NHL on NBCSN: Can battered, slumping Stars rise above Blackhawks?

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the team’s website that Tyler Seguin (concussion-like symptoms) might only end up missing a couple days. Still, in the likely event that he’s not available tonight, he will be sorely missed.

Dallas is 1-2-2 in its last five games and the Chicago Blackhawks are just about the last team a battered and slumping squad wants to face.

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The Blackhawks have shown no signs of fatigue after capturing the Stanley Cup. In fact they lead the league with a 20-4-4 record and are the hottest team right now with six straight victories on the road.

Everything seems to be clicking for the Blackhawks right now, from 24-year-old rookie goaltender Antti Raanta to Duncan Keith, who led all defensemen in points last month with 16 in 15 games. On top of that, they had five forwards that found the back of the net at least five times in November. The Stars only had one guy that could say the same, and he’s the one in their sickbay.

That puts more pressure on Jamie Benn to carry a Stars offense that has been middle-of-the-road this season. The problem is that Benn has been cold during Dallas’ recent five-game slump, with just an assist and minus-four rating.

Even still, Dallas can’t be overlooked. Chicago has beaten the Stars twice this season, but in their last contest on Friday, Dallas held on for 11 shootout rounds before finally conceding defeat.

The key is Kari Lehtonen, who is arguably one of the most underrated goaltenders in the NHL. When he’s at his best, the Stars have a fighting chance regardless of their opponent or even the availability of their top sniper.

The Stars will also have plenty of motivation, given that they’re already six points out of a playoff spot. They know if they continue to slip the standings, the odds of them staging a comeback in the highly competitive Western Conference will start to become very daunting.

Sometimes the difference between a playoff squad and a lottery team is how the players respond when one of their best is sidelined. So perhaps tonight’s game will be telling.

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.