U.S. upbeat after loss to Slovenia as it prepares for Slovakia

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — There were smiles, laughs and enthusiastic goal celebrations. It seems the Americans have found their missing energy.

At practice, anyway.

A day after blowing a two-goal, third-period lead and losing to Slovenia in overtime to open Olympic play, the United States was back at practice feeling upbeat and confident. The Americans will face Slovakia on Friday.

”We’re excited,” alternate captain Noah Welch said. ”For 40 minutes, we proved that we’re a pretty dangerous team. Had a great video session today. Coaches did a good job of pointing out what we need to be better at, and then the team came out and had probably our best, most upbeat, quick-paced practice that we’ve had since we’ve been here.”

U.S. players shook off the stunning 3-2 defeat so quickly it was a whiplash of emotions in just over 12 hours. It certainly helps that the Olympic format means no team gets eliminated after pool play, though it doesn’t hurt that the U.S. dominated play for the first two periods against Slovenia before the mix of sitting on the lead and running out of gas proved costly. Coach Tony Granato chalked it up to some mental fatigue.

That can’t happen against Slovakia, which upset the favored Russians in regulation across town. ”Playing a full 60 minutes” is about as lame of a hockey cliche that exists, but for the U.S. team it’s a mantra now after how well it played for 40 minutes before letting the game slip away.

”We have to refresh ourselves and recharge ourselves to be able to try to play that way for 60 minutes,” Granato said. ”We skate. We’ve got four lines that can play. We don’t have to overplay anybody. If we can sustain the energy that we played with the first two periods, that would be what would help us be successful.”

Easier said than done against a Slovakia team that wore down the talented Russians and shut out the U.S. at the pre-Olympic Deutschland Cup in November. The biggest challenge for the U.S. then, now and potentially moving forward, is cashing on its offensive chances.

”We’ve got to shoot more,” Matt Gilroy said after the U.S. scored just twice on 36 shots against Slovenia. ”We’ve got to get more bodies to the net. Every goaltender’s pretty good here and a lot of guys will battle in front, but we’ve got to sacrifice and get to the net.”

Feeling good about how they tilted the ice for two periods, the Americans need to avoid a repeat of how they went into a shell in the third period and abandoned the aggressive approach that had been working so well.

”If you try to play safe, you’re dead. Safe is dead in this tournament,” Welch said. ”When we’re up, what’s our mentality going to be? And it can’t be to sit back. It’s to play hard, play responsible but to be on the attack. That’s the only way we’re going to have success in this tournament is to use our speed and just get after teams.”

The U.S. had a need for speed and filled it with college players Troy Terry and Ryan Dontato and Swiss-based Garrett Roe, among others. Now it’s about harnessing it and not letting it run out.

”We’re a fast team,” Granato said. ”I don’t think there’s any doubt that (is) what you saw last night from our team. We’re not the biggest team. We’ve got a (6-foot-5 forward Jordan) Greenway and a couple other bodies that are big. We have to rely on that quickness and hound pucks and making it be hard to play against us.”

NOTES: Granato said Ryan Zapolski will start in goal versus Slovakia after allowing three goals on 25 shots against Slovenia. … F Chad Kolarik and D Will Borgen could get into the U.S. lineup after being healthy scratches in the opener, though Granato was not displeased with anyone’s play enough to make it an easy decision of who to take out.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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.