Jeff Carter performs well in Columbus debut, not enough as new look Jackets fall in opener

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Fans were excited to see what the new era in Blue Jackets hockey would look like. For the first time in Rick Nash’s career, he’d have a center who could keep up with him. At least that was the plan when we looked at the team on paper in the offseason. So what would it look like when the idea was put into practice in a regular season game?

Pretty good. Pretty darn good.

Columbus lost their first game of the season against the rival Nashville Predators, but it wasn’t due to lack of production from the Jackets new look top line. Newcomer Jeff Carter had a pair of assists in his Jackets debut, Vinny Prospal had a goal and assist, and captain Rick Nash had a goal and assist as well. Pretty good numbers considering the Predators feature the best defensive pairing in the league and one of the best goaltenders.

Unfortunately for Columbus, the rest of the team failed to get anything done and they fell 3-2.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Jeff Carter was upset about his trade out of Philadelphia. Most will remember that in the days immediately following the trade, Carter was nowhere to be found as he let the deal digest. But all that is in the past:

“It’s exciting to get out there and play a real game. It seems like the trade didn’t happen all that long ago, but now here we are, ready to go.”

Two assists are certainly a good way to get off on the right foot. The next step will be for the Blue Jackets to put a W in the win column—but Carter and his linemates undoubtedly did their part. Carter finished the game with his two assists (both at even strength), a +1 rating, 6 shots on goal, and won 77% of the draws he took in his first game. His 20:40 of ice time was second among Blue Jackets forwards—only behind captain Rich Nash. So much for easing the new guy into his new role.

Jackets head coach Scott Arniel acknowledged that he hoped that chemistry would develop quickly on his new top line and was happy with their effort in their first game. Even the opposing netminder acknowledged the play of the Carter-Nash-Prospal line:

“Every time they’re on the ice, they seem to have at least one scoring chance,” Rinne said. “Or at least they try to shoot and try to create every single shift. If you’re a goalie or a defenseman, it’s challenging…”

It was a good start for Carter in Columbus, but now the team as a whole will need to improve to start posting some wins. The first place to improve is on the power play. Despite the strong play from the big guns, the power play that struggled last season struggled during stretches again. Arniel counted eight chances on the power play—but the number that matters the most is 0. As in 0 for 5 on the power play. That’s not going to cut it for the team that finished 29th in the league with a 14% power play last season. But if the trio continues playing like they did tonight, those numbers are bound to turnaround.

For the first night in Columbus, Carter and his linemates gave fans something to look forward to. Now he’ll just need to get a little help from his friends. They’ll have 81 more games to show they’re capable of stepping up their 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.