NHL on NBCSN: Stamkos, Crosby collide in Penguins-Lightning match

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Consol Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET.

If there’s one thing these two teams have excelled at this season, it’s finding the back of the net. Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh rank first and second respectively in goals per game and only one other team, the Anaheim Ducks, even comes close to matching these two offensive titans.

Of course, it helps that Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay also have the top two offensive threats in the league.

Sidney Crosby, with his concussion problems behind him, has only been held off the scoresheet in five of Pittsburgh’s 22 games. He leads the league in points with 34 and has an incredible 27 points in his last 15 contests.

Steven Stamkos is slightly behind Crosby in total points, but there has been no goal scorer more effective than Stamkos this season. The 23-year-old forward has found the back of the net in seven of his last eight games and leads the league with 15 goals in just 21 contests. If this were a full 82-game campaign, then that pace would put Stamkos just shy of his second straight 60-goal campaign.

While Stamkos and Crosby can be counted as elites, only one of their respective teams deserves the same level of praise. The Pittsburgh Penguins rank second in the Eastern Conference while the Tampa Bay Lightning hold the 13th seed with a 9-11-1 record.

After goaltending issues sunk Tampa Bay last season, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman made a major effort to address that need over the summer. The centerpiece of those efforts was his acquisition of Anders Lindback from the Nashville Predators.

24-year-old Lindback had been a solid backup for the Predators for a couple years and seemed ready to take the next step. However, so far he’s struggled and appears to have at least temporarily lost the starting gig to Mathieu Garon, who will make his fourth straight start tonight, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Damian Cristodero.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, Garon has a 1-4-0 record with a 4.28 GAA in six career games against the Penguins.

Tampa Bay is hungry to end their four-game losing streak, but Pittsburgh isn’t a team that can be easily overwhelmed through offensive might alone. Garon and the Lightning’s defense will need to step up to the daunting task of trying to contain Crosby and the Penguins.

Probable goaltenders: TBL – Garon (2-7-0, 2.86 GAA, .911 SV%) | PIT – Marc-Andre Fleury (10-5-0, 2.40 GAA, .912 SV%)

Top scorers: TBL – Stamkos (15-17-32, 21 GP) | PIT – Crosby (10-24-34, 22 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Tampa Bay – Forwards: Benoit Pouliot (upper body), Ryan Malone (lower body) Defensemen: Mattias Ohlund (knee), Sami Salo (lower body)
Pittsburgh – Forwards: Evgeni Malkin (concussion) Defensemen: Paul Martin (lower body)

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.