With killer trip on horizon, slumping ‘Hawks hold team meeting


After pretty much rolling through the first three months of the season, the Blackhawks have hit a wall in January, losing five of eight since the calendar turned.

On Monday, coaches and players addressed the recent skid — which includes back-to-back home losses to Winnipeg and Dallas — by holding a team meeting.

More, from ESPN Chicago:

The meeting included players and coaches before the team’s optional practice at 11:30 a.m. Players and coaches spoke during it.

“Whoever it is in the room, it’s important guys step up, coaches step up,” Blackhawks forward Ben Smith said. “We’ve had a good enough leadership group here that we’re going to pay attention to everything those guys say. Obviously you listen to your coaches because they know what’s going on. They have a better grasp of what’s going on with the team. I think deep down individually we all know we have to be better. We have to get back to what brought us success earlier in the year. We’re looking to do that tomorrow.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been emphasizing to his team to concentrate more on the details. He believes it’s something they have failed to do as of late.

“Details, little details eroded the last few games, more so [Sunday against the Dallas Stars] than the Winnipeg game,” Quenneville said. “Game in, game out, that can be the difference. Be it off a faceoff, be it penalty killing, those goals are preventable. If you’re doing the right things, maybe you’re not in your own end.”

The numbers from this skid aren’t good. Chicago’s allowed a ton of shots — 37, 35 and 34 in its last three games — which is uncharacteristic from a club that on average holds opponents to under 30. Not surprisingly, those shot totals have translated into increased goals against; the Jets and Stars combined for 10 over the last two games (Dallas has played Chicago twice in January now, and scored 10 times.)

The timing of today’s meeting is worth mentioning, too. After hosting a lowly Arizona club on Tuesday, Chicago heads out on what could be its toughest stretch of the season — a grueling seven-game road swing through Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Minnesota, Winnipeg and St. Louis.

(Granted, the All-Star break occurs between the Pittsburgh and Los Angeles games.)

It’s pretty obvious Chicago wants to right the ship in advance of this trip. The ‘Hawks are squarely in the playoff picture with 58 points, but sit third in the wildly competitive Central Division and ahead of current wild card holder Winnipeg only because of the regulation wins tiebreaker.

Translation: They can’t take any nights off.

“There are no easy games,” Quenneville said. “No games you think you’re going to just get two points. It’s going to be a hard-fought two points every night. That’s where we’re at.

“Everyone feels they’re part of it in our division. You have to value those two points.”

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

caufield surgery
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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

matty beniers
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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.