TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

Saturday: Tampa Bay at Phoenix (8 p.m. ET)

The Lightning are a perfect 2-0-0 since Steven Stamkos broke his tibia, including a 5-1 destruction of the Ducks Thursday night. But now they’re facing a four-game trip to Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Anaheim. That slate of games would test any team, let alone one missing an elite player like Stamkos. As for the Coyotes, they’ve been outshot by a whopping margin, 91-49, in their last two games. The results? A win in St. Louis and a shootout loss in Chicago. Could’ve been worse.

Sunday: St. Louis at Washington (6 p.m. ET)

A tough test for the Caps. St. Louis is just so good at controlling the puck and, as a result, limiting total scoring chances. In fact, the Blues have kept opponents to 24 or fewer shots in each of their last four games. They absolutely destroyed Colorado Thursday, exploding for seven goals against an Avs side that had been one of the NHL’s stingiest. We still wonder if GM Doug Armstrong should go out and get a Jaroslav Halak insurance policy (possibly Ryan Miller), but there’s plenty of time to decide that before the March 5 trade deadline.

Sunday: San Jose at Chicago (7 p.m. ET)

The Sharks finish their current five-game road trip at the United Center against the defending champs. It’s been an OK trip so far, with a shootout loss in Winnipeg and wins in Calgary and Vancouver. But despite the five points out of a possible six, they’re still not playing the way they’re comparable of. San Jose was lucky to get last night’s game versus the Canucks to overtime…

…and afterwards head coach Todd McLellan admitted, “We weren’t the better team tonight.” Before traveling to Chicago, San Jose has to play Friday in Edmonton against an Oilers side that hasn’t scored in its last three home games. The Sharks were dominant earlier this season. They’ll likely need to get back to that level to get a win against the ‘Hawks.

Sunday: Los Angeles at NY Rangers (7 p.m. ET)

The Kings escaped Long Island Thursday evening with a 3-2 victory over the Islanders, thanks to some questionable goaltending from Kevin Poulin and a bonehead penalty by Colin McDonald. For L.A., it was the first of what could be quite a few games without star goalie Jonathan Quick, and fans are rightly wondering how backup Ben Scrivens will fare. But here’s the thing: Quick hasn’t even been that good this season. His .905 save percentage is right down the near bottom of the regular-starters list. You could even argue the Kings had been winning in spite of the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient.

Sunday: Dallas at Vancouver (8 p.m. ET)

If you haven’t heard of the Roxy Flu, read this first. After you’re done with that, consider that the Dallas Stars have two nights off before Sunday’s game at Rogers Arena. Now consider they’ve won five of their last six, including a huge 7-3 victory Thursday in Calgary. They deserve to have some fun, right? In a related story, Lindy Ruff just locked Tyler Seguin in his hotel room.

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    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.

    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.