You might say that the Detroit Red Wings might feel a bit snake-bit in dealing with guys from the Finnish Elite League these days. Two years ago, they signed SM-liiga MVP Ville Leino only to see him slump mightily with Detroit while struggling within coach Mike Babcock’s system. They traded him to Philadelphia for defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen only to see Leino flourish with the Flyers in the playoffs and lead many to believe that the Red Wings finally dropped the ball on a Scandinavian import.
This time around, they’re rolling the dice on Ilari Filppula, older brother of Wings star Valtteri Filppula. The Freep’s Helene St. James finds out from Ilari how he plans to make his mark on brother Valtteri’s Red Wings squad during training camp.
With a roster already jam-packed with forwards in Detroit, Ilari Filppula knows the odds favor him going to Grand Rapids next month.
But until the regular seasons forces the Red Wings to pare down, Filppula’s goal is simple: Show the coaching staff that at the very least, he should be atop the depth chart if an injury to a Wings regular requires a call-up from the minors.
“Whatever team I play for, I’ll play hard and just try to help the team as well as I can,” Filppula said. “If it’s in Grand Rapids, then it’s there, and hopefully I get a chance up at some point. Obviously NHL has been my goal ever since I started playing hockey. Sometimes it fell a little further, but now opportunity came and I feel pretty good. I think time is right now.”
Certainly the hype is reduced around Ilari compared to that of Ville Leino. Filppula did manage to win the SM-liiga playoff MVP trophy last season so he’s not coming in as a completely untalented guy but he’d have to be other-worldly in training camp to crack the already crowded Red Wings forward roster.
Still, if having Ilari stateside is something that can help little brother Valtteri perhaps relax a bit more and unleash his game, the bonus effects of giving Ilari a chance could really pay off for Detroit.
CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced Sunday.
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.
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.
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.
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.