When Benoit Pouliot was traded by the Minnesota Wild to the Montreal Canadiens for Guillaume Latendresse, it was viewed as a deal that sent team headaches going in each direction. For a while afterward, it looked like it was a great deal for both teams as the issues each player had in their old cities disappeared and they realized their potential.
For Benoit Pouliot, the hot start he had in Montreal disappeared and the final few weeks of the season and the playoffs looked like his old ways from Minnesota as an inconsistent performer returned. Despite all that, Pouliot got a raise from the Habs but as The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey discusses, this could be Pouliot’s definitive season to show he can be an NHL star.
“It’s one year and you have to show what you have so you can get a longer deal,” Pouliot noted. “One year is not a lot but, on the other hand, it could be good for me. If I have a great year and we go far in the playoffs, it could pay off.”
Gionta said there’s no reason Pouliot shouldn’t develop into a solid top-six forward.
“You can see that he has the talent, it’s just a matter of confidence,” Gionta said. “So much of this game is mental.”
But Martin has made it clear he wants to see more from Pouliot. When he was asked where the Canadiens might have openings this season, he mentioned the left side and he wasn’t talking about Michael Cammalleri.
The Habs have more than a few players that can be plugged into coach Jacques Martin’s system if Pouliot doesn’t get his game together and play consistently better. Getting to play alongside Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta last season was a good way to get Pouliot to make better use of his size at forward rather than continuing to pretend that he’s simply a smooth-skating forward.
Somewhere along the way last season, that smart use of his size and ability to attack the net went away. Tapping into that mindset once again could help Pouliot be the guy that helps get guys like Gomez and Gionta room on the ice to create the offense the Habs are looking for and allow Pouliot to get to the net to wreak havoc.
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.