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Canada's Bottcher opens world championship with win over Scotland – TSN

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CALGARY — A Canadian rival’s assist fills a gap for Brendan Bottcher at the men’s world curling championship.

The world championship stones in Calgary are not the rocks Bottcher and teammates threw to win a Canadian title last month in the same arena.

The World Curling Federation’s stones employed at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre were last tossed at the 2019 men’s world championship in Lethbridge, Alta., where Kevin Koe represented Canada.

Colton Flasch, Koe’s second that year, has supplied Bottcher’s foursome with a “rock book” that is a scouting report on each stone’s movement.

“He gave us his book from the ’19 worlds,” Bottcher third Darren Moulding said. “That just shows us Canadian curlers, we’ve got each other’s backs.”

Bottcher, Moulding and front end Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin from Edmonton came from behind to beat Scotland’s Bruce Mouat 9-6 in Canada’s opener Friday.

Down 5-2 at the fifth-end break, Canada scored two in the sixth, seventh and ninth ends to be up 8-6 coming home without last-rock advantage.

The Scots couldn’t generate a deuce with hammer and gave up a steal of one. Mouat, a bronze medallist in 2018, is a contender for the title in Calgary.

“We were resilient that game,” Bottcher said. “We battled hard. That was a big win for us in the course of the week.

“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little bit of butterflies. It’s a pretty cool feeling. We’ve been wearing the (Canada) jerseys for a few days now. We’re playing in a world championship. That’s frigging cool.”

The hosts also topped Japan’s Matsumura Yuta 8-5 in an evening draw to move to 2-0, while Scotland responded with a 7-2 win over Denmark to even its record 1-1.

Koe defeated Bottcher in the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier final and took silver in Lethbridge behind champion Niklas Edin of Sweden.

Nine of 14 skips in this year’s BK Tires and OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship also competed in Lethbridge.

They have stone intelligence the Canadians would lack if not for Flasch’s generosity.

“We are all Team Canada and anything to help them,” Flasch wrote in a message to The Canadian Press.

“I would think with no information they would be at a slight disadvantage and any extra information early in the week would only help them.”

The WCF’s stones feel lighter and not quite as lively in the house as the Brier rocks, said Moulding.

“They are different stones than we used in the Brier and running a little bit differently than we’re used to seeing,” Bottcher said.

The Russian Curling Federation team skipped by Sergey Glukhov won twice Friday. Glukhov’s official team name is Russian Curling Federation because of World Anti-Doping Agency sanctions against his country.

Norway’s Steffan Walstad and Italy’s Joel Retornaz also went 2-0 on Day 1.

Reigning Olympic champion John Shuster of the United States and Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz opened with wins Friday to sit 1-0, while Japan’s Matsumura was alongside Scotland at 1-1.

The Swiss edged back-to-back world champion Edin 8-7 in an extra end.

Sweden and Germany’s Sixten Totzek were 0-1, while Jaap Van Doorp of the Netherlands, Denmark’s Mads Noergaard, South Korea’s Jeong Yeong-seok and China’s Zou Quiang started 0-2.

No spectators are allowed in the arena, which was also the case at the Canadian men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championship in Calgary preceding the men’s world event.

Participants were subject to quarantine and testing before getting on the ice. They’re confined to the arena and the hotel while competing to avoid the COVID-19 virus.

“We feel safe,” Norwegian third Torger Nergaard said. “They had a few test events before the guys from Norway came, so that’s good.”

The top two teams in the round-robin standings earn byes to the semifinals April 10.

Third through sixth compete in qualification games with third versus sixth and fourth versus fifth.

Qualification winners advance to the semifinals. The gold and bronze-medal games are April 11.

Head-to-head results, and then pre-game draw-the-button distances, solve ties.

The top six teams qualify their countries to compete in men’s curling in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2021.

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Josh Archibald is unvaccinated Edmonton Oilers player. What does that mean for team? – Edmonton Journal

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On the Oilers Now radio show, Oilers GM Ken Holland confirmed to host Bob Stauffer that winger Josh Archibald is the only unvaccinated player on the Oilers roster. Archibald has a one-way contract, with a $1.5 million cap hit. If he were to make the Oilers, and miss out on all games in the USA, he’d miss 30-plus games.

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“It’s much more difficult being a Canadian team,” Holland said, with Stauffer pointing out the Oilers play 50 games in Canada, 32 in the USA this year. “Obviously we got to go back and forth across the border multiple times this season. Obviously it’s going to be much different playing on a U.S. team vs. playing on a Canadian team being unvaccinated.”

Here’s what Holland said earlier at his press conference about the unvaccinated player (whom he had not yet identified):

  • Holland said he was still talking to the player (Archibald).  “As the season starts I would anticipate we would have one player that would be unvaccinated.”
  • Some NHL teams have banned unvaccinated players from training camp. Holland has not yet decided if the player will be welcomed at Edmonton’s training camp. “I think the player is going through a process to decide because I think it’s a difficult decision. So I want to give the person the appropriate time. I’ll see where I’m at a week from now, or ten days from now. But we’ll see.”
  • If a player is unvaccinated and the team goes to the United States, he must quarantine when he comes back to Canada, Holland said. “It’s going to make it very difficult.” (On a side note, the Oilers most likely brought in forward Colton Sceviour as a possibility at forward).
  • An unvaxxed player would miss about 30 days due to cross-border 14-day quarantines, Holland said, adding that the player might not be ready to play after being out, and if the team was going well it might not want to change the line-up. Oilers coach Dave Tippett and Holland met with the player and looked at how many times the team would cross the border this year. “It’s going to be very difficult.”

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Edmonton recently brought in checking winger Colton Sceviour on a PTO. Sceviour is a similar player to Archibald, a checking winger who can play on the PK. If Archibald is sent to the AHL — and it’s hard to imagine that’s not now being considered as Plan B — that will open up an opportunity for Sceviour.

The Detroit Red Wings have invited unvaxxed Tyler Bertuzzi to camp, but the Red Wings only play nine games in Canada. U.S. teams have more ability to work with unvaccinated players than Canadian teams, which puts the Oilers and Archibald in a far more difficult spot.

Another option would be to trade Archibald to a U.S. team that doesn’t play many games in Canada, though I’m unsure if any team would take on Archibald at his $1.5 million per cap hit.

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As for Archibald, let me repeat what I said in my last post, that I know what advice I’d give this player, that while there’s almost no chance he’ll get hammered hard by COVID, there’s almost no chance he’ll get hammered hard in any significant way by the vaccine.

With all that in mind, he should put his pay cheque and his family first.

That’s the same advice I gave to a vaccinate hesitant relative, by the way. In the end, but only after the vaccine passport rules came in Alberta, that individual decided to get vaccinated. That person is now at relative peace with their decision, despite the coercive new regulation that forced them to get the jab. I suspect this Oilers player will make the same call and get vaccinated, but I’m glad to see the Oilers are being patient with him, and as an Oilers fans, I’ll do the same.

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There’s a huge amount of anger and intolerance directed at the unvaccinated right now. There’s a frenzy of fear and self-righteousness boiling up here, a dangerous combination. When I think of more lockdown measures of the fully vaccinated, I have felt some of that anger myself. But I try to control it.

Every one of us sees this pandemic through our own distorted and self-interested lens. We’re all trying to balance the possibility of different harms to our own selves and our families and community. I don’t see how turning on anyone helps in this situation. I see many hard and difficult discussions, as Holland is now having with his players, as the way to go. I applaud Holland’s patient and understanding approach.

P.S. Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV in Vancouver reports: “Alex Chiasson has signed a PTO with the Canucks.”

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At the Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: Holland on Duncan Keith’s late vaccination: “It was a difficult decision for Duncan”

STAPLES: The single biggest wildcard on the Edmonton Oilers is…

McCURDY: Konovalov was great, the Oilers rookies? Not so much

McCURDY: Oil fans will have Kyle Dubas to thank if Petrov pans out

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LeBrun: What's at stake for the Maple Leafs this season? 'I don’t think we can hide from it' – The Athletic

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TORONTO — To be blunt, the Toronto Maple Leafs could go 82-0 this season, rewrite the regular-season record book and there would be large segments of their fan base and people around the hockey world who would say: Yeah, but …

That “but” hangs over this season like a massive anvil.

This is my 27th year covering the NHL, all of them based here in Toronto, and I would argue this franchise has never in that time frame felt this kind of pressure to deliver.

Doug Gilmour’s overachieving Leafs teams were too beloved by the fan base to be second-guessed. Wendel Clark is still a Leafs God for a reason. He left it all on the ice.

Mats Sundin’s Leafs teams a decade later didn’t deliver the ultimate prize but the faith of the fan base didn’t waver too much through some decent playoff runs.

This current team has done nothing come playoff time.

Nothing yet, anyway.

Which is why despite always being a team that garners plenty of leaguewide attention, sometimes for no real reason, the Leafs are genuinely one of the most compelling stories this season in the NHL, win or lose.

Up 3-1 on their rival Montreal Canadiens in May, the Leafs crumbled in a seven-game series loss that won’t soon be forgotten.

And yet the painful lessons from yet another first-round exit had to be addressed before the Leafs could turn the page.

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In final clash before potential playoff duel, Rays torment Blue Jays once more – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No team torments the Toronto Blue Jays quite like the Tampa Bay Rays, and adding insult to injury in their final regular season meeting was getting a beatdown from their archnemesis and then watching them clinch a playoff berth.

The finale of a three-game set at Tropicana Field lacked the typical drama most of Wednesday afternoon after Ross Stripling got lit up for five runs in a six-run third that effectively decided a 7-1 Rays win. But theatre arrived in the eighth when Ryan Borucki hit Kevin Kiermaier, who triggered ill will Monday by grabbing a data card dislodged from Alejandro Kirk’s wristband during a play at the plate, prompting words to be exchanged and the dugouts to empty.

Relative calm prevailed as Rays manager Kevin Cash ranted to the umpiring crew, which then gathered by the mound after and ejected Borucki. That prompted pitching coach Pete Walker and manager Charlie Montoyo to argue, and Walker was restrained before he was ejected, too.

David Robertson closed things out in an incident-free ninth inning and the Rays poured out on the field afterwards for business-as-usual handshakes.

As usual, the Rays got the better of season series with 11 wins, and at 94-59, now have a magic number of four to clinch the American League East in back-to-back seasons. Of their 19 clashes this season, it was only the sixth time the game was decided by four runs or more, in contrast to the 10 contests settled by two or less.

The Rays winning the East is an inevitably at this point and should the Blue Jays successfully clinch a wild-card berth and then win that game to reach the division series, the Rays are likely to be waiting for them there.

There are steps to be taken for them to get there, but the math remains fairly favourable for the Blue Jays (85-67), who fell even with the New York Yankees (85-67) for the second wild card and dropped two games back of the Boston Red Sox (87-65) for the first, pending Wednesday night’s action. The Yankees were scheduled to host Texas, the Red Sox home to the Mets.

With 10 games left, beginning with a four-game set at the Minnesota Twins opening Thursday, a 6-4 run would push them to 91 wins, a total likely enough to get them into the playoffs. After the Twins, the Blue Jays have three-game series at home versus the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, so the opportunity for 7-3 or even better is certainly there.

A big weekend versus the Twins while the Red Sox and Yankees play three in New York this weekend is a pivotal chance to gain ground before Boston closes out against Baltimore and Washington. The Yankees finish against the Rays after playing Boston and Toronto.

Nothing should be taken for granted, but the Blue Jays are set up fairly well, even after their bullpen game Wednesday went terribly awry.

Stripling, entering behind opener Julian Merryweather as the bulk pitcher, got through his first inning unscathed but didn’t survive the next, going single, double, walk, sacrifice fly, three-run homer by Austin Meadows and single before Montoyo came with the hook.

Taylor Walls added a two-run single in the frame before it was over and, with the Rays’ bullpen game going much more to plan, this was a hole the Blue Jays offence couldn’t dig out of.

Surviving as best as possible for Thursday became the priority at that point, and essential on that front was the 2.1 shutout innings delivered by Anthony Castro. That allowed the Blue Jays to both get Jordan Romano and Trevor Richards needed rest and keep Adam Cimber and Tim Mayza available for the Twins opener.

Pearson was pressed into duty after Borucki’s ejection.

Castro’s work may very well get him optioned, as Thomas Hatch, at one point a candidate to be activated from the taxi squad for Wednesday, is likely to join the bullpen Thursday.

Another reinforcement could be Santiago Espinal, whose return from a rehab assignment at triple-A Buffalo is suddenly more urgent with Breyvic Valera on the COVID-19 IL for coming into close contact with a family member.

Valera is fully vaccinated and produced a negative test, but when he’s eligible to return will be dependent on returning more negative tests and getting sign-offs from both MLB and the union. Kevin Smith was recalled from the Bisons to cover for the time being.

Cavan Biggio is a possibility to join the club next week, although the Blue Jays are hoping he can establish some rhythm at the plate before he’s returned from his rehab assignment.

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