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Durant can’t start or finish game vs. Raptors for virus protocols –



NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant couldn’t start a game and then couldn’t finish it, removed in the third quarter because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Durant wasn’t available at the beginning of Friday night’s game against Toronto, eventually being cleared to enter in the first quarter. Once he did, it became his first appearance as a reserve in his 867 NBA games.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement that Durant had tested negative three times in the last 24 hours, including two negative PCR tests Friday. He said someone whom Durant interacted with in the afternoon had an inconclusive test result return shortly before the game. Durant was initially held out while that result was being reviewed.

“Under the league’s health and safety protocols, we do not require a player to be quarantined until a close contact has a confirmed positive test,” Frank said. “During the game, a positive result was returned for the person Durant interacted with. … Once that test was confirmed positive, out of an abundance of caution, Durant was removed from the game.”

Frank said contact tracing is underway to determine if Durant was in close contact of the individual who tested positive.

Durant helped the Nets rally to take the lead before he was informed in the third quarter that he needed to exit the game. Replays showed coach Steve Nash appearing to give the news to Durant, who walked toward the locker room area and threw a water bottle in frustration. The Nets then announced he was out for the rest of the night.

Durant had already missed three games this season related to the health and safety protocols. He tested positive for the virus in March while he was recovering from Achilles tendon surgery.

Durant finished with eight points. He had scored at least 20 points in all of his 17 games thus far, the longest streak to begin a season in his career.

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Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews still considered day-to-day with hand/wrist injury – TSN



Auston Matthews skated for about 35 minutes this morning in Edmonton, but didn’t shoot the puck. Toronto’s top-line centre will miss tonight’s game and is still considered day-to-day with a hand/wrist injury.  

“It’s not new for us,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “We’ve already played a game without Auston and against the Oilers.”

With Matthews sidelined, the Leafs beat the Oilers 4-2 on Jan. 22 in Toronto. 

“We just played hard,” Keefe recalled. “We were resilient. Our power play was good for us. You know, everybody just steps up and plays a little bit more and a little bit better. Whether we had Auston or not that was going to be a requirement in a game like this here tonight with an Edmonton team that’s playing very well and is very confident.”

The Oilers have won 11 of 13 games. The hot streak started with an overtime victory against the Leafs on Jan. 30.   

“They’re a team that’s firing right now,” said defenceman Jake Muzzin, who returns to the Leafs lineup after missing two games with a facial fracture. “They’ve got good goaltending, the defence is playing well and the stars are playing hard so it’s going to be a challenge.”

When Matthews was out in that game last month, John Tavares and Mitch Marner were reunited and that will be the case again tonight with Joe Thornton slotting in on left wing. 

“Just three really good players,” Keefe said. “Putting John and Mitch together, they got a lot of history, have played together well. They’ve done it this season and done it in previous seasons. And having Joe available today will give our whole group a boost.”

Thornton missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. 

Matthews out for tonight’s game against Oilers

Auston Matthews did skate this morning but Sheldon Keefe revealed that he will not play tonight against the Oilers and is still day-to-day with a hand injury. However Joe Thornton, Jake Muzzin and Jack Campbell will all be back in the lineup.

With Matthews out, Alexander Barabanov is in line for a big opportunity. He skated with Alexander Kerfoot and William Nylander on the second line at Friday’s practice and also got reps on the power play.

“He just looks way more confident with the puck,” observed Keefe. “He’s getting out of our zone and through the neutral zone a lot better … when we look at scoring-chance generation, he’s been among the leaders for us in the last couple games so we want to look to see if he can continue to build upon that.”

The KHL import produced just two shots in his first seven games and sat as a healthy scratch for two weeks earlier this month. Barabanov has fired seven shots on net in the last two games. 

“Continued development we’re looking to see from him are in those areas where the puck comes up the wall and he has to make a play in the defensive zone,” said Keefe.

“Bears has had a great attitude the whole time,” said veteran forward Jason Spezza. “I think you’ll see him slowly adapt as the year goes along. It’s not an easy transition.”

Matthews isn’t the only key Leafs forward, who’s been playing through an injury. Zach Hyman has missed two of the last four games following some painful shot blocks off his foot. 

“It’s not easy,” Keefe acknowledged. “I know he’s been going through a lot of discomfort and has missed a little bit of time here and there, but he has been able to get through it and will be fine to play today.”

Hyman didn’t take any reps during the special teams drills yesterday at practice remaining on the bench to chat with assistant athletic therapist Jon Geller.

“We all know when he puts the jersey on he plays the same way no matter what and that’s what we’ve come to expect,” said Keefe. 

Hyman’s ability to play effectively through the pain – he logged 21 minutes and picked up an assist Wednesday – has allowed Keefe to build a third line that has the makings of a strong energy unit. Hyman skated with Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev at practice yesterday.

“It’s a lot of speed, a lot of tenacity on the puck,” Keefe said. “We like it on the road especially where match-ups are difficult … It was effective for us in Montreal.” 

The Matthews-less Leafs beat the Oilers last month thanks to two power-play goals including the game winner from Tavares. But Toronto’s power play enters this game on a cold streak having gone 0/11 in two games against Calgary this week. 

“I don’t think we’ve been as sharp and as deliberate in delivering pucks to the net,” said Spezza. “We’re playing the same teams over and over so similar to a playoff series you’re going to see teams adapt. It’s up to us to be dynamic in changing things up, but also maintaining that structure that gives you success. It’s a little bit of a tightrope where you don’t want to change too much, but you have to adapt night to night.”

Connor McDavid scored a highlight-reel goal on the power play during the Leafs last game in Edmonton. The end-to-end rush left the Leafs shaking their heads. 

“We could’ve defended it better,” Hyman said after that game. “I was the first guy up, I got to take away his speed a little bit.”

“I could push him a certain direction better,” defenceman Justin Holl said that night.

‘That’s one you shrug off’: Leafs react to McDavid’s highlight-reel goal

Connor McDavid added to his highlight reel of great goals with an end-to-end rush on the power play Saturday night. It was an incredible individual effort by the NHL’s scoring leader, but forward Zach Hyman, defenceman Justin Holl and goalie Frederik Andersen all believe they could’ve done things differently to thwart the Oilers captain. Auston Matthews likes how the team reacted after McDavid’s magical moment.

McDavid has three goals and four assists in four games against Toronto this season. What’s the key against the NHL’s points leader tonight? 

“It’s more of a five-man effort on the ice and everyone’s trying to stay above him and not give him as much space as he wants,” said Holl. “I think that’ll be a major key tonight and try to stop him before he gets going.”

​With McDavid and Leon Draisaitl anchoring different lines, Holl is guaranteed a tough match-up any time he steps on the ice tonight. Draisaitl​, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, has really beaten up on the Leafs of late with points in eight straight against Toronto (six goals and six assists in that stretch). 

“I try and look at the times I’ve had success against really any elite player in the past and it comes down to doing what I do well, which is keeping tight gaps, first and foremost,” Holl said of his preparation. “It’s easier said than done against dynamic players like this, but that’s going to be the major key for me and trying to kill plays before they begin.”

Leafs’ Holl looks to kill McDavid’s plays before they happen

Justin Holl says it has to be a team effort to shut down Connor McDavid and for him personally, he tries to keep tight gaps against top end talent and that helps him kill plays before they even begin.

Jack Campbell will be making his first start since sustaining a leg injury on Jan. 24. 

“I was looking over his shoulder on the plane yesterday, because he was watching some film, and I was laughing because on every clip he makes the save and he tapped someone that’s close to him,” said Holl. “Like, it doesn’t even matter, it could be me and I didn’t even do anything on the play, but he gives you a shin tap, which is funny. It’s fun to play in front of someone like that. He does exude positivity.” 

Campbell has made one previous appearance against the Oilers on March 26, 2019 allowing three goals, one to McDavid and two to Draisaitl, in relief.

Frederik Andersen skated again this morning and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. 

Mike Smith missed the previous games against the Leafs this season due to injury, but is expected to get the start tonight. His ability to handle the puck is a point of emphasis for Toronto. 

“It’s huge,” said Spezza. “Forechecking is a big strength of our group. We feel that on nights that we forecheck well we generate a lot. I’ve played with Smitty at Team Canada stuff and it’s a huge factor. He can break you out quick and leaves the other team getting frustrated and chasing so it’s important we have good dumps on him today and really try and keep the puck out of his hands because he can be like a third defenceman back there.”

Smith adding value beyond the numbers to Oilers this season

Mike Smith has been incredible for the Oilers this season, sporting a 6-0 record, and while the numbers have been off the charts for the 38 year-old, there’s another portion of his game that has brought value to the team. Ryan Rishaug reports.

The Leafs have loaned recently-acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk to the Marlies. 

“Part of our plan here is to get him playing,” Keefe explained. “It was an easy decision to keep him [in Toronto] and get him playing in an environment where he can just really look to find his game, get comfortable in our surroundings and our systems and things like that and in a place where he can find his confidence and not be so concerned about his place in the lineup.”

Defenceman Martin Marincin was also sent to the American Hockey League. Forward Kenny Agostino and defenceman Timothy Liljegren were called up to join the taxi squad.  

Galchenyuk determined to show Leafs he deserves this opportunity

After being drafted third overall by the Canadiens and posting some successful years in Montreal, which includes a 30-goal season back in 2015-16, Alex Galchenyuk has bounced around the league trying to regain his scoring touch. Now with the Leafs, his sixth NHL team, Galchenyuk is determined to show he deserves this opportunity.

Projected Leafs lines for Saturday’s game in Edmonton: 


Thornton – Tavares – Marner 
Barabanov – Kerfoot – Nylander 
Mikheyev – Engvall – Hyman 
Petan – Boyd – Spezza 


Rielly – Brodie 
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian 


Hutchinson ​

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Auston Matthews won't face Oilers, Alex Galchenyuk demoted – Toronto Sun



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For the second time this season, the Maple Leafs will face Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers without their own top gun, Auston Matthews.

Not good news when Saturday is the first of three games with first place in the North Division at stake. But hold off that panic button, Matthews’ nagging wrist injury is not expected to sideline him more than a game or two and Toronto already beat the Oilers 4-2 without him on the road.

And when Matthews came back last time, he went on that electrifying 16-game points streak/goal rush that helped propel the Leafs to first.

Coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t wait to make a game-time decision, pulling Matthews Saturday morning, while confirming that three other returning injured players are ready. Goalie Jack Campbell, defenceman Jake Muzzin and winger Joe Thornton are a go, with John Tavares going to Matthews’ spot on the first line between Thornton and Mitch Marner.


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The Leafs take on an Edmonton team, who are even hotter than they’ve been of late, jumping Montreal for second place and possibly passing Toronto if they sweep this series in regulation. McDavid and Draisaitl have a combined 74 points, but a couple of Leafs cautioned against overlooking the rest of the Edmonton roster.

“They have a deeper lineup than they get credit for,” defenceman Justin Holl said. “They’ve been rolling lately and everyone on the ice has been dangerous. Even from the back end, Ethan Bear has been hot. It will be a five-man unit for us and we can’t take shifts off against anyone.”

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Holl said the Leafs are well aware their lead in the North isn’t safe and a higher seeding remains a vital team objective after late season letdowns ultimately hurt the team in unfavourable playoff match-ups.

“We’re up by four points, we have a game in hand, but it’s a super-important series and we have to get off to a good start tonight.”

Also Saturday morning, the Leafs swapped a couple of Taxi Squaders with the Marlies, but one of the promoted players was not rookie winger Nick Robertson. Veteran forward Kenny Agostino and defenceman Timothy Liljegren stayed in Alberta after the farm team wrapped up a series in Calgary, while Alex Galchenyuk and defenceman Martin Marincin remained in Toronto and will possibly play in the Marlies home opener Monday against the Manitoba Moose.

Galchenyuk, whose 2012 first-round draft star has fallen considerably the past couple of years, went unclaimed while on waivers before the trade with Carolina and has never been in the AHL.


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“Part of our plan is just to get Galchenyuk playing and that would’ve been sooner if the Marlies hadn’t been out West,” Keefe said. “It’s an environment where he can look to find his game, get comfortable in our surroundings and in our systems. He can find his confidence and not be so concerned about his place in the lineup or making mistakes.”

Robertson was among a few Marlies on a near point-a-game pace through eight games, though Keefe would only say the club wanted a closer look at defenceman Liljegren, whom the coach said is not off to a great start, but could do better as a Leaf extra now that he’s played some games.

Campbell has not been in net for a month since a lower body injury, while No. 1 Frederik Andersen is on the trip, but not yet healed from his own lower body injury. As usual, Campbell has oozed positivity around the room the past few days.

“He’s amazing, a great guy on the ice and off,” Holl said. “I was looking over his shoulder on the plane yesterday and he was watching some film. I was laughing, because on every clip he makes a save, he immediately taps someone closest to him. It could be me and I didn’t even do anything on the play, but he gives you a shin tap. It’s fun to play in front of a guy like that.”


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Line changes spark Flames’ spirited offensive effort against Senators –



Running out of ideas, line combinations and motivators, the Calgary Flames tore a page out of an old playbook to get back on track Saturday afternoon.

Coach Geoff Ward dusted off the lines he used last year to help the team snap a lengthy offensive slump with a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

How long the trios – or the success – will last is anyone’s guess for a team leading the league in line changes and inconsistency.

But for one day the fan fury and finger-pointing in Calgary will subside thanks to a spirited effort that addressed a long list of issues facing the Flames of late, topped by their inability to score.

Ward had reunited Elias Lindholm with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan late in Thursday’s 6-1 loss to the Senators, while also putting Mikael Backlund’s 3M Line back together with Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane.

After scoring just eight goals in their last six games, the Flames saw five of their top-six forwards find the net, including Backlund who scored for the first time in 10 outings as part of a three-point outing.

“I think our first three lines are the same as last year’s bubble and there is good chemistry in there with all those lines,” said Mangiapane, whose eighth goal of the month was the first shorthanded tally of his career and the team’s season.

“We were rolling today and you saw it. I know for our line we’re comfortable talking to each other and I think that’s how it should be. We have to just continue building chemistry with those four lines.”

The only top-sixer not to score was Gaudreau, who had two assists, as the top two lines combined for 11 points in a game the visitors led 2-0 less than five minutes in.

Struggling most of the year with their starts, the Flames finished the opening period with a season-high 20 shots on goal and a 3-1 lead they did well to protect the rest of the way.

The solid good start came following a warmup in which captain Mark Giordano could be seen loudly urging on a bunch that has struggled to stay even-keeled through the early parts of a season in which the Flames have been one of the league’s most schizophrenic outfits.

The offensive outburst caps an 11-game run in which the Flames hadn’t scored more than four goals, ranking them 24th in the league in goals per game.

Thus, Ward went old school with the lines.

“We just felt they brought some energy to the game when we put them back together in the last game, so we felt it might give us the start we were looking for today and it certainly did,” said Ward, whose club picked up its second regulation win in its last nine games.

“We talked about it earlier in the season. We’re confident with those lines – we know they work. We feel good with them. We wanted to try and explore something else to see if there’s potentially a better lineup. But we know that’s a good fit, there’s chemistry between those guys having played together for a long period of time. Certainly, they showed it today. Sometimes a little bit of comfort and some old faces is all you need to get things going the other way.”

The timing was right, as line matching isn’t an issue against the league’s youngest squad.

One wonders if this is a long-term solution given the move to put Lindholm on a separate line was made to take pressure off Monahan’s line when the intensity picks up in the playoffs.

These Flames need to get there first.

They took a step in that direction by moving into a fourth-place tie with Montreal with the win.

Aided by the familiarity they built on all last season and through the playoffs, the top two lines were complemented by a third unit centered by Sam Bennett and flanked by Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube.

It was the Flames’ best line in the postseason, and while they didn’t score Saturday Bennett was 71% in the faceoff circle and Lucic added jam by accepting – and promptly winning – a fight with Austin Watson right after the Flames went up 2-0.

The Flames energy got an early boost when Juuso Valimaki celebrated like a schoolboy after opening the scoring with his first of the year. It was only the second of his career, with his only other coming Oct. 17, 2018.

“Honestly, that’s how we’ve got to start every game,” said the young defenceman.

“We talked about it a lot and it has kind of stayed in the talking stage. We haven’t really been able to do it. So to be able to do it will probably give us confidence that we can do it.”

David Rittich returned to form, making 31 saves in his fourth start in five-and-a-half days while Jacob Markstrom has been on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. Markstrom is eligible to return to the lineup Sunday, if healthy, potentially opening up options for Monday’s third of four-straight meetings with the Senators.

After being shut out in their initial meeting Thursday, both Tkachuk brothers scored in this one, with Matthew adding an assist. Brady’s goal, as well as those scored by Colin White and Drake Batherson, came on the power play.

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