NHL on NBCSN: Lightning kick off homestand against Sabres

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Buffalo Sabres at the Amalie Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The trade deadline has past and with it, every player knows where they stand for the rest of the season. The Lightning got a significant reinforcement on Monday in former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn and with that settled they’ll have to look to each other in their final push before the playoffs.

Tampa Bay’s first step to that end will be to try and sweep this three-game homestand against Buffalo, Toronto, and Dallas. Those are squads that are out of the playoff picture and consequently the Lightning should be able to take these games. If they successfully secure those six points then they’ll be in a strong position against the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens when they meet on March 10.

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It’s not a foregone conclusion that the Lightning will run the table though. After all, they’ve been merely treading water since the start of February with a 6-5-2 record. They’re also still missing defenseman Matt Carle, who hasn’t played since Jan. 15 due to an abdominal injury.

Additionally, while the Buffalo Sabres look terrible on paper — especially after trading away Brian Flynn, Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell, and Michal Neuvirth on Monday — they might not be the pushovers some are expecting. Buffalo as a team doesn’t have much left to play for in 2014-15 and from a long-term perspective, it probably would be best for the franchise if the squad remained in 30th place to secure either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the 2015 draft. However, on an individual level they have plenty of motivated players.

Take goaltenders Chad Johnson and Anders Lindback for example. They’re coming off rough stints with the New York Islanders and Dallas Stars respectively, but now find themselves in a situation where they have a legitimate shot at competing for the starting gig. They’ll want to make the most of this opportunity to prove that they still have value on an NHL squad.

They’re not alone either. Buffalo is full of guys that are playing for their future or at least their pride. Meanwhile, the pressure is mounting for Tampa Bay as we move towards the postseason, so while the Lightning are expected to win this game, they certainly need to be careful or else these important two points will slip away.

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.