Mikael Backlund is on the verge of Flames history after OT winner


First place in the Pacific Division may be unrealistic.

But suddenly the idea of home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea for the Calgary Flames, winners of six consecutive games following a 3-2 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.

The Flames are now at 74 points, which is two back of both the Anaheim Ducks — winners versus Toronto on Friday — and the idle Edmonton Oilers, as those teams battle for second and third in the division.

Calgary has suddenly marched right into the thick of this race, which represents quite a turnaround from earlier in the season when there was actually talk about Glen Gulutzan’s future, despite this being his first season with the Flames.

(The Flames are also six points up on L.A. in the wild card.)

On a team that features Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, it has been Mikael Backlund emerging as the team’s leading scorer to this point. He continued what will be by far his most productive NHL campaign — 20 goals and 46 points in 65 games — with the overtime winner, breaking down the left wing and ripping a shot by Petr Mrazek.

That puts Backlund in impressive company in Flames history.

“It’s cool to score 20 goals, of course, in this league. It’s something to take pride in,” said Backlund, per the Calgary Sun. “But the biggest thing is we won the game tonight. We want to keep pushing. We want to make playoffs. That’s the main thing. That’s all I care about — making the playoffs again. It was awesome last time, so I want to get back to that.”

The Flames, looking for a seventh straight win, host the New York Islanders on Sunday.

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    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

    Rasmus Sandin
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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.