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Early game, massive opportunity, especially for two Edmonton Oilers prospects – Edmonton Journal

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This in from Reid Wilkins of 630 CHED, the Edmonton Oilers expected line combos tonight against the Calgary Flames, a game that will live-streamed on EdmontonOilers.com.

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Benson-McLeod-Marody
Perlini-Shore-Turris
Sceviour-Ryan-Bourgault
Hamblin-Cracknell-Lavoie

Koekkoek-Bouchard
Broberg-Berglund
Lagesson-Kemp

Skinner
Konovalov

My take

1. It’s the first pre-season game, but first impressions are huge for at least two young-ish Edmonton Oilers prospects who need to put on a big show if they’re finally going to crack the Oilers roster. They will have other chances to do so, yes, but the clock is ticking, all Oilers organizational eyes are on them, and it’s time to shine if they hope to stick in Edmonton. They both have golden opportunities.

2. Tyler Benson is the first of the two. The kid was drafted in 2016, five years ago. Indeed, Benson is no longer a kid. He’s 23, and all kinds of fellow forwards from that draft have established themselves as NHLers, like Auston Matthews, Matt Tkachuk and Patrik Laine from the top of the draft, but also forwards taken late in the first round or in the second round and after, such as Alex DeBrincat, Jordan Kyrou, Jesper Bratt, Tage Thompson, Max Jones, and Brett Howden. It’s Last-Chance-Gas for other relatively high picks like Sam Steel, Rasmus Asplund, Nathan Bastian and Boris Katchouk. Can they finally grab an NHL job?

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3. Oilers GM Ken Holland said this past week in a radio interview that Benson is penciled into the line-up and that it’s his job to loose. That’s good news for the young forward, but as the old saying goes, that and $2.00 will get him a coffee at Tim Horton’s. Benson has to earn it now on the ice, Holland said. So far in camp, the reports have been good, with Benson coming to camp in excellent shape and looking quicker on the ice.

4. Benson has been teamed up in camp with his AHL linemates Ryan McLeod and Cooper Marody. They were arguably the AHL’s best two-way line last year. McLeod has already made the jump to the NHL and played OK two-way hockey there late last season. He earned a spot in some playoff games. Marody, like Benson, is in Last-Chance-Gas territory as a prospect. But the trio can wheel on the attack and defend effectively. They need to do both tonight against Calgary. There is an outside shot, say 20 per cent, that the trio could somehow find their way forward together as the Oil’s third scoring line to start the year.

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5. The other Oilers prospect on the hot seat is “Wild” Bill Lagesson, who has played seven full seasons since he was drafted 91st overalll in 2014. If he makes it, he’ll be a super rarity, a player who eventually makes the NHL as 25-year-old who is still with the original team that drafted him. It’s such a glorious storyline that one has to think whichever entity is running The Simulation will align things to make it happen.

6. Lagesson got an early boost heading into camp, with veteran Kris Russell still injured and with even more veteran Duncan Keith out until his COVID quarantine ends next Friday. Lagesson is going to get some exhibition games, maybe a few more than anyone had originally planned, but what will he do with them? Will he be the player who looked like he might just hand in there as a shut-down d-man when he played so well with Adam Larsson early in the 2020-21 season? Or will he be the guy who struggled as that same season went on and he got hurt? Injury is a major factor in any player’s career, of course.

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7. Right now, Benson is slotted into the fourth line left wing spot. Lagesson ranks fifth on the left d-man chart, after Darnell Nurse, Keith, Slater Koekkoek and Russell. But injuries happen. Veterans slide. And sometimes a long-time prospect turns the corner and plays the kind of impactful hockey that allows him to stick in the NHL for a season or two or five.

8. The Flames have plenty of Big Bobby Clobbers in their line-up — Erik Gudbranson, Nikita Zadorov, Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie and Martin Posisil — while the Oilers are going with skill. It will be an interesting test to see if Edmonton’s skill can stand up to and get the best of Calgary’s muscle. Rock beats scissors, so the Oilers will have to do more than make fancy plays. They’ll have to fight through the rough stuff and be all over these Flames, harassing and covering them at every turn. Paper beats rock.

At the Cult

LEAVINS: The Archibald conundrum

McCURDY: Day 3 of on-ice at Edmonton Oilers camp and the first cuts come down

STAPLES: What the Josh Archibald situation mean for the Edmonton Oilers

LEAVINS: Oilers off-season makeover made with an analytics brush

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Schwarber hits grand slam, Red Sox hammer Astros to take ALCS lead – Sportsnet.ca

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BOSTON — Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez walked off the mound with a six-run lead and a message for Carlos Correa and the rest of the Houston Astros:

Now it’s Boston’s time.

Tapping his wrist to mimic Correa’s Game 1 celebration, Rodriguez rode four more Boston homers — including Kyle Schwarber’s record-setting grand slam — to a 12-3 victory Monday night as the Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

The taunt drew a rebuke from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who reminded his pitcher that they still need two more wins to advance to the World Series for the fifth time since 2004. Games 4 and 5 are at Fenway Park on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

“It’s not that I’m mad at him,” said Cora, who was celebrating his 46th birthday. “We don’t act that way. We just show up, we play, and we move on.”

One game after J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers each hit grand slams, Schwarber hit a second-inning 3-0 pitch 430 feet into the right field grandstand.

Boston is the first team ever with three slams in a postseason series.

“Electrifying. It’s unbelievable,” outfielder Alex Verdugo said. “You can have a big swing and get four runs in on just that one play — it’s huge.

“It’s one of the best plays in baseball, man. You give up a grand slam, it takes a lot out of you,” he added. “And just to kind of keep stepping on their neck and adding the pressure, it’s huge.”

Martinez and Devers each homered again, Christian Arroyo also hit one, and Kike Hernandez had two more hits for Boston, which opened 9-0 leads and coasted to victory in back-to-back games. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe ended it with a diving catch of Correa’s sinking line drive.

“They count as one (loss),” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We come back and win tomorrow and the series is even. You don’t like it tonight, but you come back in the morning.”

Rodriguez gave up five hits, including Kyle Tucker’s three-run homer, and struck out seven. He retired Correa to end the sixth and let the Astros shortstop know that his gesture in Game 1 was not appreciated.

Cora chastised Rodriguez before giving him a hug when he reached the dugout.

“He just told me `Don’t do that,’” said Rodriguez, who said he would apologize to Correa if he sees him. “It was something that was part of the moment. But (Cora) just told me, ‘We don’t do that here. Stay humble. Just go out there and play hard every time.”’

“Besides that,” Cora said, “he was outstanding.”

Correa said he “loved every single bit of it.”

“It’s just the way baseball should trend, moving forward,” he added. “You need to let the players have fun.”

Boston matched a franchise record with its seventh straight postseason win at home. The Red Sox had 11 hits in all, becoming the first team in major league history to reach double digits six straight times in a single postseason.

Hernandez, who has 18 hits during the playoffs and is batting .500 — both leading the majors — left the game after six innings.

Asked why, Cora said with a smile: “He has been running the bases a lot in the last few days, or weeks, or whatever.”

The Red Sox capitalized on two Astros errors and the struggles of Houston starter Jose Urquidy, who gave up six runs, five earned, on five hits and two walks, striking out one in 1 2/3 innings.

Rodriguez, who missed all of last season with COVID-related heart problems, retired the first six batters before running into the trouble in the third, when Tucker made it 9-3.

His outing enabled Cora to keep Nick Pivetta fresh for a Game 4 start.

ERRORS

To the delight of the Fenway fans, who targeted him with profane chants for his role in the Astros 2017 cheating scandal, Jose Altuve struggled at the plate and in the field.

A Gold Glove and AL MVP-winner, the three-time batting champion went 0 for 4 and let Arroyo’s chopper bounce off his chest for an error with the bases loaded in the second inning. One batter later, Schwarber hit Boston’s third grand slam in 11 innings.

The Red Sox, who only had three grand slams during the regular season, matched the 1998 Atlanta Braves as the only clubs to hit three in a single postseason. Boston has 20 homers this postseason, matching the 2004 Astros for the most through the first eight games of the playoffs, per MLB.com.

Altuve also waved at a throw from Martin Maldonado on Hunter Renfroe’s stolen base in the third; the error went to the catcher. The throw to third was also wild, but the Astros were saved another error when the ball missed the dugout and bounced off the padding back toward the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Baker said outfielder Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall in Game 4 of the Division Series, is doing better and could start as soon as Tuesday.

UP NEXT

The teams play Game 4 on Tuesday night. The Red Sox are expected to rely on Pivetta, who was 9-8 with a 4.53 ERA in the regular season. Houston will call on RHP Zack Greinke, with RHP Cristian Javier ready to follow the veteran. Greinke has been limited over the past two months due to a neck issue and a positive COVID-19 test.

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Canada's women's team drops third straight game with 8-0 loss to Drumheller Dragons – The Globe and Mail

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The Drumheller Dragons held Canada’s women’s hockey team off the scoresheet Monday, blanking the national squad 8-0 in a tune-up game.

Adam Raesler scored a hat trick for the Alberta Junior Hockey League side, while Luke Fennig added a pair of goals. Ty Daneault, Grayson Dietrich and Ty Whitford all scored singles.

Canada’s Kristen Campbell stopped 19-of-22 shots in two periods of work and Emerance Maschmeyer made six saves in relief.

Eric Ward saved all five shots he faced in 29 minutes of play for the Dragons and Garrett Fuller finished out the game, making six stops.

Neither side capitalized with the man advantage, with Team Canada going 0 for 3 on the power play and Drumheller going 0 for 2.

Canada has now lost three games in a row to junior-A hockey teams as it prepares for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

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Olympics-Small minority of U.S. Olympians oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandate, say officials

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The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said on Monday its decision to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those competing at next year’s Beijing Olympics has been met with some resistance.

In a bid to create a safe environment and restore some level of consistency in planning, the USOPC announced last month that Team USA athletes hoping to compete in the Beijing Olympics will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The response is as you would expect: Within our general population, there are some people who are extremely happy that we introduced this policy,” Jonathan Finnoff, the USOPC’s chief medical officer, said during the virtual Team USA media summit.

“And there are others that are upset and would like to not have any mandate regarding vaccinations.”

According to Finnoff, it is only a “very small minority” of Team USA athletes who oppose the mandate and the USOPC is having one-on-one conversations with each one to discuss their feelings and explain why the decision was made.

Last month’s announcement by the USOPC came days before the International Olympic Committee said the Beijing Olympics would have tight COVID-19 measures in place to ensure the safety of all participants during the Feb. 4-20 event.

Finnoff said the “more stringent” Beijing measures, which he added unlike the USOPC’s rules will not grant religious exemption, would supersede the  U.S. policy.

Any athlete who is granted a medical exemption will have to go through a 21-day quarantine in Beijing before they can begin training ahead of their event.

“These are challenging times but the vaccine policy that we’ve put in place and that China has put in place is going to make the Games as safe as possible,” said Finnoff.

USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland said the COVID-19 mandate is all about the safety and health of the team.

“The presence of this virus makes the challenge greater for all of us in a Games environment but we are committed to doing everything we can to mitigate illness and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Hirshland.

 

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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