Flyers G Sergei Bobrovsky steals the show as Philadelphia beats Pittsburgh 3-2

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bobrovskystealsshow.jpgNote: We probably won’t recap regular season games individually very often, but this is Hockey Christmas so I thought I’d touch on the two early games separately. Expect a recap post for the 10:00 PM ET games tomorrow morning, though.

There were any number of stars who should have been the story of this game, even with Chris Pronger out as he recovers from off-season knee surgery. Obviously, the game features the Pittsburgh Penguins’ big guns in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Philadelphia Flyers employ a wide variety of explosive forwards such as Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere and their young guns including Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.

Yet, when the clock reached all zeroes, the star of the game was someone few expected to play. Flyers rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stole the show in his NHL debut, not unlike Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury did many years ago.

Philadelphia Flyers 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

Bobrovsky stopped 29 out of 31 shots as the Penguins set up some dangerous shots but rarely pierced the relatively unknown netminder, who was also strong in the preseason (only allowing 6 goals in 5 irrelevant games played). Fleury wasn’t bad by any means either, as he 24 out of 27 shots and wasn’t really at fault for any of the goals.

The game was probably iced when Flyers forward Claude Giroux took advantage of a foolish pass by Penguins defenseman Kris Versteeg to score a shorthanded goal, putting Philly up 3-1 in the first period. The Penguins returned the favor with a power-play goal less than 20 seconds later, but fell short of tying the game in their new arena.

Crosby took a staggering amount of faceoffs (winning 18 out of 29) and played an aggressive game putting a lot of shots on net but only registered two shots on goal. Both Crosby and Malkin were held off the scoreboard in this one, a discouraging sign considering the fact that Pronger wasn’t out there to befuddle them.

While Giroux and Briere (a goal each) are hardly worthy of “scrubs” designation, this game ultimately came down to players with smaller billings rather than matinee stars. Blair Betts scored a goal for the Flyers while Tyler Kennedy potted the Penguins’ first tally.

Now, naturally, it’s only the first game of the season so it’s not time to panic yet if you’re a Penguins fan nor is it time to schedule a parade in Philadelphia. Still, it was an exciting way to start the season and break new ground at the Console Energy Center, even if the Penguins dislike the result.

Blackhawks F Katchouk will be 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 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.

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.