Goalie nods: Big tests (and opportunities) for backups

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Big challenges for backups

If a variety of NHL head coaches want to gauge how much they can truly trust their No. 2 options, then Saturday presents plenty of interesting tests.

No pressure, kid – Calvin Pickard looks primed to man the Colorado Avalanche’s net as Patrick Roy takes his struggling team to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. Those are some long odds for Pickard, 22. If Roy is providing any words of advice, it appears that they won’t be too specific, as he told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu that he’s actually very hands-off with goalies:

Jake finally gets his shot – Brian Elliott has made it really tough for Jake Allen to argue that the St. Louis Blues’ goaltending situation is a true 1A/1B situation, but Allen finally starts against Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes tonight. The Coyotes don’t have the most dangerous offense on paper, so the Blues probably expect impeccable work from their potential goalie of the future.

Goaltending coach Jim Corsi (yes, that Corsi) had glowing words for Allen:

Battle of backups – It looks like there will be at least two battles between backup goalies tonight. The Washington Capitals look primed to roll out Justin Peters against a Florida Panthers team starting Al Montoya after Roberto Luongo shut out the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Robin Lehner gets a chance to work his way back into more of a platoon with the Ottawa Senators while the Columbus Blue Jackets must trust Curtis McElhinney considering the fact that they’re tied for the NHL lead with the most back-to-back games this season. Sergei Bobrovsky can only do so much.

Opportunities for Svedberg, Gustavsson – On paper, facing Jhonas Enroth and a Buffalo Sabres team coming off of a back-to-back is a golden opportunity for Boston Bruins backup Niklas Svedberg. If Friday’s game and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ struggles are any indication, Jonas Gustavsson gets a nice opportunity tonight, too. That said, Jonathan Bernier should be plenty motivated if he starts for Toronto, as expected.

To round out the No. 2 talk, Vancouver Canucks backup Eddie Lack faces a tough challenge in Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Elsewhere…

  • The San Jose Sharks are starting Antti Niemi in an interesting test against Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils.
  • Speaking of interesting tests, Jaroslav Halak gets another nod from the New York Islanders as they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are expected to continue starting Marc-Andre Fleury.
  • The Dallas Stars opt for Kari Lehtonen, most likely against the Philadelphia Flyers’ Steve Mason.
  • The Nashville Predators seem likely to go back to Pekka Rinne after last night’s shutout. He’ll face a big challenge in the Chicago Blackhawks, who are rolling with Corey Crawford.

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.