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Canadiens Notebook: Marc Bergevin says Eric Staal trade happened fast – Montreal Gazette

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“I don’t think it’s the best interest of the Montreal Canadiens to sit in front of the camera and lay out everything I’m trying to do.”

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When Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin spoke with the media on a video conference Thursday he talked about how he was up tight against the NHL salary cap and didn’t expect to make any moves before the April 12 trade deadline.

The next day, Bergevin acquired veteran centre Eric Staal from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick at this year’s NHL Draft.

“When I talked to you guys on Thursday I was being up-front and honest,” Bergevin said during another video conference Saturday. “But, again, I don’t think it’s the best interest of the Montreal Canadiens to sit in front of the camera and lay out everything I’m trying to do. I think it would be putting our team to a disadvantage because I know for a fact there was two other teams after Eric Staal.

“So when I talk to you guys there’s other people around the league that are listening, so I have to be very careful,” the GM added. “I’m trying to be as transparent a I can, but there’s times where I cannot be and that was the case. But, also, I didn’t have anything in the mix when I talked to you. It happened, honestly, very fast. I did have conversations with Buffalo a while back and I know the 14 days (quarantine) became an issue. But then when that was lifted it made it a lot easier to make the trade.”

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Bergevin confirmed Saturday that the federal government has reduced its mandatory 14-day quarantine period for players acquired by Canadian NHL teams from U.S. clubs to seven days.

“Some trades take a long time, some are quicker,” Bergevin said. “That one came really fast. What I said (Thursday) was true at the time. Not I wasn’t looking, but I didn’t think it was going to happen. The main reason was I needed cap space.”

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The Sabres helped Bergevin’s cap situation when they agreed to retain $1.625 million of Staal’s US$3.25-million salary. According to CapFriendly.com, the Canadiens had $1.421 million of current cap space on Saturday.

You have to think the Canadiens’ plan is to have Staal replace Jake Evans as the fourth-line centre with the possibility of having the veteran move up the lineup as needed. Bergevin said he had spoken briefly with head coach Dominique Ducharme about how Staal will be used after he completes his seven-day quarantine.

“(Ducharme) will hopefully talk to you guys on Monday and I will leave that to him to tell you how he sees his lineup,” Bergevin said. “But, again, Eric will not be available right away. You don’t make decisions on lineup until you have to. In the meantime, you could have injuries next week where the decision becomes a lot easier where he fits in and how Dom wants to use him. So until then I think we’re only going to speculate where he’s going to fit and where he’s going to play. But, again, players with their performance they’ll tell you where they should be playing and how much ice time they should get.”

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Staal is expected to do a video conference with the media on Sunday.

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New number for Staal

Staal has worn No. 12 throughout his NHL career, but can’t wear that number with the Canadiens.

No. 12 was retired by the Canadiens in honour of Hall of Famers Yvan Cournoyer and Dickie Moore.

Instead, Staal will become the 37th player in Canadiens history to wear No. 21 and the first since Nick Cousins last season.

Staal is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, an IIHF world championship with Team Canada in 2007 and an Olympic gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

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What about Cole?

Cole Caufield, the Canadiens’ first-round pick (15th overall) at the 2019 NHL Draft, is expected to turn pro after his University of Wisconsin Badgers were eliminated Friday following a 6-3 loss to the Bemidji State Beavers in the first round of the Bridgeport Regional, which is part of the NCAA Tournament.

When asked Saturday whether it would be best for Caufield to now play for the AHL’s Laval Rocket or the Canadiens, Bergevin smiled and said: “Let me think and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days.”

Bergevin still needs to sign Caufield to an NHL entry-level contract and has to do that with the salary cap in mind. Bergevin admitted it “will be tight”, especially if bonuses are included in Caufield’s contract.

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The 20-year-old Caufield finished this season with 30-22-52 totals in 31 games to lead the NCAA in goals and points and he is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in U.S. college hockey. Bergevin noted that Caufield is an exceptional talent, especially when it comes to shooting the puck, but added it’s still a big jump from the NCAA to the NHL.

At 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, the biggest challenge for Caufield in the NHL will be the physical play.

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Salary-cap issues

Bergevin said he doesn’t expect to make any more moves before the NHL trade deadline, noting again that he’s up tight against the cap.

You can take that with a grain — or a full shaker — of salt.

When asked if he was working to free up some cap space, Bergevin said: “No.”

But the GM did say there were other NHL teams willing to take on unwanted salaries in trades.

“I know there’s teams who do have cap space that are willing to take on cap space,” Bergevin said. “So if you want to buy cap space that’s available, but there’s a price to pay for that. And depending on the amount you’re trying to buy then the price becomes steeper. So, like in a way a three-way deal where a team takes on the player and then retains money and then ship him to the other place. So that’s all there, but I’m not going to go into detail what are the teams that are doing that or trying to do that. But that’s also a possibility.”

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When Bergevin was asked Thursday about being up tight against the cap, he said: “You’re not against the cap and you get criticized for not being against the cap. And then you go against the cap and then you get criticized because you can’t do anything. So you do, you don’t. One of the last (offseason) moves we made was Tyler Toffoli and we knew by making that move we were really against the cap and I think we did the right thing by getting Ty.

“Honestly, I’m not worried about it,” Bergevin added about his cap situation. “I like our team.”

He likes it more now with the addition of Staal.

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Schedule up in the air

The Canadiens are expected to play their next game Tuesday night after having four games postponed when Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia were both placed on the NHL’s COVID Protocol Related Absences list last Monday. One of the two players, who Bergevin wouldn’t name, tested positive for a variant of the coronavirus, while the second had close contact.

The Canadiens were originally scheduled to play the Senators Tuesday night in Ottawa, but Bergevin noted the schedule might change as the NHL reworks the schedule in the all-Canadian North Division to fit in the four postponed games. There’s a possibility the Canadiens could instead play the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

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The players and staff continue to be tested daily for COVID-19 and Kotkaniemi and Armia remained the only two Canadiens on the NHL’s updated COVID-related absences list on Saturday.

“There’s always a chance that something could come up today or tomorrow,” Bergevin said about the testing. “But every day that goes by I feel more confident that we’re going to start early next week.”

The Canadiens are hoping to practise Monday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.

Bergevin said it’s unlikely Toffoli will play in the Canadiens’ first game back after being sidelined with a lower-body injury, adding one practice might not be enough for the winger to be ready to go. Bergevin added that he expects Ben Chiarot to return to the lineup “a bit quicker than we thought” after the defenceman had surgery on his fractured right hand on March 15. Chiarot was originally expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks.

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When asked if this week off could help the Canadiens, Bergevin said: “To a degree yes. I you look at getting the players rested, the few players we have who had minor injuries, yes. But then having to start right away with very little practise and then having more games in less time … so it’s like this, one way good and one way bad. You pick which one.”

  1. Eric Staal is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, a gold medal at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in 2007 with Team Canada and a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

    Stu Cowan: Adding Eric Staal will make the Canadiens a better team

  2. Emergency-room doctor Drew Reid, who used to play hockey at McGill University, in Montreal on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Emergency-room doctor sheds light on Habs’ COVID situation

Still in fourth place

Heading into Saturday’s games, the Canadiens were still sitting in fourth place in the North Division with a 14-8-9 record, two points ahead of the fifth-place Vancouver Canucks and four points ahead of the sixth-place Calgary Flames. The Canadiens held six games in hand on Vancouver and four games in hand on Calgary.

“Games in hand are only good if you win them,” Bergevin said. “It’s nice to have them, but we have to win those games. Our schedule will be a little tougher now because of the week off. We have to control our destiny and we have to win our games and not going in back door. So I expect our team to be ready to play when we start again.”

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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