Jaroslav Halak haunts former team as Blues beat Habs

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Hockey fans will hear the same cliché over and over when players are facing their former teams. “It’s just another game” is the statement uttered most often—when what they really mean is, “It’s just another game that I want to win more than any other this season.” Jaroslav Halak has had a rocky season thus far, but his 4-1 win for the Blues over his former team from Montreal had to be the sweetest of his 21wins this year.

Halak did what he needed to win the game, but his defense did a good job in front of him and the Canadiens looked flat for most of the game. The former Habs netminder made 27 out of 28 saves; but Montreal looked like they were feeling the emotional letdown after their emotional victory over the rival Bruins on Tuesday night. No one would blame them if their minds were elsewhere—and unfortunately for Carey Price, it looked like the team in front of him wasn’t all there.

Going into the game, the major storyline was the Price vs. Halak match-up. But the game was only a one out of 82. If we’re looking to compare the two goaltenders, that debate has been settled over the course of the season. Halak got off to a great start to the season but has battled injuries and inconsistency this year. Not surprisingly, he’s been measuring his productivity against his former partner in crime.

“I think it’s easy to say right now when you look at the season, I haven’t been playing my best all the time. Carey has been playing good. It’s easy to say (Montreal) made the right decision, but you know, I’ve still got three years on my contract. I just need to focus on this season, finish this season strong and then who knows what’s going to happen next year.”

On the flip side, Price has been an all-star and is well on his way to being a Vezina Trophy finalist for the league’s best netminder. This season, there is no debate as to which player has been the better backstop for his team. Price has been proving Pierre Gauthier made the right decision in the offseason when he chose to move playoff-hero Halak. At the time, Pierre Gauthier was comfortable with the trade:

“The decision is based on our projections and we are very comfortable with Carey Price. He’s a young man that has almost 150 games in the league even though he’s only 22-years-old. He’s got a few rounds in the playoffs, [and] he won a Calder Cup in the American League at a very young age. He brings a lot to the table. He’s young man that we think will be a good goalie in this League.”

Now that we’re 65 games into the season, it’s safe to say that he’s just as confident with his decision today as he was back in July. But for a day – even if it’s just one day – Halak has bragging rights. After the game, Halak was announced as the #1 star of the game. Of course, Carey Price was the #2 star.

The only thing that could have made it better is if Lars Eller was the 3rd star of the game.

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.