Sabres officially miss playoffs for 10th consecutive season

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The Sabres playoff drought has officially reached a decade.

With their 3-2 loss to the Penguins on Saturday afternoon, the Sabres were eliminated from playoff contention. With 12 games remaining on their schedule the maximum number of points the Sabres could reach this season is only 53. The Bruins, the fourth place team in the East Division, already have 54 points.

They are the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention this season.

Given the way this season started for Buffalo, with an 18-game winless streak in the middle, this was a foregone conclusion but it is still noteworthy to see this organization go 10 straight years without a trip to the playoffs. They have changed general managers and coaches multiple times, tried to rebuild, and may have to rebuild again.

This now has the Sabres tied with the Panthers (2001-11) and Oilers (2007-16) for longest playoff droughts in NHL history.

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If you are a Sabres fan looking for a positive in all of this, it is that even with Saturday’s loss they still showed a lot fight late in the third period and nearly tied the game in the closing seconds after entering the period facing a two-goal deficit. They have looked like a different team since changing coaches more than a month ago and are no longer a pushover for the rest of the teams in the East Division.

Even with that, they still did not have enough to match up with the Penguins on Saturday.

Pittsburgh finished the game with 41 shots on goal and carried the play for long stretches, especially in the first period where the Sabres looked a little overmatched.

The Penguins continued to get great contributions from its depth forwards as Jared McCann and Evan Rodrigues scored goals in the win. Bryan Rust‘s power play goal late in the second period proved to be the game-winner.

The most impressive thing about Pittsburgh’s season, and maybe even the biggest surprise, is just how good its depth has been. If you go back to the start of the season that might have been one of the biggest questions about this roster. It has exceeded all expectations, and one of the best ways to illustrate that is looking at what they have done when neither Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is on the ice. This season the Penguins actually have a plus-eight goal differential when neither of their top-two superstars are on the ice. That speaks volumes as to just how good the rest of the roster has played this season.

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.