PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin’s expectations; Spezza, Thornton boosting Leafs

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.

• Why Alex Ovechkin‘s production so far this season at 5-on-5 is exceeding expectations. [Japers’ Rink]

• How age will play a big factor in how the Seattle Kraken go about selecting their initial roster. [Sound of Hockey]

• Sean Burke is the new director of goaltending for the Canadiens after Stéphane Waite was fired Tuesday night. [Canadiens]

• Examining why Jack Eichel is having a down season. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• Gray beards Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza have been a boon to the Maple Leafs’ depth. [Sportsnet]

Carey Price or Jake Allen? The goaltending decision will a day-to-day one for Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme. [TSN]

• Bad times are easily erased away with wins, says Drew Doughty. [Mayor’s Manor]

• Here’s the update from Nashville: Ryan Ellis has an upper-body injury, out 4-6 weeks; Luke Kunin out with a lower-body injury (2-4 weeks); Ryan Johansen on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. [Predators]

• The great start by the Panthers can be attributed to their resilience. [Panther Parkway]

• The Senators are moving in the right direction. Whether it stays like that is a different story. [Featurd]

• The Flyers will welcome 3,100 fans in for home games beginning this weekend. [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

• Zayde Wisdom could be a part of the Flyers’ bright future. [Broad Street Hockey]

Trevor Zegras gives the Ducks hope that winning days are ahead. [Rotoworld]

• Now it gets real for the Blackhawks as their March schedule gets tougher. [NBC Sports Chicago]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    Blackhawks F Katchouk will be 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 Sunday.

    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.