Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.

Krug vows that B’s won’t collapse again


All it took was three straight losses for the talk to turn decidedly negative in Boston.

The Bruins are now in the second wild-card spot in the East, just two points clear of the Islanders, who hold a game in hand.

But one year after the B’s finished 3-8-1 in their last 12 games, missing the playoffs for the second straight time, defenseman Torey Krug is vowing there won’t be another late-season letdown.

“I haven’t thought about it, I haven’t talked about it,” Krug said, per CSN New England. “It’s a different feeling this year. [A collapse] is not going to happen this year.”

The B’s host the Lightning tonight at TD Garden. Tampa Bay is five points back of Boston, so it’s a big game for both teams.

Saturday is another big one, when the B’s are in Brooklyn to take on the Isles.

“We’ve got to come to the rink with no other option except winning that game,” said Krug. “That’s the mindset we’ve got to have.”

Related: Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic

Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

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It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

And now he’s out again.

Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

“We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

Pre-game reading: Did Bettman’s letter to Arizona lawmakers backfire?


— Up top, Bob McKenzie talks about the future of the Coyotes in Arizona. As you probably know by now, the team has been pushing legislation that would help fund the construction of a new arena in the Greater Phoenix area, thus allowing the Desert Dogs to move from their current home in Glendale.

— Sticking with the Coyotes, did Gary Bettman’s letter this week to Arizona lawmakers hurt more than it helped? That’s what Dan Bickley, a columnist for The Arizona Republic, thinks. Bickley writes: “Nobody that cares about Arizona wants to lose our NHL team or our elite status as a big-league sports market. But few can rationalize another plateful of public funding to build another new arena for a NHL franchise that has one extended playoff run in 21 years.” (Arizona Republic)

Read more: Former Glendale mayor rips NHL, Coyotes in blistering letter

— What’s the best way for a goalie to get over a bad goal? Here’s what former NHL netminder Brian Boucher says: “The one thing you have to realize as a goaltender is you’re not perfect, you’re not going to be perfect.” But for top athletes who strive for perfection, that’s a lot easier said than done. And those who can’t shake off the bad goals only make things worse in their minds. (Sports Illustrated)

— With Steven Stamkos still hurt — and with Valtteri Filppula and Brian Boyle on other teams now — and with Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette all suffering injuries last night against the Wildrookie center Brayden Point just became an even more important player the Tampa Bay Lightning down the stretch. (TSN)

— On the return of Justin Schultz to Edmonton, where the Penguins defenseman started his NHL career with such high hopes, only to be traded away for a mere third-round draft pick. “I obviously didn’t play well at all when I was here, especially near the end,” said Schultz. “I needed a change in environment.” (Sportsnet)

Read more: With growth of Schultz, a ‘tough call’ looms for Penguins

— What would PK Subban do if he were the commissioner of the NHL? For one, he’d shorten the schedule. “Let’s play less games. Our game is just, if not more physical, than the NFL. They play 16 games a year. We play 82, plus travel, plus playoffs. … Jonathan Toews has played over 100 games a year, probably consistently, for the last five or six years. Think about the wear and tear on your body when that happens.” (Yahoo Sports)

Enjoy the games!

Hansen earns rave reviews after first game with Sharks

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It didn’t take long for Jannik Hansen to register his first point as a member of the San Jose Sharks.

Halfway through the first period of last night’s game against the Capitals, Hansen, in his first game for the Sharks, raced into the corner to recover a loose puck. He then wheeled behind Washington’s net, coming out the other side to feed Joe Thornton, who one-timed it past Braden Holtby to tie the contest, 1-1.

The Sharks would go on to win, 4-2. And afterwards, Hansen received rave reviews from his new head coach.

“I loved him,” Pete DeBoer said, per CSN Bay Area. “I like that he came as advertised. Energy, speed. He’s going to really help our penalty kill. I thought he fit in real good with Joe (Thornton) and Joe (Pavelski). He plays a man’s game out there. He’s really going to help.”

The Sharks acquired Hansen last week in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

“It felt like we were playing with him for a long time, it really did,” Pavelski told reporters. “He just went, and just went hard. Made a lot of plays. His speed, playing on the inside, allowed us to keep a few pucks alive.”

The Sharks host Nashville tomorrow.

Related: Hansen adds more speed to Sharks, who were already faster