Around the Rink – Sunday, December 5th

Let’s take a look at Sunday’s games, including a couple slightly odd start times. All start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET) though, of course.

1:00 pm

Philadelphia @ NY Islanders

The Devils gave the Flyers a good fight Saturday afternoon, but Philly proved to be up to the task. That’s good news, too, because the Bullies need to win against the East’s weakest teams if they want to keep pace with the ridiculously hot Penguins in the Atlantic. Such logic would obviously extend to beating up on the wayward Islanders as well.

5:00 pm

Ottawa @ NY Rangers

Perhaps before this game both teams can trade their best Wade Redden jokes, since he won’t be around to get all bummed out before he sees his latest paycheck. The Senators are on a three game losing streak, including a kick to the groin via Dany Heatley and the Sharks as well as Brian Elliott losing a dual shutout shootout with Ryan Miller and the Sabres. On the other end, the Rangers come into this one with a smile on their faces after handling a home-and-home with the hated Islanders.

7:00 pm

Calgary @ Chicago

This used to be a one-sided but interesting rivalry like the one the Blackhawks currently have with the Canucks. Unfortunately it isn’t what it once was because the Flames have regressed from a flawed, disappointing contender to a disconcerting waste of money (and the waning prime years of Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff). Then again, the Flames recently routed the Blackhawks by a score of 7-2 and Chicago is clearly struggling with being the defending champions/losing useful support players this season.

Still, the Flames are now only a win tie-breaker ahead of the Oilers for the bottom spot in the West, so this is the kind of game the ‘Hawks simply need to win.

8:00 pm

Phoenix @ Anaheim

Of all the NHL’s divisions, the Pacific might be the strangest (and also might be the most competitive). Each of its five teams has a legitimate reason to believe they will make the playoffs once we reach April. I get the feeling that if you spliced the best of these two teams (the Coyotes’ tight defensive scheme, the Ducks’ robust set of power forwards and veteran scorers + whichever goalie you prefer between Jonas Hiller and Ilya Bryzgalov) you’d get one scary team. Of course, the Ducks defense + Coyotes offense combo would be “Kathy Bates naked in a hot tub in About Schmidt” scary …

9:00 pm

St. Louis @ Vancouver

This is a prime example of “two teams heading in opposite directions” as the Canucks seem like they are back to being Stanley Cup contenders (four game winning streak, strong Northwest Division lead) while the Blues are starting to look like cellar dwellers (lost five in a row, last place in the Central).

Of course, this is a) hockey and b) the Western Conference, so there aren’t many gimmes. The Canucks should be angry with themselves if they lose this one, but that doesn’t mean they should take the Blues lightly.

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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.