When the NHL returns from its bye weeks and all-star break, there will be just over 30 games left for each team.
The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are the only Canadians clubs currently in a playoff spot, while the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets sit just below the cut line. The Montreal Canadiens have some serious work to do if they’re going to make a post-season return. And in Ottawa, it’s once again wait until next year for the rebuilding Senators.
With that in mind, The Canadian Press takes a look Canada’s seven franchises as the focus turns to the final stretch of the 2019-20 campaign.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS (27-18-4, first in Pacific Division)
Having missed the playoffs five of the last six seasons — and four straight — the Canucks are in a good position. The club sits atop the congested Pacific Division standings, a point up on both Edmonton and Calgary. Vancouver has received terrific goaltending from Jacob Markstrom, while the additions of J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers and the improved play of Jay Beagle and Tanner Pearson have been huge pluses. Vancouver also has a Calder Trophy candidate for the second straight season in Quinn Hughes. And Elias Pettersson continues to show why he took home rookie of the year honours last June. “We still have things we can improve,” Pettersson said. “When we are working, when we are skating, we play our best.”
EDMONTON OILERS (26-18-5, second in Pacific Division)
The Oilers currently occupy a playoff spot thanks in large part to the NHL’s two leading scorers — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The dynamic duo has combined for 151 points in 49 games, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a distant third on Edmonton’s roster with 33. McDavid hasn’t shown any ill-effects from the serious knee injury he suffered last April. James Neal has 19 goals after scoring just seven with the Flames in 2018-19. Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith have been solid in splitting goaltending duties, while new head coach Dave Tippett has got buy-in on the defensive side. The Oilers, however, know it’s going to be a mad dash to the finish line as the franchise looks to make the post-season for just the second time in 14 years. “Every game is going to have a ton of meaning,” Tippett said. “That’s what’s fun about it.”
CALGARY FLAMES (26-19-5, third in Pacific Division)
The Flames could have imploded in the wake of the allegations made against head coach Bill Peters that he’d directed racial slurs against a player when both were in the minors a decade ago, and that he had physically abused two others when he was behind the Carolina Hurricanes’ bench. But the team instead blocked out the noise and has thrived under interim bench boss Geoff Ward. Flames goalie David Rittich will take part in his first all-star game this weekend as an injury replacement. Calgary winger/antagonist Matthew Tkachuk will also make his first appearance at the festivities, and will no doubt be a focus thanks to his bubbling rivalry with the Oilers. “There’s a lot that went on,” Flames centre Sean Monahan said. “It’s been a crazy year.”
WINNIPEG JETS (25-22-4, three points out of a wild-card spot)
The Jets received a gut punch early with the unexpected loss of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien — the situation has still yet to be resolved — after also shedding Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chariot on the blue line over the summer. Winnipeg has managed to hang around thanks to the Vezina Trophy-calibre goaltending of Connor Hellebuyck and a patchwork defence corps, but cracks have started to show with a team that’s now lost four straight in regulation, and six of its last seven. “We’ve done a pretty good job of really not worrying about which player is out there,” blue-liner Josh Morrissey said. “We’ve been playing as hard as we can defensively and not feeling sorry for ourselves.”
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (25-17-7, four points out of a playoff spot)
The Leafs once again started the season as a Stanley Cup favourite, but a fall swoon was enough to see head coach Mike Babcock shown the door in favour of Sheldon Keefe. Toronto got out to a 15-4-1 under its rookie bench boss, but is 1-3-2 over its last six to sit outside the playoff picture. Keefe called his team “immature” following a disastrous 8-4 loss in Florida and an ugly 6-2 setback on home ice to Chicago ahead of its bye week. Auston Matthews, who’s sitting out the on-ice portion of the all-star festivities in St. Louis with a wrist injury, is on pace to smash the franchise record for goals in a season, but the Leafs will need a lot more from netminder Frederik Andersen. Toronto has struggled minus injured defencemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, although the latter could be back soon. There’s no doubting the Leafs’ ability to score. It’s whether or not they can keep the puck out of their net. “Everyone’s invested 100 per cent,” captain John Tavares said after a recent setback. “But when we go out and play and have games like this or have lapses like this, it’s obviously not good enough. It gets in the way of us building what we want to build.”
MONTREAL CANADIENS (22-21-7, 10 points out of a playoff spot)
After coming agonizingly close to making the playoffs last season, Montreal currently sits well back. Two losing streaks of eight games are to blame for the Canadiens, who have failed to gain traction with Carey Price struggling in the crease. The addition of Ilya Kovalchuk has provided a bit of a spark for Montreal, which won four of five heading into the break. “We just have to be more consistent,” said winger Tomas Tatar said. “That’s our issue.”
OTTAWA SENATORS (17-23-8, 19 points out of a playoff spot)
It seems like a lifetime ago that the Senators were a goal away from making the 2017 Stanley Cup final. Ottawa’s steep decline has been well-documented, but there’s continued reason for optimism. The club signed star defenceman Thomas Chabot to a big contract extension, while winger Brady Tkachuk, who will replace Matthews at the all-star game, is proving the Senators made the right call at the 2018 draft. The rebuild took a hit when Ottawa was minus its first-round pick last year, but the Senators could have two high selections in 2020 — their own and the one acquired from San Jose in the Erik Karlsson deal. “We have to continue to play hard,” said rookie head coach D.J. Smith. “We need to continue to get better.”
— With files from Shane Jones in Edmonton, Jim Morris in Vancouver, Judy Owen in Winnipeg, Kelsey Patterson in Montreal and Lisa Wallace in Ottawa.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2020.
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6-time Canadian curling champion Jennifer Jones denied a 7th title – CBC.ca
Jennifer Jones will have to wait for another chance to win a record seventh Canadian women’s curling championship.
The decorated skip believes she has the team and the time to get that opportunity.
Jones and her Winnipeg wild-card team fell 8-3 to Ontario’s Rachel Homan in Sunday’s semifinal at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Homan advanced to the evening final against Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson for the title.
WATCH | Homan heads to Scotties final:
The winner will represent Canada at the world championship March 14-22 in Prince George, B.C.
Jones, 45, is tied with Colleen Jones for the most national women’s championships won by a skip. She claimed the fifth of her six crowns five years ago in Moose Jaw, Sask.
Losing to Homan foiled her bid to win it again at Mosaic Place.
“You always think about it every time you step on the ice,” Jones said. “Not even about winning a record seven, but winning and representing Canada.
“I would have loved to have had an opportunity to represent Canada in Prince George. It always is terrible to lose, but at least we gave ourselves a chance this year.”
After Jones won her sixth title and a second career world championship in 2018, her longtime second Jill Officer retired. Jones, Officer, third Kaitlyn Lawes and lead Dawn McEwen won an Olympic gold medal in 2014.
Jones and Officer had curled together since their junior days. Jocelyn Peterman replaced Officer.
Jones speaks of her team as a work in progress despite her experienced lineup.
“We worked on a lot of things. I feel they’re all coming together,” the skip said. “We’re trending in the right direction which I love and having a ton of fun.”
‘We know we’re better than that’
Trailing 5-1 after five ends Sunday, Jones tried setting up multi-point ends to get back in the game. Homan shut the door on her with defensive hits and Jones shook hands after nine.
“The disappointing part is we know we’re better than that and we just let it get away too early,” Lawes said. “We knew we had to keep it close with them, especially because we’re such a great-hitting team.
“Obviously we come here and we want to win. We’ve built a lot over the last two seasons with this lineup. In the big picture, I’m really proud of where we’re at. I know we have a lot left in the tank.”
Homan’s team boasted shooting accuracy percentage of 91 per cent compared to wild-card’s 76 over the first five ends Sunday. Peterman struggled early at 68 per cent, which put pressure on Lawes to make runback doubles.
Jones was heavy on a draw in the second end to give up a steal of three. The skip was light on another draw to score two in the eighth and settled for one.
“It’s hard to come off a loss,” Jones said. “I get to go home to my kids and that’s always great.
“I am not a super-competitive person — people don’t believe that — except when it comes to curling.
“When we’re on the ice, we want to win. It doesn’t matter what we’ve won in the past. We’re in the moment and we’re just has hungry as we’ve ever been.”
In her 15th career Tournament of Hearts, Jones was the wild-card team for the first time. The wild-card was introduced to the national men’s and women’s championship in 2018.
After losing to Einarson in the Manitoba women’s final, Jones beat Tracy Fleury to gain entry into the main draw in Moose Jaw.
Hurricanes roll out carpet for David Ayres with home game invite – CBC.ca
The Carolina Hurricanes aren’t done with David Ayres just yet.
Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, was forced to be Carolina’s emergency goalie for its road game Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ayers, of Whitby, Ont., stopped eight-of-10 shots he faced in his NHL debut, helping the Hurricanes capture a 6-3 victory.
Afterward, he was named the game’s first star. Ayres came into the game in the second period after injuries to regular netminders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek.
On Sunday, the Hurricanes announced that Ayres will be present for their home game Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.
“See you Tuesday, Davey!” the club said on its Twitter account.
See you Tuesday, Davey!<br><br>Ayres will be in the building on Tuesday and will be our <a href=”https://twitter.com/VectorSecurity?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@VectorSecurity</a> Siren Sounder! <a href=”https://t.co/L4zH4Az0lj”>pic.twitter.com/L4zH4Az0lj</a>
After the win over Toronto, the Hurricanes provided a video of Ayres being showered by Carolina players when he came into the team’s dressing room. And head coach Rod Brind’Amour praised both Ayres and his team for their efforts.
“It’s not often in a game that you get tied to a great memory,” he said. “All you have is the memories you’ve got and you guys just gave me one, you gave each other one.
“But it’s a memory I’m going to have forever, the way you guys played in that third period for you (pointing to Ayres) and the way you [Ayres] played for us.”
What’s more, the stick Ayres used in the game is going to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Jones, Lawes families find support in each other after personal losses – CBC.ca
MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Jennifer Jones is two wins away making Scotties history.
And should she win both of her games on Sunday, she’ll be winningest skip in Scotties history with seven titles – currently tied with Colleen Jones with six.
But the veteran skip from Winnipeg, Team Wild Card this year, has been playing with a heavy heart.
There have been so many times throughout this year’s event Jones has looked into the stands for her father, Larry.
He’s not there.
Larry Jones died suddenly this past May. He was Jennifer’s biggest fan and sparked her interest in the game – Larry also coached Jennifer during her first Scotties win in 2005.
“It’s been tough. I’ll be honest,” Jones said. “After we won the Wild Card game I looked up for my dad and he wasn’t there. You kind of sometimes forget. I feel like he’s out there with me. Every time I curl I feel super close to my dad.”
Sitting in the stands though cheering on her daughter is Carol Jones. Larry and Carol were married for 53 years. They sat beside each other for hundreds of hours of curling.
“My husband and I traveled to all these curling events. Every event over the years,” Carol said.
“Some tearful moments. But the curling community is amazing.”
The ‘Thelma and Louise’ of curling
This year, Carol is sitting beside Cheryl Lawes at the Scotties.
The two have been seatmates at big curling events before – during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi they became good luck charms.
“No matter who was sitting in the seat beside her, I had to get them out because I needed to sit beside her,” Cheryl said. “And I did for the whole Olympics and that’s why we won.”
Now they’re reunited and have rekindled a friendship. Losing a husband and father is something Cheryl and Kaitlyn know all too well.
Keith Lawes, who like Larry Jones for Jennifer, got Kaitlyn involved in curling at a very young age. He loved curling and was so passionate about it. In 2007, when Kaitlyn was just 18 years old, Keith died.
Now all of these years later Carol and Cheryl are providing comfort for each other at the Scotties while cheering on their daughters.
“When Carol was starting to go through her journey, and you could tell Larry was ill, I tried to give her some guidance,” Cheryl said.
“And just to be there for a shoulder to cry on.”
There have been many tears and tough days for the two. But they’ve seemed to find a new energy being in each other’s company in Moose Jaw – they’re actually having the time of their lives right now.
“I’m Thelma,” says Cheryl.
“And I’m Louise,” says Carol, laughing.
The two have been dancing around the stands to music, cheering their daughters on wildly, laughing and leaning together when rocks coming sliding down the ice.
“We’ve formulated a very strong friendship and obviously a very strong support for our girls,” Carol said.
“She did grab my knee the other day. It helps to have somebody that you can lean on when there’s a big shot.”
Joy for Jennifer and Kaitlyn
Carol and Cheryl having as much fun as they are at this year’s Scotties has eased the minds of Jennifer and Kaitlyn – to know their mothers have each other while they’re playing means everything to them.
“I texted my mom last night and asked if she was having fun because I haven’t seen her that much. She said, ‘fun? I can’t stop laughing.'” Kaitlyn said.
“It makes me so happy. They have so much energy. They seem younger. They’re having a blast and that’s all I could ask for.”
Jones gets emotional when she thinks about the curling journey she’s been on with her parents and now the past decade with Kaitlyn.
“It’s my mom’s first Scotties without my dad. For her to come and see her laughing and having fun means the absolute world to me,” she said. “It’s amazing that our moms can share this together.”
Carol and Cheryl position themselves directly behind Jennifer and Kaitlyn’s sheet, watching every shot with laser like focus, hanging on every rock.
“We make rocks curl. We make rocks crash on a guard,” Cheryl says, laughing.
“Thank god for her. She’s been a great, true friend,” Carol said.
Jennifer beams when she sees her mom having as much fun as she is.
“I have a tremendous mom. She’s the best person in the world,” Jennifer said. “All I want to see is her smiling. Curling brings us so much joy in our family, but I really think it’s been an amazing healing process for my mom.”
Jones vs. Homan battle awaits
That last spot in Scotties Final on Sunday night will be decided in a semifinal game between Jones and Rachel Homan.
Homan defeated Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville on Saturday to advance to within one game of the championship battle.
It’s been quite the last number of seasons for Homan and her team out of Ottawa. After their disappointment of the Olympics, they lost year’s Scotties final in dramatic fashion by giving up steals in the 10th end and then an extra end.
Those tough losses are valuable lessons.
“Everything you go through changes you and helps you grow as a person,” Homan said.
“We feel like we’re right there.”
Homan’s lead, Lisa Weagle, says they’ve put those losses behind them and are focused on winning a fourth Scotties title.
“The only thing you can do is learn from it. We’ve taken what we can from that and figured out how we can be stronger and better,” she said.
This iteration of Team Homan made their Scotties debut five years ago in Moose Jaw.
Homan says it’d be a fitting place for them to win again.
“We’re going to give it everything we have. If it’s good enough, awesome. If it isn’t, we didn’t leave anything behind,” she said.
6-time Canadian curling champion Jennifer Jones denied a 7th title – CBC.ca
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