Bowman says firing assistant coach was not a warning to Quenneville

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After the Chicago Blackhawks were swept out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators, general manager Stan Bowman was brutally honest in his assessment of the team’s performance and insisted that changes were going to come this offseason.

One of the first changes to be made was the firing of  Mike Kitchen, a long-time assistant on coach Joel Quenneville’s staff. That move was perceived by some to be a warning shot directed at Quenneville. But on Saturday at the World Hockey Championships in Cologne, Germany, Bowman told Brian Hedger of the Chicago Sun-Times there is absolutely zero truth to that theory.

‘‘People think that’s the case, even though there’s no validity to it,’’Bowman told Hedger. ‘‘I learned a long time ago that you can’t control what other people are going to think or say. We know what the truth is, and none of that is accurate. But that’s OK. That’s the way it goes.’’

Bowman also said that Quenneville will work with him when it comes to hiring Kitchen’s replacement because, “he’s going to be working with that person day-to-day.’’

Kitchen’s role with the Blackhawks included working with the team’s penalty kill and defense. The penalty killing unit was a major point of concern early in the season but showed steady improvement over the course of the season and only allowed a single power play goal in the four playoff games against the Nashville Predators. The unit still only ranked 24th in the entire NHL, mostly due to the disastrous start they had to the season.

Making significant changes to the roster is going to be a challenge for Bowman this offseason given the team’s current salary cap situation and how much of that money is tied up in players that the team will either not want to move (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith) or simply will not be able to move due to no-trade clauses or other teams not being willing to take on the money.

It’s not like the Blackhawks had a bad season, finishing as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But it was the second year in a row they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round and this time they did not even manage to win a single game. That is always going to be disappointing and lead to some changes given the expectations the Blackhawks have set for themselves.

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.