L.A.’s playoff success this year is reminding people of 1993

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The Kings are just one win away from making the Western Conference finals for the first time since Wayne Gretzky helped them do it in 1993. A handful of superstars, some rag-tag veterans, and a hot goalie helped those Kings make the Stanley Cup finals. Sound familiar?

Much like that ’93 team, these Kings wear silver and black and as legendary play-by-play voice of the Kings, Bob Miller, tells Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times in her terrific retrospective on the Kings’ past, this Kings team reminds him a lot of how that ’93 team made their run.

“I was thinking that this year is almost similar to ’93, where people got hot at the right time and played well at the right time,” Miller said. “Because I don’t recall anything during the regular season where you thought, ‘This team could do it,’ especially with Gretz out for half of the season.”

You certainly can’t say at any point during this season you thought the Kings would be capable of a deep playoff run. They fiddled about through most of the year. They managed to play so poorly they got their coach fired (Terry Murray) only to have GM Dean Lombardi read them the riot act and bring in Darryl Sutter.

Now that they’re deep into the playoffs, the Kings look like the team many thought we’d see before the year started.

Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are playing huge. Mike Richards is playing hard at both ends of the ice while Drew Doughty is looking like the Norris Trophy finalist he was a couple seasons ago. Throw in some Jonathan Quick mastery in goal and you’ve got a team that’s playing perhaps the best hockey in all the playoffs.

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.