Risk Factors: New Jersey Devils 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.

New Jersey Devils

1. Not getting younger

A 28-year-old player told me last season that it’s a “young man’s game now” imagine what said player thinks looking at the roster of the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have nine players on their 23-man roster released Tuesday who are 32-years or older.

New Jersey entered the 2013-14 as the oldest team in the NHL and in the offseason they went out and got older. Despite 42-year-old Martin Brodeur not returning, the Devils went from an average age of 29.83 last season to 31.23 this season. Leading the way of course is 42-year-old future hall of famer Jaromir Jagr. The Devils also went out and added 33-year-old Martin Havlat and 32-year-old Mike Cammalleri in the summer. In goal, to replace the aging Brodeur, GM Lou Lamoriello went out and acquired 37-year-old goaltender Scott Clemmensen to backup Cory Schneider.

New Jersey also made news last month inviting several aging veterans to its’ camp. Despite cutting Ruslan Fedotenko (35), Tomas Kaberle (36) and Mike Komisarek (32), Jordin Tootoo (31) was signed on Tuesday and Scott Gomez (34) remains on a “taxi squad” awaiting a contract offer.

Without even counting Gomez, the Devils forward group carries an average age of 30.8.

2. No training wheels for Schneider

For the first time in his career Schneider enters the season as the clear-cut No.1 goaltender in New Jersey.

In years previous he had the comfort of knowing Brodeur or Roberto Luongo were around, but this season he’ll be expected to carry the load and start 60-plus games for the Devils. If last season is any indication, he can handle a heavier load. Schneider appeared in a career-high 45 games for the Devils finishing with a third-best 1.97 GAA and his .921 save percentage was better than both Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick.

There’s no reason to think Schneider can’t start 65 or so games, but we haven’t seen him do it and until we do, the jury is still out on whether Schneider can handle the workload of a No. 1. If he falters, or heaven forbid suffers serious injury, the Devils will have to rely on Clemmensen, who is back in New Jersey after tours in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers organizations.

Is there cause for concern with regards to Schneider as a No. 1? There could be if the Devils fail in the goal scoring department and put further pressure on Schneider to be near perfect every night.

3. Where are the goals going to come from?

Relying on a 42-year-old to carry your offense is a recipe for disaster – the Devils did just that in 2013-14 as Jagr led the team with 24 goals, 43 assists and 67 points.

This isn’t the early 90’s, the Devils cannot continue like that.

Lamoriello signed Cammalleri and Havlat this summer with the hopes of adding to the offence. Only three teams finished with a worse goals-for per-game (2.40) than New Jersey last season. Not surprisingly neither of the three were playoff teams.

Cammalleri’s 26 goals in 2013-14 with the Calgary Flames would’ve led the Devils, but it was also his highest output since the 2009-10 season when he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens. The former L.A. Kings second-round pick hadn’t reached the 20 goal plateau in four seasons prior to last year so expecting him to score 25-plus again, might be asking for too much.

Havlat was bought out of the final year of his contract with the San Jose Sharks in June after scoring 12 goals and 22 points in 48 games last season. His tenure in the Bay Area was mired by injuries and the hope in New Jersey is that reuniting Halvlat with his countrymen Patrik Elias and Jagr will help the former Ottawa Senators first-round pick get closer to the 22 goals he scored while a member of the Minnesota Wild in 2010-11.

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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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.