2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Ville Leino continues to roll

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Leino.jpgFor some players, it just takes a change of scenery to really unleash
the talent everyone expected them to have. Others, it’s increased
minutes or a different role on the team. For some, it’s both.

For Ville Leino, it has been the postseason.

Traded from the Red Wings to the Flyers in the middle of the season,
Leino scored just two goals in 13 games before the postseason started.
He showed flashes at times for the Flyers, but I doubt that anyone
realized just how good he would be for this team when they needed every
player at their best.

With his seventh goal of the playoffs last night — which turned out
to be the game-winning goal — Leino passed Bryan Propp to break the
franchise record for points by a rookie in the playoffs. Leino has 16
points in 17 games, and has become somewhat of a revelation in
Philadelphia.

After scoring his goal, one that came off a great effort and a lucky
bounce, the home Flyers crowd stood and roared their appreciation for a
player that was just an afterthought in a mid-season trade. What was great to see was how Leino immediately deflected questions about the record and just wanted to talk about his team’s win.

“It was a special moment,” he said with a grin. “It was a fun game. It was a nice little
moment. I will remember it always. Good win there too. So it was a
great game.”

Leino didn’t
just arrive in Philly and set the town on fire, as the Flyers struggled
to find a role for him on the team. For Leino, it was certainly a low
point in his career.

“My confidence was at an all-time low there for a while,” Leino said.
“It was tough when I got here. I didn’t get a chance right away. I
played a few games, and after that I didn’t play again. It was just
tough. Obviously, you go through emotions there and think maybe you
won’t ever get a chance.”

According to the NHL, Leino is
technically considered a rookie. Yet even if he wasn’t, if he was just a
castoff from the Red Wings as he struggled at 26 years old to find his
place in the NHL, his resurgence in the postseason would still be just
as tremendous.

He was knocked around a bit by Brian Campbell in
the game and had to leave, and immediately Flyers fans were worried
about their team’s chances. Leino has become a vital part of this Flyers
team and his confidence soars with each game. You can see it in his
eyes; this is a man that is having the time of his life out on the ice.
That’s not what was happening just a few months ago.

It’s amazing
what happens when your team is confident in you. Right now, that
confidence is at an all-time high for Ville Leino.

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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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.