Alex Burrows fesses up to spearing Marc Staal’s groin, vows never to do it again

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The new Alex Burrows that’s been less caustic in his actions than ever before in his career is still rough but working on his nice side. During the Canucks 1-0 loss to the Rangers Thursday night, he was locked in a battle in front of the net with defenseman Marc Staal. Burrows used his stick to pull a wrestling heel-like move and spear Staal in the crotch. Thankfully, Staal was wearing his athletic supporter and was able to pop back up and then get busted for tripping Burrows in retaliation.

No penalty was called on Burrows for the incident and no league action was taken against Burrows for it. Rangers coach John Tortorella wasn’t exactly happy with the non-call after the game.

“It’s ridiculous,” Tortorella said. “It’s dangerous. The thing that bothers me is how don’t you see it? And that’s what was told to me, that they didn’t see it. That’s a dangerous play on Marc Staal. It’s beyond me how two guys don’t see it. If I’m Marc Staal, I try to retaliate too. I try to break his ankles.”

When Burrows was asked about the play his take on it was shockingly honest and mild mannered.

Burrows wasn’t taking the bait Friday. He chose to fess up, rather than give a retort to Torts.

“I heard about it, but that’s OK,” said Burrows, who has just 20 penalty minutes this season. “I thought we had good battles all night in front of the net and those things are going to happen. For sure, I’m aware of that [spear], but sometimes in the middle of a battle, you might do things you regret. But those are things I don’t do on a regular basis.

“Obviously, I did it and hopefully it won’t happen again.”

Who is the person that’s taken over Alex Burrows and where is the real one? We ask this because the old Alex Burrows, at least the one we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the last few years, would play the role of the prototypical villain in that he’d commit a heinous act and then get indignant when questioned about it.

While that’s good and refreshing to see Burrows to be so cool and even-headed about everything, it doesn’t reduce how rotten and rather unmanly his tactic for disposing of Staal was. It’s baffling that the league didn’t even make a call to Burrows about the move, but perhaps they already had their calendars filled with dealing with Shane O’Brien and Mike Brown who were each suspended yesterday.

At the very least, Burrows has to be thanking his lucky stars that John Tortorella isn’t a player anymore. I wouldn’t want to cross Tortorella when he’s angry. Ever.

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    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.

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    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.

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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.

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    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.

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    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.