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.

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.