Nashville Predators hope to court jilted Atlanta Thrashers fans

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One of the big reasons that an NHL team could conceivably work in Seattle, Washington is because it is such a short driving distance from Vancouver. The team would probably benefit from overflow from hockey fans who couldn’t get tickets to Canucks games.

While the distance is quite a bit further between Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee, it’s still a fairly reasonable 249 miles or about a four hour drive (according to Rand McNally). That might not be a convenient distance for a back-and-forth trip during the week, but perhaps hockey-hungry Atlanta residents might opt to make that trip during the weekend or on holidays?

Whatever the case, the Nashville Predators are trying to seize a solid opportunity to sell some extra tickets by courting jilted Thrashers fans. The Nashville Post reports that the Predators are still waiting on the Board of Governors’ vote to approve the Thrashers’ relocation, which is largely considered a formality. The Predators are hoping to sell a package of four to seven games, which focus on weekend contests. What might be most interesting, though, is that Predators games might actually replace Thrashers ones in the Atlanta market.

Parker said the package geared towards Atlantans will be between four and seven games, predominantly on the weekend and spread throughout the season.

“If we can play the former Thrashers, that’s a more appealing stand alone option. … We’d like to work with CVB for a package to make it a weekend. It’s four hours and 5 million people. You’d only need to obtain a sliver,” he said.

Rumors have also circulated that Fox Sports is looking to broadcast Nashville or Carolina Hurricanes games in the Atlanta market next season. Both Henry and Parker said the talk is premature with the BoG vote still pending, but that it’s an opportunity they’d clearly like to take advantage of, given that Atlanta’s large metropolitan area provides access to both a large fan base and a sponsor base. Henry noted that Fox is going to have a sports programming hole in a major media market that needs to be filled.

“If the move is approved by the Board of Governors, I assume there’s a big void of coverage. You are moving from 82 games to none, from 300 hours of coverage to zero, and I’m assuming there’s going to be hockey [on Atlanta television],” he said.

Could the Predators expand their swath even slightly into the Atlanta market? That remains to be seen, but they’re absolutely wise to give it a shot.

(H/T to On the Forecheck.)

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.