Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach hopes to benefit from Chicago's salary cap exodus

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The reports of the Chicago Blackhawks’ demise as a Stanley Cup contender are greatly exaggerated.

Sure, they lost some valuable pieces. Dustin Byfuglien was a jumbo-sized headache for goalies like Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabokov. Kris Versteeg could provide the occasional jolt of goal scoring energy while Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd were quality character guys. Of course, they’ll have to make a transition in net from Antti Niemi and Cristobal Huet to Marty Turco and Corey Crawford.

Still, most of their very best players are still in Chicago. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell are still in the fold, so I think it’s hasty to shut the door on their status as contenders. They’re just lacking a bit in depth … unless their replacements break through in a big way.

One prospect who can gain a lot from the Blackhawks’ salary cap losses is big, tough forward Kyle Beach. NHL.com gathered his thoughts regarding his very high chances of making the NHL squad full time.

“Any time you see a teammate or friend get traded or go off to another team, it’s tough,” Beach said. “I started to get to know these guys pretty well throughout the playoffs as a black ace, at the training camps, at the Chicago Blackhawk conventions, different player appearances here and there, training in Chicago this summer. When they got the call, I know for them it was pretty devastating. It hurts to see them go, but at the same time, the NHL is a business.

“As much as it hurts to see them leave, that’s what was necessary to open this possible spot for myself. It’s very unfortunate, but it has to happen and hopefully that’s the opportunity I need to make the NHL.”

Not only is he replacing players with which he formed bonds, he’s also going to be asked to fill the roles of players who brought Chicago its first Stanley Cup since 1961. But Beach is looking at this as an opportunity to do something special, rather than looking at it as an unenviable situation where he has to fill the shoes of a champion.

At 6’3″, 200-plus lbs., Beach could be a nice fit for a team that lost some serious size when Byfuglien and Eager departed. It might take Beach and their other prospects a while to adjust to the NHL game, but if things work out, the Blackhawks front office could come off looking brilliant.

It’s a golden opportunity for Beach. We’ll see if he can make good on it.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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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.