The Winnipeg Jets are earning respect

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The Winnipeg Jets, after an up-and-down start to the season, are beginning to gain some respect.

“Boy, they’re going pretty good from what I’ve seen in the last couple of outings. Pace, speed, aggressive, D up ice and involved as much as I’ve seen,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, per the Winnipeg Sun. “Obviously, their top point-producing line tends to get a lot of, and deserves, an awful lot of the spotlight, but (it’s) a pretty damn good, four-line team.”

The Jets (9-7-2) play tonight in Philadelphia, in search of their third straight win. They’ve earned points in five straight, including an 8-2 destruction of the Stars last Tuesday. Center Mark Scheifele is tied for the NHL lead with 21 points, while his linemate, rookie Patrik Laine, leads all scorers with 12 goals.

Read more: New wave of fantastic Finns taking the NHL by storm

That the Jets — who started 2-4-0, including that disappointing outdoor loss to the Oilers — have turned it around without injured forward Bryan Little is all the more impressive. Little is an underrated two-way center who put up 42 points in 57 games last season. When he gets back, and it shouldn’t be too long now, they stand to be even stronger.

Of course, Winnipeg did get defenseman Jacob Trouba back, and he’s averaged 25:01 of ice time in the three games he’s played. Trouba has been thrown right into the fire, thanks to an injury to Tyler Myers.

Per TSN.ca, the injury list is still a long one:

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But compared to seasons past, the Jets have so much more depth at their disposal. In Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Chicago, Nicolas Petan logged 13:31 and scored a goal — a goal that was assisted by Marko Dano, who logged 13:30. Both Petan and Dano started the season in the AHL, as did call-ups Quinton Howden and Andrew Copp.

Is it any wonder that Alex Burmistrov is reportedly on the trading block? There’s just no room for him anymore. Not will all the young forwards that have already been mentioned, plus Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, and Nikolaj Ehlers.

Meanwhile, rookie defenseman Josh Morrissey has also performed well. The 13th overall draft pick in 2013, he spent last season developing in the AHL, and now the Jets’ patience is being rewarded.

“His consistency,” said head coach Paul Maurice, when the Winnipeg Sun asked what’s been impressive about Morrissey. “It’s funny, because the things I worried most about Josh in his early years and early training camps, the things I thought he might struggle with in the NHL have become his strengths. On breakouts, on dumped pucks into his corner, on battles down low, he’s as good as anybody we have in our lineup right now.”

On top of all that, Connor Hellebuyck is starting to find his game. The young goalie stumbled out of the gates, after the Jets waived veteran Ondrej Pavelec. But Hellebuyck has responded well, his save percentage climbing to .916 after Tuesday’s shut out of the Blackhawks.

“I’ve been chasing it for a while and now I got the monkey off my back,” Hellebuyck told reporters.

He added that the win over the ‘Hawks was a “statement…that we’ve figured it out, and now we know how to play, and now we know we can play it.”

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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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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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.