NHL on NBCSN: Road-weary Rangers host Habs in renovated MSG

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Rangers are 3-6-0, they’ve been blown out of games, and Brad Richards is their only healthy player with more than a single goal. Healthy is an important distinction to make because on top of everything else, some of their top players are or have been sidelined already.

Still, it’s worth taking their shortcomings with a grain of salt because they’ve arguably had the toughest schedule in the NHL so far. We’re almost into November and the Rangers are only now finally able to play in front of their fans. Every other team has already played in at least three home games this season.

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“I think everybody is very very very happy to be home,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the Bergen Record now that the Madison Square Garden’s renovations are done.

“I was on a stretch in 2010 because the Olympics were in Vancouver we were gone from our home for a little more than six weeks if you count the two weeks for the Olympics. This was longer than that. If you count the exhibition games we played, this was longer than that.”

Vigneault didn’t want to use the length of their road trip as an excuse for the Rangers rough start, but he acknowledged the fact that it was a trying time. Fortunately for them, it’s in the past now. Tonight’s match doesn’t represent a fresh start for the Rangers — top forward Rick Nash along with captain Ryan Callahan are still hurt and going home doesn’t wipe the team’s record — but it provides them with a platform to stage their comeback.

Well, the venue is right at least, but on the other hand the Montreal Canadiens aren’t exactly the ideal team for the Rangers to face right now.

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has been superb this season and will be a particular challenge for a largely snakebitten Rangers squad. Montreal has also been one of the best teams with the man advantage while the Rangers are the second least disciplined club in the league when it comes to penalty minutes per game.

New York will have netminder Henrik Lundqvist back after he missed two games with an undisclosed injury, but he’ll have his hands full against a Canadiens team that’s been firing on all cylinders so far.

So the Rangers won’t have an easy time tonight, but at least now they have an opportunity to defend the Garden.

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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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.