Don't forget about the Phoenix Coyotes

Everyone is focused on Chicago, Washington, Pittsburgh, San Jose and
Buffalo (and some others of course) but unfortunately the only coverage
the Phoenix Coyotes are getting this year generally have to do with the
situation surrounding their ownership issues.

Yet the Coyotes are a
team that has maintained a high level of play all season, have a great
shot at being successful in the playoffs and barring a historic collapse
will finish with the best regular season in team history, and the best
since Winnipeg’s 43-win season in 1985.

The Coyotes sit 4th in the
West and most likely will not finish any higher unless they find a way
to overcome San Jose for first in the Pacific.

With a win tonight, the Coyotes will have the best regular season in franchise history, starting to put the finishing touches on one of the more remarkable turnarounds a team
has had from one season to the next.

Dave Tippett has instilled a
sense of professionalism and pride in a team that has been lost for far
too many years. I understand the hope was that Wayne Gretzky would have
been able to do the same, but he’s just another example that not every
former great player can translate their skill into coaching.

At
the beginning of the season some — including myself — believed that
the Coyotes were winning based on the exceptional play of Ilya
Bryzgalov. Yet if you watch them play you see that it’s not just great
goaltending that’s leading the Coyotes, it’s the fact that this is a
team that truly plays as a team. Every player buys into the
system and what their role is and it translates into the product on the
ice.

This is a team that can be very dangerous in the playoffs,
and will be one that no one wants to face in the postseason. Their
confidence in the system and in each other will be extremely valuable,
and Tippett’s defensive style will frustrate any team that relies on
it’s offense to win games. He’s brought some old-school approaches to
Phoenix and it’s causing nothing but trouble for their opponents.

They
aren’t without their flaws, however. The Coyotes struggle to score
goals, which led to the number of moves they made at the trade deadline.
The power play is the worst in the NHL, and the team is hoping that
Mathieu Schneider can help cure some of their extra-man woes. And while
their winning has started to bring fans back, you can’t exactly say that
Phoenix has home-ice advantage at this point.

Just making it out of the first round of the playoffs will be a
heck of an accomplishment and something the Coyotes have never done
since moving to Phoenix.

The disparity between what’s happening on
ice and what’s happening off ice with the Coyotes is jarring, but under
Tippett’s steady approach the team is much more calm and reliable than
their ownership situation. And it couldn’t have come at a better time;
the NHL is strictly against moving the team if at all possible and with
the Coyotes winning again — and if they continue to win in the playoffs
— then it will become much tougher to do so in the near future.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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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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    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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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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    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
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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.