Ilya Kovalchuk helps Jacques Lemaire win game #600 in overtime over Toronto

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If ever there was a more proper way for Devils coach Jacques Lemaire to win his 600th game, doing so in a rather uneventful 2-1 overtime win over Toronto made for as appropriate of a statement as any. Making things even more ironic was seeing high-powered scorer Ilya Kovalchuk net the game-winner in the extra session helping the Devils to their third straight win and helping the team improve to 11-1-2 in their last 14 games.

Lemaire is famous for making his mark with the Devils during the mid-90s winning a Stanley Cup in 1995 courtesy of the infamous neutral zone trap. With the Devils playing a much more aggressive forecheck these days and an offense-stifling brand of hockey is giving Devils fans a reason to be excited again while their opponents are having flashbacks to a darker era. For Lemaire, however, the effort he’s putting in with these Devils in pulling them out of the basement and making some fans get hopeful for a run at the playoffs it might be his best coaching job to date.

Johan Hedberg led the way in goal for New Jersey while Martin Brodeur is out stopping 31 of 32 shots. James Reimer proved to be the hard luck loser for the Leafs in stopping 37 shots. Dainius Zubrus also scored for New Jersey while Nikolai Kulemin got Toronto’s lone goal thanks to a great set up by Phil Kessel.

With the win, the Devils are 13 points behind Carolina for the eighth seed in the East. It’s a long way to catch up for them, but with Carolina fighting inconsistency, Atlanta stumbling badly, and teams like Florida and Buffalo trying to keep pace the possibility of making the playoffs, as slim as it seems, still exists for the Devils. When they’re playing as tough as they are now and with Lemaire at the helm, you have to wonder why can’t the Devils make the playoffs. Mathematically is seems nearly improbable, but funnier things have happened.

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.