Justin Williams: It’s a ‘fun time’ to join Hurricanes

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t bring back Justin Williams to be “Mr. Game 7.”

Not yet, anyway.

The 35-year-old with the reputation for scoring big postseason goals has returned to Raleigh, tasked with bringing veteran leadership and a voice of experience to a young Carolina team.

But there’s a fine line between filling that type of role for the Hurricanes, and commanding control of the dressing room. He brushed aside questions about whether he should wear the “C” for a team that has gone without a captain since February 2016.

“I think the worst thing you can do when you come into a new – even though it’s a team I’ve been on, it’s a new team for me – is trying to be someone you’re not,” Williams said Monday. “That’s a big mistake, trying to be `the guy.’ You just want to be yourself, and that’s what I’ve done throughout my career.”

Williams returned to Carolina earlier this month, opening free agency by agreeing to a two-year deal worth $9 million to bring his deft offensive touch and knack for coming through in key situations to a team that has made the playoffs only once (2009) since Williams hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time here in 2006.

The 2014 playoff MVP with Los Angeles had 100 points combined the past two years with Washington, and won the Cup twice with the Kings while earning his “Mr. Game 7” nickname for his 7-1 career record in those decisive postseason games.

The only player remaining from Williams’ first stint with Carolina is presumptive backup goalie Cam Ward. The captain of those Hurricanes teams, Rod Brind’Amour, is now an assistant coach.

“I don’t think the load’s on me to do anything,” Williams said. “I’m here … to be me. And I think (general manager Ron Francis) and his group have done an excellent job of gathering this team. Listen, a lot of these kids or teammates weren’t here six, seven years ago. They’re fresh, too, and they’ve had a lot of success at different levels. … You just want to help guide as best you can, because you know what it takes, and you know what works and what doesn’t, a lot of the time.”

Williams had a lengthy list of reasons to come back to Carolina, from the quality of life away from the rink – he and his wife bought a house in nearby Cary in May, two months before the start of free agency – to what he says is a team “on the rise.” He says the Hurricanes kicked “my team’s butts a couple of times.”

“When you tell people outside the hockey world that you’re going to Carolina, they might be like, `Oh, man, why?”‘ he said. “But I think when you look and you talk to people within the hockey circles – you talk to NHL players – they know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a fun time, I think, to be a Carolina Hurricane, and I want to be part of something good. I’ve been on some successful teams, so I’m going to try to do the same, do my best to make sure that happens.”

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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.