NHL on NBCSN: Blackhawks host Rangers on Rivalry Night

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

The Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers haven’t faced each other since March 2012 in Chicago. For all the things that have changed since then, most of the faces on the ice are still the same.

The key difference this time around comes with the Rangers and their battle to be a playoff team in the Metropolitan Division. The one consistent thing about them of late is how inconsistent they’ve been. In their past 11 games, they’ve gone 6-3-2 with five shootouts mixed in with only one of those against a Western Conference team. That means they’re helping dole out extra standings points to foes in the East and that surely won’t help at the end of the season.

source: Getty ImagesFor the Rangers to get things turned around they’ll need their superstars to play the way they’re capable of. Henrik Lundqvist has had an off season posting career-worst numbers in save percentage and goals-against average. Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan have dealt with injuries which has hampered their numbers, but they still need to be better.

Having Mats Zuccarello and Brad Richards lead the team in scoring probably wasn’t something the Rangers counted on this season, but that’s how things are right now. If the star players can get things going, fortunes will change quickly in the Big Apple.

As for the Blackhawks, they’re 4-0-3 in their last seven games with losses to the Blues, Sharks, and Islanders. We’ve raved recently about their offense and none of that’s changed in the past two days. Patrick Kane is still dominant, Patrick Sharp is still piling up very handsome goals, and they’re still getting great play from Duncan Keith on the blue line.

What’s not to like lately? Average goaltending.

Over that seven-game stretch, they’ve allowed 17 goals. While they had a 1-0 shutout against the Los Angeles Kings mixed in, there’s no doubt coach Joel Quenneville would like to see Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta step their game up.

Of course, this is just a minor complaint considering how well the Blackhawks have played this season, but they’ve got competition atop the Central Division and Western Conference. The St. Louis Blues trail them by two points in the Central and they’re two points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot overall in the West.

Every point counts out West so they can’t afford to even slip up and lose in overtime or a shootout. No stress though, gang.

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.