Will he or won’t he play? Simon Gagne questionable tonight

Remember Simon Gagne? You know, the guy who was leading the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals last year who now plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning? Sure, you remember him but you haven’t seen much from him of late. Gagne’s missed the last 15 games for Tampa Bay and giving Flyers fans a reason to chuckle at the Lightning who felt that Gagne would be the answer to their offensive questions on the left wing.

Gagne’s been out of the Lightning lineup with a neck ailment that’s kept him out of action. So far this season in limited action, Gagne’s been very ineffective. Over six games, Gagne has zero points and a plus/minus rating of -8. That, to say the least, is ugly. With the Lightning set to take on the Rangers tonight, Gagne is close to returning and may even suit up tonight. We don’t know for sure yet and Lightning coaches haven’t been helpful in sharing. Damian Cristodero shares the mystery from Guy Boucher.

“He’s getting close, but we’ll see. He needs a bit more practice time with the team, but we’ll see. I don’t want to rule him out, but eh reality is he had only one practice with the team with the morning skate.”

So, it’s a timing thing?

“There’s timing involved here,” Boucher said. “If he would have had three or four practices with the team, he’d be a lot closer. He’s closer than he was before.”

And here’s the kicker:

“You never know,” Boucher said. “Maybe on Friday (at Washington) will be more realistic. Maybe he’s going to have a great nap this afternoon.”

We’ll know soon enough if the nap was good for Gagne, but whenever he does get back in the Tampa lineup, having him produce the way he’s capable of doing would be a huge lift to the team. Vincent Lecavalier is out and Steve Stamkos is doing all the heavy lifting for the offense. Getting Gagne going will give the Lightning better production and a better shot at making a run at the playoffs.

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    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.

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    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.