NHL on NBCSN: Streaking Flyers visit slumping Wild

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Philadelphia Flyers at XCel Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

It’s funny what a little success can do to change the outlook for a team.

The Philadelphia Flyers head into the second game of their six-game road trip on a roll. They’ve won eight of their last 11 games and have gone from one of the dregs of the Eastern Conference to being four points back of the Washington Capitals for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

All it took for the Flyers to find their stride was to see captain Claude Giroux settle down and just play hockey. While it took him quite a while to net his first goal of the season (16 games), he now leads the team in points with 18 and has four goals.

Having him step up with the way Brayden Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier have played now gives them a formidable attack to go with their great goaltending.

Wait, what? Yes, Steve Mason has been outstanding this year for Philly going 9-8-2 but with a .934 save percentage and a 2.02 goals-against average. Those numbers are better than what he put up in his rookie season and made him a Calder Trophy winner. Safe to say without Mason, the Flyers would’ve been in an even bigger hole to start than they were.

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For the Wild, things have been rough of late. They’ve lost four in a row and their offense has vanished in those games as they’ve scored just four goals in those games. Having to deal with the Colorado Avalanche in back-to-back games as well as the Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues doesn’t help matters either.

For a while it seemed like they’d have to make due without Zach Parise. By “a while” we mean “one game” as he was expected to miss 2-to-3 weeks with a contusion but came back after sitting out one game.

It’s a good thing it was only that long because Parise leads the team in scoring. He along with Mikko Koivu are driving the offensive bus for the team with Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter in the mix as well.

Ryan Suter’s is ever-present on the blue line as he’s been playing 30 minutes per game routinely and he too factors into the offense heavily.

If the Wild are going to snap their streak, they’re going to need Josh Harding or Niklas Backstrom continue to play strong in goal. Harding has been the story of the year with his play posting a .936 save percentage and a microscopic 1.56 goals-against. If he and Mason wind up squaring off, both teams could be duking it out for one goal.

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.