The Wraparound: Stanley Cup Final returns to St. Louis

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

It’s been a long wait for hockey fans in St.  Louis to see a Stanley Cup Final game in person — May 5, 1970, a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins was the last one — but it finally ends on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN; Live Stream) when the series shifts to Enterprise Center for Game 3 of the now tied series.

It is sure to be a raucous environment as the Blues not only return home for the city’s first Cup Final game in nearly 50 years (after winning their first ever Stanley Cup Final game), but they also have a chance to take control of the series after wrestling home-ice advantage away from the Bruins on Wednesday night with their 3-2 overtime win.

So far it has been an incredibly close series in aggregate as the two teams have put up nearly identical numbers across the board. Through the first two games the Bruins have a 6-5 edge in goals scored, while both teams have an identical number of total shot attempts and have seen almost no difference in shots on goal or scoring chances.

Both teams have shown flashes of dominance and carried the play for stretches (the Bruins in the second half of Game 1 ; the Blues in the second half of Game 2) but overall it has balanced out.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

One area where the Blues have had a significant advantage so far in the series is the performance of their top-line.

The Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz trio has outscored the Patrice Bergeron line by a 3-0 margin when they have been matched up head-to-head, prompting Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy to shift away from it a little bit over the first two games of the series in an effort to free them up offensively. So far, it has not really worked with Brad Marchand‘s empty-net goal at the end of Game 1 being the only goal from that line over the first two games.

Tarasenko has been especially hot for the Blues, entering Saturday on an eight-game point streak that has seen him tally 10 total points (five goals, five assists). He has a goal in four straight games entering Game 3 and has started to emerge as the Blues’ leading contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy (if they win the series) with the way he has carried the offense since the beginning of the Western Conference Final series.

Over the Blues’ past eight games he has been on the ice for 14 of the Blues’ 28 total goals (literally half!).

The only other player on the team that has been on the ice for more than 10 goals during that stretch is defender Colton Parayko, who has been on the ice for 13 … and he has played 71 more minutes than Tarasenko during that stretch.

Whether it is the Bergeron line or some other combination of matchups the Bruins are going to have to find a way to slow him down on Saturday night to avoid falling behind in the series.

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.