NHL On NBCSN Doubleheader: Penguins vs. Islanders, Sharks vs. Kings

The NHL on NBCSN is back with another doubleheader on Wednesday night. Things get started at 8 p.m. ET with a Metropolitan Division showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. In the late game, the San Jose Sharks visit the Los Angeles Kings for their second meeting of the season. 

To watch Penguins vs. Islanders, click here

Just a few months ago the New York Islanders were in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But after losing Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen to free agency, and then getting only three points through the first 21 games from Andrew Ladd, their big-ticket free agent acquisition, the Islanders enter play on Wednesday night with the worst record (7-10-4, 18 points) in the NHL.

Now they have the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town.

To say the Islanders need this one would be quite the understatement. They are just 3-5-4 in the month of November, have been outscored 37-24, and have had several late third period meltdowns that have seen them either lose leads to force overtime, or give up game-winning goals in the final minutes. It’s all been enough to put coach Jack Capuano on the hot seat. Even though he has managed to remain behind the bench, you have to wonder how many more losses the Islanders can take at this point.

The Penguins, meanwhile, are coming off of a three-day break and looking to find some consistency on the season. Overall, their record (13-6-3) has been enough to keep them in contention for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but their actual play on the ice has not always matched the story the standings are telling.

Their defensive zone play has been problematic at times and resulted in a handful of blowout losses over the past couple of weeks, while they are still struggling to figure out just what to do with their goaltending situation that has not been as smooth as general Jim Rutherford had hoped it would be.

Just about the only consistent thing about them this season has been their captain, Sidney Crosby, as he enters play on Wednesday with a league-leading 15 goals in only 16 games. It is one of the best goal-scoring runs of his career, and he continued it in their most recent game when he scored with less than 30 seconds to play to force overtime against the New Jersey Devils.

He has dominated the Islanders throughout his career, and already has four points (two goals, two assists) in two games against them this season.

To watch Sharks vs. Kings, click here

It is usually fun when the Sharks and Kings get together.

These two teams met in the playoffs back in April for the third time in four years, and the Sharks were finally able to knock out their rivals after some heartbreaking defeats over the years. The Sharks were 2-1 winners over the Kings in the season opener.

More recently, the Sharks are coming off of a big overtime win on Tuesday night against Arizona thanks to a Brent Burns overtime goal that helped him maintain his scoring lead among NHL defensemen. He has been the driving force behind the Sharks’ offense this season and is not only the top scoring defenseman in the league, but one of the top scoring players at any position. He enters play on Wednesday ninth in the NHL scoring race.

The Sharks’ win on Tuesday, combined with an Edmonton loss, helped move the Sharks into first place in the Pacific Division.

Like their Stanley Cup final opponents in Pittsburgh, the Sharks are also trying to find some consistency this season and have spent the past month alternating between three-game winning streaks (two of them) and three-game losing streaks (two of them).

The Kings have had to deal with a little bit of that streakiness as well this season and are currently on the positive side of it, carrying a five-game winning streak into play on Wednesday. With a regulation win, they would move into a tie for first place with the Sharks and (for the time being) claim the top spot because they have played one fewer game.

They have managed to stay close in the Pacific Division race even though they have had to rely on their third-and fourth-string goalies for most of the season and only have seven combined goals from Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli.

Jeff Carter, with a team-leading 10 goals and 19 points, has been the big story in Los Angeles and recently he has been playing some of his best hockey of the season. During the Kings’ current winning streak he has been the focal point of the offense, scoring five goals and adding three assists.

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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.