Tocchet wants Coyotes’ young players to be ‘creative’ and ‘calculated’

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Along with missing the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, the Arizona Coyotes have also been kind of a boring hockey team, at least as it relates to their offense. They have some exciting young players, and their long-term outlook is promising, but over the past three seasons they have ranked 27th, 24th and 29th in goals scored, and 28th, 29th and 23rd in shots on goal.

That, obviously, is a glaring lack of offense.

A lot of that comes from the fact it has been a rebuilding team that hasn’t had the pocket books to really go out and bring in impact talent, but some of it is also due to playing a tighter, more structured defensive system under coach Dave Tippett.

New coach Rick Tocchet seems to be looking to change some of that and bring a more up-tempo brand of hockey to the desert and give his young players a little more freedom.

Here is talking about what he wants from his team, via Sarah McLellan of AZcentral.

“I don’t want to take the stick out of guys’ hands,” he said. “We have some creative, young players here. So I want them to be creative. I don’t want them to think too much. I want them to play a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure on the opponent.”

“I’m not going to sell the farm,” he said. “It’s not going to be 3-on-1s all night. That’s not going to happen. But I think you have to be calculated, and the one thing with these young guys, they’re sponges. They want to learn. They want to learn how to practice. They want to learn how to play.”

Of course, most new coaches upon taking a new job say something similar to this. Nobody gets hired and on the first day says, “we are going to play a boring, dull, bland style of hockey.”

A lot of times it still comes down to the talent on the ice.

But in Arizona’s case a fresh approach and start might actually lead to a more exciting brand of hockey, and a little more freedom for their young players with the puck could be a boost not only for the entertainment value of the team, but also for the results on the ice. You obviously want young players to play smart, but you also don’t want them to be afraid of making a mistake.

Either way, it is going to be an exceptionally young team that could have as many as nine players on the roster this season age 23 or younger, assuming prospects like Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller play their way onto the team. That young core was given a lot of complementary pieces to work with this summer when general manager John Chayka acquired Derek Stepan, a top-six center, Niklas Hjalmarsson, one of the steadiest veteran defenders in the league, and Antti Raanta to take over the starting goaltending job.

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.