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Canadiens Game Day: Habs will be the rested team against Oilers – Montreal Gazette

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Oilers are coming off 5-2 loss to Penguins Friday night and are 1-5-0 in their last six games, while Habs are on a roll.

EDMONTON — The Canadiens will be the rested team when they play the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night at Rogers Arena (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

While the Canadiens were relaxing in their downtown hotel Friday night, the Oilers were losing 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins across the street at Rogers Place. Saturday’s game is a 5 p.m. start local time, so it’s a quick turnaround for the Oilers.

After getting off to a great start this season, winning their first five games and going 7-1-1 in their first nine, the Oilers now have a 19-15-4 record and are 1-5-0 in their last six games. Oilers superstar Connor McDavid, who leads the NHL in scoring with 20-39-59 totals, was held off the scoresheet for the second straight game Friday night and has only two assists in the last four games. Teammate Leon Draisaitl, who ranks second in NHL scoring with 21-37-58 totals, was also held off the scoresheet by the Penguins and was minus-4. Draisaitl is minus-11 for the season and McDavid is minus-1.


Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber fires shot at Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Feb. 3, 2019.

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With McDavid and Draisaitl leading the way, the Oilers rank second in the NHL on the power play with a 29.8 per cent success rate, while the Canadiens rank 27th in penalty-killing at 75.2 per cent.

“With the skill they’ve got there you have to be disciplined and you got to stay out of the box,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said about the Oilers after his team skated Friday on the practice rink at Rogers Place. “There’s not only speed there, but there’s skill. They can beat you one-on-one, but their power play is obviously a big weapon for them and the offensive game is their biggest weapon and has been for a long time. As I mentioned to the guys earlier, I think tomorrow for us our defensive game is going to have to be at its best if we expect to win a hockey game here.”

Centre Phillip Danault will be given the job of checking McDavid.

“I got to move my feet, that’s for sure,” Danault said after practice Friday. “Just stay on top of him.”

This will be the first of two meetings between the Canadiens and Oilers this season. The Oilers will be at the Bell Centre on Jan. 9.

No lineup changes

Julien won’t make any changes to the lineup that beat the Flames 4-3 in overtime Thursday night in Calgary.

Victor Mete said after practice Friday there was a chance he could return to the lineup Saturday against the Oilers after missing the last nine games with an ankle injury. But that won’t happen.

“Well, it’s not tonight,” Julien said when he met with the media Saturday afternoon and was asked when Mete might return. “So that’s all I can say for now. But he is continuing to get better. The hope is that maybe in a couple of days from now he’ll be ready to go.”

That means Mete could be in the lineup Monday when the Canadiens wrap up their Western Canada road trip in Winnipeg.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi will miss his seventh straight game Saturday with a concussion and the centre remains day-to-day. Mete and Kotkaniemi both skated with non-contact jerseys at practice Friday, but Mete stayed on the ice afterward to do contact drills with a member of the team’s training staff.

Defenceman Christian Folin will be a healthy scratch for the 21st time this season and for the fifth straight game since getting called back up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket. Folin hasn’t played a game with the Canadiens since Oct. 15. Forward Lukas Vejdemo will be the other healthy scratch. He was called up before the start of this Western Canada road trip and has yet to play a game in the NHL.

Habs on a roll

The Canadiens have won the first two games of their Western Canada road trip and are 5-1-0 in their last six games. Since going through an eight-game winless streak from Nov. 16 to Dec. 1, the Canadiens have a 6-2-0 record.

Heading into Saturday’s games, the Canadiens (17-12-6) were in second place in the Atlantic Division and had a 9-4-3 record on the road.

“We just had a commitment level to the way we need to play and once we started to do that it took a little bit of time for us to get results,” Brendan Gallagher said after practice Friday when asked how the Canadiens worked their way out of their eight-game slump. “But we took some belief in, you hate to say it, the little moral victories even though we were losing games. You could see that we were going in the right direction and you have that belief that eventually the results are going to come. And once they did now they are and we kind of want to continue to feel this way because we know how quickly it can go the other way as well.”

What’s the feeling in the Canadiens’ locker room now?

“It’s one of those things where you win the game, you feel good, and then you don’t really have too much time to feel good about yourself,” Gallagher said. “You got to move on to the next one.”

Where the Canadiens rank

Heading into Saturday’s game, the Canadiens ranked 12th in the NHL in offence, scoring an average of 3.14 goals per game, and ranked 20th in defence, allowing an average of 3.14. They ranked 10th on the power play (21.2 per cent), 27th in penalty-killing (75.2 per cent) and 15th in faceoffs (50.1 per cent).

Tomas Tatar led the Canadiens in scoring with 13-17-30 totals, followed by Shea Weber (11-18-29), Gallagher (15-13-28), Phillip Danault (7-19-26) and Max Domi (7-16-23).

Price had a 15-10-3 record with a 2.84 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.

Where the Oilers rank

The Oilers ranked 20th in the NHL in offence, scoring an average of 2.87 goals per game, and ranked 16th in defence, allowing an average of 3.05. The ranked second on the power play (29.8 per cent), sixth in penalty-killing (84.3 per cent) and 27th in faceoffs (48.0 per cent).

McDavid led the Oilers and the NHL in scoring with 20-39-59 totals, followed by Draisaitl (21-37-58), Zack Kassian (13-12-25), James Neal (16-7-23) and Oscar Klefbom (3-19-22).

What’s next?

The Canadiens will fly to Winnipeg after Saturday’s game and enjoy a day off on Sunday with no practice before wrapping up their Western Canada road trip Monday against the Jets (8 p.m., TSN2, TSN3, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). The Canadiens will then enjoy a four-day Christmas break in the schedule before hitting the road again for games against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, Dec. 28, the Florida Panthers on Sunday, Dec. 29, and the Carolina Hurricanes on New Year’s Eve.

scowan@postmedia.com

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Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open

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Montreal, Canada- 22 Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, has announced that he will not be playing at the Canadian Open which kicks off this weekend.

Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.

“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.

We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.

I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.

Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.

Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.

“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.

The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.

Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.

The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.

“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.

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Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.

Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.

Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.

“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”

The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.

“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”

Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021. 

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Hockey Canada’s board chair Michael Brind’Amour steps down

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CALGARY — The chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors has resigned.

Michael Brind’Amour has stepped down effective immediately, Hockey Canada said Saturday in a statement.

The organization is under intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of previous men’s junior teams.

“I have listened carefully and intently to the comments of Canadians about the culture of our sport and our organization, and about our actions and leadership,” Brind’Amour said in the statement. “I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution.

“My final term ends in November 2022, and I know that there is no need to wait for a new era. Immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport, which our Action Plan works to accomplish.

“I would not be able to see this renewal through.”

Brind’Amour was elected board chair in 2018.

The federal government froze Hockey Canada’s funding after it was revealed the organization had quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 men’s junior team at Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont., that year.

Since then, Hockey Canada has said members of the 2003 junior team are under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.

Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge is withholding funds until she’s satisfied Hockey Canada meets her conditions, which were a financial audit of the organization, producing the recommendations of a third-party law firm review and an action plan for change, as well as signing onto the office of the new sports integrity commissioner.

Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victim rights advocate, was among those calling for Hockey Canada leadership to step down.

Brind’Amour is the first to do so.

“We’re starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that’s how the light gets in,” St-Onge said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont., where she met with provincial and territorial sports leaders on the eve of the Canada Games.

“Canadians have sent a clear message to Hockey Canada that real leadership change is needed and this is at all levels within the organization.

“I agree also with Michael Brind’Amour’s statement today . . . that there is no need to wait for a new era and immediate action is essential.

“I still believe, as many do, that more diversity is needed to address the culture of silence and toxic masculinity within the organization and the sport.”

Brind’Amour’s resignation also follows Hockey Canada’s appointment Thursday of former Canadian Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell to review the governance of the country’s governing body of hockey.

The review is expected to provide interim recommendations before Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in November.

Brind’Amour said he leaves confident that Cromwell taking on that work “will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change.”

Also, Canada’s 13 provincial hockey federations requested earlier this week an “extraordinary meeting” with the embattled national body.

Led by Hockey Quebec, the 10 provincial and three territorial associations want more information on the handling of the sexual assault allegations.

Hockey Canada had maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

The organization has stated it will no longer use its “national equity fund” to settle sexual assault claims.

The provincial and territorial hockey associations have threatened to withhold payment without answers.

“It’s not my job to speak on behalf of the Ontario Hockey Federation,” Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Neil Lumsden said at Saturday’s news conference.

“But it is as (St-Onge) said, it is our jobs to eliminate unacceptable behaviour of any kind in sport. Our job, and as we’ve spent a lot of time talking about, is to find ways to do that and to do it in the right way.”

Hockey Canada’s board of directors will meet in the coming days to determine next steps following Brind’Amour’s resignation, and appoint an interim chair, the organization said in its statement.

The next board election is scheduled for November’s annual general meeting.

“The board needs to reassess whether the people that are on the directors board are the right people to implement that change,” St-Onge said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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