Hunter and Muller eras begin on wrong foot

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Both the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes were hoping to get a boost on the ice with new coaches taking over behind the bench on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Caps were unable to get much offensive going for Dale Hunter in his debut in Washington. Likewise, the Hurricanes had a tough time finding the net in Kirk Muller’s first game behind the bench in Carolina.

Forget the boost in energy—maybe they should have hoped for a boost in offense.

Both the Capitals and Hurricanes started off their new eras on the wrong foot. The Capitals could only muster a single goal as the red-hot St. Louis Blues came into town and won their fourth straight game by a 2-1 score. A little further south in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes could only muster a single goal of their own for their new leader as well as the Panthers outscored them 3-1 in Kirk Muller’s first game. It doesn’t matter what a coach teaches or inspires—if they don’t score more than a goal, they’re not going to win very many games.

Each team only has to look at their opponents to see how much a new coach can help a team find success. Ken Hitchcock has helped the Blues completely turn their season around since he took over 11 games ago. St. Louis has already worked for eight wins under their new bench boss and has earned points in 10 of Hitchcock’s 11 games. Luckily for the Caps, they can expect Dale Hunter to have a similar coaching style as the successful Hitchcock. Now they’ll just have to hope for similar results.

In Carolina, Kirk Muller could look to the opponent’s bench to see the success Kevin Dineen has had in the early going this season. Even though most people expected the Panthers to struggle again this season, they’re sitting on top of the Southeast Division and in third place in the Eastern Conference. Fans and management in Carolina hope that the new voice behind the Hurricanes bench will produce similar results as the season goes on.

It’s a long season and both Hunter and Muller will have plenty of opportunity to put their stamp on their team over the course of the season. The next chance for Hunter’s Capitals to find the win column is against the rival Penguins (a team that has been just as hot as the Blues) on Thursday. For Kirk Muller and the Hurricanes, they’ll look forward to a date with the New York Rangers on Thursday as well.

It’s not going to get any easier for either of these teams as they look to find their footing.

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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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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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.