NHL on NBCSN: Penguins and Islanders meet in huge Metropolitan Division clash

Associated Press

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the New York Islanders host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Games within the division are always important, but the deeper we get into the season the more important they become. The playoff picture in the Metropolitan is far from set. Sure, the Capitals have all but locked up the top spot in the division, but the number two and three seeds are still up for grabs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will have an opportunity to close the gap between themselves (Wild Card team) and the New York Islanders (third place in the Metro). The Pens are currently three points behind the Isles, but New York has two games in hand.

There’s no doubt that the Penguins got a boost when Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup on Feb. 27. Since his return, Malkin has picked up a point in four of six games and Pittsburgh has four wins. The 29-year-old also scored two goals in Pittsburgh’s 6-1 clobbering of the Devils on Sunday night.

Another reason for Pittsburgh’s success is the production they’ve been receiving from their top line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist. Crosby enters tonight’s action having picked up at least one point in five straight games while Hornqvist has nine points in his last six contests.

For the Islanders, increasing the distance between themselves and the Penguins is imporant, but they still have their sights set on second place which would give them home ice advantage in the first round. They currently trail the Rangers by three points. The Isles have three games in hand.

The Islanders have won three in a row despite not getting much scoring from star forward John Tavares. The 25-year-old is having an uncharacteristically quiet season by his standards. He has just one point in his last four games and 51 points in 60 games all season.

Their depth scoring has been a big reason why they’ve had so much success in 2015-16. The Islanders have seven players with 11 goals or more with one player sitting at nine goals and four players at seven goals.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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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.