Around the rink – Sunday, January 9th

It’s Sunday so that means the schedule is a bit lighter than usual but not without intrigue. Take a look with us around the rink to see what’s in store tonight in the NHL, a schedule that includes the streaking Wild looking to win again. All times Eastern, as per usual.

1:30 p.m.

Atlanta @ Carolina

Atlanta would like to put every bit of their 9-3 loss to the Maple Leafs out of their minds and beating a Carolina team sneaking up on them in the standings would help that out. The Canes are just six points behind Atlanta in the Southeast Division and a win would send the message that they’re as much of a threat as the Thrashers are. The Hurricanes will be banking on Cam Ward and Eric Staal to carry the load for them much in the same way the Thrashers ask Ondrej Pavelec and Dustin Byfuglien to do the same for them. Either way, it’s got the makings of a great early-afternoon tilt.

5:00 p.m.

Tampa Bay @ New Jersey

The Lightning are coming off a lackluster win over Ottawa last night and getting one over on the hapless Devils would go a ways towards helping Tampa Bay get past some woes they’ve had in beating teams they ought to. As for the Devils, you have to think that Martin Brodeur will get a shot to win after he took over for Johan Hedberg yesterday afternoon in the first period. The Devils have lost four straight and their miserable season trudges along regardless of who is in goal.

6:00 p.m.

Dallas @ Minnesota

Don’t look now but the Minnesota Wild are a playoff team. The Wild are seventh in the Western Conference at the moment and have Jose Theodore to thank for that. After Theodore’s efforts against both Boston and Pittsburgh, the Wild have jumped up into playoff position in the West. Getting timely goals from Martin Havlat and Cal Clutterbuck have helped the cause as well. Dallas, meanwhile, wants to shake off a shootout loss to the Rangers and hold strong to their spot atop the Pacific Division. Beating what’s been a tough Wild team would make for a good confidence booster.

7:00 p.m.

NY Islanders @ Chicago

We’re not sure how the Islanders have been doing it, but they’re winning games. They’ll head to Chicago after a tough overtime win over Colorado and winners of four of their last five games. Chicago would like to just start showing the ability to win consistently. The Islanders roll into the game with numerous injuries but with young goalies Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin you’d like to think they don’t have much of a shot. Then again, Corey Crawford has come out of obscurity to be the Blackhawks top netminder. All of a sudden, it doesn’t look to be as big of a mismatch after all.

8:00 p.m.

San Jose @ Anaheim

The Sharks could use a win in the worst way. They’ve been ravaged by inconsistent play and are coming off a tough loss to Nashville last night. Meanwhile, Jonas Hiller and the Ducks have been a fly in the ointment to virtually every team they’ve encountered this season. On paper, the Ducks look like a team that shouldn’t win as often as they do, yet there they are near the top of the Pacific Division. The Ducks are winners of four of their last five games going into this intra-California affair.

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    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.

    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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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.