The Maple Leafs practised in Edmonton on Sunday.
For the first time since aggravating a wrist injury on Wednesday, Auston Matthews practised with his teammates. But Toronto’s No. 1 centre was limited during the workout. He didn’t skate on a regular line and didn’t take part in all the drills. He also didn’t appear to let loose with any shots.
“He’s progressed here today compared to where he’s been the last few days so that’s very positive,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe, who chatted with Matthews on the ice at the end of the session. “He’s not ruled out for tomorrow. We’re just going to have to see how he is.”
John Tavares continued to skate between Joe Thornton and Mitch Marner on the top line.
“I played a lot with Mitch over my time here,” Tavares said, “so obviously have a good feel for him, but my first real time playing with Jumbo. We’re trying to spread the opponent out and do a good job of moving the puck quick and trying to find open space. Obviously, you’re talking about one of the best passers of all time so a real treat to play with Jumbo. It’s amazing what he’s doing at his age (41) and great to have the opportunity.”
Tavares picked up two assists and fired five shots on net (matching a season high) on Saturday while helping hold Connor McDavid to one shot. Per NaturalStatTrick, shot attempts were even between the Leafs and Oilers in the nine minutes the pair of captains shared the ice in five-on-five play.
“John has not gotten enough credit for how he’s defended,” Keefe said after the game. “His efforts defensively have been a real big part of our success as a team. You ask a lot more of him taking on even tougher match-ups [with Matthews out] and I thought he was outstanding. He was above the puck all night long.”
Frederik Andersen took part in a full practice for the first time since sustaining a lower body injury in Montreal on Feb. 20. Will he start on Monday?
“Ah, it’s not looking that way, if we’re being honest,” Keefe revealed. “Today he was on the ice for the better part of an hour and took lots of shots and we’re essentially just waiting for him to feel comfortable and we don’t really know when that’s going to be. But today was a very positive step towards that. So, whether it’s, you know, goaltending or Auston up front, we got a lot of question marks that we probably won’t get answered until game time tomorrow.”
Jack Campbell returned from a leg injury on Saturday and pitched a 30-save shutout. However, he was slow to get up and flexed his leg after getting run into by Tyler Ennis late in the first period and Campbell was absent from practice on Sunday.
“We gave him the day off,” Keefe said. “Coming off the injury that he has, we want to make sure we manage that properly.”
Keefe was noncommittal when asked if Campbell was the likely starter on Monday.
“Between Campbell and Fred and their situations, we got a lot of things to sort through here that I don’t suspect we’ll get sorted out until tomorrow night,” Keefe said.
Michael Hutchinson and Joseph Woll were the other two goalies on the ice at practice.
The Leafs shut down the high-flying Oilers on Saturday without Matthews and Andersen and now they may have to do it again.
“We’re being real here,” said Keefe. “I mean, we had a great game and that’s good and we like a lot about it but, you know, the puck is going to drop again tomorrow night. The scoreboard is going to be back to zeroes and you got to be able to do it again. I mean, we didn’t come here just to get one win so we better continue to refocus and get better.”
Sunday’s practice was geared toward tidying up breakouts and pressuring the puck better in certain situations.
“We know they’re going to be coming hard if not harder, because of last night’s game,” said defenceman Travis Dermott. “We got to be prepared and take it to them like we did last game and just kind of give them no option, but to follow our game plan.”
Oilers defenceman Tyson Barrie, who spent last season in Toronto, was impressed with the Leafs’ performance.
“That was what we were trying to do last year,” Barrie said. “That looked like the team we were trying to be last year. They played a great game. They’ve got a ton of skill and a ton of poise on that team. They’re a puck-possession team and they played that to a tee last night and unfortunately we were on the other end of it.”
Of course, last year the Leafs had plenty of good games. What’s been really impressive this season is they’ve been able to maintain a strong baseline effort in winning 16 of 22 games.
“We’re really focused on being focused and showing up every day whether we’re playing or practising or it’s an off day and we have to be taking care of ourselves at home,” Dermott said. “Everyone is just buying into a team plan that we’re going to be ready to go every day.”
Even with a healthy Matthews and Andersen, slowing down McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is a tall task. McDavid, the NHL points leader, has only been held off the scoresheet in five games and never in consecutive outings.
“We have to continue to have the level of commitment defensively when the puck changes hands,” noted Keefe. “We got to be in really good spots and look to slow them down when we can … We’re expecting them to be more like themselves tomorrow and we’ve got to be prepared to be even better.”
How did the Leafs frustrate Edmonton’s two-headed monster up front on Saturday?
“We just played a smart, five-man game,” said defenceman T.J. Brodie. “The forwards did a really good job of staying above them and trying to take away their speed. They’re guys who can get up to top speed real quick and they like to pull up [in the offensive zone] so if you have the pressure coming back you can sort of try and pinch them and take that time and space away. When they do pull-up that’s when they make their plays and they’re really good at it.”
Brodie’s subtle stick work thwarted McDavid on multiple occasions.
“He had a couple awkward plays that he looked like he was almost beat and then he brought that stick out of nowhere and disrupted the play,” Dermott raved.
Shot attempts favoured the Leafs (12-9) in the nine minutes that Brodie and McDavid shared the ice in five-on-five play, per NaturalStatTrick. It was 8-4 Leafs in the nearly nine minutes that Brodie faced Draisaitl.
Despite logging tough minutes, Brodie has been whistled for just one penalty this season.
“He’s a smart player,” Keefe said earlier this week. “He doesn’t put himself in bad spots. He’s got a really good stick. His stick is on the ice a lot and disrupts a lot of plays, which at times can lead to getting in people’s feet and tripping or hooking or whatever it might be, but he does a really good job with it. A lot of the game that he plays is methodical and that helps keep himself out of trouble.”
The Oilers’ power play didn’t get any chances on Saturday. It was the first time all season that happened.
“There’s probably a little bit of luck attached to it, but I thought we did skate and we worked,” Keefe said. “We really skated well yesterday and used our body to establish positioning instead of our stick. The more consistently we can do that it’s going to help, but some of it probably is just flat out luck and circumstance.”
The return of stalwart defenceman Jake Muzzin also boosted the Leafs on Saturday.
“He’s unreal on the ice in shutting plays down and being a defensive mastermind out there, but his voice in the room is equally as important,” said Dermott.
“We did a good job of sticking to our game plan,” Muzzin said. “Even when we were up a few we stayed with it. We had great goaltending and commitment from everyone on the defensive side of play so it was a good start to the road trip.”
Muzzin, who missed two games with a facial fracture, is wearing a full face shield for the first time in his career.
“With sweat coming down, it’s tough to clean,” Muzzin said, “you got to unclip it so it’s just more annoying than anything.”
Lines at Sunday’s practice:
Thornton − Tavares − Marner
Barabanov − Kerfoot − Nylander
Mikheyev − Engvall − Hyman
Petan − Boyd − Spezza
Vesey − Agostino − Sabourin
Rielly − Brodie
Muzzin − Holl
Dermott − Bogosian
Lehtonen − Liljegren
Cheveldayoff makes statement to Jets core with win-now deals – Sportsnet.ca
WINNIPEG – In this summer of bold moves, Kevin Cheveldayoff has already made his mark.
One day after bringing back veteran forward Paul Stastny on a one-year deal and acquiring defenceman Brenden Dillon in a trade, the Winnipeg Jets added another blue-liner, shipping a third round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft to the Vancouver Canucks to acquire Nate Schmidt on Tuesday night.
Schmidt had been a target of the Jets in the past, but they were previously one of the teams on his 10-team no-trade clause.
Interestingly enough, Schmidt joins Stastny — his former Vegas Golden Knights teammate — in waiving his no-trade clause to join the Jets.
The Jets were looking for a significant upgrade of the defence corps this off-season and that’s exactly what they’ve accomplished, adding a pair of experienced top-four blue-liners with term on their respective contracts.
Schmidt, who turned 30 earlier this month, has four years left on a deal that carries an average annual value of $5.95 million while Dillon’s commitment is for three more seasons at $3.9 million.
The Minnesota product is a high-character player and a minute-muncher who is known for his positive, energetic nature.
Undrafted out of college, Schmidt has carved out a solid career for himself as a reliable two-way blue-liner. He’s mobile, tough to play against and has ample playoff experience. Known more for his defensive acumen, Schmidt has eclipsed 30 points three times and had five goals and 15 points in 54 games with the Canucks last season.
When it comes to the projected defence pairings, it’s clear Jets head coach Paul Maurice is going to have a number of options at his disposal.
Schmidt shoots left-handed but actually prefers to play on the right side, so he’s likely going to be used alongside either Josh Morrissey or Dillon (if Morrissey ends up with pending RFA Neal Pionk or Dylan DeMelo.
One thing to consider is that the addition of the veterans means that there is basically only one spot available on the third pairing for a group that includes Logan Stanley, 2019 first-rounder Ville Heinola and 2017 second-rounder Dylan Samberg.
Stanley was protected by the Jets in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, so he has the inside track on the job as it stands right now — though he’s obviously facing competition for those minutes.
Heinola and/or Samberg could start next season in the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose, depending on how things play out.
Dillon was a salary-cap casualty for the Capitals, who needed to make room for the five-year contract Alex Ovechkin agreed to on Monday.
There was plenty of chatter about how Cheveldayoff would handle this off-season and it’s clear he’s made a serious statement to the core group of players that had already committed to the organization.
Since the current contracts of Jets captain Blake Wheeler, top-line centre Mark Scheifele and goalie Connor Hellebuyck all expire at the end of the 2023-24 season, the urgency to widen the window of contention is palpable.
Winning only one round since advancing to the Western Conference final in 2018 simply wasn’t good enough and the Jets have reacted accordingly.
The cost for the Jets is two-fold: they were willing to move some future draft capital — a second-rounder in 2022, a third-rounder in 2023 and a third-rounder in 2022 (they still own the Columbus Blue Jackets’ third in 2022 from the Patrik Laine blockbuster) and take on significant salary and term at a time when salary cap space is at a premium.
Staring at a flat cap (or close to it for the foreseeable future), the Jets sacrificed some of the future for a shot at trying to win now.
You can be sure these moves will resonate with Jets players.
“Every year the ceiling’s obviously to win a Stanley Cup,” Stastny said before the deal for Schmidt was made. “I’ve said it before, that everyone thinks they’re one or two pieces away but when you have a goalie like (Hellebuyck) and you have the offensive firepower and some of the dynamic defencemen, you’re right there. There’s no perfect situation, no perfect team, and I think it just shows that’s the NHL these days. There’s probably 22 or 23 teams that think they’re going to win the Cup every year at the start of the year, maybe more, but that’s what makes it fun, that’s what makes it competitive, that’s what makes every game so impactful.
“You see the drive and the hunger through the guys and I think that makes a big difference, too. You look at teams on paper and you don’t really know the identity or the character of those players but then when you’re around these guys, you realize how bad they want to win. They were there a couple of years ago and they might have taken a step back because they had so many losses on the back end just through unfortunate, unseen events, but what happened last year, to kind of get a taste of what the potential could be and you want to keep building on that.”
Dillon, 30, had a similar message to reporters as he spoke with them for the first time since his trade became official.
“I’m going to a team that wants to win, thinks we can win, believes that we’re going to be right there and that’s exciting going into a season with those being the expectations,” said Dillon, who advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 as a member of the San Jose Sharks and has 75 playoff games on his resume.
Cheveldayoff explained last week the Jets were committed to improving and he’s backed up that statement with actions.
As free agency opens on Wednesday morning, the Jets will be looking to perhaps add a depth forward. Otherwise, the next order of business revolves around getting new deals for pending RFAs Andrew Copp, Pionk and Stanley taken care of.
The money available to the Jets is dwindling (just under $4.55 million with 21 of 23 roster spots spoken for) after this flurry of activity, but with centre Bryan Little expected to be heading to LTIR again next season, there is a bit of wiggle room (up to an additional $5.291 million) to take care of the other business.
In the meantime, Cheveldayoff has already crossed off a couple of pressing items on his to-do list — including the most important one.
As it stands right now, the Jets defence corps appears to have gone from a weakness to a potential strength in a span of fewer than 24 hours.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 'deeply disappointed' by Montreal Canadiens' decision to draft Logan Mailloux – ESPN
The Canadiens shocked the hockey world Friday night by selecting Mailloux, an 18-year-old defenseman. He had “renounced” himself from the draft earlier in the week after multiple news reports covered an incident in Sweden in which he showed teammates a photo that depicted him and a woman engaged in a consensual sexual act.
The photo was taken without the consent of the woman, who went to local police. Mailloux was fined but not arrested for invasion of privacy and defamation.
“As a lifelong Habs fan, I am deeply disappointed by the decision,” Trudeau told a news conference on Tuesday. “I think it was a lack of judgment by the Canadiens organization. I think they have a lot of explaining to do to Montrealers and fans right across the country.”
Trudeau is perhaps the most high-profile critic of the pick, but the selection of Mailloux has been widely criticized by fans and media. That criticism only grew when Mailloux did an about-face and embraced the Canadiens’ selection of him with the 30th pick in the first round, saying that working with Montreal would assist him in his “betterment” as a person.
“It was totally irresponsible and a stupid act that I committed without thinking twice. I know I caused a lot of harm to this person and her family, and I regret doing this stupid and egotistical act. I deeply regret it,” he said in a statement before answering questions Saturday morning. “What I did is now unfortunately a part of both of her life and mine. I’ve apologized to her, but nonetheless this will follow her for the rest of her life. For that, I deeply and sincerely regret it.”
The team continues to face backlash against the pick. CBC news reports that the Jean Coutu pharmacy chain, the St-Hubert restaurant chain and the financial services cooperative Desjardins Group — all Canadiens sponsors — have released statements “saying they are rethinking their relationship with the Canadiens.”
Simone Biles, U.S. gymnast, out of Olympics team gymnastics competition – Global News
Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles was pulled from the team gymnastics competition at the Tokyo Olympics, as the U.S. lost its title to Russia.
After a disappointing vault in the first rotation of the women’s team event, the American was signified by an ‘R’ on the competitor list before the bars began, indicating she would not continue in the competition.
“After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on,” Biles said after the event. “I felt like it would be better to take a back seat. I didn’t want to risk the team a medal because they worked way too hard for my screw ups.”
According to an official Olympic Twitter account, Biles was attended to by a trainer after her vault, and returned to the arena with her foot strapped heavily. Her teammate Jordan Chiles performed on the uneven bars in her place.
USA Gymnastics confirmed in a statement that Biles withdrew because of a “medical issue” and said she would be assessed daily to determine whether she can participate in future competitions.
According to Reuters, Biles said Tuesday that she was not injured, “Just a little injury to my pride.”
“I have to focus on my mental health,” she said.
“I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now…. We have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do.
“I don’t trust myself as much anymore…. Maybe it’s getting older. There were a couple of days when everybody tweets you and you feel the weight of the world.
“We’re not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back.”
The International Gymnastics Federation confirmed she would play no further part in the team event, but said she would still receive a medal if the heavily favoured U.S. ended up on the podium. The team ended up winning silver, behind the team from Russia.
Biles was chasing the six gold medals she needed to become the most decorated woman in Olympics history, but will not achieve it this Games. She won four gold medals at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Biles is still eligible to compete in the individual events, including defending her all-around title on Thursday.
“We’re going to see about Thursday,” she said. “We’re going to take it a day at a time and see what happens.”
–With files from Reuters
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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