Report: 2012 Winter Classic set for Philadelphia between Flyers and Rangers

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While we’re all focused on the Stanley Cup playoffs, rumblings about what’s going to happen next season are already firing up.

As always, the marquee midseason event is the Winter Classic and after the huge success that it’s been the last four years in Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, and Pittsburgh teams and cities are always hopeful of landing the annual event.

CSN Philly is reporting that the 2012 Winter Classic will be headed to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and will feature the Philadelphia Flyers taking on the New York Rangers on January 2. The January 2 date is, of course, deviating from the usual January 1 date for the Winter Classic and there’s a good reason why next year’s game will have a different date.

As CSNPhilly.com reported last month, because the Eagles and Redskins are playing on Jan. 1 at Lincoln Financial Field (assuming an NFL season and end of the lockout), the league was considering moving the game back a day because, sources said, the NHL did not want to go head to head with the NFL on New Year’s Day. Citizens Bank Park was the only option if the game were to be held in Philadelphia.

Avoiding a potential NFL weekend is a wise idea for the NHL and while some might criticize the league for getting off of the traditional New Year’s Day date, the event is meant to be a TV sensation to showcase the game. Going up against the NFL wouldn’t get the game the kind of showcase they’d be looking for.

Of course, there’s the possibility that the NFL will be locked out as well. It’s not believed that the date of the game would have the date shifted if the NFL is out of commission for the year.

For the Flyers, it would mark their second appearance in the Winter Classic after appearing in the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston against the Bruins. For the Rangers it would be their first appearance in the New Year’s Day event and while New York would love to host the event, there’s not a facility that appeals to everyone to host it in New York City. Should Yankee Stadium ever become available in the future that would be the optimal venue. For now, the Pinstripe Bowl takes up all the time in the Bronx needed to get the stadium ready for the Winter Classic.

No announcement has been made so this is just speculation for now, but if you’re thinking about where you might want to spend New Year’s for hockey purposes, it might be time to start looking into Philadelphia.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

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.