Struggling Coyotes ‘not anywhere good enough,’ says GM

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Don Maloney and Dave Tippett have watched their Arizona Coyotes allow the most goals per game (3.88) in the NHL this season and, simply put, they’re sick of it.

From the Arizona Republic:

“They’re certainly concerning,” coach Dave Tippett said. “Our defending hasn’t been near where it needs to be, and it’s two-fold. We haven’t defended well and gotten behind in games and then you chase games, and then you really look like a sloppy team. We’ve had too many games like that this year.”

And that’s perhaps the most perplexing development as the Coyotes tackle Game 9 tonight against the Panthers: The principles that built this team haven’t delivered. Character, chemistry and compete were the buzzwords that guided General Manager Don Maloney’s summer renovation project, and all have been inconsistent.

“We’re not anywhere good enough the way we’re competing right now,” Maloney said. “So we need to get better or things are going to change around here probably sooner rather than later.”

The Coyotes are a tough team to figure out.

In September, Maloney said Arizona would make a “concerted effort” to give young prospects a shot at making the NHL, and gave a sobering preview of what he expected for the year.

“We can’t sit here and say we match up, No. 1 line to No. 1 line, with many teams in the West,” he said, per Fox Sports Arizona. “But maybe we can control the top lines and outperform the lower lines.”

That approach didn’t last long.

In early October, the club scrapped the proposed youth movement — sending first-rounders Max Domi to junior and Henrik Samuelsson back to the AHL — because, according to Maloney, the Coyotes “need to be a playoff team.”

“We just think for our franchise right now, we have to be competitive,” Maloney explained, per the Arizona Republic. “We need to be a playoff team. That’s what’s going to get people excited and in the building.

“Nobody has an appetite to just throw in the towel.”

It’s hard to know what the present-day Coyotes are. All the staples that made the team successful in recent years — good goaltending, solid defensive play, journeyman vets chipping in offensively — have seemingly disappeared; as a result, Arizona has just three wins from its first eight games and is only two weeks away from a grueling stretch: From Nov. 11 to 23, the club will play six of seven on the road with tough stops in Dallas, San Jose and Anaheim.

There are rumblings of Arizona being a potential trade partner for teams looking to unload salary (the Coyotes have approximately $12 million in space) but for now, Maloney said they’ll try to figure things out from within.

“It’s more likely that we’ll maybe introduce some new players as call-ups, change the mix up,” he said. “See if that can shake things loose.”

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.