Could 'The Monster' grow into a legit goalie?

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Almost every year – usually when hockey news goes drier than Steven Wright in the Mojave desert – there seems to be a European Elite League flavor of the month. The off-color guys at Pensblog made Janne Pesonen a borderline Internet sensation. The Dallas Stars were super-excited when they won the Fabian Brunnstrom “sweepstakes.”

Last summer, a few NHL teams were in the bidding to land mammoth goalie Jonas “Monster” Gustavsson. He certainly had the size (6-3) and Internet love angles covered considerably well. That being said, he’s also had his growing pains – not to mention the pains in his heart. (No, I’m not saying he lacks “guts.” He’s had heart surgery this season. Yeah.)

Still, after leading the Leafs to a 30 save, 4-1 win over the free falling Ottawa Senators there are some who are getting awfully excited about the goalie again. One of those people is Mark Zwolinski of the Ottawa Star.

This is what the Leafs wanted to see when they outbid three other teams, and crossed the Atlantic, to woo Jonas Gustavsson to Toronto.

The rookie Swedish goalie has been a factor in Leaf wins of late and also a big part of the new culture the club is building for next season and beyond.

Eh, let’s not get carried away there Mark. Still, despite flops such as the aforementioned Brunnstrom and Pesonen, some of these mid-prime transfers can really work out. I don’t claim to be an authority on European leagues (and I’m leaving out players who only stayed out of North American hockey because of the Cold War). However, there are two recent transfers who have been wild successes since moving to the NHL. Let’s take a look at those two before we go, perhaps to tantalize Toronto fans.


(Oddly enough, both are Swiss-born players. Maybe the NHL just needs to scout the country a bit more? No? OK, I’ll shut up.)

Mark Streit – It only took a season for Streit to get used to the NHL, as he went from 11 points to 36 and 62 points with Montreal. Few liked the sound of his signing with the Islanders, but he managed 56 points last season and has 37 so far this year. Streit also shined on an undermanned Swiss team during the Olympics.

Jonas Hiller – Speaking of shining on an undermanned Swiss team, Hiller was almost good as the other “iller” (uh, Ryan Miller) in the tournament. Sure, J.S. Giguere had his struggles, but it still takes some gusto to beat out a Stanley Cup-winning goalie and Hiller did just that in Anaheim. (And, hey, Gustavsson has Hiller’s first NHL goalie coach and shares the same first name! See, Maple Leafs fans, you’re like … 2/3 of the way to having Jonas Hiller!)

So will the Monster turn out to be a great find or a monstrous bust? The answer isn’t clear just yet.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.