Lost at sea without a skipper: The plight of the NY Rangers

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drury.jpgBoston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 21, 2010
Live on NBC

Join us for a live chat during today’s game at Noon EST.

When Sean Avery is the only player on your team that shows any
personality, that has any sort of ability to muster up the motivation to
raise his level of play when it counts, then perhaps succeeding in the playoffs is the least of your worries.

The New York Rangers, in March and in the
middle of a playoff race, are searching for an identity as a team.
What’s more, as soon as any of the players start to show some life or personality towards the media and the public, coach John
Tortorella is quick to squash it and calls his players out for speaking
out of turn.

Is it even possible for a team like this to actually
make it to the playoffs?

No future without any life.

Yesterday I gave my reasons why the Rangers would find a way to pass the
Bruins for 8th in the East, but I have to admit that was a tough task to
tackle. I’ve watched a number of Rangers games this season — full
games, not just skimming through on Center Ice like I have to do each
night — and one thing is becoming extremely clear as the playoffs near:
the New York Rangers don’t care.

I’m not convinced this is a team
that even wants to make the playoffs. Thanks to some major issues that
the Boston Bruins have had of their own the past few weeks, the Rangers
have had the chance to not only catch up to Boston in the standings but
to actually surpass them.

The way they’ve played in these big
games lately, you would have guessed they were trying to tank the season
for the number one draft pick this summer.

Will the real,
overpaid and outdated leader please stand up?

I can only
imagine how Rangers fans felt watching Chris Drury in the Olympics. As
an American, I couldn’t have been more proud of the veteran who was the
heart and soul — aside from Ryan Miller — of Team USA; selling out his
body to block shots, giving it 120% every shift. It seemed our doubts
as to why he had been chosen for the team were not applicable this time.

Drury
has just one goal and six points in the nine games since the Olympics;
not… bad, but certainly not what you’d expect from your captain
while the team is in the midst of a playoff race.

He at least tried to be a bit of leader
this past week, as he called out his team as being ‘immature’, until
coach Tortorella was able to stuff the muzzle back over his mouth and
put him back into the locker room closet.

So if Drury can’t step
up as the leader of this team, who then? Marian Gaborik? He’s more
concerned about just scoring goals and protecting his injury-prone body
than actually winning and leading a team. Ryan Callahan perhaps, but
Torts would probably put the kabosh on anything he tries to do. Perhaps
being a leader is overrated; it seems that’s the way Tortorella sees it, at
least.

Just go out and play.

I can see Tortorella’s point
in one regard; the players should just shut their mouths and actually
produce on the ice. We have all this talk and consternation about locker
room leadership and the perception in the media, what about actually
winning once the games start? If you are as intent on winning and being
successful as you claim; show it in the games.

We all know there’s
one player on the team who can actually muster the motivation to raise
the level of his game, but those are for purely selfish reasons. The
rest of the team is just content to skate through each game on their way
to the golf course in April.

The good news? They play a team with
very similar issues today on NBC.

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

austonmatthews
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

caufield surgery
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.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

Andrei Kuzmenko
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.