The Buzzer: McDavid, Benn headline Monday in NHL

The Buzzer: McDavid, Benn headline Monday in NHL
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3 Stars for Monday in the NHL

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Earlier on Monday, PHT’s Adam Gretz explored what Connor McDavid needs to do — not to lead the NHL in scoring, but somehow reach 100 points this season. By scoring four points, McDavid now needs 19 points in 10 games, as number 97 is now at 81 points this season.

McDavid enjoyed the strongest Monday of any NHL skater, generating a hat trick and an assist as the Oilers took care of business vs. the Jets. That hat trick pushes McDavid to 28 goals on the season, giving him at least an outside chance at catching Auston Matthews (34 goals) for the Maurice Richard Trophy.

Normally, a six-goal gap would be asking too much, at least this late in the season. (And with Matthews having a chance to widen that.) But, much like scoring 100 points in this abbreviated season, would anyone feel safe denying that McDavid might do it?

Beyond McDavid, the Oilers produced at least one other candidate for three stars of Monday in the NHL. Mike Smith played a strong game, stopping 36 out of 37 shots to keep Oilers – Jets from being a close game.

Side note: this was Connor McDavid’s third hat trick of the season, tying Mika Zibanejad, who just took the league lead with that many recently.

2. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

OK, you can make an argument that Benn — not Connor McDavid — was the true top star for Monday in the NHL.

Both players reached four points on the night. In Benn’s case, he generated three assists, then scored the overtime game-winner. While McDavid was leading a blowout, the Stars needed all four of Benn’s points.

Remarkably, it’s the second straight game where Benn scored an OTGWG for the Stars. By doing that, Benn scored the ninth OT goal of his career, tying Mike Modano for the most in Dallas Stars franchise history.

3. Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks

Actually, Evander Kane rounds out the three stars of Monday in the NHL by collecting four points. While Kane scored his goal on an empty net, he did also produce three assists.

With this four-point output, Kane improved to 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points in 48 games. If you prorate that .854 point-per-game pace over a full 82-game season, that would translate to 70 points. Such a pace would absolutely blow away Kane’s career-high of 56 points from 2018-19. Kane’s also on a pace of around 32 goals.

Not a lot has gone right for the Sharks this year, but Evander Kane’s enjoyed a strong scoring season.

Honorable mentions: Another big Saros performance, and more

  • Juuse Saros continues to power the Predators’ playoff push. He nabbed Nashville an important win by stopping 39 out of 40 shots. Depending upon your taste, that might be good enough to push Kane into the honorable mentions, instead.
  • David Perron produced three points (1G, 2A), and Jordan Binnington made 31 saves as the Blues managed another win against the mighty Avalanche. It’s looking almost certain that St. Louis can outrun the Coyotes for the West Division’s fourth spot. If these recent games are any indication, maybe the Avs wouldn’t be so sad about drawing the Wild in the second round, if it came to that?
  • Jakob Chychrun nearly triggered a big Coyotes comeback with two goals and one assist. It wasn’t enough, though, and things look dire for Arizona.

Top highlights for Monday in the NHL

Watch Connor McDavid collect his hat trick (+ assist) in style, as you’d likely expect:

Compare and contrast McDavid’s four points with those of Benn, if you feel like it:

Monday’s NHL scores

Stars 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Canadiens 2, Flames 1
Senators 2, Canucks 1
Blues 4, Avalanche 1
Predators 4, Panthers 1
Oilers 6, Jets 1
Kings 4, Ducks 1
Sharks 6, Coyotes 4

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.

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    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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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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    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
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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.

    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

    The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

    Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

    His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

    Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

    He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

    He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

    A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

    Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.