Goals just ‘aren’t coming easy’ for the Capitals right now

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The Washington Capitals remain one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL. They currently sit third in that category, averaging 3.21 goals-for per game.

But for a noticeably lengthy stretch now, the scoring has slowed. So, too, have the Capitals in the standings.

A recent three-game losing streak, following a loss to the L.A. Kings on Saturday, has allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets to get within reach of Washington for top spot in the Metropolitan Division — not to mention the chance of winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Capitals have been held to two goals or less in seven of their last eight games. They have now lost three consecutive games by the score of 4-2 and only manufactured 19 shots on goal versus the Kings — facts not lost on the coach Barry Trotz.

“We’re going to have to score more than two goals. We haven’t scored too much lately,” he said following the loss in L.A.

“Just not coming easy. If they go in the net, we’re talking about four (goals) but we didn’t, so. You’ve got to fight through it. We’ve got to get to the net, we’ve got to shoot.”

Their power play, eighth best in the league right now, has scored only four times in 26 opportunities over this stretch. Alex Ovechkin, the most prolific and electrifying scorer of his era since coming into the league, has gone cold, without a goal in nine straight games. Nicklas Backstrom, a point per game player this season, has four points in his last eight games, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not up to his typical standard of production.

That said, with a lineup this stacked with talent, it’s difficult to see this slump perpetuating. They visit the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, looking to end their losing streak and break out offensively.

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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

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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.