Dallas shakes up defense (again), healthy scratches Hamhuis (again)

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The winds of change continue to blow through the Stars’ blueline.

Veteran Dan Hamhuis, signed this summer to a two-year, $7.5 million deal, will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season when Dallas takes on St. Louis Monday evening, per the Morning-News.

Stephen Johns, who was sent to the minors last week and quickly recalled, will also be parked in the press box.

“There’s a couple things in play,” head coach Lindy Ruff explained (per the Morning-News’ Mike Heika). “We really feel we’re going to use eight defensemen. The other thing with Johns is if I play him tonight and play him tomorrow, that’s four games in five nights.

“So you pick which games you want to get him in. For [Patrik] Nemeth, he’s a big strong defenseman that we want to get back in the lineup.”

Nemeth hasn’t played since Nov. 21, when he received just under 16 minutes in a OT win over Minnesota.

As for Hamhuis, his demotion comes after receiving a season-low 16:06 in Friday’s 2-1 win over his former team, the Canucks. In that game, he was beaten by Vancouver forward Jason Megna for the only goal surrendered on the night.

Hamhuis, 33, has had a difficult time transitioning to his new team, but has still been a regular lineup presence. He and John Klingberg are tied for the team lead in games played by a defenseman, with 21.

As mentioned above, Ruff has already sat Hamhuis once this season — following a 4-1 loss to the Jets on Oct. 27 — and admitted it was a tough decision to make.

“I went and talked to him, and those aren’t easy conversations. Understandably, you’ve got an upset player,” Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “But it’s a strong message, and it’s a message that needs to be carried — it’s not good enough. I know it’s tough when you come from another team, but right now we’ve got to find less excuses and more reasons to win a game.”

Ruff has spent most of this season juggling defensemen in and out of the lineup. Nine different guys have suited up, including promising rookie Julius Honka, who made his NHL debut last week. Nemeth, Johns, Jamie Oleksiak and Esa Lindell have all platooned in and out, and that will likely continue as the Stars try to find the right mix with veteran Johnny Oduya (lower body) on IR, and out indefinitely.

In other Dallas lineup news, Jason Spezza could end up on the club’s fourth line tonight. But Ruff also suggested he could go back to the lines he used on the Stars’ last road trip… so, maybe not.

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.