Boston’s potential strategy to deal with Vancouver? Play like Predators

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In taking a look at how the Stanley Cup finals shape up, the way the Vancouver Canucks have improved each round. After being pushed to overtime in Game 7 of the first round against Chicago, they went six games with Nashville, and just five against San Jose in the Western Conference finals. While the Bruins don’t have any former Blackhawks to work as a potential bogeyman for Roberto Luongo to have nightmares over, there’s another solution the Bruins could use to try and find a way to slow down the Canucks. They can play like the Nashville Predators.

While the Predators ultimately folded against the Canucks, one thing they were able to do was shut down the Sedin twins. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin combined for two goals and five assists over the six games and while that’s still OK production, it’s not like the kind of numbers we saw from the pair against either Chicago or San Jose. The Predators key to shutting them down was to have a pair of stellar defenders in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter shadow them for the majority of the series.

As it works out, the Bruins have a pair of defensemen playing spectacular themselves in the form of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. While Chara is the main focus of the defense, Seidenberg has been the sleeper hit of the playoffs for the Bruins. With the two of them paired up together, they were able to make life miserable on Tampa Bay and Philadelphia’s forwards. While Tampa forwards had a bit more success scoring, the work Chara and Seidenberg did throughout the Eastern Conference finals was outstanding. To beat Vancouver, those two will have to take a page out of Nashville’s book on how to stop the twins.

After seeing what Henrik Sedin did against San Jose scoring one goal and adding 11 assists, while Daniel Sedin added two goals and four assists of his own while helping linemate  Alex Burrows come away with three goals and three assists of his own, the defensive capabilities of not just Chara and Seidenberg will be tested but also those of potentially Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly.

Bergeron and Kelly are two of Boston’s better defensive centers with Bergeron being perhaps the best on the Bruins roster. Figuring out how to shadow both the Sedin line and Ryan Kesler’s line will be something coach Claude Julien will have to figure out. Nashville was able to shut down the Sedins but Kesler abused the rest of Nashville’s defense on his way to single-handedly dominating the series and vaulting himself to the top of the Conn Smythe Trophy consideration list.

If the Bruins can get all of their forwards as well as their defense to stick together and play “Bruins hockey” to help neutralize the Sedins, the series shapes up to be much more interesting than it appears on first glance. Taking the Sedins out of the scoring mix makes these teams a lot more similar than they already are and for Boston, taking that elite level of talent out of the mix would be a huge win for Boston. Asking Chara and Seidenberg and the rest of the Bruins to do that for up to seven games makes for quite the tall order.

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.