NHL coach on Bruins’ forward depth: “God bless them, but they have two fourth lines”

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In his latest installment of previews for playoff-bound teams, ESPN’s Craig Custance tackled the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The Bruins hope to become the first repeat champion since Detroit won back-to-back Cups in 1997-98 but, as one NHL coach said, their title defense will be difficult given their lack of depth up front.

“They have two fourth lines,” the coach told Custance. “God bless them, but they have two fourth lines with the injuries they have. There’s not a lot of offensive depth.”

That quote might come as a surprise, given the Bruins sit third overall in the NHL with 254 goals. Boston also has six 20-goal scorers (Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly), so depth doesn’t appear to be a major issue.

But, digging a little deeper…

During their run to the Stanley Cup last spring, the Bruins got a combined 21 goals from Michael Ryder, Nathan Horton and Mark Recchi. Ryder is in Dallas. Recchi is retired and Horton isn’t close to returning from his second concussion in the last year. Adding a guy like Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth at the deadline would have been ideal, but he wasn’t available.

Brian Rolston has been a nice find for the Bruins with 14 points in 20 games since being traded to Boston by the Islanders, but his production has cooled and it’s asking a lot to expect Recchi-like production from Rolston in the postseason.

“There’s a reason [Roltson] was available,” said an NHL source. “Recchi was a really special player. Something special.”

Against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the Bruins rolled Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rolston and Dan Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton as their third and fourth lines (or, two fourth lines.)

Jordan Caron also draws into that mix but after him, options are limited — especially compared to last postseason, when Boston had the luxury of platooning in the likes of Seguin (who didn’t play the first two rounds) and Thornton (who got parked after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, only to re-emerged for Game 3 of the Cup finals.)

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.