Maybe it wasn’t Mason’s equipment after all

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Remember a couple of weeks ago when Steve Mason’s new equipment was being credited for his improved play?

For those that need to refresh their memories, an excerpt from The Columbus Dispatch’s story:

“We totally redesigned his equipment,” goaltending coach Ian Clark said. “He was playing undersized relative to league limits.”

So Mason got a makeover last month. He changed every piece of his equipment, save for his helmet, donned looser pants and went between the pipes for a game at Minnesota on Feb. 11.

The results were immediate.

Mason stopped 34 of 35 shots and won a game for the first time since December. It was the first victory in his resurgence, during which he has gone 7-3-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. He had won only five of his previous 22 games, when his stats were somewhere south of dismal.

Long story short, his stats have re-migrated south of dismal. Mason was yanked for the second straight game last night in Detroit. Since the story broke about his new pads, he’s allowed 22 goals on 188 shots (.882 save percentage.)

Mason has, however, had a couple of excellent performances mixed in with the miserable ones. Friday versus Carolina, he stopped 39 of 40 shots in the Jackets’ 5-1 win. March 18 in Calgary, he was named first star in a 2-1 shootout win over the Flames.

So what’s GM Scott Howson to do this summer? Assuming he keeps his job, that is, does he pursue a young goalie like Cory Schneider or Jonathan Bernier and officially give up on Mason, or does he bring in a veteran stopgap and give the former Calder Trophy recipient another shot?

If it were me, I’d go with the first option. But it’s not me, and I’ve stopped trying to predict what the Jackets are going to do.

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

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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.