Risk Factors: Carolina Hurricanes edition

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From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you“Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,”PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,”i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Carolina Hurricanes

Who will fill in for Jordan Staal?

We say fill-in because lets face it, no one currently on the Carolina Hurricanes roster is going to altogether replace Staal, who is expected to miss 3-4 months after undergoing surgery on his broken leg.

With the No. 2 center position vacant, the Canes appear to be heading into the 2014-15 season with Riley Nash pencilled in for Staal. Nash, originally a first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers (21st overall in 2007) has 110 career games under his belt predominantly in bottom six role.

“It’s a lot of minutes that just went down with that injury,” Nash recently told the Charlotte Observer. “There’s quite a few guys in here who are looking for that opportunity to fill a void and take on new roles they didn’t necessarily have last year.”

Nash set career highs with 10 goals, 24 points and 73 games played last season while averaging 12:40 in TOI. If he is the solution as Staal’s fill in, he’ll get a significant bump up in ice time. Being the second line center could also see his career highs take another spike in 2014-15 as well as he is likely to play between Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm.

Behind Nash is 21-year-old rookie Victor Rask, who has 86 games of professional experience under his belt all with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. Rask along with free agent signing Jay McClement, who spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, will also see an increased role without Staal.
“It’s going to trickle down through the lineup,” new head coach Bill Peters said.

The schedule makers aren’t doing the Canes any favors either. Carolina opens the season at home Oct. 10 against the Islanders, but six of their first eight games are on the road.

Rookie GM Ron Francis tasked with guiding the franchise in the right direction 

Ron Francis may be a hall of famer as a player, but as a general manager, he’s a fresh faced rookie and he’s been handed the daunting task of turning the franchise, which has qualified for the playoffs just once in the past eight seasons in the right direction.

Francis’ welcome moment may have come this summer when he tried, unsuccessfully, to deal goaltender Cam Ward and his  summer. Lets call the Ward situation Problem 2 after Staal complicated things at center for Francis.

Francis addressed the notion that the team needed a fresh start after he fired Kirk Muller in the offseason, but a quick look at the team’s projected lines for the upcoming season and the only thing that looks remotely fresh is the team’s fourth line. Zach Boychuk and Chris Terry only played 10 games each with the big club last season while McClemment was with the Leafs.

“I don’t foresee a major makeover,” Francis said in May. “We’ve got some pretty good pieces in place. I know it’s been frustrating that we haven’t made the playoffs in five years. … We believe we have a pretty good group here that can compete and win.”

A team which hasn’t qualified for the playoffs for five years needs to make some changes. Francis will be in charge of doing that.

According to CapGeek, the Hurricanes have over $5 million to work with and that’s before Staal goes on long-term injured reserve, which he will likely do this week.

There’s also the matter of owner Peter Karmanos Jr. listening to offers in an effort to sell the franchise.

It’s alot easier to sell a team when the product on the ice is heading in the right direction.

Peters behind the bench

The only thing fresh about the Hurricanes this season is behind the bench as rookie coach Bill Peters looks to swing the hammer and get the franchise back into the playoffs. Petters vows to use ice time as a motivator to get his team moving in the right direction.

The 49-year-old may be a rookie in the NHL, but he’s had success elsewhere.

He led the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs to the Memorial Cup in 2008. Peters then coached the Rockford IceHogs from 2008-10 and was responsible for as many as eight players joining the Chicago Blackhawks and winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 or 2013.

Peters has spent the past three seasons on Mike Babcock’s staff in Detroit where he was responsible for the team’s defense and penalty killing.

So his answer, when asked about his coaching style, should come as no surprise.

“I want to have the puck. … If you’re not good defensively in the National Hockey League and you don’t know how to play in your own end, you know what end you play in,” he said. “You never get out of your own end. And it’s that ‘here they come again’ feeling. … In order to be a good hockey team, you’ve got to be good in the defensive zone, you’ve got to be efficient, you’ve got to be able to get through the neutral zone, and go have fun in the offensive zone.”

Peters is saying all the right things, but like Francis, Peters is in the first year as the lead man in his position. It’s a lot different when you’re an assistant compared to the head honcho.

It’s going to be interesting to see if Peters can lead the Hurricanes, who finished 22nd in goals for (2.50) and 19th in goals against (2.76) per game last season in the right direction this season.

Carolina finished 13th in the Eastern Conference last season 10 points back of the Detroit Red Wings for the second and final wild card spot.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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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.