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Auston Matthews limited in practice, but not ruled out for Monday's game against Edmonton Oilers – TSN

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William Nylander


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.”

‘Rock solid’ Tavares helps Leafs contain McDavid and win without Matthews

The Leafs beat the surging Oilers on Saturday without leading goal scorer Auston Matthews in the lineup. John Tavares filled in as the top-line centre producing two assists and helping keep Connor McDavid off the board. “John has not gotten enough credit for how he’s defended through this season,” said coach Sheldon Keefe. “He was outstanding.”

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. 

Leafs still waiting for Andersen to get comfortable; Campbell misses practice

Sheldon Keefe provided an update on the status of Frederik Andersen, and explained why the team feels confident playing in front of Jack Campbell while they await Andersen’s return.

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.”

Barrie praises Leafs: ‘That looked like the team we were trying to be last year’

Tyson Barrie spent last season with the Maple Leafs before signing in Edmonton in the offseason. When asked about whether Toronto has taken strides since last year, Barrie praised his former team’s improvements and weighed in on how their style of play compares to the Oilers.

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.” 

‘We need to have more drive’: Oilers eyeing a better effort in rematch vs. Leafs

The Maple Leafs shut out Edmonton on Saturday night in the first of three straight meetings between the two teams. Speaking to the media on Sunday, the Oilers discussed what went wrong in the loss and stressed the importance of staying even-keeled regardless of the results.

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.” 

‘Just praying the eye was OK’: Muzzin returns from scary injury with full shield

Jake Muzzin admits he was pretty scared when he was initially hit in the face by Tyler Toffoli’s stick, but he’s thankful he didn’t get hit in the eye. Now he’ll have to adjust to wearing a full shield, nothing he’s had experience with in the past.

Lines at Sunday’s practice: 

Thornton − Tavares − Marner
Barabanov − Kerfoot − Nylander
Mikheyev − Engvall − Hyman
Petan − Boyd − Spezza
Vesey − Agostino − Sabourin
Matthews  

Rielly − Brodie
Muzzin − Holl
Dermott − Bogosian
Lehtonen − Liljegren
 
Andersen
Hutchinson
Woll

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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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