Lightning’s Steven Stamkos to miss 6-8 weeks with core muscle injury

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Some tough injury news for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday as they announced forward Steven Stamkos will undergo a surgical procedure on Monday to repair a core muscle injury.

The injury is expected to sideline him for the next six-to-eight weeks.

Assuming that timeline does not change, that will keep him out for at least the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season and perhaps the early part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Stamkos, 30, has 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) in 57 games this season for the Lightning.

After a slow start to the regular season the Lightning have been one of the league’s best and most dominant teams since early November and once again look like one of the top Stanley Cup contenders in the NHL. They entered Saturday’s game against Calgary with the second-best record (by points percentage) in the NHL, trailing only the Boston Bruins.

Stamkos has been one of the league’s best goal-scorers for his entire career and is arguably the second-best pure goal scorer of this era, trailing only Alex Ovechkin.

But for as successful as he has been, he has also had some terrible injury luck that has robbed him of some of his prime seasons.

He missed 45 games during the 2013-14 season due to a broken tibia after scoring 25 goals in 37 games, and then missed 65 games during the 2016-17 season due to a torn meniscus (after nine goals in 17 games). He also missed all but one game of the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs (that saw the Lightning reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals) due to a blood clot issue.

Add half of a lockout shortened season (2012-13; 29 goals in 48 games) to all of that and it’s probably taken close to 100 goals away where he could be at this point in his career.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season the Lightning have been one of the league’s most successful teams, reaching a Stanley Cup Final, two additional Eastern Conference Finals, winning a Presidents’ Trophy, and winning more regular season games (294) than any other team in the league. Their 36 playoff wins during that stretch are also the third most in the league. Stamkos has been at the center of most of that success.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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.