NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Wild vs. Red Wings; Flyers vs. Kings

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Thursday night. In the early game, the Detroit Red Wings host Minnesota Wild at 8:30 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here

It’s the beginning of a new era for the Red Wings, as they’ll play their first regular season game at Little Caesars Arena tonight. Joe Louis Arena had been good to the team for many years, but it was time for a change.

Their final season at “The Joe” was pretty disappointing. For the first time in 25 years, the Wings failed to make the playoffs, and it looks like they’ll be in tough to make it this season.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg is coming off a solid season that saw him put up 68 points in 82 contests, but you’d have to expect him to slow down at some point. Will that be this season? Time will tell.

Behind Zetterberg, there are a lot of question marks up front. Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Frans Nielsen were second, third and fourth on the team in scoring, and none of those three hit the 50-point mark. Of course, there’s an expectation that Anthony Mantha will up his production this year.

For now, the Red Wings will be without Andreas Athanasiou, as he’s still holding out for a contract.

The Wings added Trevor Daley on defense, but that unit will likely have its own issues. Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Luke Witkowski will also factor in on the blue line.

Expect Jimmy Howard to go into the regular season as the starting goaltender over Petr Mrazek, who the Wings didn’t bother protecting in the expansion draft.

As for the Wild, look for them to try and pace themselves this season. They were the best team in the NHL in the first half of the regular season, but they faded down the stretch.

At one point, it looked like they were going to run away with the Central Division crown, but in the end they were passed by the Chicago Blackhawks. Winning that division won’t be any easier this year. Being a little more consistent will definitely help though.

“Well, it means we have to be consistently good or we’re going to fall by the wayside,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said of playing in the Central Division, per the Pioneer Press. “It’s not like a few years ago — not necessarily in the Central Division — where in some of the divisions a team could lose a few games in a row and know they were going to make up some games. It’s going to be marathon and every game from Game 1 to Game 82 is going to have special meaning.”

In the late game, the Los Angeles Kings host the Philadelphia Flyers 10:30 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here

The Flyers got their 2017-18 season off to a roaring start, as they took down the San Jose Sharks, 5-3, thanks to a hat trick from Wayne Simmonds.

Two of Simmonds’ three goals were scored on the man-advantage.

“We didn’t start working on our power play until the end of camp,” Simmonds said, per NHL.com. “I think our focus was to get our legs going and make sure we had our 5-on-5 structure down and everything like that. With our power play, both units this year, it’s only a matter of time. We kept working on it and we’ll continue to work on it. Today was a pretty good showing.”

The Kings will be looking to bounce back after missing the postseason in 2016-17. In fairness to them, starting goalie Jonathan Quick went down early and he ended up missing most of the regular season.

Having Quick healthy should give Los Angeles a big boost.

They’ll also need a bounce back season from captain Anze Kopitar, who had 12 goals and 52 points  76 games. Those were the lowest offensive totals he’s had since coming into the league in 2006-07 (excluding lockout year).

“Once you go in the wrong direction, it’s really tough to stop it first and then get going again,” Kopitar told NHL.com last month. “I don’t think my start was all that poor. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t a complete disaster. After a while the pucks weren’t going where I wanted them to go, and you start thinking about it.”

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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.