Former Coyotes forward Craig Cunningham returns to the ice

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The sight of Craig Cunningham back on the ice skating after everything he’s been through would have brought a smile to even the most hardened faces.

It’s been roughly two-and-a-half years since Cunningham collapsed to the ice prior to a game between his Tucson Roadrunners, a team he captained, and the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. He had suffered a heart attack and was rushed to hospital, leaving him in critical condition after his heart stopped beating for nearly 90 minutes.

Hooked up to a ventilator and bleeding from his lungs, Cunningham’s mother Heather Cunningham was certain of he son’s fate.

“I watched my son die right in front of my eyes,” she told to the Arizona Daily Star in an incredible piece a month after the incident. “There was no doubt in my mind. I thought he was gone. From the minute he hit the ice I could tell there was something not right. The waiting was awful. It was the worst. The doctors coming, going, not coming back. Every time they enter the room, you’re like, ‘Is he still here or he didn’t make it?’ It was horrifying.”

(The Arizona Daily Star story goes in-depth, including not-often-used techniques to save Cunningham’s life)

Craig defied the odds. He’d end up losing his left leg in the process, a result of the heart attack that nearly killed him.

And it’s his story that makes the following video that much more incredible:

That’s the former Boston Bruins and Arizona Coyotes player working on his crossover step as he skates in a figure-eight pattern with his prosthetic leg. If you scroll over in the Instagram post you can see the skate attachment that he wore.

Cunningham’s caption to the video thanked the AHL’s San Diego Gulls for the ice time.

“Only 365 days until next season,” he wrote.

Cunningham’s stride looks fantastic, and he even made a nice cut in the video.

Skating backward, however?

“I still can’t skate backwards,” he said.

In due time.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

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.