A little Lundqvist in him? Flyers counting on Hart in Game 7


The last time Barry Trotz coached against Alain Vigneault in the playoffs, Trotz’s team blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven games.

His New York Islanders took the same lead this year and have lost two in a row to Vigneault’s Philadelphia Flyers to set up Game 7 Saturday night.

”Probably a lot of similarities,” Trotz said. ”It was a series that was very closely contested. It’s a game of inches.”

The Vigneault-coached New York Rangers won that 2015 series against the Washington Capitals on the shoulders of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 105 of 110 shots during the comeback and 35 of 36 in Game 7.

This year, young Flyers goalie Carter Hart made a career-high 49 saves in a double overtime Game 6 victory. For history to repeat itself, he will likely have to do his best Lundqvist impression with a spot in the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning at stake.

”Without him (in Game 6), we’re not there,” Vigneault said. ”I’m not going to apologize for good goaltending. That’s what you need. They got outstanding when (Thomas) Greiss came in goal. They have got great goaltending from (Semyon) Varlamov. It’s been a hard-fought series. We need goaltending like anybody else that wins at this time of the year.”

Varlamov was the Capitals’ Game 7 goaltender in 2010 – pre-Trotz – for the end of their collapse after being the best team in the NHL regular season and blowing a 3-1 series lead to Montreal. He has been hot and cold this postseason. He broke the Islanders playoff franchise shutout streak record but got pulled earlier this series and looked shaky in Game 6.

Trotz wouldn’t tip his hand on starting Varlamov or Greiss, who won Game 4, with the season on the line Saturday (7:30 p.m. EDT, NBC).

”We believe in both the guys, and Varly’s obviously had a tremendous playoffs,” New York forward Brock Nelson said. ”He’s been maybe the reason why we’re at this point with the opportunity that we have. I think we believe in him.”

The Flyers have won three games in overtime in the same series for the first time in franchise history. Game 5 hero Scott Laughton has fond memories of watching Maple Leafs-Senators playoff series in the early 2000s and now gets to play one in the Toronto arena that was the site of so many of those games.

”It’s exciting,” Laughton said. ”You get a little bit of pit in your stomach before games and get a little nervous: a good nervous excitement, I guess. Really excited to go out there and have one game to try and go to Edmonton.”

No one is more important to that effort than Hart, the 23-year-old who is trying to succeed with a franchise that has been a goalie graveyard for longer than he’s been alive. Vigneault likes that Hart ”stops the puck. That’s what a goalie is supposed to do, stop the puck. That’s what he does.”

Hart has stopped 78 of 85 shots since returning to the net in Game 5. His 49 saves in Game 6 were the fifth-most in Flyers history, putting him in the same company as Hall of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup winner Bernie Parent.

”We’re all athletes, and we’re all expected to perform when we’re called upon,” Hart said. ”We don’t got to change anything. We just got to stick to our identity and just play hockey. Play the game.”

Vigneault believes Hart is still scratching the surface and implied he hasn’t reached Lundqvist’s level as a seasoned pro between the pipes. Hart will benefit from this experience, but his next game is a major test of how far he can carry Philadelphia.

”We trust him back there,” Laughton said. ”He makes a ton of big saves for our group and gives us momentum throughout a game. We trust him back there. It’s going to be fun to watch him.”

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

Rasmus Sandin
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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.