Watch out Ovi and Sid; Steven is on his way

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Stamkos.jpgIt seems that everyone is focused on the race between Alex Ovechkin
and Sidney Crosby for the scoring title, and even more enthralled by
what will happen with the rivalry if they tie. Yet there is one name
that could upset the balance, and put a major wrench in the neverending
battle between Ovechkin and Crosby:

Steven Stamkos.

In just
his second season in the NHL, Stamkos is just two goals behind the
NHL-leading Ovechkin and Crosby with 42 on the season. He’s been scoring
at an Ovechkin-esque pace ever since the Olympic break as well, with
seven goals in five games. Here’s another impressive stat: Stamkos could
win the scoring title while taking considerably less shots than
Ovechkin, who we all know scores simply because he puts an insane amount
of pucks on net.

The Tampa Bay Lightning take on the
Washington Capitals tonight, and Stamkos will get a first-hand attempt
at overthrowing Ovechkin’s lead. This will be another matchup of two
teams on opposite ends of the competitive spectrum, and it’s most likely
going to be another big win for the Capitals at home.

Yet that
raises an important question: is Stamkos’ accomplishment this season
more impressive than Ovechkin’s or Crosby’s scoring pace based on the
fact that the team he is on simply isn’t that good? Ovechkin has Semin
and Mike Green, Crosby has Malkin. Sure, Stamkos plays with Vincent
Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis but they are shells of the players they
once were.

Here’s a telling stat: Out of 42 goals this season,
only three have been game-winning goals.

Personally, I’m hoping
that Stamkos is able to pull it off and grab the lead from Crosby and
Ovechkin. Those two superstars will always be the NHL’s top superstars,
but the league needs new blood. That Stamkos plays for the Lightning is
both tragic and a blessing; he won’t get the national recognition he
deserves but hopefully he can bring some (good) attention back to
Florida.

He’s not a flawless player, and he still has a very long way to go before he reaches the level of Ovechkin and Crosby. His assists are relatively low, and according to Cassie McClellan he’s a very one-dimensional player. But it’s just his second season; still time to grow and learn.

I know everyone loves to debate Ovi vs. Sid the Kid, but
the NHL needs some new players in that game. Hopefully Stamkos is the
guy.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.