Sullivan: Malkin has ‘another level’ as the Penguins star searches for first point in Stanley Cup Final

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Three games into the Stanley Cup Final, and Evgeni Malkin has yet to record a point.

The Pittsburgh Penguins still lead the championship series 2-1 over the San Jose Sharks, but Malkin’s lack of production — zero points with eight shots on goal so far — is now under the microscope after his team was unable to take a stranglehold lead following Saturday’s overtime loss.

“I think one of the things we’ve always impressed upon our group is we are a coaching staff that doesn’t believe in taking the sticks out of their hands. We want our players to make plays. We want them to act on their instincts. We also want them to have calculated risk in mind,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.

“Geno is no different. He is buying into our team concept here. He’s been a big part of this playoff success. But certainly I know that there’s another level that he has to help us win.”

Malkin has already endured a slump in the post-season, going six games without a point through the second round and into the third.

He then came alive with a five-game point streak totaling six points to close out the Eastern Conference Final and help defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“No, what do you mean? We lead 2-1 in the series,” said Malkin on Sunday when asked if he’s getting frustrated.

“I’m not scoring much but I’m trying to help my team in different ways. Play better in d-zone. I’m trying, it’s not easy but I’m trying to score. Maybe tomorrow. I’m trying my best.”

Malkin isn’t the only star player in this series finding it difficult to score or produce points. For example, Sharks’ captain Joe Pavelski, who leads all players in these playoffs with 13 goals, has also been held without a point through three games.

“Those guys get a lot of attention,” said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. You get asked the same thing about Malkin and some of the guys on their end. It’s tough this time of year.”

On the road Saturday, Malkin’s line with Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust saw a healthy dose of Roman Polak and Brenden Dillon at five-on-five and held control of the possession numbers throughout, as per War-on-Ice. It was a little tougher against Brent Burns and Paul Martin, but Malkin was still able to have favorable possession numbers at even strength against those blue liners, as well.

It’s interesting to note that Malkin was briefly put together with Sidney Crosby as it looked like Sullivan was trying to load up a line in search of a goal. Worth noting, too, that in 2:54 of five-on-five play, the duo of Malkin and Crosby had seven Corsi Events for and only one against.

It remains to be seen if Sullivan starts to work that pairing a little more in Game 4, but it definitely seems like something to seriously consider in a bid to get Malkin on the board.

“It just takes a bounce or a goal or some sort of momentum to kind of get that confidence going, and I think when you have the chances, usually that confidence is there. And he’s had them, so that’s a good thing,” said Crosby.

“I think you look at his game and what he generates for himself and the guys around him, it should be just a matter of time.”



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.