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Defencemen lead way as Oilers continue mastery of lowly Senators –



OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators are working hard to dig themselves out of a deep early-season hole. But it’s proving difficult.

Ottawa outshot Edmonton 42-22 Tuesday, including 30-10 over the last two periods, and held Oiler big guns Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl off the scoresheet for the first time in 11 games.

Goals by defenceman Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie were enough to lift Edmonton to a 3-2 win over the Senators.

“I thought right from the get-go we were jumping,” said Sens coach D.J. Smith. “Third period we had a great push. I thought we were probably the better team all the way through the night … We asked the guys to be ready and they were ready tonight.”

The win moved the Oilers (8-7-0) above the .500 mark for the first time this season, largely due to their success against Ottawa (2-11-1), which came into the game leading the league in hits but not much else.

It marked the fourth meeting between the two in 10 days. Edmonton won the first three — 8-5 and 4-2 in Edmonton and 3-1 Monday at the Canadian Tire Centre. They will meet five more times during the regular season.

“The tale of the tape tonight is our defence came through and got big goals for us and we found a way to win,” said Edmonton coach Dave Tippett.

“Ottawa, you’ve got to give them credit. They worked hard,” he added.

Connor Brown and Evgenii Dadonov replied for Ottawa.

“There wasn’t really a guy that I could say I didn’t like his game, tonight,” said Smith. “I think everyone came to win.”

For the second night in a row, the Senators battled hard but without much to show for it. Conceding a couple of weak goals didn’t help.

Ottawa replaced goaltender Marcus Hogberg with Matt Murray at 3:53 of the second period after the Oilers went up 3-1. Hogberg stopped 10-of-13 shots.

Trailing 3-1 going into the third, the Sens cut the deficit to one when a stretch pass from Mike Reilly sent Dadonov in on a breakaway. He beat Mikko Koskinen at 1:20 for his second goal in as many nights.

Ottawa has lost three straight and 12 of its last 13 — including 11 in regulation. Its lone wins came in the season opener Jan. 15 against Toronto and Feb. 4 against Montreal.

Edmonton has won two straight and five of its last six.

“I liked the way we hung around. We scored timely goals, we got timely saves and we found a way to get the two points,” said Tippett.

McDavid had 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) while Draisaitl had 20 (eight goals, 12 assists) over their previous 10 games. While Ottawa pressed in the third, both had chances to add to their points streak with Draisaitl hitting the post with the net empty in the dying seconds.

The 24-year-old McDavid, in his sixth NHL season, started the game at 496 career points — 171 goals and 325 assists.

Koskinen returned in goal for Edmonton, after giving way Monday to Mike Smith who was impressive in his season debut after being sidelined by injury.

The six-foot-seven Finn, in his 13th outing of the season, had a rough start with Brown tipping a shot home a Nikita Zaitsev shot from the point just 26 seconds in on Ottawa’s first shot on goal.

Hogberg’s turn came at 4:11 when a hard Nurse shot leaked through the five-hole after a Josh Archibald drop pass. It was Nurse’s fifth of the season, matching his 2019-20 total over 71 games, and fourth in five games — also his third against the Senators.

Hogberg showed more mettle in a fine stop on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after a Thomas Chabot turnover at the blue line gave McDavid the puck. But the six-foot-five Swede was beaten again at 17:19, unable to find Bouchard’s wrist shot from the point through five bodies.

The second period was delayed by a problem with the ice, apparently involving a leaking ice resurfacer, with one arena worker directing a fire extinguisher at the playing surface.

“I think it blew a radiator or something, they said. I don’t know ” said Tippett. “Radiator fluid all over the ice. Good thing they got it off before it melted too much of it.”

Barrie sparked Hogberg’s exit with the Oilers’ third goal, watching the goaltender slide out of position as he delayed his shot.

“He’s a great kid. He works hard. He does all the right things,” Smith said of Hogberg. “It’s just unfortunate he’s had some bad bounces and some goals go in on him. It’s not for lack of effort.”

Ottawa had its chances in the second, outshooting Edmonton 14-3, but was unable to convert on a double high-sticking minor against Archibald.

The Senators start a five-game road trip Thursday, with two games in Winnipeg followed by three in Toronto. Edmonton wraps up its four-game road trip Thursday in Montreal.

“We’re not a finished product by any stretch but we’re moving in the right direction,”’ said Tippett.

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Sabres select Owen Power with No. 1 pick in 2021 NHL Draft –



The NHL draft turned Michigan maize and blue Friday night. And there’s a Hughes sibling reunion set to happen in New Jersey.

The Buffalo Sabres opened the draft by selecting Wolverines defenceman Owen Power with the top pick, and were immediately followed by the expansion Seattle Kraken choosing Michigan centre Matthew Beniers at No. 2. It marked the first time since 1969 that teammates went with the first two selections.

Three picks later, the Wolverines became college hockey’s first program to have three teammates go in the first round after the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Michigan winger Kent Johnson fifth.

“Extremely excited for Owen, Matty and their families. Its’ already a great night for Michigan Hockey. Go Blue,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson texted to The Associated Press after the Kraken made their selection.

That’s not all, however. Luke Hughes, who is committed to playing at Michigan, was chosen fourth overall by the the Devils, where the defenceman is united with brother Jack, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.

Hughes watched the draft on his family’s living room couch with both of his NHL-playing brothers, rounded out by Quinn, who was selected seventh overall by Vancouver in 2018. Jack Hughes immediately jumped up and began hugging Luke upon hearing Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald announce the pick.

Ontario junior centre Mason McTavish was the only player without Michigan ties to round out the top five, after he was selected third overall by Anahiem.

The draft was held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with commissioner Gary Bettman hosting the draft in New Jersey, where he introduced teams to make their selections from their home arenas.

On a day the Sabres traded Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers, general manager Kevyn Adams continued his offseason bid to overhaul a struggling franchise by choosing the stalwart defenceman’s heir apparent. Power is listed at six-foot-six and 213 pounds and was the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American prospect. After scoring three goals and adding 13 assists in 26 games during his freshman season at Michigan, the 18-year-old Power cemented his draft stock by helping Canada win the world hockey championships.

From Mississauga, Ontario, Power is leaning toward returning to school for his sophomore season, something Adams has said would not play a factor into his selection.

“Not thinking about it too much right now, trying to enjoy the night. That’s something I’ll worry about later,” Power said of his future, while surrounded by his family and friends in his backyard.

As for a message to Sabres fans, he said: “I’m super excited to be part of the franchise and ready to get going.”

Power was the third player drafted first directly out of college, joining Michigan State forward Joe Murphy in 1986 and Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro in 2000. And he became the 16th defenceman to go No. 1 since 1970, and first since the Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin at No. 1 in 2018.

Power and Dahlin have similar two-way, play-making skills, and will have the opportunity to form the backbone of a retooled defensive unit for years to come.

Beniers was ranked sixth overall among North American prospects. He had 14 goals and 24 points in 24 games for the Wolverines.

In 1969, Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif were Montreal Junior Canadiens teammates, who were selected with the first two picks by Montreal. In 1963, Garry Monahan and St. Michael’s Juveniles teammate Peter Mahovlich were selected first and second.

The Sabres made a splash earlier by adding a second first-round pick, 14th overall, and defenceman Robert Hagg in dealing Ristolainen to Philadelphia.

The trade is part of Adams’ bid to rebuild through youth after Buffalo finished last in the overall standings for a fourth time in eight seasons and extended its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th year.

The acquired pick from Philadelphia is actually 13th in the draft order after the NHL stripped the Arizona Coyotes of their first-round pick, 11th overall, for testing players in violation of league’s combine policy.

The Coyotes, however, moved back into the first round by acquiring the Canucks’ pick, ninth overall, in a five-player trade that sent Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver earlier in the day.

The first European players selected were from Sweden in back to back selections. Defenceman Simon Edvinsson went sixth to the Detroit Red Wings, followed by under-sized forward William Eklund, who was chosen seventh by the San Jose Sharks.

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More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing



In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:

On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.

And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).

If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.

That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).

In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.

[John Ourand on Twitter]

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Cleveland changes MLB team nickname to Guardians after months of discussion –



Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.

The ball club announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names that are considered racist.

The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans.

The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.

Social unrest spurred name change

Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.

Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before Cleveland hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.

“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.”

In 2018, the team stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.

The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.

But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.

Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices — referred to as guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.

The team’s colours will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.

The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its name before the 2020 season and said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.

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