The time is now for the Dallas Stars to buckle down and figure out if they’re playoff contenders or pretenders and the St. Louis Blues will do whatever they can to keep them down at home tonight (7:30 p.m. ET).
The Stars have been besieged by injuries of late. A MCL problem has Mike Ribeiro on the shelf until after the All-Star Game while Jamie Benn is out of action for at least that long after having his appendix removed. That’s two of Dallas’ top four scorers meaning defense and goaltending are going to have to lead the way. Coach Glen Gulutzan has his hands full in keeping the Stars focused on the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the offensive production will have to come from Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, Brenden Morrow, and Steve Ott. Ryder’s been a pleasant surprise and Eriksson is always good, but it’s a tall order to do it without their playmakers.
If there’s an upside to dealing with the Blues, it’s that you don’t have to score a ton of goals to hang in games with them.
The Blues have risen to the top of both the Central Division and Western Conference thanks to a renewed commitment to defense thanks to new head coach, and former Stars coach, Ken Hitchcock. Getting stellar goaltending from both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak doesn’t hurt either. The Blues roll into tonight’s game winners of five of their last six.
Sure the Blues aren’t scoring a ton of goals, but they’re getting them from a lot of different guys. Six different Blues have double-digit goals and six different guys have 20 or more points on the season. While one of them is out in Alex Steen, guys like David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Jason Arnott, and Kevin Shattenkirk have picked things up from both the forward and defense positions.
They’ll have to get pucks past Kari Lehtonen tonight to keep winning and keep pace with Chicago and Detroit in the Central. Doing it against a Dallas team that knows their up against it starting tonight means the Blues will have to be especially sharp to win.
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.
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.
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.
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.