Vladimir Tarasenko eager to return to Blues’ lineup

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At the time of the NHL pause, the Blues were close to bolstering their lineup with a post-trade deadline addition.

Out since October following shoulder surgery, Vladimir Tarasenko would have been back for the final month of the regular season. The extra time off has allowed him to get back to 100%.

Tarasenko was on the ice Monday as Blues players took part in Phase 2 of the Return to Play plan. Working out in small groups, this is the step that precedes a possible full training camp beginning in mid-July.

“You start slow, you start with the basics, do some exercises where you remember the feeling,” Tarasenko told the Blues website. “I think it’s going to [come back] pretty quick. You work on the basics and move to a harder, harder level. Hopefully when camp opens, everybody will be ready. And we’re going to play to win again.”

Tarasenko dislocated his shoulder in an Oct. 29 game against the Kings and was expected to miss five months. In February he hit the ice for the first time and he nearly rejoined the Blues on a mid-March road trip.

“It’s like a big trade that you make and getting a great player,” said Blues coach Craig Berube earlier this month. “We haven’t had him all year and our team’s been very successful. Now we got Vladdy coming back, he’s a great player for us, he’s done a great job working back, being in really good shape and being ready to go.”

Despite his absence, the Blues ended up with the best record in the Western Conference. Their 94 points earned the one of the top four places in the Round Robin for Seeding along with the Golden Knights, Avalanche, and Stars.

We don’t know if the Blues will get a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title, but Tarasenko is ready to get going.

“The closer you get, the more positive emotions you have, the more happy you are for seeing the boys for the first time, skating with them,” he said. “I was lucky to go on a couple road trips [before the pause] and feel that atmosphere. I’m ready to come back and play some hockey.”

MORE:
Previewing the Western Conference Qualiyfing Round series
A look at the Eastern Conference matchups

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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

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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.