Eastern Conference finals mark reunion for college teammates Martin St. Louis, Tim Thomas

Every once in a while, a college hockey team will manage to attract players who go on to have special NHL careers. The University of Vermont experienced that kind of season in 1995-96, when Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas helped the team make it to the Frozen Four for the first time in the program’s history.

St. Louis and Thomas set plenty of career and single season records that still stand, but both players faced bumpy roads to the NHL. After all these years, they still maintain a solid friendship, but those fuzzy feelings will be placed on hold as their teams meet in the Eastern Conference finals.

As it turns out, that isn’t the only connection Thomas will feel with the opposing Tampa Bay Lightning’s players. Joe Haggerty points out that Thomas might not have gone to the University of Vermont if it weren’t for Dwayne Roloson, who played in the University of Lowell’s net.

St. Louis sat next to Roloson at the TD Garden podium on Friday afternoon and jokingly thanked the former University of Lowell goaltender for discouraging Thomas from playing college hockey at Lowell – and instead pushing the Vezina Trophy winner toward the University of Vermont where Thomas and St. Louis put on a show for four years at the Burlington campus.

“Marty is one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever played with – and I’ve ever seen play,” said Thomas. “You know it’s unfortunate that we have to play against each other. That’s the way it works out, though. I couldn’t have more respect for a person as a player and as a human being than I do for Marty.”

As confident as those two athletes are, Thomas and St. Louis probably weren’t expecting to have the success they have experienced in the NHL when they were struggling in the minors and/or foreign leagues. Yet St. Louis already has a Hart Trophy on his resume and Thomas is a Vezina winner, with both players shooting for their second trophies this season.

That’s an excellent sign of success, but it also highlights an undeniable fact: only one of them will play in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Whenever people generate Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby-type buzz, they forget that those two players aren’t always competing as directly as it might seem. There’s no denying that if St. Louis wants to be successful, that means getting the puck past his former teammate. Thomas has connections to both Roloson and St. Louis, but for 4-7 games, they will be his enemies.

NHL.com shares this amusing retrospective video of the UVM’s remarkable 95-96 season, featuring much younger versions of St. Louis and Thomas.

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    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.