DeAngelo demotion is latest blemish in Rangers’ makeover

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As a big-market NHL team fighting for headlines (preferably on the front or back page), the New York Rangers are no strangers to splashy moves.

Even so, this summer felt notably different, as we saw the end of several eras and a continued transition to, well, transition-friendly hockey.

With the boos cascading from the rafters at Madison Square Garden after a rough loss to the San Jose Sharks on Monday, the Rangers fell to 2-6-2 this season, leaving their makeover looking awfully ugly.

It doesn’t look like the fun will start for a while.

Tuesday provides the latest reminder that these tweaks aren’t going so well, as the Rangers demoted Anthony DeAngelo on his 22nd birthday. You may remember DeAngelo as a significant part of the trade (along with the pick that became Lias Andersson) that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes.

While DeAngelo has his issues, particularly in his own zone, many Rangers fans feel exasperated by how head coach Alain Vigneault uses younger players and utilizes different portions of the roster, most memorably in debatable deployment of Tanner Glass in previous years.

If nothing else, this might open the door for certain tweaks, most simply in returning to a traditional format of 12 forwards and six defensemen. The team recalled Boo Nieves in DeAngelo’s absence, for one thing.

Especially optimistic Rangers fans are even throwing around hypotheticals about space being made for Matt Duchene or Alex Galchenyuk, but that feels more like wishful thinking than anything at the moment.

Such tweaks might be a bit lofty (although, again, the Rangers aren’t the shy types when it comes to making waves), yet this situation doesn’t seem especially sustainable.

If demoting DeAngelo on his birthday wasn’t awkward enough amid this Rangers revamp, consider that their Thursday opponent is Stepan and the Coyotes.

One of the few bright sides is that, for whatever it’s worth, things haven’t been great on Arizona’s end. The team is currently winless (0-7-1) and injuries have kept Raanta from making any impression, positive or negative.

Stepan, to his credit, has quietly been effective for the Coyotes, generating six points in eight games. Ben Bishop narrowly kept Stepan and Clayton Keller from getting a hat trick in a recent loss to Dallas, with Stepan coming close here:

As mentioned in this post, the Rangers haven’t just been losing, they’ve been squandering a big chunk of home games. Only two of the Rangers’ first 10 games have come on the road, with both being losses. They have a 1-2-2 record in the first five games of this current six-game home stand, so getting a W against those Coyotes could at least even things out to a more appealing 2-2-2 homestand.

Yeah, gross.

*Cough*

For all we know, the Rangers could begin to turn things around this week. It seems clear that Henrik Lundqvist will have to wait to rebound from his early slump, however, as Ondrej Pavelec is getting the nod on Thursday (in part because Hank is a little banged-up).

The seat seems to be warming up for Vigneault and others, especially in a Metropolitan Division that looks deep and challenging. It all makes for some pretty miserable times, as Kevin Shattenkirk‘s offense hasn’t been enough to push the Rangers through their struggles and even the addition of Lindy Ruff seems underwhelming:

Yes, it’s early, yet things seem dreary for the Rangers. It’s the kind of stuff that can really ruin a birthday party.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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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.

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.