Tonight on NBCSN: Rangers look to keep slumping Red Wings down in the dumps

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Both the New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings come into tonight’s game at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with plenty to play for. The Rangers want to keep the red hot Penguins off their back in the race for the top spot in the East while the Red Wings would like to get back to winning games and stay ahead of the Nashville Predators.

The slide the Red Wings are in right now is their worst of the season. Detroit has lost five in a row and 10 of their last 13 games. While the Blues have taken control of the Central Division, somehow the Wings haven’t fallen out of fourth in the West with both Nashville and Chicago chasing them thanks to both of those teams dealing with struggles of their own. Don’t let that fool you, things are bad for Detroit right now.

Jimmy Howard tweaked his nagging groin injury again and is out of tonight’s game. Add to that that Joey MacDonald has a back problem and Ty Conklin is on re-entry waivers to try and start tonight, things are bad in goal. With Nicklas Lidstrom skating but not ready to return to action as well as other injuries to Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jakub Kindl it’s no wonder the Wings are losing. That’s not stopping coach Mike Babcock from demanding better of his defense as they’ll need to be at their best to beat New York.

The Rangers are in paradise compared to where the Red Wings are at. New York has already clinched their berth in the playoffs and while coach John Tortorella is busy in his war of words with the Devils, the team is rounding back into form after recent struggles. Getting a win over the Devils was the Rangers third in their last five games. New York too has been dealing with some nagging injuries to Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto but have seen those two come back and play well of late.

With Henrik Lundqvist in goal, however, the Rangers have a distinct advantage over either Conklin or Jordan Pearce for Detroit. Lundqvist will still have his hands full dealing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, however. Falling asleep on those guys could help give Detroit the boost they desperately need.

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.