Chicago’s big guns best San Jose’s stars in 6-3 victory

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I’m not a statistician, but your team’s odds for a victory must skyrocket when one player produces four assists during a single period. Normally, Patrick Sharp plays the role of sniper for the Chicago Blackhawks, but tonight he was the one making the precise passes. The 2011 All-Star Game MVP earned four helpers during a wild second period, as the Hawks out-scored the San Jose Sharks 5-1 in that middle frame and ultimately earned a 6-3 win.

Chicago 6, San Jose 3

Sharp wasn’t the only big-name Blackhawks forward to come through in what some might call a “statement game.” Marian Hossa began that wild second period with two power-play goals, Jonathan Toews continued his torrid run with a goal and an assist and Patrick Kane reached a career milestone with his 100th goal. Kane became the third youngest Blackhawk to reach 100 goals, behind two nobodies named Jeremy Roenick and Bobby Hull.

The Sharks’ big guns contributed, albeit in a losing effort. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture scored one goal each for San Jose.

Antti Niemi performed outstandingly well against his old team in their first three meetings this season, but his former teammates gained a measure of revenge by chasing him from the Sharks’ net tonight. Niemi’s 25th consecutive start ended early, as he was yanked from the game in favor of former starter Antero Niittymaki about seven minutes into that wacky second. Niemi allowed four goals on 18 shots while Niittymaki was beaten twice on 14.

Corey Crawford has been a workhorse for Chicago in his own right, as he was the Hawks starter for the 15th time in a row. The surprisingly effective rookie won his 27th game of the 2010-11 season – one more than Niemi, by the way – after he made 33 out of 36 saves.

This win places Chicago in fourth place with 84 points, even if such a spot is typically tenuous. For the most part, the Blackhawks have been red-hot lately, as they even earned two points during their recent three-game skid. They’ve been especially stout at the United Center, winning five games in a row in the Windy City.

Every time it seems like the Sharks are going to run away with the Pacific Division, they seem to hit a speed bump. After producing an eight-game winning streak, San Jose went 1-2-2 in their last five games. They still have a three-point lead in the division, although the Los Angeles Kings have a game in hand.

In other words, this game didn’t solve anything for either team, but there shouldn’t be much of a question about how much of a threat Chicago will be if they actually make the playoffs.

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.