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3 Keys: Maple Leafs at Lightning, Game 3 of Eastern 1st Round




Eastern Conference First Round, Game 3

Best-of-7 series tied 1-1



TAMPA — Victor Hedman was a full participant in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s morning skate and will be a game time decision against the Toronto Maple Leafs for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

The Lightning defenseman sustained an undisclosed injury in the first period of Tampa Bay’s 7-3 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday and did not return for the final two periods. He did not dress for Game 2 on Thursday, a 7-2 Maple Leafs win that tied the best-of-seven series 1-1.

The 32-year-old participated in line rushes and was lined up with Nick Perbix for drills. He did not seem limited at any time during the 20-minute skate.

Coach Jon Cooper said Hedman will take part in the pregame skate after which a decision will be made.

“Cross your fingers,” Cooper said. Hopefully he will be ready to go.”


The Lightning defense already is depleted with Erik Cernak once again ruled out after taking an illegal check to the head from Toronto forward Michael Bunting in the second period of Game 1. The Maple Leafs forward was suspended three games for his actions and won’t be eligible to return until Game 5 at Toronto on Thursday.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian is expected to play in Cernak’s place for the second consecutive game. If Hedman can’t go, defensean Haydn Fleury is the leading candidate to replace him, as he did in Game 2.

No matter who does or does not dress for Tampa Bay, Toronto must focus on its own collective game.

“You can’t control what’s going on over there,” Maple Leafs center Ryan O’Reilly said. “We have a game plan and we’re going to stick to it.

“Obviously he’s an important piece of their team but it’s more important to concentrate on what we need to do.”

Here are 3 keys for Game 3:

1. Get out of the gates fast

In Game 1 it took only 78 seconds for the Lightning to take a 1-0 lead, an advantage they did not relinquish. In Game 2 it was forward Mitchell Marner who got the Maple Leafs off to a good start, scoring just 47 seconds into a game they never trailed in.

In each instance, the early goal set the tone for the remainder of the game.

“It’s going to be important, especially on the road,” O’Reilly said. “We have to be aware of that.”

2. Let’s get physical

Tampa Bay set the tone in Game 1 by implementing a physical forecheck from the opening face-off, with forwards Corey Perry and Pat Maroon setting the early tone. In Game 2 it was Toronto’s turn, with defensemen Luke Schenn and Jake McCabe leading the hit parade.

“They have a lot of skilled players so you have to make it hard on them,” Schenn said. “We need to be physical right from the get-go.”

3. Sin bin blues

Each team’s power play has been effective through the first two games; the Lightning are 4-for-11 with the man advantage in the series (36.4 percent) and the Maple Leafs are 4-for-10 (40 percent), causing coaches Cooper and Sheldon Keefe to stress the importance of staying out of the penalty box.

Each team has looked dangerous on the power play, and O’Reilly said the solution is simple.

“Know where the line is, don’t cross it, and stay out of the box,” he said.

Maple Leafs projected lineup

Calle JarnkrokAuston Matthews — Mitchell Marner

Alexander KerfootJohn TavaresWilliam Nylander

Matthew Knies — Ryan O’Reilly — Noel Acciari

Zach Aston-ReeseDavid KampfSam Lafferty

Jake McCabe — TJ Brodie

Mark GiordanoJustin Holl

Morgan Rielly — Luke Schenn

Ilya Samsonov

Joseph Woll

Scratched: Erik Gustafsson, Timothy Liljegren, Conor Timmins, Wayne Simmonds, Erik Kallgren

Injured: Jake Muzzin (neck), Victor Mete (upper body), Nicholas Robertson (shoulder), Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder), Matt Murray (head)

Suspended: Michael Bunting

Lightning projected lineup

Steven StamkosBrayden PointNikita Kucherov

Brandon HagelAnthony CirelliAlex Killorn

Ross ColtonNicholas PaulTanner Jeannot

Pat Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Corey Perry

Victor Hedman — Nick Perbix

Mikhail SergachevDarren Raddysh

Ian Cole — Zach Bogosian

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Haydn Fleury

Injured: Erik Cernak (upper body), Michael Eyssimont (upper body)

Status report

Bunting will serve the second game of his suspension for his hit on Cernak in Game 1. … When asked if the Maple Leafs would have any lineup changes, Keefe replied, “Maybe,” but did not elaborate any further. … Eyssimont, a forward, participated in the Lightning morning skate Saturday, but is unlikely to play. independent correspondent Corey Long contributed to this report



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Montreal Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to eight-year contract extension – Habs Eyes on the Prize



The forward re-signs with the team for the maximum length.

Montreal Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to eight-year contract extension
Anton Rasegard

The Montreal Canadiens have signed forward Cole Caufield to an eight-year contract extension, the team announced on Monday.

The contract will have an average cap hit of $7.85 million per season, just under the AAV for the same length of contract signed by team captain Nick Suzuki last year. The contract will last until the end of the 2030-31 season.

Caufield finished last season with 26 goals, and held the team lead in that category for most of the season despite playing only 46 games before undergoing shoulder surgery. He also had 10 assists.

The contract now locks in the two franchise cornerstones Caufield and Suzuki for the maximum length and cap hits under $8 million. It’s a good bit of business for Kent Hughes to get this done before free agency, and has the potential for great cap management as the years go by.

In the sixth year of the contract, per CapFriendly, there is a 15 team no-trade clause that drops to 10 teams in year seven and five in year eight.

Patrik Bexell, Matt Drake, and Jared Book discuss the contract in a special Habsent Minded Extra.

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Blue Jays’ Chris Bassitt announces birth of child to cap ‘perfect weekend’



The Toronto Blue Jays had a memorable few days in New York, thanks to a three-game sweep of the Mets, but that’s not the biggest reason starting pitcher Chris Bassitt is all smiles these days.

Bassitt and his wife, Jessica, welcomed their second child over the weekend, with the veteran right-hander reporting that both mother and baby are doing well.

“Perfect weekend complete,” Bassitt wrote on Twitter. “Momma and Colson are doing great.”

Jessica went into labour Friday, while her husband took his normal turn in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Bassitt channelled all of his “dad strength” in that outing against the Mets, firing 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball with eight strikeouts in a 3-0 Toronto win. In a cruel twist from the universe, the start of the game was delayed more than 90 minutes due to inclement weather.


Once his outing was over, Bassitt rushed back to Toronto via private plane to be with Jessica for Colson’s birth. He made it in plenty of time, tweeting Saturday morning that the baby hadn’t arrived yet.

The 34-year-old will now be able to enjoy a few days with his family, as the Blue Jays placed him on the paternity list Saturday. Reliever Jay Jackson took his place on the 26-man roster.

Blue Jays pitcher Chris Bassitt dominated the Mets in his outing Friday. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Blue Jays pitcher Chris Bassitt dominated the Mets in his outing Friday. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Bassitt’s Blue Jays teammates gave him even more reason to cheer by eking out a 2-1 victory Saturday before getting the brooms out with a 6-4 win in the series finale.

Brandon Belt was the hero Sunday, connecting for a go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh inning after Toronto squandered an early 4-0 advantage. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. also went deep for the Blue Jays, while Whit Merrifield delivered a two-run double in the second inning.

Next up, Toronto welcomes the Houston Astros to Rogers Centre for a four-game series that begins Monday. Bassitt is listed as the probable starter for Wednesday’s contest.



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Rory McIlroy (T-1) falls back on short game, stays positive with chance at Memorial



DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy will set out Sunday afternoon at Jack’s Place looking to secure the second leg of the “Legends Slam” with a swing that’s well short of perfect and no shortage of would-be spoilers lurking.

He couldn’t be happier.

For the third consecutive day at the Memorial, McIlroy leaned on luck and grit to keep pace with the co-leaders – Si Woo Kim and David Lipsky – at 6 under par with 10 other players within two shots of the lead. Betting lines will undoubtedly favor the world No. 3 against the other contenders, but the truth is he has no idea what to expect when he sets out in the week’s final group.

Full-field scores from the Memorial Tournament


“I don’t think I hit a green from the eighth hole through the 14th hole, and I played those holes in even par,” McIlroy shrugged following his third-round 70. “Chip in on 12 [for birdie] and got it up-and-down from some tricky spots. I was really happy with how I scored out there and how I just sort of hung in there for most of the day.”

If McIlroy’s happy-to-be-here take doesn’t match with his world-beater persona, it’s the honest byproduct of a swing that he’s repeatedly said is a work in progress. Saturday’s round on a hard-and-fast course was the most-recent example of his very real struggle.

There was the chip-in for birdie at No. 12 from 25 feet and scrambling pars at Nos. 8, 11, 13 and 14. The major champion, whose career has been written with an overwhelming driver and sublime iron play, has now fully embraced the scrappy life.

“Embracing it,” he smiled. “There was a couple of shots out there when I missed the greens that I was sort of looking forward to hit. I think it’s embracing that challenge and embracing the fact that you’re probably not going to hit more than 12 or 13 greens out there. I think with how my short game’s been this week it’s something I’ve been able to fall back on, which has been great.”

To be fair, Rory is still Rory off the tee. He’s eighth this week in strokes gained: off the tee and second in driving distance, which at Muirfield Village is an accomplishment considering host Jack Nicklaus’ mission is to take driver out of the hands of the game’s top players.

Where the challenge has come is from the fairway and, despite his lofty status among the leaders, Saturday’s effort was his statistically worst of the week with just 7 of 18 greens in regulation and a loss to the field (1.71 shots) in strokes gained: approach the green.

Still, he’s the easy favorite with 18 holes remaining and for good reason. Other than Kim, who has four PGA Tour victories including the 2017 Players Championship, the next six players on the board have a combined four Tour victories.

“It’s a big tournament and I’ve got quite a bit of experience in that and you would like to think that gives you a little bit of an advantage,” McIlroy said. “Everyone’s going to go out there tomorrow and, regardless of where you are in the tournament, this golf course makes you a little uncomfortable anyway. So, everyone’s going to be feeling like that. With the way the leaderboard is and how bunched it is, it’s just going to come down to who can sort of hold their head the most coming down the stretch.”




Scottie Scheffler isn’t happy with what he’s been putting out on the course as of late, despite some solid results.


Considering his own assessment of his swing, keeping a positive outlook doesn’t seem to be a problem for McIlroy this week. It might have something to do with what has admittedly been a rough couple of weeks, which stretch back to his missed cut at the Masters. Or it might just be the opportunity.

When he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2018, it was two years after that tournament’s host and legend had died. For a player who grew up idolizing The King, it was a bittersweet accomplishment and a part of why Sunday at Muirfield Village is likely to mean more than the sum of its parts.

“To be able to walk up that hill from 18 and get that handshake from Jack would be pretty nice,” he said. “I won Arnold’s tournament a few years ago, but he had already passed by that time. So it would be so nice to be able to do it and have Jack be there.”

It’s been an interesting year for McIlroy both on and off the course, which at least partially explains a lightness in his step that had been missing. There was also a message from his sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, last week that appeared to resonate with the 23-time Tour winner: “You are going to win your fare share of golf tournaments. You tee it up to see what your fare share is.”



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