Luongo takes to ice in Vancouver, but better story may be who backs him up

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Back in May, after the Vancouver Canucks had been swept out of the playoffs, general manager Mike Gillis said it was “unlikely” goalie Roberto Luongo would be back with the club for the 2013-14 season.

Well…ta-da!

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That was Luongo today in Vancouver, coming out onto the ice to practice informally with his Canucks teammates. A horde of reporters no doubt awaited his departure from the ice.

But while much of the media focus will be on the 34-year-old veteran during training camp and the preseason, perhaps the better goaltending story in Vancouver — certainly, it’s the fresher story — is the battle for the back-up job between Swedes Eddie Lack and Joacim Ericsson.

Heading into camp, Lack is considered the favorite to land the gig. And given he’s got a one-way contract and Ericsson has a two-way deal (he’d make just $70,000 in the AHL), the Canucks are probably hoping that’s the case, too.

Just one little cause for concern: Lack had hip surgery in January and hasn’t played for nine months.

Oh, and another cause for concern: Neither goalie has played a second of an NHL regular-season game.

Even if Luongo plays well and stays healthy, the Canucks will need their back-up to be solid. In fact, it could — not definitely will, but could — be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

As The Province’s Jason Botchford writes, “It’s not inconceivable the best place for the two goalies, to start the season, is in the AHL. It would leave the Canucks trying to get a netminder off of the waiver wire this fall to play fill-in. If it hadn’t sunk in that Cory Schneider is gone, don’t worry, it will soon.”

Related: Canucks sign Swedish goalie Joacim Eriksson

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.