Fans gather in Pittsburgh for Penguins’ Stanley Cup parade

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Hundreds of fans had lined up before dawn Wednesday along downtown Pittsburgh streets and in Point State Park for a parade to celebrate the Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship.

Planners say as many as 500,000 people could turn out, surpassing the estimated 400,000 who attended last year’s celebration, which was the biggest for any of the team’s five Stanley Cup championships.

Karla and Don Donahue drove 30 miles from Freeport to claim their seats, already three fans deep, behind a security fence along the right side of a stage erected in Point State Park. They arrived at 2:30 a.m. but were greeted by other fans who arrived Tuesday night.

“Somebody up there said they were here since 8 o’clock last night,” Don Donanue, 64, said. Other fans said they’d driven eight hours from New York to get seats, he said.

This will be the third victory parade for the Donahues, who also came downtown for celebrations after the team’s Stanley Cup championships in 2009 and 2016. The team also won the Cup in 1991 and 1992 and became the first NHL team to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997-98.

Karla Donahue, 60, said the couple never misses a game. If they’re not at PPG Paints Arena, they’re watching on TV.

“If we’re somewhere else, it’s on the radio. We haven’t missed a game in years,” she said, proudly showing off her Kris Letang jersey, which is autographed by the star defenseman whose neck surgery kept him out of the playoffs.

The parade route streets were scheduled to close by 9 a.m. for the 11 a.m. parade. The parade will run along Grant Street and Boulevard of the Allies as it did last year. But this year, it will continue into Point State Park, where players, coaches and other dignitaries will take the stage and speak to the fans.

The Penguins won the cup Sunday against the Nashville Predators with a 2-0 win in Game 6.

Related: Without Letang, the ‘simple bunch’ gets it done for Penguins

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.