Around the Rink – Sunday, March 6th

Naturally, we’ll have all the bases covered for today’s NBC Game of the Week between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers at 12:30pm ET. Yet this Sunday boasts five other games, including a host of weekend afternoon contests. Let’s get the lowdown on those matches, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET) as usual.

3:00 pm

New Jersey @ NY Islanders

Is it sobering or kind of funny that with all the hype the Devils’ impressive run to relevance is getting, they’re still only three points ahead of the Islanders? To be fair, the Isles have played in two more games and are looking fairly stout lately in their own right, but it’s still indicative of the Hoffa-sized hole New Jersey dug for itself.

Then again, the narrowing gap between the Devils and the eighth-place Carolina Hurricanes also indicates that the rest of the lower seed East team’s haven’t exactly been elite all season, either.

5:00 pm

Washington @ Florida

Despite the Lightning having a lead going into their 12-game homestand last month, the Capitals kept with the Southeast Division’s top team, as they’re only one point behind Tampa Bay as of this moment. Beating up on the fading Florida Panthers would allow the Caps to take a temporary lead in the division that seemed like it wouldn’t be in doubt for several more years for the team. The Panthers are behind the Devils and only one point ahead of the Islanders right now, so maybe they can finally tank to get a top draft pick?

(Though, in true Panthers purgatorial fashion, they might get a lottery pick in a roundly panned draft. Even when they finally lose, Florida just cannot win.)

6:00 pm

Buffalo @ Minnesota

These teams seem oddly similar, almost like opposite conference cousins. Both teams are hovering around their conference’s playoff bubble. Each squad lost their top center to injury, as Derek Roy is missing for the Sabres while Mikko Koivu is on the shelf for the Wild. They also lean heavily on highly paid and skilled goalies, as Ryan Miller and Niklas Backstrom play key roles in their teams’ playoff hopes (although the gap between Wild backup Jose Theodore and untrusted Sabres No. 2 Patrick Lalime is substantial). These two scrappy teams need this one badly, so the intensity should be solid even if the familiarity isn’t there.

8:00 pm

Nashville @ Calgary

The Flames are two points (and one win) ahead of the Predators, leaving them in the top eight while Nashville is wedged into a virtual ninth-place tie with the Anaheim Ducks. That Calgary lead is deceptive, however, because they’ve played in two more games than Shea Weber & Co. This is a typically big game in the West bubble.

Vancouver @ Anaheim

Unlike the stumbling Flyers, the Canucks haven’t let a lack of fear for their playoff positioning affect their focus in dispatching desperate teams. For the most part, anyway. While they don’t hold the psychological edge that the Blackhawks must against Vancouver, the Ducks are the kind of talented potential playoff team that would give any top seed the willies, so perhaps the Canucks will want to hurt their chances of slipping into the eighth spot.

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    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

    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.