Desperate to kill penalties, San Jose adds Joe Thornton to the mix

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The San Jose Sharks have been abused by the St. Louis power play through the first three games of their opening-round series.

The Blues have scored on five of their 13 man advantage opportunities — a 60 percent clip — and went 3-for-4 at HP Pavilion in Monday’s 4-3 victory.

Generally speaking, allowing three PP goals in a payoff game (in front of your home crowd, no less) forces a head coach to make big changes.

That’s exactly what Todd McLellan has done, putting captain Joe Thornton on the PK unit for Game 4.

“It’s time,” Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m good with it.”

More, from The Merc:

With his long arms and long stick, the 6-foot-4 Thornton is the ideal soldier for the Sharks’ style of penalty kill, which relies on positioning in a four-man box and the interception (or discouragement) of cross-ice passes.

However, in Monday night’s Sharks loss in Game 3, he didn’t play a second of short-handed time during the Blues’ four power plays, three of which led to goals. McLellan tends to keep Thornton’s ice-time light during penalty-kill situations to save his legs for 5-on-5 play and power plays. During the regular season, Thornton averaged 1:03 minutes of penalty-kill time per game, lowest among the team’s top six forwards other than Ryane Clowe.

The concept is logical. But not when a team is down two games to one in a playoff series, with the biggest reason staring back at McLellan from the stat sheet. In 5-on-5 play so far, the Sharks and Blues are tied on the scoreboard, 4-4. Special teams are making the difference. The Blues have five power play goals to the Sharks’ two.

So here comes Jumbo Joe.

(Note: In this series, Jumbo has played exactly 28 seconds shorthanded.)

Thornton isn’t the only reinforcement coming to the penalty kill in Game 4. It’s expected that Michal Handzus will make his series debut and play a big role on the PK, where he averaged 1:21 per game this season.

Judging by his comments, “Zeus” has studied up on the St. Louis power play.

“They shoot the puck and have pretty strong guys,” he told CSN Bay Area. “They find a lane from the top, and we’ve got to play more as a four-man unit and block shots up top or down low.

“It is what it is, you have to outwork their five-man unit.”

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.