PHT Morning Skate: More NHL teams hope to have fans in attendance

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• NBC Sports will premiere “Doc Emrick – The Voice of Hockey,” detailing the illustrious career of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and eight-time Sports Emmy Award winner Mike Emrick on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, leading into coverage of the NHL outdoor game at Lake Tahoe featuring the Bruins and Flyers. [NBC Sports]

NHL teams continue to navigate COVID, could more bring back fans?

• Add the Tampa Bay Lightning to the list of NHL teams hoping to gradually bring back fans. In the case of the Lightning and Amalie Arena, the estimate is to have about 3,800 fans in attendance. This is contingent on COVID rates, as the word is the Lightning (and NBA’s Raptors) are expected to wait until mid-March. [Tampa Bay Times]

• Also hoping to rank among NHL teams hosting fans at games: the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus Public Health approved the Blue Jackets to host about 1,953 fans in attendance at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets still need approval from the Ohio Department of Health, though. [The Columbus Dispatch]

• Another element of the John Chayka front office is gone from the Coyotes. The team terminated assistant GM Steve Sullivan’s contract, and they won’t fill that now-vacant position this season. [Coyotes]

• Amid COVID disruptions, other games keep going, and the NHL forges on. But with the number of postponed games climbing, should the league take a break to assess options? [Los Angeles Times]

Other hockey links

• Looking back at the stellar careers of Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux after they recently hung up their skates. [The Ice Garden]

Givani Smith of the Red Wings is happy to see more diversity in the NHL. [The Hockey News]

• During a trying season, some see Chris Kreider emerging as the Rangers’ “true” captain. [New York Post]

• Look, the Canadiens weren’t going to score at the rate they started at all season. But is it possible that Montreal has been getting away from its strengths, such as speed in transition, lately? [Habs Eyes on the Prize]

• It’s tough for people to see Tyler Toffoli dominate, and the Canucks struggle, and not point to free agent losses in explaining the Canucks’ problems. For Bo Horvat, it’s not about that. [TSN]

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

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.