ST. PAUL, Minn. — Blake Wheeler admits that returning home to play in Minnesota still feels special after a 12-year NHL career spent playing elsewhere, including the past nine seasons for the Wild’s rival Winnipeg Jets.
With his mom and dad in attendance on Saturday afternoon, it was fitting that Wheeler became his franchise’s all-time leading scorer with another big game in Minnesota.
Wheeler had a goal and assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Winnipeg beat Minnesota 6-0. Wheeler’s 616 points surpassed the previous mark set by Ilya Kovalchuk, who played for the franchise when it was the Atlanta Thrashers.
“For a guy that works that hard every day, you deserve to have good things happen,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “To become the all-time leader in a big game for us, but in his home state and to have his mom and dad here, that is fantastic for him and he’s earned it.”
Patrick Laine had two goals for Winnipeg, which had lost three of their past four games. Mark Scheifele scored for the eighth time in nine games, and Nikolaj Ehlers and Logan Shaw also had goals.
Alex Stalock allowed six goals on 28 shots in goal for the Wild before being removed midway through third period. Devan Dubnyk finished with two saves for Minnesota, which has lost three of four.
The Wild were shut out for the third time this season a game after scoring a franchise record-tying eight goals in a win at Arizona on Thursday night.
“The teams that score a lot of goals one game they usually say, `Geez, I wish we would have saved some for the next game,”’ Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But I’m more worried about defending. We gave up five and then we gave up six. You can’t win hockey games when your goals-against average is about 3.5. it’s not going to work.”
Wheeler, who’s played 10 seasons for the franchise after starting with the team in its final season in Atlanta, opened the scoring with a short-handed goal, his 10th of the season. He set the record with an assist in the third on Laine’s second goal.
“I really feel like the product of some good teams and I’ve played on some really good lines,” Wheeler said. “I play a lot of minutes, so I just feel fortunate for the opportunities I’ve had here and the guys I get to play with every night. It’s not going to be long before one of these guys on this team passes me and that will be a good moment too. But it’s a reflection of taking advantage of your opportunities and playing with a lot of really good guys.”
Winnipeg started the game with the league’s worst penalty-kill, but capitalized even when down a man. Along with the short-handed goal, the second of the season for the Jets, Winnipeg had another opportunity in the second when it had three players in alone on Stalock.
The Wild were 0 of 3 on the power-play. They’ve scored on two of their last 29 chances with the man advantage and entered the day 21st in the league on the power-play.
Scheifele’s goal was scored with six seconds left in the first to give Winnipeg a 2-0 lead.
“It’s a poor feeling going into intermission when they score late,” Stalock said. “Never could come back. They won the second period, we talked about just wanting to win the second, they won the second and obviously came out on the third and they kind of put their foot down.”
NOTES: Minnesota was without LW Jason Zucker, who had surgery on Friday to repair a broken right fibula. He’s expected to miss four-to-six weeks. … Wild C Joel Eriksson Ek is nearing a return from an upper-body injury but missed his fifth straight game. … Minnesota C Mikko Koivu missed his 10th straight game with a lower-body injury. … The Wild snapped a 12-game home point streak (9-0-3). Minnesota’s only other regulation loss at home this season was the season-opener against Pittsburgh. … LW Jansen Harkins made his NHL debut for Winnipeg after being recalled from Manitoba of the AHL. and earned an assist on Shaw’s goal. A second-round pick in 2015, he was third in the AHL with 31 points in 30 games when he was recalled on Dec. 18. … The Wild have played the fewest home games in the league this season, starting on the road for 23 of their first 36 games. They have 18 of their next 22 games at home.
Oilers: Return home to host Montreal on Monday.
Wild: Host Calgary on Monday.
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)