Niklas Hjalmarsson suspended for two games for hit from behind

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The NHL has weighed in on Niklas Hjalmarsson’s hit from behind on Buffalo Sabres forward Jason Pominville and will suspend the Hawks defenseman for two games. Hjalmarsson did say he had no intent to hurt Pominville, but the hit was bad enough to give Pominville a concussion and he’ll be out of action in the mean time.

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller made his thoughts known abundantly well on how he thought the league should weigh in on things saying, “I’m glad he admitted to it and didn’t need to do it, but you’ve got to change the culture sometime, and I hope the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year.”  While two games may not be enough for his liking, it’ll have to do for now.

Hjalmarsson’s first game back from suspension just so happens to be Saturday night in Chicago against the Sabres. If Pominville isn’t back in the lineup by then, it’s got the makings of a potentially brutal night. Sabres agitator Patrick Kaleta said that either the league would take care of things or he would handle it himself.

“It’ll get taken care of either with the league,” Sabres right Patrick Kaleta said this afternoon before the decision was handed down, “or I think we play them Saturday, so we’ll make a point that you can’t be taking hits like that against one of our leaders and one of the better players on our team.”

All of a sudden, Buffalo-Chicago on Saturday night has turned into must-see TV.

We polled you, our faithful PHT readers about what you thought Hjalmarsson’s punishment should be for the hit, and your opinions were very strong about things. So much so that we think Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was spamming us with his thoughts. The votes shook out rather interestingly by the time we posted this as you guys opted for an “all or nothing” approach.

Tons of votes for three games or more, but a healthy amount for no punishment at all. Apparently we’ve got a lot of Blackhawks fans reading us. As for our take, the punishment fits. It was a reckless play by Hjalmarsson and one where he got a good head of steam going for him before crunching Pominville into the boards.

No, he didn’t intend to hit him in the head and while many Chicago fans are claiming that Pominville saw Hjalmarsson coming, let’s get realistic here. While checking is all part of the game, what player is going to stand in and take that kind of hit just because? No one. Pominville got run from behind and paid a serious price for it and if you think for a moment that any player will just absorb a hit like that you need to take the team-colored glasses off for a second and think about that.

Hjalmarsson will get his on Saturday night as he’ll be skating with a bull’s-eye on him as far as the Sabres are concerned. We’re not saying we’re all for blood lust here, we’re more for seeing teams settle things out and getting it out of the way to play some hockey.

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.