High praise: Nichushkin’s playing style ‘almost like Malkin,’ says Stars captain Benn

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With seven points in his last three games, Dallas rookie Valeri Nichushkin has drawn plenty of attention recently — and one of the main topics of conversation has been to find players with comparable skill sets.

From the Dallas Morning News:

Is he a dynamic puck carrier who sill sets up his linemates? Is he a strong two-way player who can cause some physical damage? Is he a sniper who can pick corners and cash in on chances?

He might be a little of all three.

He has been compared to Rick Nash for his mix of size and skill and to Eric Lindros for his head-down style of bulling forward. He has been compared to Evgeni Malkin, who has twice led the NHL in scoring and three times has ranked in the top two in MVP voting.

“Sometimes when he’s carrying the puck up the ice, it’s almost like Malkin,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “The kid’s 6-5, or whatever, and skates like the wind. I don’t think teams actually realize how fast he’s going until he skates by them.”

Nichushkin (officially listed at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds) was the 10th overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and always believed to be a great talent, but one that concerned various NHL clubs because of the “Russian factor.” Teams worried about him staying in the KHL — he won the Alexei Cherepanov Award last season as the league’s top rookie while playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk — yet Stars GM Jim Nill saw something too special to pass on.

“I think it’s no secret, everybody had him as one of the top three players in the draft,” Nill said, as per NHL.com. “If he was playing [Canadian junior hockey] somewhere in Moose Jaw or Peterborough, he probably would have been a top-three pick. There is risk with the Russian factor, everybody knows that. Where we were picking, he was a player we couldn’t pass on. There was just too much there.”

Nichushkin has had his struggles this year, but blossomed once put on a line with Benn and Tyler Seguin. The trio combined for nine points in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Philly and Nichushkin now sits seventh among rookie scorers with 15 points in 27 games.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

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.