Four wins in a row under new head coach John Torchetti — combined with a couple of losses by the Colorado Avalanche — have seen the Minnesota Wild’s playoff chances jump from 33.4 percent on Feb. 13 to 74.2 percent, according to website Sports Club Stats.
The Wild won their fourth straight on Sunday, blasting the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-1, outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium. A few hours later, the Avs dropped a 5-1 decision in Vancouver, where the Canucks hadn’t won since Jan. 11.
Barring the unexpected, the Wild, Avalanche and Predators will compete for the two wild-card spots in the West. Arizona and Vancouver have each seen their playoff hopes plummet in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, in the East, the New Jersey Devils were the big losers of the weekend. They lost 1-0 to the Isles on Friday and 4-3 to the Caps on Saturday, dropping their playoff chances to just 26.0 percent.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the big gainers, earning victories Saturday and Sunday in Pittsburgh and Carolina, respectively. The Bolts, after winning just once in five outings, have now won three straight, increasing their playoff chances from 78.9 percent early last week to 93.2 percent today.
The Red Wings might be the most vulnerable team currently in a playoff spot. They’re 1-2-3 in their last six, though they still have a 69.9 percent chance of appearing in their 26th straight postseason.
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.
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.
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.
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.