Devils stick with same lineup; should Kings make tweaks?

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New Jersey Devils head coach Peter DeBoer didn’t make a ton of changes during the first three games of the 2012 Stanley Cup finals, simply inserting veterans Petr Sykora and Henrik Tallinder in the lineup in Game 4. It’s not a shocker that Tom Gulitti reports that the Devils stuck with the same lineup from the last two wins, then.

Of course, it’s only logical to ask if Darryl Sutter should make any changes to the Los Angeles Kings lineup. John Hoven believes that Sutter should replace Simon Gagne and Jordan Nolan with grinding forwards Kyle Clifford and Brad Richardson.

Feel free to dissent, but replacing Nolan with Clifford seems like a pretty inoffensive lateral move. To me, Richardson for Gagne is the most intriguing idea.

A shaky return?

At 100 percent, one could argue that Gagne is right up there – or maybe just a stride or two behind – guys like Jeff Carter as the most gifted “natural scorer” on the Kings roster. Yet as different as his game is from Manny Malhotra’s, the parallel between the two Cup finals returnees extends to their teams’ respective struggles.

If you want to ponder a wildly unfair stat, chew on this: the Kings are now 0-2 with Gagne in the lineup.

Finding the right mix

Again, I can’t state how unfair it would be to blame Gagne. Still, one could argue that Sutter “messed with a good thing” by injecting a guy who hadn’t played since December back into the mix. It’s probably worth mentioning that Gagne hasn’t played since Carter was acquired, so the team never really had a chance to see how another top-six-type forward would fit in within its current scheme.

Richardson isn’t the talent that Gagne is by any means, yet he’s a versatile forward who might make more sense on one of the bottom lines than a guy who has 283 regular season goals to his name. Of course, on the other hand, Gagne is a bad season away from being a 300-goal scorer.

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It’s a tough call, even if Sutter hasn’t really considered it himself. What do you think? Should the Kings and/or Devils make any changes to try to get an edge in Game 6?

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

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.