Blues hire Jim Montgomery, formerly of Stars, as assistant coach

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While his former team the Stars just reached the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, Jim Montgomery will now serve as an assistant for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues announced a two-year contract for Montgomery as an assistant coach to Craig Berube.

“We are excited to add Jim to our team and to Craig (Berube’s) staff,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. “Jim has won at every level he has coached at and we look forward to him being a valuable addition to our team.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Montgomery goes from fired by Stars to hired by Blues

With this hiring, Montgomery takes the next step on what one would assume his journey to try to become an NHL head coach once again.

Back in December, the Stars fired Montgomery for “unprofessional conduct.” While specific details of incidents didn’t leak, Montgomery entered rehab for alcohol abuse in January.

For Montgomery, this is an opportunity to show GMs that he’s on the right track. (It may also be a wise way to ease back into the pressures of coaching. Being an assistant can’t be easy, yet you don’t face the same criticism as a head coach.)

It’s also a great deal for the Blues. (Even beyond needing to replace Marc Savard.)

As much credit as Rick Bowness deserves for the Stars’ 2020 Stanley Cup run, Montgomery’s responsible for putting together the framework for the Stars’ stingy defense. This team had been striving to play that clamp-down style ever since things went sour under Lindy Ruff, but it was Montgomery who most consistently found a winning formula.

… Until Bowness, it seems?

[More on the Stars making it to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final]

Either way, this gives the Blues a coach who appears to be a skillful tactician, while Montgomery gets a chance to prove himself.

This continues a busy week or so for the Blues. While it has not yet been confirmed, multiple reporters (including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and TSN’s Pierre LeBrun) indicate that Blues assistant GM Bill Armstrong is expected to become the Arizona Coyotes’ next GM.

MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Final schedule

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.