GM Lamoriello defends sliding Devils

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The New Jersey Devils got off to a great start to the 2013 campaign, but it’s been erased by their current 2-7-2 stretch.

The Devils have also lost six straight contests with Johan Hedberg between the pipes. Martin Brodeur is out with a back injury and it doesn’t sound like he’s close to returning.

Still, if Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has concerns about his team, he’s keeping them to himself.

“We can’t look back on anything,” Lamoriello said, according to the Bergen Record. “The effort’s there. The coaches are working as hard as anybody could work at what they’re doing. The schedule creeps up on you.

“Things are not going well and the schedule is tight. But, concerns? No. I just have too much respect for the people sitting on that bench and the people standing behind that bench.

“The character will take over.”

It’s worth noting that while the worst of this slump has corresponded with Brodeur’s absence, it would be hard to pin this entirely on Hedberg.

New Jersey has only scored three or more goals in two of their last nine games. David Clarkson, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Patrik Elias have combined for just one goal over their past five contests.

“Well, we’re looking for answers,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “There’s been opportunities there. Some guys have created enough opportunities that they should be scoring.

“Some other guys have to create some more. The fact that all of them have dried up at the same time obviously has been the tough part. Usually you get one or two guys … that are going through tough streaks, but other guys are hot.

“We’ve gone dry across the board here for the last six or seven games.”

The Devils haven’t been on a seven-game losing streak since 1986. They’ll try to keep it that way when they face the Buffalo Sabres tonight.

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.