Playoffs Tonight: Will ‘Hawks win the Cup tonight?

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Game 6: Boston Bruins host Chicago Blackhawks (8:00 p.m. ET — NBC/Live Extra)
Chicago leads series 3-2

The Chicago Blackhawks started this season with a historic 21-0-3 run and could finish it tonight by claiming the Stanley Cup. Of course, no one is saying that it will be a simple matter to beat the Boston Bruins one final time. Not in Boston. Not after everything the Bruins have achieved to this point.

“We’re an experienced group that’s been through a lot,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Not just that but we have a good group of guys that understand what’s at stake. They understand what’s happening, and they know what they need to do.”

“You’ve got to be careful,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said, “you’ve seen a couple years ago Boston was down 3-2, they won at home and then won Game 7 in Vancouver. We know this team is capable of coming back.

“For us I know it’s a big game, but you want to play it like it’s any other game, play the way we have all season, and try to pull one out here on the road.”

Anything is possible if Patrick Kane has another game like he had on Saturday when he beat Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask twice to lead Chicago to a 3-1 victory. Kane is the Blackhawks’ playoff scoring leader and he’s been a big contributor in the Stanley Cup Final with three goals and five points in five games.

He’s also the man who won the 2010 Stanley Cup Final with his overtime marker in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Is it possible that history might repeat itself tonight?

“I think the biggest thing is trying to help contribute anyway I can,” Kane said, “help this team get a win, especially the situation we’re in. You want to take advantage of it in the next game. We have a great opportunity. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win, and it would be a great feeling.”

On the other side of the ice, Bruins forward Brad Marchand is one of the guys to keep an eye on. He’s not an offensive superstar like Kane, but he can be very dangerous when he’s hot and he was one of the guys that came up big for Boston late in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

He doesn’t have a point in this series, but…

“Well, if he’s going to be a streaky player I would hope that streak starts [tonight],” Julien said. “I don’t think he’s played terrible, but certainly he knows he can play better.”

Then of course, there’s the elephant in the room. The 2012 and 2013 Selke Trophy winners – Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews – are both questionable for Game 6. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is “optimistic” about Toews’ chances of playing while Julien would only say Bergeron is “day-to-day.”

Both of those players are so talented and help their teams in so many different ways that either loss would be hard to overcome. If one of them ends up playing and the other doesn’t, it could tip the scales of tonight’s contest.

At the same time though, these squads are so deep and so much is on the line that it’s hard to call either team the clear favorite of Game 6 regardless of what happens with Bergeron and Toews.

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.