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Blue Jackets excited to add Laine, Roslovic in blockbuster deal – BlueJackets.com

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Put in the difficult position of having to trade his No. 1 center, Jarmo Kekalainen hit a home run. 

At least that’s the opinion of his head coach, John Tortorella, who was effusive in his praise of the Blue Jackets general manager after Kekalainen swung a blockbuster deal Saturday. 

Center Pierre-Luc Dubois was traded to Winnipeg along with a third-round pick in the 2022 draft for All-Star winger Patrik Laine and Columbus native Jack Roslovic, a haul of two forwards that should quickly add some offensive punch to the CBJ lineup.  

That Kekalainen could fetch such a return for a player who the entire NHL knew wanted a deal left Tortorella as perhaps the happiest man in Columbus. 

“It was a hell of a spot (Kekalainen) got put into,” Tortorella said after the Jackets’ 5-2 win against Tampa Bay on Saturday. “He stood right in there. I talked to him a couple of times yesterday (about) the amount of time he was putting into things, so we’re very happy that he found a way here, him and (Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff).  

“We are really excited about these guys coming to us. Jarmo is not afraid of trying to make his team better and putting his neck out there a little bit at times, so I think that’s a really good trade for us.” 

Video: Laine speaks to the media on Saturday.

Adding two big pieces — a first-line winger who has averaged 38 goals per 82 games in his NHL career and a homegrown center whose best days in the NHL are likely still ahead of him — was seen as a coup in Tortorella’s eyes, and the hope is the pair will help a team that finished 27th in the NHL in scoring a year ago and had scored just 10 goals in its first five games this season. 

The offensive abilities of Laine need little introduction as exploits of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft — one spot ahead of Dubois — are known throughout the league. Laine burst onto the scene as a rookie with 36 goals in 2016-17 then added a career-high 44 a year later. The 22-year-old is coming off a 28-35-63 line posted in 68 games last year, and one of the league’s top snipers has 140 goals and 250 points in 306 career NHL games, including 52 power-play tallies.  

Roslovic, meanwhile, was born in Columbus, came up through the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets junior program and played his college hockey at Miami University. The first-round pick (25th overall) in the 2015 NHL draft has a 26-41-67 line in 180 career games including career highs of 12 goals, 17 assists and 29 points a year ago. The thought is with more consistent playing time, those numbers could blossom even more for the 23-year-old.  

“I think both of those guys bring offense to our team,” Kekalainen said. “Jack Roslovic, I think he had (29) points last year. His ice time increased a little bit, but Winnipeg has a lot of skilled forwards, so I think he’s going to get a more offensive role with our team. Obviously, he’s going to have to earn that. 

“Patrik Laine is just a pure goal scorer. He scored 36 goals when he was 18 years old in the National Hockey League. I think his best year was 44 goals. I’ve known him since he was 16 years old, watching him play in Finland. He won a championship there, being one of the top scorers and MVP of the World Juniors when they won gold, and he came into the National Hockey League and has done what he’s done so far. He’s still very young. Those are all very exciting things.” 

Roslovic was a restricted free agent this past offseason and did not report to Winnipeg, so he is yet to play a game this year. He has been staying sharp in Columbus and quickly signed a two-year contract with the Blue Jackets, so he has already entered the team’s COVID protocol program and hopes to be able to join the team this week.  

Laine, meanwhile, had two goals and an assist in the one game he has played this year but has missed recent games with an upper-body injury he says he does not consider serious. Before he can report to Columbus, the native of Finland must obtain a work visa and get everything with COVID protocols squared away, so his first day on the ice remains to be seen.  

Both said they’re excited to see what they can bring to the Columbus team when they do suit up.  

“It’s awesome to be part of the Blue Jackets organization right now, and I’m happy that they wanted me on board,” Laine said. “I couldn’t be more excited. It’s always a new chapter, and going to a new place, meeting new guys, I’m kind of scared but it’ll be fine. There’s a bunch of guys that I know and a couple of Finnish guys, too, and I’m just super excited to meet everybody and get things going.” 

Added Roslovic: “I’m just really excited about the opportunity. It just makes it that much better too that it’s in Columbus. I’m super happy to be here. Obviously I grew up living here, watching the team play, and it’s definitely just an extra cherry on top.” 

Video: Roslovic speaks to the media on Saturday.

It was a quick end to the saga involving Dubois, who was the team’s top pick in the 2016 draft and had developed into the team’s No. 1 center the past two seasons. Dubois didn’t miss a game in his Columbus career, suiting up 239 times in the union blue sweater and posting a 66-93-159 line. He had career highs of 27 goals and 61 points two seasons ago and led Columbus with 49 points a year ago before adding 10 in 10 games in the NHL playoff bubble. 

But when Dubois signed a two-year extension with Columbus as an RFA on New Year’s Eve, reports got out that he was also looking for a change in scenery. Dubois had just one goal in the team’s first five games and did not skate in the last 45-plus minutes of the team’s overtime loss Thursday against Tampa Bay, leaving a trade all but an inevitability. Less than 48 hours later, he was on his way to Winnipeg.  

“We’ve been working on this for a while,” Kekalainen said. “We always said it could take a while until we found the right deal, but if the right deal is on the table, we’re ready to move fast. Everything came together, and we’re happy with the deal.” 

Kekalainen has shown he’s not afraid to make big moves before, including the acquisition of Brandon Saad in 2015, the deal that sent Ryan Johansen to Nashville in 2016 for Seth Jones, returning Saad to Chicago for Artemi Panarin in the summer of 2017 and trade deadline deals to acquire Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene in 2019. 

Those trades involve some of the biggest names in the game, but you could argue none is quite as captivating as this one. How it works out for both teams will be a storyline for years, and Kekalainen hopes it’s positive for each side.  

“I think the best trades are always the type of trades that help both teams, and I think in this case that’s what happened,” Kekalainen said. “They are going to get a good player and we are going to get two good players, and we both move on.” 

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Oilers’ depth to be tested again with McDavid, Draisaitl reunited – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — As the Ottawa Senators arrive in Northern Alberta in hopes of solving an opponent who is 4-0 against them this season, a special surprise awaits the North’s last place team: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same line.

Welcome to Edmonton!

Since moving on to separate lines last season, reuniting the Oilers’ two superstars has been a tactical last resort for Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. Like on Saturday, when his team needed a spark against Calgary he re-jigged his lines mid-game, and McDavid and/or Draisaitl were in on all three goals in a 3-2 Oilers win over Calgary.

So he’ll stick with that unit tonight — with Kailer Yamamoto on the right wing — while building a second line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between Tyler Ennis and Jesse Puljujarvi. It’s a relatively new look that will test Edmonton’s support scoring.

“It puts pressure on that depth to contribute. We haven’t tried it to this point,” Tippett said. “We know that Connor and Leon are going to drive some offence, but to be a good team we have to have that throughout our lineup. Not just chipping in, but we need consistency.”

On one hand, with last change against an Ottawa team with a young defence corps — and likely giving rookie Joey Daccord only his second NHL start in goal — putting No. 97 and 29 together might give you all the offence you need from one line. As a backup, it’s fair to expect the Oilers’ other three lines to win their matchups against an Ottawa team that has given up the most goals per game (3.89) in the NHL this season.

“It’s fun to watch for us (players) too, watching them out there together. They elevate each other,” said Ennis of the Oilers’ two top players. “For us, it’s important that we contribute. We’re going to have to — they can’t play the whole game. Our depth becomes even more important.”

Here’s a look at the lineups tonight, after an optional morning skate for the Oilers and nothing for Ottawa, which won 4-3 in a shootout in Calgary Sunday night.

Oilers Lines

Dominik Kahun is out of this lineup, Mikko Koskinen gets the start, and after a decent outing against Calgary, Tippett is going back to a D-pairing of Ethen Bear and Caleb Jones. He’s trying to help them both find their games — neither player has been as good this season as they were last.

“If they can get their game together it just makes us a lot better back there,” Tippett said.

Forwards

Draisaitl, McDavid, Yamamoto

Ennis, Nugent-Hopkins, Puljujarvi

Shore, Khaira, Turris

Neal, Haas, Chiasson

Defence

Nurse, Barrie

Russell, Larsson

Jones, Bear

Goaltender

Koskinen

As for the Sens, they’re looking for a way to beat an Oilers team that defeated them four times in a 10-day span from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9. After two more decisive wins in Edmonton (8-5, 4-2), the teams played two competitive games in Ottawa, where the Oilers prevailed 3-1 and 3-2.

Matt Murray played Sunday in Calgary, so we expect Daccord to go tonight. It is believed that Christian Wolanin could be in for Erik Brannstrom on defence.

Forwards

Tkachuk, Tierney, C. Brown

Paul, White, Dadonov

Stützle, Norris, Batherson

Dzingel, Anisimov, Watson

Defence

Chabot, Zaitsev

Reilly, Zub

Wolanin, Gudbranson

Goaltender

Daccord

Centre of Attention

With Nugent-Hopkins moving back to centre, one of the issues Edmonton could have on its second lines is faceoffs. This season, the trio of Nugent-Hopkins (37.5%), Ennis (75% on just four draws) and Puljujarvi (0-for-2 all season) has had little success or experience in the circle.

Nugent-Hopkins has evolved into a nice second-line centre or left-winger, but his career 44.3% faceoff percentage has been an issue through 10 NHL seasons. He’s taking the line swap in stride, a chilled veteran who can play wherever the coach asks him to.

“I don’t think we’ve thought about it as much as you (media) guys,” he said after the fourth question on the new lines. “Nobody is going to be gripping their sticks too tight, or thinking ‘We have to score now because (McDavid and Draisaitl) are playing together.’

“We want to have secondary scoring, no matter who’s playing with who. The good teams in the league, they get scoring from every line.”

Tippett built the unit with the right components to provide some offence, he figures.

While Nugent-Hopkins and Ennis are both adept at making “good plays in tight places,” Tippett said, “Puljujarvi is probably our best forward at creating loose pucks and getting to the front of the net. (He is) a big guy whose work ethic has been very good for us.

“When you put a line together you’re looking for some chemistry, some symmetry between the three. On paper it looks like it should be effective, but you’ve got to get in games to see where it goes.”

The game begins a run of 12 contests in 21 days for Edmonton. Put another way, that’s three straight four-game weeks.

Buckle up.

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NBA All-Star Takeways: Curry, Lillard cook competition with long threes – Sportsnet.ca

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The 2021 NBA All-Star game has come to a close and despite playing in the midst of a global pandemic, the event went ahead mostly without complication.

Cramming the usual weekend’s worth of events into one Sunday extravaganza made for a longer day than usual, but it was still as entertaining as a generally uncompetitive basketball game with the world’s best players is going to get.

Given the fact this was an All-Star Game played while COVID-19 is still very much a large part of all of our lives, here’s a look at 19 things that we felt were pretty cool from the NBA’s truncated all-star celebration.

No Embiid and Simmons

As mentioned off the top, the All-Star Game went by mostly without complication, meaning that there was still some complication.

Case in point, just hours before the festivities were set to begin on Sunday it was revealed that Philadelphia 76ers all-stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons weren’t going to be able to participate anymore because contact tracing revealed they had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 — reportedly their barber.

So, with there being so little time the NBA did the responsible thing and held the two out of the game. A grim reminder before the all-star festivities started that this was still an event that, perhaps, shouldn’t even have played in the first place.

Zion makes some history

There was some good to come about the two Sixers stars missing the event, however.

New Orleans Pelicans super sophomore Zion Williamson got to start in his first-ever All-Star Game, taking Embiid’s place, becoming the fourth-youngest player to do so behind such names as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Magic Johnson. Not bad company.

Williamson finished in the game with 10 points and threw down a few nice slams in the game, but will likely be remembered for his unfortunate blown dunk attempts.

What was James Harden wearing?

Seriously, what is this? An indoor raincoat?

Covington’s all-star moment

A big part of the all-star proceedings was the celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which is why Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington’s inclusion in the all-star events was so cool.

Covington is a proud alumnus of HBCU Tennessee State University and got to show some of his Tiger pride, representing his alma mater in the Skills Challenge.

He was eliminated in the first round, but that’s unimportant compared to the great surprise he gave to two current Tennessee State students before the event started.

Why can’t guards win the Skills Challenge anymore?

Indiana Pacers all-star Domantas Sabonis won the Skills Challenge, beating out fellow big man Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic.

With his victory, Sabonis became the fifth forward to win this particular event in six years. The last guard to win it was Spencer Dinwiddie in 2018.

Sure, bigs are more skilled than ever before, but surely a competition about dribbling fast, passing and shooting should favour the guards, no?

Mike Conley is an NBA All-Star… and a damn good shooter, too

Though it came after unfortunate circumstances forced Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker to miss the All-Star Game with a knee injury, Mike Conley — his injury replacement — was finally named to the team in his 14th NBA season.

Conley was quiet in the game proper, but that doesn’t matter because his impact was felt beforehand in the three-point contest.

Brought in as Booker’s replacement in that event too, Conley more than held his own as he pushed eventual winner Steph Curry in both rounds.

Chef Curry cooked the competition in the three-point contest

Stephen Curry is an inhuman shooter.

It’s a privilege to watch him do what he does.

Needed more Common

The HBCU marching bands in the player introductions were cool, but the meme-worthy intros from Common from a year ago were missed, particularly because he was still part of the presentation anyway.

The anthems were both fantastic

Shoutouts to Mississauga, Ont.’s Alessia Cara and the incomparable Gladys Knight for two tremendous renditions of O Canada and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Chef Curry cooked in the actual game itself

Curry had his fingerprints all over the game as he finished with 28 points, going 8-for-16 from deep, including a couple of truly outrageous triples that helped set the tone of the game for Team LeBron in the first quarter.

Schoolyard tip-off

Moments like seeing Conley and Chris Paul tip-off the second quarter is what makes All-Star Games great.

More Curry? More Curry!

In case you hadn’t noticed, there was a bit of a trend with this year’s game and Curry being involved in a lot of the game’s best moments like this ridiculous shot he hit in the second quarter.

Bet you forgot these guys could dunk, huh?

A reminder for you that all NBA players are freakishly athletic compared to any other normal human being: Seeing Curry and Paul get up for alley-oops.

Steph vs. Dame, Part 1

The two best long-range shooters in NBA history on the same team deciding to go shot for shot at the end of the first half was truly a sight to behold.

Cassius Stanley was robbed!

Halftime of the All-Star Game saw a shorter dunk contest with Indiana Pacers G-Leaguer Cassius Stanley, New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin and Portland Trail Blazers youngster Anfernee Simons making up the three-man field.

The dunk contest was actually pretty good as all these guys have serious bounce, but Stanley was robbed blind with his opening dunk only getting a 44 as it was probably the best dunk of the night.

In the end, though, Simons won thanks to his consistency and his gravity-defying bounce that notably saw him nearly kiss the rim on his final attempt, in addition to paying homage to the great Tracy McGrady.

And just one last note on the dunk contest, this dunk from Toppin — doing a windmill over his teammate Julius Randle and his dad — was cool as hell!

Giannis takes over in the third quarter

Because of Curry’s fireworks in the first half the outrageous performance from his Team LeBron teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo sort of went under the radar.

Antetokounmpo finished the first half with 24 points on perfect 9-for-9 shooting, firmly putting himself in the MVP discussion.

Then the third quarter hit and he won the award for himself right then and there as he went 5-for-5 from the field for 11 more points, including this insane heat-check three.

Antetokounmpo finished a perfect 16-for-16 in the game for 35 points and was able to easily add an All-Star Game MVP trophy to the two league MVP awards that he has in his trophy case.

Steph vs. Dame, Part 2

Unlike last year’s Elam Ending in the fourth, the lead Team LeBron built was simply too much, leaving a lot of wiggle room for those guys to try to close it out.

Case in point with Team LeBron just three points away from hitting the target score of 170, Curry tried to end it from half court, but missed, setting the stage for some patented Damian Lillard Dame Time.

Team LeBron completely dominant

Though there were some bright spots to be seen from Team Durant, Sunday’s game was all about Team LeBron, who won every single quarter and ended up raising $750,000 for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund from their play on the court in the game, alone.

As Antetokounmpo said before the game, “It’s over guys. Me, LeBron, Luka, Jokic and Steph? Man, that’s a good starting five.”

LeBron is a really good all-star GM

LeBron James has had the honour of being a captain every year since the All-Star Game went to a captain pick-em format and he’s made the most of it.

Team LeBron is now 4-0 in All-Star Games.

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Monday Finish: Bryson DeChambeau wins with two legends on his mind – pgatour.com

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The crowd loved it as Bryson DeChambeau ascended to pole position in the FedExCup with his eighth PGA TOUR victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.

DeChambeau’s soaring drives at the sixth hole maxed out at 377 yards Sunday and brought howls of delight as he turned the par 5 into a par 4 at most. And after he’d made a testy five-footer to secure a final-round 71, edging Lee Westwood (73) by one, he flexed and screamed.

Not lost amid all the fireworks, though, was that DeChambeau also won in large part due to his work on the greens, namely by making his two longest putts of the week. First came his birdie from just over 37 feet at the fourth hole, which seemed tame by comparison to the nearly 50-foot bomb he would make to save par at the 11th hole. He joins just four other players to make multiple putts from over 35 feet in the final round en route to victory in the ShotLink era:

• Vijay Singh (three such putts), 2008 Dell Technologies Championship
• Ben Crane (two), 2010 Farmers Insurance Open
• Tiger Woods (two), 2008 Farmers Insurance Open
• Craig Stadler (two), 2003 B.C. Open

After his U.S. Open victory last fall, DeChambeau – the first American winner at Bay Hill since Matt Every in 2015 – becomes the first multiple winner of the 2020-21 TOUR season.

Here are five other stories you may have missed:

1. DeChambeau remembers those who paved the way.

The champion had some legends in his corner on Sunday.

For one, he always has revered the tournament’s namesake, who was kind enough to extend an invitation to DeChambeau to compete at Bay Hill when DeChambeau was still an amateur. As the 2015 U.S. Amateur champion (Palmer was a U.S. Amateur champion 61 years earlier), DeChambeau played the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tied for 27th, his week highlighted by a closing 66. For a young kid dreaming of one day playing the TOUR, it was a significant week.

If the first player who comes to mind at Bay Hill is Palmer, then the second would be Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner there. Sunday before his round, DeChambeau received a text from Woods, who was injured in a single-car accident in Los Angeles on Feb. 23. 

“Well, it was obviously personal, I would say, for the most part, but pretty much to sum it up … he texted me this morning out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting anything,” DeChambeau said. “When I got that text, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he’s in his tough times that he’s going through right now.’ So I just texted him. I said, ‘Keep moving forward, keep going forward. You’re going to get through it. You’re the hardest working person I’ve ever met and you’ll persevere through this pretty much.’

“One of the things that we talked about was, it’s not about how many times you get kicked to the curb or knocked down. It’s about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward. And I think this (champion’s) red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it’s a little bit for Tiger as well, knowing what place he’s in right now.”

Read more about Dechambeau’s meaningful victory here.

2. Westwood hangs tough.

Although he didn’t win, ultimately collecting his seventh runner-up finish on TOUR, Lee Westwood made hard-working pars on 17 and 18 to at least make DeChambeau earn it. That included Westwood’s gritty 4 from a divot in the middle of the fairway at the last.

The only hiccup: His failure to birdie the short, par-5 16th hole after splitting the fairway.

“Yeah, I mean I’m not short myself,” Westwood said. “I think I hit it about 350 yards down 16. I only went in with wedge into that par-5.” Yet with DeChambeau up against the lip of a fairway bunker, Westwood missed the green and couldn’t get up and down, walking off with a par.

Still, the veteran from England wasn’t hanging his head at the end of a very, very hard day.  

“You can’t want for more than that,” he said. “I thought we had a really good battle, we were never, it was never really more than one in it all day and there were tough conditions out there and it wasn’t going to be a day where – I don’t think anybody was going to shoot 68 or 67.

“It was a day for playing sensible and hanging on and grinding out the pars.”

3. Spieth pleased with T4 finish.

Although he didn’t make anything on the greens Sunday, Jordan Spieth (75, T4, five back) had a great first start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It started with a tour of Palmer’s office and ended with his third top-five finish in his last four starts. This one, Spieth said, was his best effort yet in his comeback (T3/AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am; T4/Waste Management Phoenix Open).

“I thought I played better today than I did any of those Sundays,” said Spieth, whose streak of 389 holes without a double bogey or worse marks his longest on TOUR. “At the beginning of the day if you told me I was going to be even through 10 and be in – hit driver in the middle of the fairway on 11 and on 12 – I would have thought I was going to win the golf tournament.”

Spieth has climbed from 92nd to 52nd in the world this year, and his finish at Bay Hill pushed him up to 43rd (from 59th) in the FedExCup standings. The 2015 FedExCup champion continues to inch ever closer to the form that saw him reach No. 1 in the world.  

“Again, I put the ball exactly where I wanted to on just about every single shot and putt,” he said, “and it came out to 75 somehow. But that’s not going to happen every time; if I do, if I play the way I did today. It’s going to be really good going forward.”

Learn more about Spieth’s memorable first trip to Bay Hill here.

4. McIlroy buoyed by fans’ return.

Rory McIlroy, who will be defending his 2019 title at THE PLAYERS Championship this week, went into the final round just four back but struggled with a 4-over 76 (T10). Although he was one of many who struggled, he had trouble accepting the lackluster final result.

“I don’t know,” McIlroy said. “I need something, I need a spark, I need something, and I just don’t seem to have it. Some days it’s good, some days it’s not.”

One thing he did feel optimistic about: The return of on-site fans.

“I’ve missed this a lot,” he said. “Even though it’s only, whatever, 25 percent capacity this week, it feels so much more than that and it’s great to play in front of that. I’m looking forward to doing it again next week. I think that it is, I think we’re all sort of now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel where things can at least get back to some sort of normality pretty soon.

“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” he continued. “It’s going to be surreal looking back in 20 years’ time and sort of seeing what we lived through.”

5. Corey Conners’ wild finish.

The good news for Canada’s Corey Conners was that he eagled the par-5 16th hole to get within one of the lead. The bad news is he bogeyed 17 and 18 to shoot 74 and finish 8 under, three back.

Still, the solo third was his best result of the season.

“Yeah, it was a challenge,” Conners said of a day in which the field averaged 75.486. “Definitely a battle out there. I made some nice saves at the start of the round, just didn’t get the putts to fall today, the greens were rolling really fast, ball seemed to never stop.

“So it was very challenging,” Conners continued. “Gave myself a shot, made a really great eagle on 16 that felt pretty good, and bogeyed the last two holes, wasn’t great. But really challenging golf holes. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.” (There were no bogey-free rounds.)

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