Pavelski enjoying life on scorching Kessel-JVR line

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The Olympics have seen some stellar line combinations, and the American trio of Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski, and James van Riemsdyk ranks among the best.

If not the best.

The trio has a combined 15 points in three games and Kessel leads the Olympic scoring race with seven points — but it’s the “new” guy on the line, Pavelski, that’s perhaps the most crucial element. Kessel and van Riemsdyk have a natural chemistry given they’re linemates in Toronto, so the San Jose center deserves credit for adapting to their style of play and taking a page from the book of Tyler Bozak — Kessel and JVR’s usual center with the Leafs.

“It’s nice coming in, knowing that him and JVR play together, and knowing what type of player Bozak is,” Pavelski said following Sunday’s 5-1 win over Slovenia. “It’s easy for me to come in and fill that role, read off them.”

So, what makes this trio so special? Versatility and sniping ability, for the most part.

Kessel is one of the best goal scorers in the game and remarkably quick, while van Riemdsyk is a big-bodied net presence that’s netted a career-high 24 goals already this season. Pavelski’s no slouch either when it comes to putting pucks in the net — he sits tied for fourth in the NHL in goals, with 29 — but in Sochi, he’s been more of a playmaker and racked up a team-high four assists (a lead he shares with van Riemdsyk.)

“Phil’s got that speed, and JVR you know he likes to be around the net,” Pavelski explained. “[I’m] filling in where I can, and we’ve had some success.”

While the Americans have received good contribution from a number of forwards, it’s clear the Kessel-Pavelski-van Riemdsyk line is driving the bus offensively. Head coach Dan Bylsma has juggled other combinations throughout the tournament but kept that red-hot trio intact throughout, a sign that it’ll be heavily counted upon as the tournament moves to the playoff stage.

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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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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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.