NHL on NBCSN: Bruins vs. Islanders in clash of East powers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Bruins and Islanders head into Thursday in some of the league’s most comfortable playoff positions. Even so, don’t be surprised if recent events leave them both a little unsettled.

Just a bump in the road for the Islanders?

Brushing off a recent stumble should be easier for the Islanders.

Yes, it had to be jarring for Barry Trotz to see his old team, the Nashville Predators, absolutely bash his Islanders 8-3 on Tuesday. Depicting it as an anomaly isn’t very difficult, however, since that loss ended a three game-winning streak, and merely pushed the Isles to an impressive 22-8-2 record.

“You just put it in perspective,” Trotz said on Wednesday, via the Islanders’ website. “We’re not pleased that we lost 8-3, that’s for sure, but you’ve got to put it into the right context. I’ve tried to put every win and loss [in the right context]. I’ve probably been more mad after a couple of wins than an 8-3 loss last night because some games we stunk and we stole the game. Last night it just wasn’t our night.”

Dismissing the challenge isn’t totally appropriate for the Islanders, mind you. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple points out (sub required) that the Islanders allowed two power-play goals in three of their last five games, and could struggle similarly against Boston’s dangerous man advantage.

But the Islanders have less to be concerned about than their opponents.

[COVERAGE OF ISLANDERS – BRUINS BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Bumbling Bruins

Forgive the B’s if they feel like November’s eight-game winning streak is a distant memory.

The Bruins started 2019-20 at a feverishly hot pace, with some of their numbers looking unsustainable. Consider their latest stretch the hockey equivalent of a bill coming due.

Following that eight-game winning streak, the Bruins lost five games in a row from Dec. 5-12. They also began their current four-game homestand with a 4-3 OT loss to lowly Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Panicking altogether would be silly considering Boston’s 21-7-7 record (representing a 10-point edge for the Atlantic Division title), but this team is shooting for more meaningful banners. The Bruins play their next three games at home before the holiday break, and six of their next eight at home overall, so this is a good time to wake up.

Patrice Bergeron indicated to The Athletic’s Joe McDonald (sub required) that the Bruins are aware of the opportunity, and challenge.

“You break it down in small portions and right now it’s four big games before having a couple of days of rest, so leave everything on the line,” Bergeron said. “We know what’s at stake. It’s big points on the table and we’re ready for them.”

Interesting test for Islanders and Bruins

The Bruins and Islanders meet for the first of their three 2019-20 regular season matchups on Thursday. While some might peg the Bruins as a bit more explosive, Islanders defenseman Devon Toews notes enough similarities that this could come down to attention to detail.

“It sounds a lot like us when you look at it,” Toews said about the Bruins’ style and strengths. “We give teams a fit in our own end and they do the same. We’re going to be challenged to create our own opportunities as well as shut their opportunities down. They’ve got great goaltending and we’ve got great goaltending. It’s going to be a battle of little details.”

Kathryn Tappen will anchor Thursday night’s studio coverage with Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick. Brendan Burke, AJ Mleczko, and Pierre McGuire will call the action from TD Garden in Boston, Mass.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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.