So, what happens in St. Louis when Jake Allen gets healthy?

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It’s only February, but the debate has officially started — who will be in goal for the St. Louis Blues when the playoffs start?

Ah, who’s kidding who? This debate never stops in St. Louis. It’s a 365-day thing. (This year, 366 days.)

You may recall last year when Brian Elliott had the job taken away from him at the last minute. Young Jake Allen got the nod from coach Ken Hitchcock and proceeded to, well, not play all that great. For the third straight year, the Blues fell in the first round.

It was just the latest chapter of the Blues’ big book of goaltending controversies. There was one in 2014 as well, when Ryan Miller got the nod over Elliott and proceeded to, well, not play all that great.

Certainly, if the playoffs started today, Elliott would be the guy. The 30-year-old has been brilliant while Allen’s been out with an injury.

But the playoffs don’t start today. They’re still almost two months away. So, what happens when Allen returns? Because that’s going to happen pretty soon.

Writes Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson:

Should Elliott be replaced by his good pal Jake Allen? The former has transitioned from solid backup to impermeable barrier. The latter initially claimed the top spot, and thrived, before a knee injury Jan. 8. The argument makes for sports radio gold. It probably makes for more white hair on Hitch’s head, too.

Only Hitchcock can decide what will get his team out of its first-round rut. Allen deserves a chance to show what he can do. But the clock is ticking. The Blues, comfortably in the playoffs, only have 23 regular-season games left before they have to decide.

Hitchock isn’t talking. Recent history shows us the coach has a tell. When it comes to Elliott vs. the other guy, he tends to pick the other guy.

In a way, it’s a good problem to have. The Blues have two good goalies. Some teams don’t have any. Come April, Hitchcock might simply go with the hottest hand.

In another way, though, Hitch better choose wisely, or else…

Related: St. Louis has a weird goaltending history

 

Blackhawks F Katchouk will be 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 Sunday.

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.