Viktor Tikhonov is ‘just a normal grandfather’ to grandson

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SOCHI, Russia — A dictator. Taskmaster. Strict. Cruel.

Those were the words that were used to describe Viktor Tikhonov when he coached the Soviet national hockey team from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. For North American hockey fans, he was the unsmiling face of the ruthless Big Red Machine that dominated most international competitions during the last quarter of the Cold War (save for the 1980 Olympics, of course.)

And it wasn’t just typical stereotyping of the times. Tikhonov’s players weren’t all that fond of his methods, either.

“When Tikhonov was the head coach,” his former player Igor Larionov once said, “the players who are living at the training camp for 11 months a year, year after year, there was a lot of humiliation and insulting for the players.”

All of which made it so interesting to hear his grandson and namesake, Viktor Tikhonov, a member of the Russian team here in Sochi, describe his grandfather so differently.

“He’s just a normal grandfather,” the younger Tikhonov said. “Always been really kind, always been really helpful. Obviously, I’ve heard the stories that he’s been a disciplinarian, but I’ve never really got it on me.”

Both grandson, 25, and grandfather, 83, will be together soon.

“He’s coming here maybe the 16th or 17th, he said,” said Tikhonov. “So he’ll probably catch the quarter-finals.”

The opportunity to add another Olympic gold medal to the family’s collection isn’t lost on the former top prospect of the Phoenix Coyotes, now a member of SKA Saint Petersburg in the KHL.

“It really is unbelievable,” he said. “I forget who mentioned it to me, but someone said the last time they won was in 1992 when my grandfather (was coaching). Maybe it’ll come full circle.”

If it does, it will be a bittersweet triumph. Tikhonov’s father, Vasily, died tragically in August when he fell from his fourth-floor apartment in Moscow while doing home repairs.

“I wish he could be here,” Tikhonov said. “It’s been both of our dreams for me to make the Olympics. I know he is watching up there and I will try to make him proud.”

Russia opens its Olympic tournament Thursday versus Slovenia.

“The closer we get to it, we definitely can feel all of the emotions growing,” said Tikhonov. “Even since the opening, everyone was watching it on TV and personally I kind of got butterflies seeing that it’s finally here. Playing on our home turf is a big deal.”

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.