Detroit wins first of big back-to-back games against Columbus 2-1

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There were some pretty big games around the league today, but the most directly important was probably the first of a Detroit Red Wings-Columbus Blue Jackets’ home-and-home series.

Detroit took this one in Columbus and didn’t allow them a single point, strengthening their flimsy lead in the Central Division by a full two points because they defeated them during regulation.

Detroit 2, Columbus 1

The Red Wings now have 14 wins and 30 points in 20 games played while the Blue Jackets also have 14 wins, but only 28 points in 21 games played. The game took place during a rare home sellout for the Blue Jackets as Columbus dropped to 6-6-0 at home.

Jimmy Howard played outstanding hockey, stopping 34 out of 35 pucks to beat Steve Mason, who was also pretty strong by making 30 out of 32 saves. Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula scored the first two goals for the Red Wings, who were able to hold off the Blue Jackets despite a third period goal by Antoine Vermette.

In their last game, it seemed promising that Columbus won without Rick Nash being involved. Still, after being named one of the players of the week, he’s gone two games without a goal. They need him to stick with Detroit in the race for the division title.

The two teams will go to the Motor City with the Red Wings in the driver’s seat. (Sorry, my inner bad pun writer forced me to write that.) Detroit is vicious at home (9-1-2), but if Columbus needs a bright side to look on, they’re actually much better away from Ohio (their road record is 8-1-0).

It all sets up what should be an intriguing, important-in-the-moment game at Joe Louis Arena tomorrow night. We’ll keep you updated.

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.