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Canucks training camp day one: Elias Pettersson and the Russians show some zip – The Province

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News and notes from the first day of Vancouver Canucks training camp.

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WHISTLER — They didn’t score in the scrimmage, but the line of of Elias Pettersson centring new Russian wingers Andrey Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev was very effective in the mid-day scrimmage on the first day of Vancouver Canucks training camp.

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Mikheyev’s speed is obvious, while Kuzmenko’s smart play in close quarters stands a good chance of creating even more space for Pettersson in which to work.

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“He’s so smart a guy, and I hope we can use our speed,” Mikheyev said of skating with Pettersson.

“We just helped each other and then today we started the work. Super great,” he said of learning his new team’s systems of play.

Will he and Kuzmenko make Pettersson learn Russian?

“Probably,” he said, with a big smile. “We’ll try, but maybe we need Swedish.”

Russian players Andrey Kuzmenko (left) and Ilya Mikheyev (right) at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)
Russian players Andrey Kuzmenko (left) and Ilya Mikheyev (right) at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)

Kuzmenko managed well through his first English-language media session. He spoke alongside Mikheyev, who served as translator from time to time.

If they prove to be a trio when the season starts, he thinks they’ll gel quickly.

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“Very smart player with me and Ilya. And Pettersson is very good attack forward.”

The NHL game may prove to be a bit quicker than what he was used to in the KHL, but he’s not worried, Kuzmenko said.

“I think hockey is a very simple game,” he said. “Adaptation with me is every day, every game is better, better, better, better.”

He also said he was excited to play on the smaller NHL ice surface. He thought it would suit his instinct to play in traffic and how quickly you’re at the net. On the bigger ice of the KHL, winning a puck battle doesn’t open up an immediate scoring chance.

“I like it small because when you win one on one in corner, you go to shoot,” he said.

On the ice at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)
On the ice at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)

Mikheyev is a new teammate for Kuzmenko as well. Mikheyev said he remembered skating a few shifts with Kuzmenko for the Russian national team several years ago.

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“I don’t remember,” Kuzmenko said, drawing laughs, as a counter.

Pettersson said he enjoyed skating with the Russians, and said one of his good friends back home in Sweden is Russian, so he knows some of the language.

“Only the bad words,” he joked.

He believed they have big potential as a line.

“Mikheyev’s super fast. He opens up space for us and Kuzmenko, maybe we’re kind of similar in the way we play,” Pettersson said.

Maybe the perfect combination of talents? “That’s what I’ve been thinking about. I had a talk with coaches and they want to try it out. And I’m all up for it,” he added.

Pettersson was caught defensively in the scrimmage, with Vincent Arseneau opening the scoring for the opposing team.

“Defence, you can learn. I think offence it’s like, it just happens. I mean, all three of us are skilled. Today, I think on the first goal I was a little too excited for a breakaway. But it’s just small details like that you can learn and I’m not too worried about that. I know what we’re capable of.”

In the scrimmage, Cole Shepard also scored for Group C, which added an empty netter to beat Pettersson’s Group B 3-0.

Rookie Canucks winger Andrey Kuzmenko is all smiles on the bench during the first day of Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday.
Rookie Canucks winger Andrey Kuzmenko is all smiles on the bench during the first day of Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Learning the place

Kuzmenko said he was loving Vancouver so far. He’s a big fan of the outdoors. And he’s living in the Aquilini-owned rental tower next to Rogers Arena and has already caught a number of concerts.

“The mountains, the oceans, the forest, I like,” he said.

He’s also been to a Whitecaps game.

“Why not? It’s only 100 metres to soccer stadium.”

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Brisk sessions

The first group on the ice worked briskly through a series of drills.

A new year, a fresh vibe.

And a new coach who is noted for colourful on-ice feedback.

Tanner Pearson said even a decade into his professional career, the beginning of a new season remains exciting.

“You always have butterflies, right? Start of a new season. You know, wide awake at six o’clock this morning. And you get down here, everyone’s kind of the same way,” he said.

Brock Boeser at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)
Brock Boeser at Canucks training camp in Whistler on Thursday. (Photo: Patrick Johnston)

Boeser wants 30

Brock Boeser said this year is a fresh start mentally. Last year was a real drain. His father’s failing health weighed on him and the strain his father’s failing health had on his mother was doubly difficult.

“With my dad’s passing, there’s just not as much to worry about. So I can really focus on hockey,” he said.

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And yes, he knows 30 goals is the target.

“This is the year,” he said.

Line watching

While Boeser skated on a line with J.T. Miller and Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat centred Vasily Podkolzin and Connor Garland. That’s three lines with plenty of potential to score.

The apparent fourth line, at least for now, features two other summer signings: Dakota Joshua and Curtis Lazar joining Jason Dickinson.

That left Nils Höglander as the early man left out. The little Swede, who is coming off groin surgery, was his usual peppery self in the scrimmage, but was skating with two Swedes who are almost certainly destined for AHL Abbotsford in Nils Åman and Linus Karlsson.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

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Flames’ Elias Lindholm adjusting to life without old linemates – Sportsnet.ca

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CALGARY – There had to be moments this summer when Calgary Flames centre Elias Lindholm wondered if it was something he said.

After anchoring the NHL’s hottest line last season, the Swedish star watched from overseas this summer as both his linemates took turns departing the organization.

And while Flames fans rejoiced when Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were replaced by the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri, the orphaned centre knew he’d return to Calgary with plenty of unknowns surrounding his new wingers.

While the hockey world is expecting the man on his left will be Huberdeau, coach Darryl Sutter said a few weeks ago the first piece of the puzzle will be determining if the longtime Panthers playmaker fits better with Lindholm or Kadri.

Huberdeau, Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli have spent the first three days of camp together, and while all three are optimistic they’ll find chemistry together, Lindholm shrugged when asked if he’s felt it yet.

“Honestly, the drills we’re doing out there, it’s tough to create the chemistry, ” he said.

“But he’s a good player and good players are easy to play with. It’ll be kind of fun to get games going soon. And we’ll see from there.”

The trio didn’t get much going in Saturday’s scrimmage and is hoping to start the process Sunday night when the Flames host Vancouver to open the pre-season with a split-squad game.

So, what’s the key to trying to find some semblance of the magic Lindholm had with his previous pals?

“Just have fun out there, get it going and get Johnny used to the new system and stuff like that,” said Lindholm, who had a career-high 42 goals and 82 points last season.

“You can tell he’s a top player in the league, with that extra poise with the puck and making plays. He seems like a real nice guy, too. I’m excited to start with him.”

Sutter believes part of building that chemistry involves getting to know one another off the ice as well.

“It’s no different than having your friends at school – same idea,” said the coach.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since the club’s summertime calamity, Lindholm was asked what he thought of losing both his wingers.

“It was a rollercoaster for sure,” he laughed.

“Obviously Johnny had an opportunity to go somewhere else and Chucky wanted a new challenge and to try something else. That’s the NHL, that’s the business part of it.

“I thought the management did a really good job to put us in a good position and have a really good team this year again.”

BIG FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Flames have their first standout of training camp, and not just because he’s six-foot-eight and 245 pounds.

Adam Klapka picked up from where he left off at the team’s prospect camp by opening Saturday’s first red and white scrimmage with a snipe that had the dozens in attendance murmuring.

Entering the offensive zone with plenty of speed, the towering right winger stuttered the defenceman with a sweet move before roofing a snapper short side on Dustin Wolf, a netminder he has 75 pounds on.

The sequence had everyone on Team White’s bench buzzing.

“He was pretty awesome out in Penticton too — he was the best player in that camp for our group,” said Sutter of the 22-year-old Czech winger, who was signed to a two-year entry level deal this summer.

“For a big man he moves really well. Usually big guys like that, when you think of NHLers that size, a lot of times it takes two or three years for their skating to catch up with their body, and vice versa. Right now that doesn’t appear to be an issue.”
Shockingly high praise from the boss.

Klapka was signed in May after scoring six goals and adding 12 assists in 44 games for Bili Tygri Liberec of the Czech Republic League.

Prior to that, the undrafted Prague native spent two seasons with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL.

As green as he is, no one is expecting him to challenge for an NHL roster spot this season, but his size and right shot make him an intriguing add for the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers this year.

SCRIMMAGE NOTES

The game ended 2-1, with Clark Bishop and Sonny Milano scoring for Team Red, with Cody Eakin making a nice play behind the net to set up Milano, his fellow PTO participant. Klapka’s goal was the lone marker for Team White … Goalies Dan Vladar, Oscar Dansk and Wolf rotated at both ends of the ice throughout the scrimmage, including several changes on the fly … After a full period of 5-on-5 play the two teams played a shorter second period of 4-on-4 before returning to 5-on-5 for an abbreviated third … Nikita Zadorov drew plenty of attention with his physicality, while Klapka’s goal and hands stood out in the skill department … Matthew Phillips, who is still listed at an unfathomable 140 pounds, still has the silkiest of mitts, and is a pleasure to watch with the puck … Notables who didn’t dress included Chris Tanev and Kadri, who will be used sparingly throughout camp, as well as injured Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington (absent from camp due to personal reasons). Jacob Markstrom was also given the day off … Only a smattering of fans were in the building, as the organization held a seat purchasing event for Wranglers tickets.

SATURDAY’S LINE COMBINATIONS

Team Red
Huberdeau-Lindholm-Toffoli
Dube-Backlund-Coleman
Eakin-Zary-Milano
Sutter-Bishop-Duehr
Hanifin-Andersson
Mackey-Weegar
Poirier-Poolman

Team White
Lucic-Rooney-Ritchi
Pelletier-Ruzicka-Phillips
Pospisil-Schwindt-Lewis
McLain-Jones-Klapka
Zadorov-Meloche
Valimaki-Stone
Gilbert-DeSimone

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‘The right guy’: Blue Jays’ Manoah shuts down Rays for much-needed win – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – That Alek Manoah stepped up at a moment of need for the Toronto Blue Jays is no surprise. All he’s done since debuting May 27, 2021 is pick up his club with gutsy outing after gutsy outing, unfazed by the circumstances around him. It’s why, when asked if too much was expected of a young pitcher, John Schneider pointed out that the 24-year-old has already proven he’s up for big games.

“We have the right guy on the mound,” added the interim manager.

Hours after that pre-game comment, Manoah took the mound at the low-end outlet mall doubling as a baseball stadium that is Tropicana Field and demonstrated why, throwing up zero after zero after zero. Still, as good as he was, the ace right-hander could only prevent runs, not score them, which is why the fate of his gem hung in the balance deep into Saturday night.

That’s where Whit Merrifield, the trade deadline addition who struggled upon arrival but has warmed of late, stepped in, delivering a three-run shot in the seventh inning off Brooks Raley that carried the day in a 3-1 Blue Jays win that ended a three-game losing streak.

“That was huge, I kind of got a little light-headed there with how much I was yelling,” Manoah said of Merrifield’s decisive swing. “That’s a big-time hit right there and he’s been coming through for us the past few days. That fueled everybody to finish this one off.”

Manoah finished with seven shutout innings, allowing only four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts on a season-high 113 pitches, as the Blue Jays (85-67) moved a game up on the Rays (84-68) for top spot in the wild-card race. They’re still 1.5 games ahead of the third-place Seattle Mariners (83-68), who beat Kansas City 6-5, while an 11-10 loss by the Baltimore Orioles (79-72) to Houston cut Toronto’s magic number for clinching a playoff spot to six.

“Bulldog, man,” Merrifield said of Manoah. “Gets the ball when the team needs him, this is a big game for us coming off the loss of Philly, first two dropped here, we know that this place has given us trouble this year – it’s a big game for us. … So it was nice to do enough to get a win.”

As always at the Trop, there was late drama before a crowd of 22,169 as Tim Mayza, taking over in the eighth, allowed consecutive singles after recording the first two outs, prompting Schneider to bring in Jordan Romano.

The closer, coming off blown saves in his previous two appearances, surrendered a high chopper to Harold Ramirez that resulted in an infield single that brought home one run when Bo Bichette’s throw to first sailed high, but recovered to strike out Manuel Margot.

Romano wrapped things up with a clean ninth for his 35th save.

Merrifield’s home run was his third of the series and his emergence from an extended cold spell that coincided with his arrival to sporadic playing time comes at an opportune time. Santiago Espinal’s oblique strain, along with Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s continued absence, has left a void and a pathway to consistent at-bats.

He came in with hits in five of his past seven games and collected two more Saturday.

“He’s getting hot at the right time and brings a lot of other variables into your lineup with speed and versatility and things like that,” said Schneider. “I know it hadn’t been great for him the start he got off to here and not playing consistently, but he’s going to be in there and I love the way he’s swinging it right now, for sure.”

The homer followed Teoscar Hernandez’s one-out double that ended the night for Drew Rasmussen, who had been nearly as suffocating as Manoah through six. Pinch-hitter Danny Jansen then worked a walk off Raley before Merrifield dropped the hammer on a first-pitch slider.

“Jano had a great at-bat right before me, coming off the bench and working a really good at-bat to get a walk,” said Merrifield. “So I was fortunate being on deck to see all of his pitches from the side and stepped in and tried to pick up the ball early, see something I could get the barrel on and got enough of it to get it out.”

Manoah, who’d been charging up his teammates all game long, came back out for the seventh, allowed a one-out single to Miles Mastobuoni and then got Francisco Mejia on a grounder to second before inducing a soft chopper from Ji-Man Choi, that Bichette charged across second to collect and relay for the final out.

As he did, Manoah had his arms up in the air and shouted out his shortstop, just as he had for several others throughout the game.

“I don’t know if they needed it, but just from my own point of view, we were down 2-0 (Friday) at one point and it felt like we’re down five-zero,” said Manoah. “It’s a tough place to play and a good ballclub over there, so I just wanted to make sure I came in with a lot of energy and kept those guys going. They keep me going, big plays, big at-bats – that’s what fuels me. Being able to give them some fire back, it’s been amazing.”

Manoah’s previous season-high in pitches was 107, over 5.2 innings of a 4-2 loss to Baltimore Aug. 16. He’s thrown seven consecutive quality starts since, going at least seven in four of them, and was pushed in this outing after being given an extra day of rest coming in.

“I feel amazing,” said Manoah. “So for all the haters that say I’m slowing down, good luck.”

Like anyone facing him this season, they’ll need it.

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