Senators fire Boucher, name Crawford interim head coach

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It’s not just the players getting shipped out of Ottawa.

On Friday, the Senators made the decision to fire head coach Guy Boucher and replace him with assistant Marc Crawford for the remainder of the 2018-19 NHL season.

“I want to thank Guy for his three years of service. He is a good person and has been an excellent representative of the Senators. At this point, however, we need a different set of coaching and leadership skills to guide our team through this rebuild,” said general manager Pierre Dorion in a statement. “In the interim, Marc will bring a different perspective along with a wealth of head coaching experience.”

That’s a big reverse in course following Monday when Dorion said of Boucher, “Guy is our coach. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me on this one that I’ve probably made his job pretty difficult the last few weeks, and we’re going to support him.” Oh, and he told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun this week that a decision on the coaching staff would come at the end of the season. (This is what happens when you lose to the Oilers, apparently.)

Boucher was 94-108-26 in 288 regular season games behind the bench in Ottawa. The Senators made the playoffs only once during his short tenure when reached the 2017 Eastern Conference Final and came within an overtime goal in Game 7 of playing in the Stanley Cup Final. This season they are dead-last in the NHL with a 22-37-5 record and cannot even look forward to this year’s draft lottery since the Colorado Avalanche own their first-round pick, thanks to last season’s Matt Duchene trade.

Boucher — and Crawford, for that matter — was a lame duck coach as his contract expires after this season. The Senators are going full-on into this rebuild — the word “rebuilding” is featured in the press release’s headline — and anticipating the 2021-2025 period where owner Eugene Melnyk says he’ll finally spend to the salary cap ceiling. In what direction will they now go for their next bench boss?

In their press release announcing the change, the Senators outlined exactly what they’ll be looking for in their next head coach:

In tandem with an evaluation of our current coaching staff, we will conduct a search for a new head coach following the season. We will be looking for a coach who excels as:

• A teacher who will focus on the development and growth of each player on the team;

• A listener who encourages feedback from players and the coaching staff;

• A communicator who lets every team member know where they stand and what is expected;

• A tactician who brings structure and game planning that will enhance our rebuild.

This job opening has all the makings of a first-timer. Joel Quenneville or Alain Vigneault are not going to want to go into the situation the Senators currently face the next few years, even with a promising prospect cupboard. Also, Melnyk isn’t going to shell out big bucks for a big name coach.

Will the organization’s AHL head coach, Troy Mann, get a look? What about Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Marlies? His name has come up in the past year connected to various NHL openings. Another name that could be in the rumor mill is Dallas Eakins, now coaching in AHL San Diego, who may very well end up behind the Anaheim Ducks’ bench next season.

Crawford, who is the franchise’s eighth head coach since their 2007 Cup Final appearance, joined the Senators following Boucher’s hiring in 2016. He previously coached 18 years in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, and Dallas Stars. He won the Jack Adams Award in 1995 and the Stanley Cup in 1996.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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.