Russian Voynov at Olympics despite domestic abuse conviction

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Slava Voynov is at the Olympics despite his conviction for domestic abuse. In a way, he is at the Olympics because of it.

The Russian defenseman remains indefinitely suspended from the National Hockey League over a 2014 incident that got him sentenced to 90 days in jail on a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a spouse.

Were he still in the league, he’d have to watch on TV as the Olympics hosts its first tournament without NHL players since 1994. Since he is no longer an NHL player, he is eligible and his experience as a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Los Angeles Kings makes him crucial to the roster of ”Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

”I know that he’s a good player and obviously he deserves to be here,” teammate Mikhail Grigorenko said after practice Tuesday. ”He’s one of our leaders on defense, so I’m not surprised he’s here. The around-hockey stuff, there’s people that decide that.”

Voynov’s conviction for assaulting his wife, Marta Varlamova, after a Halloween party didn’t stop him getting an invite to the Pyeongchang Games from the International Olympic Committee, which set strict criteria to bar Russians linked to a state-backed doping program. However, it didn’t rule out those with criminal convictions for other matters.

”We have been reassured by the Russian National Olympic Committee (suspended) that ‘no court or other official decision has been ever rendered which would prevent Mr. Voynov from competing in international competitions and enjoying his athlete’s rights on an equal footing with other athletes,”’ the IOC said in a statement to The Associated Press. ”They have stressed that, ‘The court decision taken in the United States of America with regard to Mr. Voynov has been completely executed.”’

Authorities in Los Angeles said Voynov choked and hit his wife and pushed her into a TV in their Redondo Beach bedroom after an argument that began at a party attended by other Kings players. His wife required eight stitches to close up a cut over her eye. Voynov pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge, avoiding trial on a felony count.

The NHL did not allow Voynov to play for Russia at the World Cup of Hockey in September 2016 because he was suspended. It was unclear whether Voynov would have been legally able to enter Canada based on the terms of his conviction in the United States.

The International Ice Hockey Federation said it doesn’t have the power to exclude Voynov from international competitions.

”The IIHF does not have rules similar to the NHL that would provide it or the president the power to render Voynov ineligible for non-hockey related violations that did not occur in IIHF competitions,” spokesman Adam Steiss told the AP. ”We would have respected the NHL’s suspension if he was currently playing in the NHL.”

Since leaving the United States, Voynov has played in the Kontinental Hockey League for SKA St. Petersburg, which receives substantial funding from Russian state gas company Gazprom. He rarely speaks in public and did not speak with media in South Korea this week despite repeated requests to team officials.

Russia opens the tournament Wednesday against Slovakia, with Voynov expected to play a key role at his second Olympics, and his teammates have expressed support for him.

Former Vancouver Canucks forward Sergei Shirokov said at practice: ”Slava Voynov is a good defenseman, really good player, and it’s good.”

More AP Olympics: https://wintergames.ap.org

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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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.