NHL on NBCSN: Kings look to push win streak to three games against Predators

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Thursday, as the Nashville Predators host the Los Angeles Kings at 8:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here. 

Heading into tonight’s game, the Kings find themselves in third place in the Pacific Division. They’re one point behind the Sharks, who are in second place, and 11 points behind the Golden Knights, who are in top spot. The problem with that, is that the Kings are also just one point away from being completely out of the playoff picture because the Anaheim Ducks are just have the same amount of points as Los Angeles, but they’ve played on game more.

On a positive note, they’ve won back-to-back games since being blown out, 6-2, by the Canucks last week. They’re coming off a big 3-0 win over the Stars on Tuesday night.

“I think it was a really gutsy effort, even before the break in Calgary,” center Anze Kopitar said, per LA Kings Insider. “We all felt that obviously the game in Vancouver was an embarrassment, and we wanted to come out in Calgary, and even though we got it in OT, it was still points in our bank, so that was huge. Always out of the break usually starts with a game going a long way, and we had a good start and then we just kept rolling from there.”

It’s important that they bank as many points as they can now because the upcoming month won’t be easy for them. In total, they’ll play 14 games. Nine of those games will be played on the road. There will also be a key home-and-home series against Vegas at the end of February.

On the injury front, it sounds like the Kings will activate Jonathan Quick off injured reserve today. He skipped the All-Star game because of a groin injury, which forced him to sit out Tuesday’s game against Dallas. It’s unclear if he’ll get the start against the Preds at this point.

The Predators, who are currently sitting in second place in the Central Division, are coming off a 2-1 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Unlike the Kings, the Predators have and will continue to enjoy quite a bit of home cooking over the little while. They closed out January by playing six of their last seven games at home, and they’ll also play two more home games before heading on the road for a four-game trip. Once they come back from that trip, they’ll play six of the remaining eight games in February at home.

Oh, and in case you’ve been living under a rock, the Preds also announced on Wednesday that Mike Fisher was coming out of retirement to help add some more depth down the middle. You can read about Fisher’s return by clicking here and here.

There’s also a chance that Filip Forsberg could return to the lineup for tonight’s game.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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.