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Ducharme era begins in Montreal with show of faith in Carey Price –



The Dominique Ducharme Era as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens begins with a decision that will be carefully scrutinized beyond the next 24 hours: he’s giving Carey Price the start against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

Time will tell if it’s the right call.

The numbers lean heavily towards backup Jake Allen, who has a .932 save percentage through seven starts versus Price’s .893. Even the contrast between Allen’s last start (a 36-save masterpiece that gave the Canadiens a point they hadn’t earned in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators Sunday) and Price’s (a 35-saver on Tuesday, in which he made highlight-reel stops but allowed three crushing goals in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Senators) point to Allen being a safer pick for a team looking to bust a three-game winless streak.

As Allen was running through the starter’s routine with Montreal goaltending coach Stephane Waite at Thursday’s morning skate while Price was getting “maintenance” — Is “maintenance” a nap? A massage? An oil change? This remains as one of hockey’s great mysteries — it looked like Ducharme was leaning his way.

But no.

“Carey will be in net tonight,” the coach said, with his words curving towards the outside edge of home plate.

It’s a heck of a pitch to a versatile hitter — a high-powered Jets offence capable of producing against any goaltender, let alone who’s struggled recently. But Ducharme’s decision to throw it says much about his approach to turn around this 2-4-2 skid his Canadiens were on before Wednesday’s news that Claude Julien was removed as head coach and Kirk Muller as associate coach.

Of course, the 47-year-old Joliette, Que., native has tactical changes to implement, but he’s not performing reconstructive surgery in as limited a window as this. He’s had less than a day and not even a full practice to rejig strategies, so if you thought he and new assistant coach Alex Burrows had enough time to dismantle and reassemble the struggling special teams and reinvent the offensive strategy, you might want to adjust your expectations.

But what Ducharme is doing is wiping the slate clean.

“It’s a new start,” he said.

He’s right. It’s a new start for the Canadiens. All of them, not just Ducharme.

It’s a new start for Paul Byron, who went from waivers to the taxi squad to the left wing of the fourth line in the last week, to now taking Jake Evans’ place at centre against the Jets. It’s a new start for Artturi Lehkonen, who’s drawing back into the lineup after missing the last two games as a healthy scratch. It’s also a new start for Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar, who have struggled immensely so far this season but are now being reunited with Brendan Gallagher.

And it’s a new start for a goaltender who desperately needs one.

“I’m not talking about the past,” Ducharme said. “I haven’t talked to the guys about the way we started the year or the way we played 10 days ago, five days ago. We’re starting right now and we’re gonna control what we can control. We’ve got to take care of the things that we can have an impact on, and after that, we believe that if we do that we’re going to be looking up at the scoreboard and the results are going to be good for us.”

The results being good would be a welcome change for the Canadiens — and for Price.

He hasn’t been given an opportunity to immediately undo a bad one until now. The plan in trading for Allen was to give Price rest over a more demanding and shortened season, and it’s been followed to the letter to this point in time. It’s not an excuse to suggest he hasn’t had the chance to gain anything resembling the regular rhythm he’s accustomed to, with Allen sharing the net and the Canadiens having several lags in their early schedule.

Now Price is getting it, and he must take advantage.

Ducharme putting the puck in the Anahim Lake, B.C., native’s glove for Thursday’s game could play huge in the big picture. It’s the riskier call at this juncture, but one being made with the calculation it will raise the goaltender’s confidence.

And Gallagher says that’s what the coach is trying to give the team immediately in the absence of having the appropriate amount of time to drastically adjust the tactics.

“He’s very confident in what he has to say, and when a coach has confidence in himself it instills confidence in the players,” said Gallagher. “He creates a belief and it’s going to work, and I think that’s huge for us. I think it helps players buy into what he’s saying, and then when you buy in and you see results and you see it continue to happen over and over again, that’s where that process comes from.”

Ducharme said he addressed his players and stressed to them that he believes in them. Whether he had a personal conversation with Price to re-affirm that point is inconsequential, because giving him the net speaks louder.

“(He’s) like everyone else,” said Ducharme. “We want to have a strong start, we want to have a strong game, and for everyone I think it’s the same. I don’t see him being different than the others from that side.”

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Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka to meet in Madrid final – WTA roundup



Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty and fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka traversed through their semifinal matches on Thursday to advance to the championship match of the Mutua Madrid Open.

Barty recorded six aces while dispatching Spanish wildcard Paula Badosa 6-4, 6-3, while Sabalenka notched a 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.

Saturday’s clash will mark the second time in less than two weeks that Barty and Sabalenka will meet in a final. The Australian rallied for a 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over Sabalenka to win in Stuttgart on April 25.

Sabalenka, who had 21 winners against 11 unforced errors in Thursday’s semis, is ready to take another swing at Barty.

“Physically I have to be ready for this match,” said Sabalenka, who is from Belarus. “She’s No.1, she’s great. I played her in Stuttgart. It’s not an easy game. I will do everything I can to prepare myself as good as I can. Just looking forward for this battle.”

Barty holds a 4-3 edge in career matches against Sabalenka.

Barty played her semifinal match prior to knowing there would be another tussle with Sabalenka.

But she was pleased with her performance and the victory was her 16th straight on clay surfaces.

“I’ve learned a lot more about it, without a doubt,” Barty said of clay. “I promise you, I’m still counting down to the grass court season. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I think the memories and the learnings now that we’re getting from the red clay has been really cool, to be able to challenge myself in different ways.”

Thursday’s victory also was important to Barty because she was upset by Bodosa 6-4, 6-3 last month in the quarterfinals of the Volvo Car Open at Charleston, S.C.

“You have to learn from every game, every match you play against an opponent,” Barty said. “I definitely learned a lot from the match we played in Charleston. There was a small adjustment. I think just learning from some of her patterns, tendencies that came through and showed through in that match in Charleston.

“I think I was just able to control the court a little bit better.”

L’Open 35 de Saint-Malo

Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus upset fourth-seeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia to advance to the quarterfinals at Saint-Malo, France.

Second-seeded Rebecca Peterson of Sweden also moved on with a 4-6, 6-4, 4-0 win over Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya, who retired in the third set.

Russia’s Varvara Gracheva beat Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova when the latter retired. Gracheva won the first set 6-4 and the second was tied at 5-5.

–Field Level Media

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Baseball lifts San Diego’s spirits. Can it revive a pandemic-stricken U.S. economy?



By Daniel Trotta, Howard Schneider and Chris Canipe

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – It was Saturday night in downtown San Diego, and J Street near the Petco Park baseball stadium was bustling.

Fans of the hometown Padres, many decked out in team gear, packed the bars and restaurants with more waiting in line and happy to do so after a year of pandemic lockdown.

“It’s definitely a feel-good time,” said lawyer Chris Schon, 33, as he waited for a table outside Bub’s at the Ballpark, a sports bar.

However festive the scene, it nonetheless highlights some of the limits emerging in the U.S. economic recovery.

The Padres have been “selling out” most every game since Major League Baseball’s reopening a month ago, but in the age of coronavirus that means hitting an attendance cap of around 15,000, or roughly a third of capacity. Elsewhere in the league, results are lagging.

The surrounding restaurants, dependent on summertime ballpark crowds, remain limited to 50% capacity in California for at least another month. Owners expect depressed revenue through 2021 and worry that even as restrictions are lifted people will hesitate to join standing-room-only crowds.

“Back in the good old days, we were four or five deep at the bar, slinging beers…. Are people going to get turned off by that?” wondered Brant Crenshaw, a partner in the Social Tap bar and restaurant where big-screen TVs and picture window views of the ballpark are a draw.

His opening day revenue this year? Around $15,000 versus $30,000 to $40,000 in prior years.


The start of a full baseball season with 162 games on tap was a milestone in the U.S. reopening. The 2020 season, shortened to 60 games and played in empty stadiums, gave way to the fanfare of Opening Day 2021 and dreams of playoff games packed with cheering crowds come October.

Restrictions are being eased as coronavirus vaccinations proceed and daily infections and deaths ebb.

Among the largest U.S. states, Texas and Florida have dropped all COVID-related limits, New York is allowing restaurants to reopen at full capacity on May 19, and California plans to lift most remaining restrictions on June 15.

However, data including national travel statistics as well as stadium-by-stadium baseball attendance compiled by Reuters suggests people remain hesitant, putting a potential brake on how quickly some parts of the economy will improve.

The 29 U.S.-based MLB stadiums are selling an average of just under 74.8% of the limited numbers of seats each team has made available. That compares with an average paid attendance of 67.6% at fully open stadiums before the pandemic. While higher now, it’s not break-down-the-doors higher at a time when households have record levels of cash saved over the past year.

The 30-team MLB’s one non-U.S. club, the Toronto Blue Jays, are playing at a minor league stadium in Florida because of travel restrictions between Canada and the United States.

More broadly, air travel has climbed back to only around 60% of pre-pandemic levels. An April Conference Board survey found 43% of respondents planned a vacation within the next six months, up from around 30% during the pandemic but well off the 55% or more before the health crisis.

Consumers spent heavily on goods during much of the pandemic, but services account for two-thirds of the economy so a fulsome recovery needs spending on everything from healthcare to baseball games to find its way back.

“When are things going to get back to normal? When people don’t worry about the virus anymore,” said Tim Duy, chief U.S. economist at SGH Macro Advisors and an economics professor at the University of Oregon. “If you are still not willing to go to a ballgame, if you cannot get more than 60% travel, we are not back to where we were.”


Near Petco Park, but for the few face masks in the crowd, things appeared much as they did before the pandemic. Firefighters played Wiffle ball outside their station. A jazz band played around the corner.

If last year’s emptied downtown “was the apocalypse,” said Cory Whitmore, 44, a cyber security engineer who wore his “Friar Faithful” jersey to Basic Bar/Pizza, the Saturday scene had now turned “electric.”

Erik Tesmer, Basic’s general manager and part owner, said the baseball season pulls in roughly 70% of the business at his industrial brick building, previously home to a horse carriage repair shop and a surfboard company.

Revenue plummeted to 25% of normal in 2020, and the restaurant survived only thanks to two Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government. Basic was able to keep about 15 employees on payroll, down from 50, Tesmer said.

Baseball may be back, and for long-suffering Padres fans there is even hope the team’s off-season spending on players will mean wins – and sellouts – as stadium attendance limits are likely raised through the summer.

But Tesmer notes the gaps still in San Diego’s larger ecosystem. Comic-Con, a summertime comic book and entertainment convention, was canceled last year and again in 2021, as was a music festival set to move downtown. Basic will be lucky to generate 50% of typical revenue this year, Tesmer said.

His best hope, he said, is for a winning Padres season.

“With a good season … we could be packed wall to wall and everybody is in a good mood and ready to get back to normal,” he said. “It certainly would help us if there are playoff games.”


(Daniel Trotta reported from San Diego; Howard Schneider reported from Washington; Chris Canipe reported from Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by Dan Burns and Howard Goller)

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Advantages of Live Casino Games



Casino Games

Seeing as the Internet has taken the world by storm, playing a mega role in day to day human life, more betting businesses are taking advantage of the numerous opportunities that the online gambling scene presents them. Today, any huge casino that you can think of has some form of online presence. As a matter of fact, playing Live casino with real money on the go has become so easy, as gaming websites are being developed to be highly mobile friendly!

The Good Side of Online Casinos

As mentioned before, live casinos are seemingly blowing up, given the tons of opportunities that are available online. Ever since live casino games were introduced online, gaming enthusiasts have had a reason to smile. The convenience that online gaming brings, alongside the same thrill gotten from a physical casino location is just out of this world.

Let us highlight just some of the pros of live casino gaming now, explained in the live casino guide prepared by industry experts from

Get to enjoy games in real time with Live Dealers!

This one tops the list of online casino games pros. The fact that you can enjoy your favorite table game with a real dealer in real time is just mind blowing! With this special feature, you get to witness state of the art gambling in a super authentic setting, giving off the land based casino version vibes. Players can follow through the Dealer’s actions closely and observe the gaming action as it unfolds. In addition to this, the dealers in leading live casino brands are all well trained professionals, leaving players rest assured of proper, safe and fair gaming.

Indulge in your favorite Live Casino Games from anywhere and at any Time!

Playing on the go has never been so easy. Never has it ever been so effortless and easy to access fun gaming, with the best thing being the fact that you need not travel for miles on end to be able to do this. Not only do you get to cut on all those travel expenses, but you also get the chance to enjoy high quality gaming just as if you were in an actual brick and mortar location.

Top notch quality technology

Nearly all leading live casinos will integrate high quality gaming technology and systems, offering players a smooth wagering process. Thanks to the live streaming feature, gamers can observe all action to detail as it happens from the beginning of the game to the end of it. This high level tech also comes with high level kind of protection to user information, adding on to the peace of mind.

 Live Chat

Thanks to cutting edge technology, bettors can interact with other game participants and the dealer as well. This not only makes the game more enjoyable and real, but the personal connection established takes things to a whole new level.

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