Is Seattle right back in the race to get an NHL team?

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Trust us, there’s an NHL story in here somewhere. Just be patient because the first stuff is important.

Yesterday in Utah, NBA commissioner David Stern said he was “more hopeful than I am confident right now” that Sacramento can salvage its plan to build a new arena and keep the Kings in town. (If you want to know why the arena plan has moved onto thin ice, read this.)

Suffice to say Stern’s statement represented a downgrade from the optimism of late February after a handshake agreement with the city, the Kings’ owners, and the NBA was reached to build a new arena and keep the team in town.

That handshake agreement also appeared to hurt Seattle’s chances of landing an NBA team, as the Kings and the league-owned New Orleans Hornets were the two main relocation candidates. The Hornets still don’t have a new owner, but Stern has indicated a sale could be announced soon. Which sort of sounds familiar and appropriately leads us into the NHL stuff.

If Seattle can snag an NBA team – let’s say it’s the Kings (if they don’t go to Anaheim) – there are already plans in place to build a new arena. However, it’s possible that new arena will only be built should it be guaranteed a second tenant, that being an NHL team.

In other words, if Seattle can snag an NBA team, Seattle greatly improves it chances of getting an NHL team like, say – gee, I dunno – the Phoenix Coyotes.

Your head swimming yet?

PS — No truth to the rumor Quebec City has plans to build Sacramento a new arena.

PPS — Coyotes CEO Mike Nealy is confident the team will be staying in Glendale.

PPPS — Seattle Islanders?

Blackhawks F Katchouk will be 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 Sunday.

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.