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.
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).
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.
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)