Renovation Watch: Running Wild

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Every now and then, PHT will glance at the teams who changed the most during the 2011 off-season in Renovation Watch.

A lot has changed since the first edition of Renovation Watch. For the most part, the dramatically altered teams have been smash successes, but there are a couple who have been let downs. Let’s get to it, then, in order of the best to worst records.

Minnesota sits atop the league

Record: 20-8-4 for 44 points

The Wild won their only game of the first weekend to start things off, but most of us didn’t expect the good times to roll like this. Minnesota currently leads the league with 44 points thanks to their suffocating defense, fantastic goaltending and timely offense. They’ve fought off injuries admirably, although losing Mikko Koivu looks to be their biggest test yet.

Flyers flex their muscles

Record: 20-7-3 for 43 points

The Wild have one more point, but considering the fact that Philly has two games in hand, some would argue that the Flyers are a bigger success. They lead the NHL with a staggering 110 goals, which averages out to 3.67 per game. Much like Minny, they face a serious challenge with Chris Pronger out the rest of the season (and maybe the playoffs?) and Claude Giroux in concussion limbo.

Florida flabbergasts us all

Record: 17-9-6 for 40 points

It’s likely that even the most fervent Panthers pom-pom wavers didn’t see this coming. The Rats are seven points ahead of the disappointing Washington Capitals for the Southeast Division lead. That’s not an insurmountable deficit, but the Panthers seem primed to break their playoff hex.

Sabres disappoint

Record: 16-12-3 for 35 points

Buffalo came storming out of the gate in Europe and sustained it a bit to begin, then hit a big brick wall. Now they’re up and down, although newcomers Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff haven’t delivered. Their scoring margin captures the mixed results: 86 goals for and 86 goals against.

Columbus collapses, then crawls

Record: 9-18-4 for 22 points

It’s strange to give the worst team in the league a little leeway, but considering how terribly things started, the Blue Jackets are at least saving face lately. A big reason why is Curtis Sanford, although Jeff Carter is gradually getting his game together. A month ago, you’d give Scott Howson an “F.” Now it’s more like a “D” with a “C-” hovering in the horizon. (Small victories.)

Florida: 17-9-6 for 40 points

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.