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Auston Matthews, Frederik Andersen return to Toronto Maple Leafs practice on Sunday

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TORONTO — The undermanned Maple Leafs got both Auston Matthews (wrist) and Frederik Andersen (lower body) back at practice on Sunday in Edmonton, a positive sign they could return from injury during Toronto’s current five-game road trip.

But the Leafs also showed in Saturday’s dominant 4-0 win over the Oilers that even without those players in the lineup, they can still find ways to win. And that remains the expectation ahead of Monday’s second of three meetings with Edmonton this week, for which Matthews and Andersen are still game-time decisions.

“We’re being real here: We had a great game, and it was good, but the puck is going to drop again tomorrow night,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe on a Zoom call following Sunday’s practice. “The scoreboard is going to be back to zeros and you’ve got to be able to do it again. We didn’t come here just to get one win, so we’ve got to continue to refocus and get better as we get through this road trip.”

Matthews was sidelined for Saturday’s contest after re-aggravating a hand injury that forced him out of Toronto’s previous meeting against Edmonton on Jan. 22. He was limited in Sunday’s practice and did not skate on a regular line or participate in all the reps, but Keefe would not rule him out as a possibility for Monday.

Andersen hasn’t played for Toronto in nearly a week, missing their last three games with a lower-body problem that surfaced following the Leafs’ 5-2 victory over Montreal on Feb. 20. Michael Hutchinson stepped in for two tilts against Calgary last week, going 1-1-0, and then Jack Campbell returned from his own lower-body injury to backstop Toronto to its first shutout of the season in Saturday’s win.

Campbell was also absent from Sunday’s practice, something Keefe chalked up to managing the goaltender post-injury. But Campbell did look a little shaken up following a collision late in Saturday’s game with Oilers’ forward Tyler Ennis, and Keefe was not prepared on Sunday to name a starter for Monday.

“Between Campbell and Fred and their situations, we’ve got a lot of things to sort through here that I don’t suspect will get sorted out until tomorrow,” Keefe said. “It’s not looking [like Andersen will be available] if we’re being honest, but with his injury, basically where we’re at here now is just waiting for him to be comfortable. Today, he was on the ice for the better part of an hour, and took lots of shots, so we’re essentially just waiting for him to feel comfortable.”

However the Leafs’ lineup pans out, they’re anticipating a serious pushback from Edmonton’s top players. Connor McDavid was held to one shot on goal and finished minus-three in Saturday’s loss, and Leon Draisaitl was also held at bay with three shots on goal.

It helped that for just the second time all season, Toronto didn’t take a single penalty in the game, giving the Oilers no opportunity to run wild with the extra man. And the Leafs managed to score on their lone power play opportunity, breaking out of their recent 0-for-11 funk.

The Leafs also got top performances from their best players, with both John Tavares and Mitch Marner producing two-point nights and William Nylander scoring his third goal in two games.  Having collected 32 points to date, Marner now sits just two points behind Draisaitl for third-most in the NHL. Despite being off the score sheet on Saturday, McDavid still paces all skaters with 40 points this season, and Keefe is sure Edmonton’s captain will be looking for more come Monday.

“I think we have to continue to have that level of commitment defensively when the puck changes hands,” Keefe said of shutting down the Oilers’ best. “I think we did our part yesterday, but sometimes your best players are going to have an off night. Those guys have had a lot of nights where they’ve been on and you’ve got to manage that as best you can as a team. We’re expecting them to be more like themselves tomorrow, and we’ve got to be prepared to be even better.”

Learning to adapt on the fly has become a big part of this season for the Leafs, especially in navigating all their recent injuries. Along with Campbell, Andersen and Matthews all dealing with issues, Joe Thornton, Jake Muzzin and Zach Hyman have all missed time in the last week and Wayne Simmonds remains out with a broken wrist.

On some occasions – like Saturday’s win over the second place team in the North Division – Toronto has stepped up and proven its mettle in the face of those hardships. At other times – like last week’s 3-0 loss to Calgary – the Leafs admitted to poorly handling adversity. Keefe believes his group is more suited to being the former though.

“I think [winning without Matthews and Andersen] certainly should do a lot for us, and I think some of that confidence was earned even earlier in the season,” Keefe claimed. “It wasn’t the first time we’ve played without Auston and not the first time we played against the Oilers without Auston. We know that Edmonton’s going to have that push and there’s certainly things that we can continue to do better throughout the game and we talked about some of those things here before practice, and then got on the ice and and worked at them.”​

Source: – TSN

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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