Could the Coyotes capture the Pacific?

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coyotes.jpgOK, this is probably crazy … even for the wacky stuff I bring up every now and then. Still, I cannot help but ask: could the Phoenix Coyotes sneak up on the San Jose Sharks and steal the Pacific division?

First let’s look at the simplest (and most important) numbers: the standings. The Sharks have 96 points and 43 wins in 70 games with a 12-5-4 division record. The Coyotes have 93 points and 44 wins in 71 games with an 11-7-3 mark in the Pacific.

So it’s still a solid lead for San Jose, but it truly is shocking how close things have become. The teams are clearly going in different directions: the Sharks have lost four in a row and the Coyotes are on an amazing seven game winning streak. Obviously, if things keep going this way, Phoenix could very well find themselves on the top of the division against all odds.

How possible is it, really? Let me make a simple breakdown of each team’s remaining schedules. Naturally, the road ahead isn’t everything, but in a tough as nails Western Conference it could make the difference.

Schedule breakdown and final thoughts after the jump.


San Jose schedule breakdown

12 games left, 7 on the road. Their only back-to-back will be finished today against Calgary. They only have one game against Phoenix, at home. The Sharks do have an extra game this season. Not too many tough games – in my opinion – aside from two against Vancouver.

Phoenix schedule breakdown

11 games left, 7 on the road. Two back to backs (vs. Chi, @ Dal; @Van, @Cgy). Their game against San Jose is on the road. Their schedule is pretty tough down the stretch, with two games against Chicago, one against Vancouver, one against LA and one against Nashville.

Looking at each team’s situation, I think that the Sharks will maintain their shrinking lead on the Pacific division crown. Then again, the Coyotes have been overcoming the odds all season long, so why not keep going?

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.