KHL may nix 2018 Winter Olympics involvement, which could affect U.S. too

Getty
12 Comments

Depending upon how an investigation into Russian Olympic athletes and doping goes, the KHL may very well prohibit its players from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Considering that the KHL brings in high-quality hockey players from Canada, the U.S., Sweden, and other countries beyond Russia, such a move could make a big impact on how those rosters look.

A wide variety of outlets are reporting on such a possibility. Such outlets include Russian news agency TASS, the Associated Press, and Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.

Here’s some added background, via Johnston:

In a statement, KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko said the IOC “is destroying the existing world order in sports” by pursuing doping cases against Russians in other sports who are suspected of using banned substances.

At this point, the International Ice Hockey Federation is reluctant to wade into the fray publicly. IIHF president Rene Fasel politely declined an interview request on Saturday.

That doesn’t seem promising. TSN’s Darren Dreger shared the viewpoint that these are bad early signs, although he does bring up a valid point: it might be too early to panic. (But it’s probably fair to worry.)

Seeing no KHL involvement would definitely impact Canada, Sweden, and the U.S. – among others – along with the obvious in Russia. Still, seeing the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk not suiting up for a Russian team that could, conceivably, be asked to play under a “neutral flag” would likely make it that much tougher to forecast a frontrunner for the tournament.

Here’s the statement from KHL brass:

Earlier this week, Dreger discussed some players to watch for the United States, a bit that might be even more relevant now. Could prospects playing in the NCAA earn star turns during the 2018 Winter Olympics? Without KHL players, their chances would only increase, and perhaps the tournament would feel like, say, the world juniors on steroids.

(Uh, the odds are against the IIHF stealing that elevator pitch, considering the circumstances.)

The AHL’s also discussed possibly allowing its players to participate, at least under certain circumstances.

It’s all a big mess, frankly, and a bit hard to get your head around. Maybe cooler heads will prevail for a cooler tournament for the coolest game on Earth? We’ll have to wait and see.

For more on the possible doping ban, head to Olympic Talk and check out posts like these.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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.