PHT Morning Skate: Can Ovechkin match Gretzky’s all-time goal record?

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–On paper, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk seems like it would be a strong pairing. But after a handful of games, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has seen enough from the duo. “Right now, work in progress,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “Trying to find combinations and duos that can be real successful, can bring us wins. Trying to sort that out on defense right now.” (NY Post)

–What is the Columbus Blue Jackets’ identity going to be this year? Well, we’ve seen them use speed, we’ve seen them rely on their defensemen to jump up into the attack more, but we’ve also seen them play a physical brand of hockey. (jacketscannon.com)

–Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky is a talented player that can produce offensively. Now, he just needs to find a way to get more of his shots on net. Only 28 percent of his shots have hit the net, which ranks him 246th of 256 forwards that have played at least 20 minutes this season. (russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

–Yesterday, we linked to a story about Carolina’s low attendance numbers. If things don’t change in a hurry, it could be their third year in a row in the basement of the league when it comes to attendance. It’s a big concern, but they can fix it. (cardiaccane.com)

Sam Reinhart is off to a tough start with new head coach Phil Housley. Not only did Housley move the forward from center to the wing after three games, he also took him off the power play. It’s hard to blame the coach. Reinhart has no points and a minus-6 rating this season. (buffalohockeybeat.com)

–William Hill sports books in Vegas lost a pretty penny because the Golden Knights beats the Arizona Coyotes in their home opener earlier this week. “Everybody bet the Knights like they knew what was going to happen,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I was shocked that game drew that much action. At one point we had 280 tickets (on the Knights) to 25 (on Arizona). We never even write 280 tickets on the whole day of hockey, let alone on one team.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

–Commissioner Gary Bettman met the media in Los Angeles yesterday. LA Kings Insider has the transcript from the entire exchange. Bettman touched on the “huge success” that was the NHL China Games, the league’s crackdown on slashing, and Vegas’ 3-0 start. (LA Kings Insider)

Tom Wilson picked up two different suspensions during preseason play. Now that he’s ready to return from the most recent one, he wants to prove that he’s more than just a good. (CSN Washington)

Alex Ovechkin‘s incredible start to the season has some people wondering if he’ll beat his career-high of 65. If he can keep rolling at a 65-goal pace, he has a chance to reach Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals. (NHL.com)

–On Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs will look to end their 14-game losing streak against the Montreal Canadiens. Leafs players are fed up of hearing about it, so let’s see if they do something about it. (Toronto Sun)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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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.