NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Islanders fight for playoff positioning

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

The Flyers and Islanders are both engaged in challenging battles for playoff positioning. On Tuesday, they get to test each other.

Flyers, Islanders among teams stuck in tight playoff races

While the Isles rest in a more comfortable position thanks to games in hand, they cannot take that position for granted. They face serious threats from the likes of the Blue Jackets and Flyers for the Metro’s third spot, and maybe wild-card seeding as well:

Flyers Islanders playoff implications

In the case of the Islanders and Flyers specifically, the Isles’ one-point edge and two games in hand both rank as relevant advantages. Even so, the Flyers could squeeze the Islanders quite a bit if Philly wins in regulation on Tuesday.

Projections at sites like Money Puck give the Islanders (22 percent) a better chance than the Flyers (15.7) to nab that third seed, but the gap could close quickly.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

Flyers, Islanders hope to continue momentum through key stretches

Each team closes out back-to-back sets with wins against formidable opponents from Monday. The Islanders beat the Capitals in Washington, keeping Alex Ovechkin from the 700 goal plateau. Meanwhile, the Flyers defeated the Panthers 4-1. The Islanders took the first two games between these teams so far this season.

Credit the Flyers with starting a tough set of games on a high note:

Feb. 8: at Washington (7-2 win for Flyers)
Feb. 10: vs. Florida (4-1 win for Flyers)
Feb. 11: at Islanders
Feb. 13: at Florida
Feb. 15: at Tampa Bay
Feb. 18: vs. Columbus
Feb. 20: at Columbus

Philly’s enjoyed an upward trajectory in general lately, managing a promising 9-3-2 record over its last 14 games. James van Riemsdyk believes the Flyers are thriving under pressure, as The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor reports (sub required).

“I don’t think we have guys that get nervous in those situations,” van Riemsdyk said. “I think those games are fun for us to play, and the games you want to be in as a player.”

There had been some troubling signs for the Islanders lately, as they’ve stumbled while working their style of gutting out close games. Perhaps the All-Star break helped them take a breath and turn things around, however.

After dropping five of six (1-3-2) from Jan. 11-19, the Islanders have only failed to gain a standings point once in their last six (4-1-1).

The Islanders follow this significant home game with a four-game trek out West. Long story short, this game is important for both teams.

A hot streak for each team

  • Anthony Beauvillier is playing some of his best hockey lately. He scored two goals to extend a career-high point streak to six games (five goals, three assists). Beauvillier also has 13 points in his last 10 games, and already tied his career-high for points in a season with 36.
  • Sean Couturier enters Tuesday with a feast-or-fame stretch (six points in five games; two with three points, three games with none). Zooming out, the big picture is pretty, including Couturier generating 19 points over his past 16 games.

Brendan Burke and Brian Boucher will call the action at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Kathryn Tappen will anchor studio coverage alongside analysts Patrick Sharp and Ben Lovejoy.

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.