Marchessault brings ‘hot lap’ to Golden Knights practice

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WASHINGTON — It has been said time and time again that the NHL is a copycat league, but it is usually referring to the way teams build their rosters, implement strategy, or play the game in an effort to duplicate what winning teams are doing. It is not usually referring to the way teams kick off morning skates ahead of a playoff game because, well, that is just a little bit weird.

Then again, nobody ever said the NHL had to make sense. We do, after all, have a first-year expansion team in the Stanley Cup Final.

Throughout the playoffs the Washington Capitals have been getting a little bit of attention for their “hot lap” which involves a player taking a lap around the ice as fast as they can before practice. Jay Beagle started it in the first-round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and a new skater for the lap is chosen after reach road loss.

It reached its most comical point when coach Barry Trotz took over the responsibility before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

[Related: Barry Trotz takes his turn at the Capitals’ hot lap]

It has not gone unnoticed in the Vegas locker room where Jonathan Marchessault has been quietly going about doing it since the Western Conference Final.

It got a little more attention on Saturday morning when he kicked off the Golden Knights’ morning skate ahead of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final by taking his turn at it in Washington.

Following practice Marchessault said he saw Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin do it in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning and decided to do it before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in Winnipeg following their Game 1 loss. The Golden Knights ended up winning that game and have not lost on the road since.

“The guys liked it,” Said Marchessault on Saturday morning. “So we’ll keep doing it on the road.”

Hot laps aside, Vegas has been a strong road team all postseason while both teams have continued a bizarre subplot in the 2018 playoffs where home-ice advantage seems to mean almost nothing.

The Golden Knights enter Saturday’s game with a 6-2 road record in the playoffs while the Capitals are only 4-5 at home.

“I’ve got no idea really,” said Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on Saturday, when asked about the Capitals’ home struggles and if there was anything his team could exploit.

“They’ve had an unbelievable road record obviously, but they have a losing record here at home. I have no idea why. We’ll come here and play our game. A lot of times a team on the road just comes in here and plays a good solid hard working game and you get an opportunity. Sometimes being at home with the distractions things get a little tougher. Maybe hat is happening. It is hard to pinpoint.”

Once the game actually begins on Saturday though, none of this stuff — hot laps, previous records in previous games — is going to matter. It is all going to come down to what happens on the ice on Saturday.

When it comes to the outcome on the scoreboard the Golden Knights spent a lot of time on Saturday talking about having to “play their game” and limit the number of turnovers that they felt helped swing Game 2 in Washington’s favor.

Marchessault added that he does not think Vegas has played its best game in the Final yet, largely because of the turnovers. Gallant said a lot of the turnover issues are happening in the offensive zone which is there they really need to be strong.

“I want us to play fast, play a quick game,” said Gallant. “I think the biggest problem we’ve had is we are in the offensive zone and turning the puck over down there. We are throwing pucks on net but we are not getting the pucks to the net. They are taking the puck from the offensive zone, they are using their D to join the rush and making it a four-man attack. That is one of the biggest reasons. It is not really turning the puck over in the neutral zone, it is in the offensive zone. We need to make sure we are strong on the puck there.”

Related: Jonathan Marchessault, Golden Knights enjoying lucky Lamborghini 

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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.