Tonight on NBCSN: No. 8 Yale visits No. 18 Cornell in Ivy League mashup

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Legendary Lynah Rink in Ithaca, NY sets the scene for this Ivy League clash.

No. 18 Cornell Big Red (8-7-2) vs. No. 8 Yale Bulldogs (11-4-3) — 7:30 p.m. ET

Every season sees the Cornell Big Red have high hopes for a national championship attached to them. It comes with consistently being at the top of the ECAC. This season has been a bit more of a struggle for them, however, and facing off against a Yale team that’s on a roll makes tough times a little harder.

The Big Red have lost four of their last five games (1-4-0) and now they’ll head into tonight’s tilt without stud sophomore and Team USA World Junior gold medalist Cole Bardreau. Bardreau fractured his neck last week against Rensselaer. In case you were wondering if he was a real hockey player, he finished the game (!!!).

At the very least, coach Mike Schafer is happy to be back into league action after his misadventures in Denver. One thing he has to make sure his team does is stay out of the box. Cornell is leading the NCAA in penalty minutes.

Meanwhile, Yale is on a tear having won four in a row including a 4-0 steamrolling of Harvard last week on NBCSN. Yale’s hot streak has gotten them into the top ten in both polls and to fifth place in the all-important Pairwise Rankings (the system used to pick teams for the NCAA tournament). Coach Keith Allain has the team rolling and looking like tournament teams of the recent past.

NHL prospects to watch

Cornell boasts a roster with eight different NHL draft picks. The tops of them is Kings prospect Joel Lowry (SO – F) who’s second on the team in points. Bruins prospect Brian Ferlin (SO – F) has picked up his game as well. Nick D’Agostino (SR – D – Pittsburgh) is their most rock-solid blue liner.

Others to watch: Joakim Ryan (SO – D – San Jose), John McCarron (SO – F – Edmonton), Braden Birch (SR – D – Chicago), Reece Wilcox (FR – D – Philadelphia), Kirill Gotovets (JR – D – Tampa Bay).

For Yale, the big one to keep an eye on is the team’s leading scorer, junior forward Kenny Agostino (pictured). The Penguins prospect has 9 goals and 14 assists on the year and he’s tied in points with undrafted senior Antoine Laganiere. You’ll also senior forward Andrew Miller having a big game last week against Harvard.

Others to watch: Gus Young (JR – D – Colorado), Rob O’Gara (FR – D – Boston)

(Photo: David Silverman via ECAC)

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.

Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.