Renovation Watch: Reality checks

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

With 2012 rapidly approaching, let’s take another look at how the NHL’s most radically changed teams have fared since the last edition on Dec. 17.

Minnesota Wild

Record last time: 20-8-4 for 44 points
Current record: 20-12-6 for 46 points

Last time we checked, the Wild were on top of the NHL with those 44 points. There were signs of trouble, though, as Mikko Koivu just got injured. They’re 0-4-2 since the last update and have lost eight games in a row overall. Now they’re in second place in the Northwest Division, although they only trail the Vancouver Canucks by two points.

Philadelphia Flyers

Record last time: 20-7-3 for 43 points
Current record: 21-10-4 for 46 points

Philly has stumbled a bit too, going 1-3-1 in the five games since we last took a look at their situation. Claude Giroux is already back in action, but perhaps they’re starting to miss Chris Pronger. Either way, they’re now in second place in the Atlantic behind the surging New York Rangers.

Florida Panthers

Record last time: 17-9-6 for 40 points
Current record: 19-11-7 for 45 points

Some believe that the Panthers are starting to run out of steam a bit. That might be the case, as they’ve gone 2-2-1 in their last five games. Still, they’re fighting through a tough schedule and remain atop the Southeast Division at the moment. The important thing is that they’re still in a good position to break their playoff slump.

Buffalo Sabres

Record last time: 16-12-3 for 35 points
Current record: 17-16-3 for 37 points

Things just keep getting worse in Buffalo, it seems. They’ve gone 1-4-0 in their last five games and haven’t won consecutive contests since Milan Lucic clobbered Ryan Miller in November. Buffalo currently ranks fourth in the Northeast Division and 11th in the East, so they have a long way to go.

Columbus collapses, then crawls

Record last time: 9-18-4 for 22 points
Current record: 9-22-5 for 23 points

Things were going better for the Blue Jackets – relatively speaking – last time we checked in. Since then they’ve gone 0-4-1 to affirm the fact that they are the worst team in the league. It doesn’t help that Curtis Sanford is banged up, but it only seemed like a matter of time before he wouldn’t be able to save the team.

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    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.

    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

    Rasmus Sandin
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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.