’ franchise will not be affected by this development, and we will certainly work closely with the Club to ensure that is the case.

“Mr. Viola and team ownership have further advised that they remain completely committed to South Florida and to the Panthers’ fans.”

Hoffman suspended two games for ‘high, forceful’ crosscheck on Couture

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Mike Hoffman a pair of contests for his crosscheck to the head of Sharks forward Logan Couture.

“Players frequently use their sticks to establish positioning, or to attempt to move their opponent away from the net. This is not such a play,” the DoPS explained. “In our opinion, Hoffman is attempting to deliver a high, forceful crosscheck to Couture.

“This is not a hockey play.”

Hoffman received a five-minute major and game misconduct for the incident. Couture, who left the game and didn’t return, told the Mercury News he hoped Hoffman would be suspended.

The DoPS went on to explain that it recognized Hoffman’s claim that his stick “rode” up Brendon Dillion’s just prior to hitting Couture, but added that “ultimately, players are responsible for their sticks at all times.”

Hoffman will now sit out both of this weekend’s games — Ottawa hosts New Jersey on Saturday, and takes on the Isles in Brooklyn on Sunday. He will also forfeit $57,638.88 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Vatrano medically cleared, headed to B’s AHL affiliate

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Frank Vatrano, the Boston winger that scored 11 points in 39 games as a rookie last season, has been medically cleared to return to action following torn foot ligaments, and will suit up with the B’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Vatrano, 22, is eligible to play tonight, when Providence takes on Bridgeport. It will mark a return to the league he had great success in last year — Vatrano led the AHL in goals, with 36, and finished as a first-team All-Star.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes him to work his way back to the NHL level, having been sidelined for nearly three months.

He was expected to replace some of the goalscoring lost when Loui Eriksson signed in Vancouver this summer, and could create an exciting young pairing alongside 20-year-old David Pastrnak, who leads Boston with 19 goals through 27 games this season.

 

Goalie nods: Isles finally give Berube a start

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A new chapter in the NHL’s weirdest goalie situation will be written tonight in Buffalo.

The visiting Islanders will give Jean-Francois Berube his first start of the year. This is the same Berube that’s been on the active roster since the opening day of the regular season, and the same Berube that’s played a grand total of five minutes and 37 seconds this year, which came in relief of Jaroslav Halak during Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Jackets.

After making a name for himself with the Kings’ AHL affiliate — helping them win the Calder Cup in 2015 — Berube was claimed off waivers by the Isles in October of last season. He then proceeded to appear in seven games for New York, going 3-2-1 with a  2.71 GAA and .914 save percentage.

This year, the 25-year-old has been stuck behind Halak and Thomas Greiss. He’s also been stuck in limbo — if the Isles wanted to send him down to the American League to get some playing time, they’d have to expose him to waivers. And apparently there’s a big fear he’d get claimed, because carrying three goalies this year has proven to be a headache.

More: Isles don’t seem to know what to do with Berube

For the Sabres, Robin Lehner gets the call.

Elsewhere…

Matt Murray has been terrific lately, and looks to start again when the Pens host the Kings. No word yet on a L.A. starter.

— Excellent matchup in Montreal, as Martin Jones and the Sharks take on Carey Price at the Habs. These two squared off two weeks ago in San Jose, and Jones bested Price in a 2-1 win.

Braden Holtby gets a night off in Carolina, as the Caps will start Philipp Grubauer. The ‘Canes will go back to Cam Ward, who was yanked from a wild game on Tuesday against the Canucks. Ward surrendered three goals on 18 shots, but Carolina came back to beat Vancouver 8-6.

— It’s expected that James Reimer will give Roberto Luongo a breather, after Luongo was yanked from Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota. Calvin Pickard is in for Colorado, replacing the injured Semyon Varlamov.

As we wrote about earlier, Chad Johnson makes his eighth straight start tonight when Calgary hosts Columbus. The Jackets are expected to go with Sergei Bobrovsky, as per usual.

Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the nod ahead of Ben Bishop, as the Bolts visit Vancouver. Ryan Miller, who was also hooked in that aforementioned Canucks-‘Canes game, goes right back in for the start.

Elliott’s ‘resetting’ continues as Flames give Johnson eighth straight start

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Chad Johnson made his seventh consecutive start on Wednesday against Tampa Bay and didn’t fare well, getting hooked after allowing four goals on 21 shots.

His replacement, Brian Elliott, proceeded to stop 12 of 13 in his first game action in over two weeks.

But this development hasn’t changed anything in the mind of head coach Glen Gulutzan, who will go right back to Johnson tonight when the Flames host the Blue Jackets in Calgary.

“Chad is going to go,” Gulutzan said, per the Flames’ Twitter account. “Get him right back in there.”

This is just the latest in what’s been a tough year for Elliott. Acquired at the draft from St. Louis, he was hailed by Flames GM Brad Treliving as “one of the best goaltenders in the league for the last number of years.” The belief was Elliot would finally solve Calgary’s longstanding goalie problem and, at the tail end of the preseason, there were reports the two sides were discussing a contract extension.

Wonder where those talks are at now.

One would think Elliott will eventually get another crack at the No. 1 gig. Johnson’s never had extended success as an NHL starter, serving almost exclusively as a backup in Boston, Buffalo and New York. But to hear Gulutzan explain it, this is Johnson’s net — and it sounds like Elliott is still trying to work out whatever issues got him off to a 3-9-1 start (3.31 GAA, .886 save percentage).

“Ells has been brilliant in practice,” Gulutzan said, per the National Post. “Sometimes you just need a resetting and he’s put a lot of work in the last few weeks and worked with Siggy (goalie coach Jordan Sigalet) a lot.”

Looking ahead, Elliott might get a shot soon. Calgary has three games in the next five nights, including a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back in Arizona and San Jose.