Sabres playoff drought reaches NHL-record 11th consecutive season

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Since the start of March the Buffalo Sabres have been playing their best hockey of the season, going 10-4-3 over their past 17 games and beating a number of playoff teams and Stanley Cup contenders.

It is obviously a case of too little, too late, because they are still far down the NHL standings.

Even though they were not in action on Wednesday they were still officially eliminated from playoff contention thanks to the Washington Capitals’ 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. That is significant because it means this will be the 11th consecutive season the Sabres have failed to qualify for the playoffs, setting a new NHL record for futility.

It’s been 3,999 days since their last playoff game.

Entering 2021-22, the Sabres had been tied with the Florida Panthers (2000-01 to 2010-11) and Edmonton Oilers (2006-07 to 2015-16) for the longest drought. Technically speaking Florida’s drought also covered 11 years, but that only included 10 seasons because of the 2004-05 lockout.

It has been quite a stretch for the Sabres.

A few of the things that have happened for the team during this run.

  • They are on their fourth different general manager (Darcy Regier, Tim Murray, Jason Botterill, Kevyn Adams).
  • They are on their seventh different head coach (Lindy Ruff, Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan, Dan Bylsma, Phil Housley, Ralph Krueger, Don Granato).
  • They have picked in the top-two of the NHL draft four different times, including No. 1 overall picks Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, as well as No. 2 overall picks Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel.
  • The highest they have finished in the league standings: 19th, in the first year of the streak.
  • They have finished with the worst record in the NHL four different times.
  • Their 301 wins during that time are 30th out of 32 NHL teams. The only two teams below them are Vegas and Seattle, two teams that did not enter the NHL until the past five years. Vegas is only 89 wins behind the Sabres despite playing in 455 fewer games.

The bigger concern for the Sabres and their fans has to be when this actually ends.

As well as the Sabres have played for the past month, and against some really good teams, this is still a team that has a lot of holes and a lot of areas that need fixed, and a lot of ground to make up against teams that are way further ahead of them. This is still probably not a playoff team next season, and even if everything in its latest rebuild goes perfectly, it still might be another year or two until they get back.

The good news: There are at least some positive signs here. Tage Thompson has finally had a breakout season. Dahlin looks to be back on track and Power is on the way. Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch look like a really strong return for Eichel. That all at least gives them some pieces to build around. But there is still a very long way to go.

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.