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Columbus Blue Jackets' John Tortorella on Patrik Laine benching – 'Last thing I want to do,' but felt it was needed – ESPN

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Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella benched newly acquired winger Patrik Laine during Monday night’s game against Carolina, acknowledging afterward that although sitting a player is “the last thing I want to do,” it was something he felt was needed.

The Blue Jackets acquired Laine two weeks ago in a trade for center Pierre-Luc Dubois, whom Tortorella had also benched this season.

Laine didn’t see the ice again Monday after Hurricanes forward Brock McGinn scored with 6:19 remaining in the second period. Laine appeared to passively defend in his zone on the play, but Tortorella said that wasn’t the sole motivation for the benching.

“It wasn’t because of the missed assignment. There’s a number of things that come into play with that. That’ll stay in the locker room,” Tortorella said after the Blue Jackets’ 3-2 win improved them to 6-5-3 (.536 points percentage).

Laine entered the game with three goals in his first three games in Columbus, after being acquired along with winger Jack Roslovic from the Winnipeg Jets for Dubois on Jan. 23. Tortorella had benched Dubois twice for a lack of effort in the games leading up to the trade.

Along with Laine, Tortorella also benched defenseman Dean Kukan after McGinn’s goal.

“It’s what I feel I need to do,” Tortorella said. “The last thing I want to do is bench a player. But we’re just disjointed in all areas. Quite honestly, on and off the ice. It’s an easy thing to bench a player. It’s the last thing I want to do, but if I think I need to do it, then I need to do it.”

For Laine, this kind of tough love is new. But veteran Blue Jackets like winger Cam Atkinson — who has played all six seasons Tortorella has coached in Columbus — know the benchings could continue until effort and execution improve.

“Torts expects us to play as hard as we can. It doesn’t matter who you are, and I think everyone knows that. If you’re not giving 100 percent and looking like you’re trying, he’s going to sit you. It’s no secret. That goes for everybody, myself included. I’ve been that guy plenty of times. He just wants the guys that are gonna work,” said Atkinson, who scored on a penalty shot in Monday’s victory. “It’s not always going to be pretty. You might be playing with a lot of different [linemates]. But for the most part, if we play the right way and stick to our concepts of playing north and forechecking hard, it doesn’t matter who you play with.”

Atkinson said he spoke to Laine about the benching.

“I sit next to him in the locker room, so we’ve chatted,” Atkinson said. “We’re a pretty open group. He knows [what he did wrong]. He’ll be the first to admit it. He just has to be better, plain and simple, and he knows it. Expect him to have a big game next game. That’s what we have to. Whether you’re a new guy or an old guy, we have to hold each other accountable. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you play. We have to all buy in.”

Tortorella said that while veteran players like Atkinson can help communicate his message, he doesn’t believe he needs an intermediary with a player like Laine.

“I think it’s important that teammates help one another, but my feeling is with players we don’t need anyone in between us,” Tortorella said. “[Laine] and I will discuss it. I think it’s important that the players and coaches discuss situations.

“And I’ll listen to him also. It’s all process here. I’ve got to get this team to play as a team and to care as a team, or we’re going to continue to play the hockey that we’re playing right now. It’s my job.”

As it happened, on a night when the other high-profile player included in last month’s trade was benched, Roslovic scored the game-winning goal late in the third period with a singular offensive effort.

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Tiger Woods thanks golfers for red shirt tribute – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Tiger Woods offered a heartfelt thanks to his fellow golfers for their tribute on Sunday, where many donned the 15-time major champion’s signature Sunday red and black for the final round.

Woods suffered a car accident on Tuesday and was being treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with a fractured right leg and a shattered ankle, calling into question the future of the 45-year-old’s historic career.

An 82-time PGA Tour winner, Woods famously wears a red shirt and black trousers on Sundays.

“It is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the TV and saw all the red shirts,” Woods said in a Twitter post shortly after the conclusion of the World Golf Championships event in Florida.

“To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.”

With his win on Sunday, rising star Collin Morikawa joined Woods as the only two golfers to win a major championship and a World Golf Championship event before turning 25 years old.

Morikawa, 24, took time after his victory to thank Woods directly.

“Tiger means everything to me,” Morikawa said.

“He had the crash and thankfully he’s alright and hopefully he has a quick and great recovery, but I don’t think we say thank you enough.

“So, I want to say thank you to Tiger. Sometimes you lose people too early. Kobe, I lost my grandpa about a month ago, and you don’t get to say thank you enough.

“So thank you, guys.”

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Toronto Raptors are latest team to be hit hard by COVID-19 and NBA protocols – TSN

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TORONTO – Earlier in the week, and just before the NBA released its schedule for the second half of the season, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse expressed his concern over the sheer volume of games headed his team’s way, while also making sure to knock on wood.

At the time, Toronto was one of just four teams that hadn’t missed a game due to postponement – meaning its remaining slate would be lighter than most – but with the league hoping to squeeze the rest of the campaign, play-in games and playoffs into a tight window, Nurse knew that these next few months were going to be hectic.

“I think that the schedule feels heavy,” he said ahead of last Tuesday’s contest. “This year already, it’s felt heavy and I think it’s going to be even heavier. I think we’ve been fortunate – let’s hope we can get to this break without having any postponements or cancellations, but we’ve been fortunate.”

With just a few games to go before the upcoming all-star weekend, the Raptors had been fortunate, all things considered. Every team’s been impacted by the COVID-19 virus and the NBA’s health and safety protocols in some way, but Toronto nearly made it to the halfway point with minimal disruptions to its schedule – aside from the notable exception of having to move its operations across the continent and play its home games in Tampa, of course.

However, with a chaotic few days for the organization serving as yet another cruel reminder, in these times, things can change quickly.

On Sunday morning, the NBA announced that the contest between the Raptors and the Chicago Bulls – initially scheduled for later that evening – had been postponed. As a result of positive test results and ongoing contact tracing within the organization, Toronto would not have the league-required eight available players to proceed with the game, according to the league. This, coming two days after the team played Friday’s game – a 122-111 win over Houston – without Nurse, five members of his coaching staff, and Pascal Siakam, who were all unavailable due to the health and safety protocols.

Knowing what we know now, it’s fair to wonder whether that game should have taken place at all. In hindsight, the easy answer is, no, it should not have been played. But even without the benefit of hindsight, privately, there were at least a few people within the organization that expressed some trepidation about taking the court that night.

That wasn’t their call to make, though. It’s up to the league to determine if a game needs to be cancelled, and with enough players and personnel returning negative tests throughout the day, they felt comfortable giving both clubs the green light.

“One way to think about it is, we get tested twice in the morning, and so if those tests come back negative, that kind of gives you the clearance to participate in activities that day, and then you can even do some testing later in the day if you’re concerned about it,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said ahead of Friday’s game. “Once the negative tests came back this afternoon, I think that gave the NBA the comfort that at least for today, we’re clear.”

The question most people still have – not just as it pertains to the Raptors’ current situation – is, what goes into the contact tracing process?

According to sources, at least one of Toronto’s coaches tested positive ahead of Friday’s game, with the rest of the front-of-the-bench staff told to isolate from the team because they were considered close contacts. There was enough concern over Siakam’s status that he entered the protocol, as well. The Raptors did not play or practice on Thursday, but why weren’t the players or coaches that shared the court – or the locker room – with the aforementioned individuals in Miami on Wednesday also deemed to be close contacts?

Similar questions emanated from both the Raptors and Nets locker rooms after a game in Brooklyn earlier this month, when Kevin Durant was pulled from the starting lineup just prior to tip-off, allowed to enter the game in the first quarter, and then ruled out again in the second half – all in the name of contact tracing.

“You can probably imagine it’s just the natural course of how groups work,” said Webster, who was asked about the protocol on Friday. “So, if your department or whatever group you’re with at work, if someone within that group had an exposure you go back and say who did you hang out with and who were you around the most? Who do you sit with on the plane? Who do you sit with on the bus?”

These incidents were unavoidable once the NBA and its players’ association decided to go forward with this season – playing basketball in the midst of a global pandemic and outside of a contained environment, like the Disney bubble that allowed them to finish the 2019-20 campaign safely. With teams travelling around the United States and playing in different markets, some of them in front of a limited numbers of fans, this was inevitable – players and staff were going to contract the virus and games were going to be lost.

Sunday’s game between the Raptors and Bulls was the 34th postponement of the season. It was the 30th time that a team could not dress the minimum required number of players.

Like just about everything else in basketball, in sports, or in life right now, this is a fluid situation. All of Toronto’s players and staff have been asked to quarantine at their respective homes in Tampa, only leaving to undergo testing a couple times per day. The league will monitor the results of those tests closely and determine what the next steps look like.

The Raptors have two more games scheduled before the all-star break – Tuesday against Detroit and Thursday in Boston. As of Sunday afternoon, no decision had been made in regards to those contests, but given the circumstances, it’s hard to see them being played.

Do the math. They have 17 players on the roster. Two of them, rookie Jalen Harris and recently signed big man Donta Hall, are on assignment in the G League bubble. Siakam was already in the protocol and had been ruled out, which means that at least seven other players have either returned positive tests or are in contact tracing. Then you factor in the coaching staff, which was down to four available members – including acting head coach Sergio Scariolo, who only avoided contact tracing because he had just cleared quarantine after returning from leading the Spanish National Team in FIBA qualifiers overseas – on Friday.

Postponed games are re-scheduled on a case-by-case basis. If there isn’t time to make up all of them, some teams could end up playing fewer than the planned 72 contests, according to recent reports. If the Raptors are in fact sidelined until after all-star, their next scheduled game would come against Atlanta on March 11 – ironically, the one-year anniversary of Rudy Gobert’s positive test bringing last season to a halt.

First and foremost, you hope that everybody within the organization is safe and doing well. When they’re healthy and able to get back on the court, you look forward to watching them play again. When will that be? That remains to be seen.​

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Lineup decisions to come, but Maple Leafs' attention to detail against Oilers must hold fast – Toronto Sun

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The Maple Leafs will be juggling a few lineup balls through the day on Monday.

For coach Sheldon Keefe, however, there’s no trick to trying to record another win against the Oilers on Monday night in Edmonton.

“We’re being real here,” Keefe said on Sunday after the Leafs practised at Rogers Place. “We had a great game, and we liked a lot about it.

“But the puck is going to drop again, the scoreboard is going to be back to zeros and you’ve got to be able to do it again. We didn’t come here just to get one win, so we’ve got to continue to re-focus.”

The second match of the Leafs’ five-game trip to Edmonton and Vancouver may or may not include Auston Matthews, who did not play in the Saturday’s 4-0 win because of a wrist issue.

Matthews practised on Sunday, but was not on a regular line and did not take full reps. Still, Keefe would not rule him out.

“He has progressed, compared to where he has been in the last few days,” Keefe said. “That’s positive. We’ll have to see how he is.”

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Jack Campbell, who made 30 saves in his first game since Jan. 24 after recovering from a lower-body injury, did not practise. No. 1 goaltender Frederik Andersen was on the ice, but Keefe would not commit to saying who would be in the net to start on Monday. Andersen has missed the past three games with a lower-body issue.

“We gave (Campbell) the day off,” Keefe said. “Coming off the injury that he has, we want to make sure that we manage that properly.”

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As for Andersen’s availability Keefe said: “It’s not looking that way, if we’re being honest.

“(On Sunday), he was on the ice for the better part of an hour, and took lots of shots, so we’re essentially just waiting for him to feel comfortable.

“Whether it’s goaltending or Auston or other situations, we’ve got a lot of question marks that probably won’t get answered until game time.”

Michael Hutchinson, with a .924 save percentage in three starts, would start if Campbell and Andersen can’t go.

What can’t waver is the Leafs’ methodology. They further cemented their place at the top of the NHL standings on Saturday with a team effort that we can safely say was their best through 22 games this season, coming as it did without their top player in Matthews and their No. 1 goalie in Andersen.

Keeping Oilers superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl off the scoreboard hasn’t been accomplished by teams in the North Division with any regularity. For McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer with 40 points, it was just the fifth time in 23 games this season he did not have a point. For Draisaitl, second in NHL scoring with 34 points, it was the sixth time in 23 games he did not put his name on the scoresheet.

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And keep this in mind: McDavid has not gone back-to-back games without recording at least one point since Dec. 18-20, 2019.

“We have to continue to have the level of commitment defensively when the puck changes hands,” Keefe said. “We’ve got to be in really good spots and look to slow them down when we can.

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“There are only so many things you can do as a group. Sometimes, the best players are going to have an off-night, and those guys have had a lot of nights when they’ve been on.

“We’re expecting them to be more like themselves (on Monday), and we’ve got to be prepared to be even better.”

What was crucial in the performance on Saturday that has to be repeated?

“It’s a combination of different things,” defenceman TJ Brodie said. “Having a good F3 (in support) is big, and then the back pressure. Their guys can get up to top speed really quick and they like to pull up if they have the chance, too. To have the pressure coming back, you can try to pinch them and take that time and space away.”

And when there is faltering, the goaltending has to be sound. Campbell provided that in the series opener on Saturday and earned his third NHL shutout.

“We have to take it to them like we did in the last game, and give them no option but to follow our game plan instead of letting them play theirs,” defenceman Travis Dermott said. “It’s pushing our play, pushing our pace and having confidence.”

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

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