Goalie nods: Budaj goes for Habs, Mason back in for Philly

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News and notes from around the crease on an unusually busy Friday…

Budaj gets rare start

Montreal will turn to Peter Budaj tonight in Columbus, his first game since allowing three goals on 30 shots in a loss to Colorado on Nov. 2.

Though the Canadiens don’t often start Budaj — Carey Price has been a workhorse this season — the Slovak netminder has established himself as a reliable backup and posted great numbers this year, with a 1.33 GAA and .953 save percentage.

It’s unclear who’ll go for the Blue Jackets on Friday. Sergei Bobrovsky was in goal for Thursday’s 3-2 OT loss to Boston.

Flyers go back to Mason

Philadelphia will give Steve Mason the start tonight in Winnipeg.

The Flyers find themselves with a “good problem to have” in terms of choosing a starter, as both Mason and Ray Emery are on top of their games. Emery was fantastic in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, stopping 30 of 31 shots — but Mason has been equally good of late, winning each of his last two starts (including a 5-0 shutout of the Sens in Ottawa on Tuesday).

The Jets will counter with Ondrej Pavelec in goal tonight. Like Mason and Emery, Pavelec has been on fire lately, winning back-to-back games while stopping 41 of 43 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory over Detroit on Tuesday.

Elsewhere…

Jonathan Bernier will get his second straight start for Toronto on Friday as the Leafs play in Buffalo. The Sabres will go with Ryan Miller in Ted Nolan’s coaching debut.

Cory Schneider is the Devils’ starter tonight against the Kings. Los Angeles hasn’t made a goalie announcement yet, but it’s expected Ben Scrivens will start his second straight in place of the injured Jonathan Quick (groin).

— It’s Marek Mazanec vs. Marc-Andre Fleury in the Nashville-Pittsburgh game, and Braden Holtby vs. Jimmy Howard in Washington-Detroit.

— Elsewhere, Tim Thomas will face off against Josh Harding as the Panthers visit the Wild, while Tuukka Rask will go up against Craig Anderson in Ottawa as the Sens host the Bruins.

— No confirmation yet, but Viktor Fasth could make his return from injury tonight for Anaheim. He’s been out since Oct. 16th with a lower-body injury. If Fasth does go, he’ll be up against Justin Peters, who will get the ‘Canes goal tonight in Carolina.

— The Oilers have confirmed that Devan Dubnyk will start tonight at home against the Sharks. San Jose, who beat Vancouver in overtime last night with Antti Niemi in goal, are likely to go to backup Alex Stalock against Edmonton, but that hasn’t been announced yet.

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.