Sharks open up path of most resistance with loss to Ducks

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Losing to the Anaheim Ducks isn’t a season-killing disappointment for the San Jose Sharks. It doesn’t completely change their excellent chance to make it into the West’s top eight.

Still, when you look at the Sharks remaining schedule, this 5-3 loss was supposed to be San Jose’s easiest remaining contest. Every other match is against a team that’s either headed for the playoffs or desperately fighting the Sharks for one of the final spots.

Just look at the frightening stretch run for San Jose:

Tuesday: at Los Angeles
Thursday: vs. Boston
Saturday: vs. Phoenix
March 26: vs. Colorado
March 28: at Anaheim
March 29: at Phoenix
March 31: vs. Dallas
April 3: at Dallas
April 5: at Los Angeles
April 7: vs. Los Angeles

OK, so maybe one more game against the Ducks would theoretically give them a break, but they lost to Anaheim at home. What would make a road game against the Ducks any easier?

After that Ducks contest, the Sharks face five consecutive contests against Pacific division teams that will be battling them desperately for a playoff spot and/or the division title.

This regulation defeat technically bumps San Jose to 10th place, as you can see from this updated view:

7. Phoenix: 83 points, 30 regulation/OT wins and nine games left
8. Colorado: 83 points, 30 regulation/OT wins and eight games left

9. Los Angeles: 82 points, 30 regulation/OT wins and 10 games left
10. San Jose: 82 points, 29 regulation/OT wins and 10 games left
11. Calgary: 81 points, 31 regulation/OT wins and nine games left

Sharks fans should be excused for imaging what things would be like if this contest went differently. Even an OT/shootout loss would leave them tentatively in seventh place, yet this regulation loss dumps them to 10th.

The odds pour salt on the wounds

Sports Club Stats’ updated situation really kicks some more dirt into the faces of Sharks fans. Here are their odds for who will finish with the last few spots (and who will just miss):

Dallas (slight edge for Pacific): 65.8 percent chance to make playoffs
7. Los Angeles (60.6 percent)
8. Phoenix (60.2 percent)

9. San Jose (55.8 percent – down 14.7 percent)
10. Colorado (31.1 percent)
11. Calgary (28 percent)

Saving grace for San Jose

The one saving grace is the plus of that tough schedule: the Sharks control much of their “destiny” with a resounding three contests against the Kings and two matches against both the Stars and Coyotes. If they win the majority of those squabbles – particularly in regulation – then this loss will be looked as exchanging an alarm clock for waking up with a slap in the face.

Still, only the most stoic Sharks fan will claim that this didn’t hurt.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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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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David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
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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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Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
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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.