Sharks expect Havlat to open season on IR

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Though his health is improving, Martin Havlat isn’t likely to be ready for the start of the season.

“Marty had that [surgery] and he’s worked really hard,” Sharks head coach Todd McLellan told CSN Bay Area. “He’s right on schedule, from what I’ve been told. But, to put him in a situation where he’s not ready, and at risk, makes no sense.”

Havlat, 32, underwent major groin surgery (bilateral pelvic reconstruction) in late June and, because he was recovering from injury, was ineligible to be bought out during this summer’s 48-hour compliance window.

Havlat missed seven regular season games last season with a lower-body injury, and nine playoff games with the aforementioned groin issue.

The Czech winger hurt his groin during San Jose’s opening-round series against Vancouver and tried to return for the Kings series, but lasted just a few minutes in his first game back and didn’t play again.

The situation between the Sharks and Havlat then reportedly became acrimonious, according to CSN:

In what could be perceived as a sign of frustration from the organization, Havlat was given a temporary locker stall in the Sharks’ dressing room at their practice facility between games six and seven against the Kings. To put that in perspective, AHL call-ups Freddie Hamilton, Alex Stalock, Matt Pelech and Matt Tennyson all had regular locker stalls.

In the press box for Game 7 at Staples Center, Havlat sat by himself, while the other Sharks scratches sat together on the complete opposite end in the seats set aside for visiting players.

In mid-July, San Jose GM Doug Wilson was unsure if Havlat would play for San Jose again.

“Havlat had a pretty extensive procedure done,” Wilson explained. “He is an important player to us and we missed him when he wasn’t in there. There is no timeline for a return, so I don’t have an answer for that one.”

Should the Sharks put Havlat on LTIR (long term injured reserve) to start the year, they could free up his $5 million cap hit to spend elsewhere.

That could come in handy, as a number of solid UFA veterans are currently without work.

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.