Are Stars making right call in scratching Radulov for being late?

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It’s one thing to stick to your guns when the stakes are low, but what about when the heat is really on?

The Dallas Stars announced that top-line winger Alexander Radulov will be a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers after arriving late to the morning skate.

As Mike Heika of the Stars’ website notes, this healthy scratch is consistent with team policy, as Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, Cody Eakin, and Erik Cole* have all been punished similarly during Jim Nill’s time as GM.

* – Anyone else forget that Cole got a fairly recent run with the Stars?

Plenty of Stars fans question the decision to follow through with this policy. A mere look at the standings (even more at the Playoff Push) helps justify some of that concern.

This isn’t the first time Radulov’s been suspended by his team, and it’s also not his first run-in with Stars head coach Jim Montgomery.

During the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Radulov missed curfew with the Nashville Predators, prompting Barry Trotz to bench him for two postseason games. Trotz stated that Radulov needed to address issues both on and off the ice.

“He knows he has to change in a lot of aspects, on ice, off ice, the way he trains, all those types of things,” Trotz said, via The Tennessean “We had a long conversation on that. He seems to be very committed to that now.”

That incident inspired some real doubts about Radulov as a “locker room guy,” but since returning to the NHL from a KHL sojourn – first with Montreal, then Dallas – he’s largely drawn rave reviews for his work ethic.

Still, there was that heated moment in mid-January, when Montgomery benched a displeased Radulov. To his credit, Radulov owned up to the situation, supporting the rookie head coach.

“I got benched,” Radulov said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “It was the right decision by coach. I wasn’t playing good and I talked back with Monty and he basically sit me until the end of the period. It’s the right decision and I can’t do that. It’s been an issue in my career, but I got to learn from it. I got to be better.”

Looking forward, this could easily blow over, or just as easily fester.

The second-guessing would likely be far quieter if the Stars beat the Rangers, as you’d expect. If Dallas loses – particularly if the Stars fall out of playoff position – then you’d anticipate louder grumbles.

It’s also crucial for the coach and player to patch things up. Montgomery didn’t elaborate on the decision, and Radulov didn’t speak with reporters on Tuesday, so at this point it’s a guessing game regarding where their relationship is at. Overall, though, no press conferences might be a wise move after that series of PR gaffes that ended 2018 with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin being thrown under the bus.

For all we know, keeping Radulov on track (and convincing Montgomery to give him a clean slate) could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs. The winger has almost a point-per-game this season (51 in 54 games), and tilts the ice in the Stars’ favor when he’s out there.

(Aside: considering just how brutally long an 82-game season is, it’s honestly surprising that this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often. Then again, maybe other teams are just more lenient?)

If nothing else, Stars management has been … courageous this season. Was this the right choice, or would you have leaned more in the direction of, say, merely fining Radulov?

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.

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.