Red Wings, Sabres appear the leading candidates for Babcock

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It won’t be Philadelphia, as we one time thought it might be. And with Todd McLellan sounding more and more like a done deal in Edmonton, we’ll assume the Oilers are out too.

So, where will Mike Babcock choose when he makes his decision, something he apparently plans to do by Wednesday?

We’ll go ahead and make Detroit and Buffalo the co-favorites.

The former is the familiar option, the one where he knows what to expect. He has a good relationship with the current GM, and there’s an owner that’s been good to him as well. The Red Wings may have an uncertain future, and you can rightly question where there’s a prospect with “big-time” potential. But the grass, as you may have heard, isn’t always greener on the other side.

But what if the grass is greener? Because sometimes the grass is greener. The Sabres already have Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Nikita Zadorov in the system, and they’re going to draft Jack Eichel. That’s two centers and two d-men, each with a huge amount of potential. No, Buffalo isn’t going to win the Stanley Cup next season, but Babcock could walk into that organization — one where he already has a relationship with the GM — and shape those high-ceiling players exactly how he wants. That’s pretty tempting. And with a deep-pocketed owner, money would be no object.

Money, of course, would be no option for the Maple Leafs either. If Babcock wanted a challenge, there may be none bigger than the one in Toronto. What Canadian coach wouldn’t want to be the one that led the Leafs to their first Cup title since 1967? But do the Leafs have the pieces? Not yet they don’t. Heck, they don’t even have a GM. We’re not ready to count out the Leafs, but we’d sooner bet on someone like Pete DeBoer to get that gig.

St. Louis is an interesting new development, if only because the Blues would offer Babcock the best chance at winning a Cup as soon as possible. As in, next season. But the Blues haven’t even moved on from Ken Hitchcock yet. Is Babcock going to take a job that means his Hockey Canada colleague is out of one? Probably not. Besides, the Blues have a pretty strict budget.

San Jose and New Jersey are the other options, with neither seeming likely to land Babcock. The Sharks just have way too much uncertainty, and the Devils, well, let’s face it, he’s not going to New Jersey.

Related: Just Sabres, Leafs reportedly formally file paperwork to speak to Babcock

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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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.