NHL on NBCSN: Hawks begin dynasty quest against hungry Capitals

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2013-14 campaign will kick off tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Washington Capitals at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

When does a team qualify as a dynasty in the NHL? Should we lower the standard because of the increased parity in the salary cap era?

The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup twice in the span of four seasons, although the team that just won is significantly different than the 2010 champions. Do they count as a dynasty? Maybe not, but they have the potential to become one.

When they won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Chicago’s salary cap issues forced them to immediately part with significant members of their team. This time around there was very little turnover. In fact, some might argue that the Blackhawks went to the other extreme and perhaps even overpaid players like forward Bryan Bickell in an effort to keep this group intact.

Certainly GM Stan Bowman took some risks over the summer, but sometimes great things come to the bold. For at least the next couple of years, Chicago has an opportunity to keep the team that just won the Stanley Cup largely together. We know that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are capable of leading a team to greatness and while the Blackhawks have question marks, the sky’s the limit for this young and talented squad.

On the other side of the coin is their opening game opponents, the Washington Capitals.

If you’re listing off the greatest players in the game, Alex Ovechkin’s name usually comes up quickly, especially after his resurgence under Capitals coach Adam Oates last season. Ovechkin has had a strong supporting cast at times too, but unlike the Blackhawks, Washington hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs during the Ovechkin era.

Still, they can’t be dismissed. If Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green stay healthy, goaltender Braden Holtby continues along his current path of development, and newcomer Mikhail Grabovski plays like a man that has something to prove, then they will be a very formidable team this season.

Chicago’s fight to become a dynasty and Washington’s quest to finally win the Cup starts tonight. Neither will have an easy time. Especially when they’re playing against each other.

Probable goaltenders: WSH – Holtby | CHI – Corey Crawford

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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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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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.