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Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian will likely be suspended for going after Tkachuk

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Matthew Tkachuk has skated free from his part in the violent hits on Zack Kassian Saturday night because the NHL doesn’t think either wallop was over-the-line, but Kassian will be talking to the league’s Player Safety folks Monday and he probably won’t escape further punishment.

If the Player Safety department is looking for a precedent, they might call up the video of Kassian’s Edmonton Oilers teammate Darnell Nurse beating up Roman Polak in March, 2016 after the then San Jose defenceman Polak drilled an unsuspecting Matt Hendricks into the end boards. Nurse got a three-game suspension because it violated the NHL rule about fighting an unwilling combattant.

“I maybe went a little overboard,” Nurse admitted after the incident.

That’s what the Player Safety people might say about Kassian, even if he wasn’t defending a teammate but taking matters into his own hands while Tkachuk refuses to drop his gloves. And that’s the way the hockey code should work.

“Both hits delivered on Kassian were legal, full body checks to a player carrying the puck,” said the NHL in a statement, even though it appeared the Calgary winger took four strides, left his feet slightly and with his elbows in, shoulder up, drilled the Edmonton forward in the head as he went around the net in the first period at the Saddledome. Kassian certainly had the puck as he was dogged on his shoulder by Flames captain Mark Giordano but video clips show him being hit in the head as it snapped back, as he flew through the air and his helmet came off.

In a tweet, former NHLer Scottie Upshall defiantly said that hit was predatory.

“For those u haven’t played the game…. coming down from your WING (as a winger) to hit a vulnerable guy on a wraparound is as DIRTY as it gets. Such as BELOW. I know because I’ve done it, lots. I deserved a punch in the face too. If this hit was on McDavid, 10 GAMER MIN!”

In another tweet, Upshall, now playing in Switzerland but an old-school, settle things on the ice competitor, said “Kassian paid the price already (double-minor that Calgary scored on to win the game). By the third hit, he had enough and let the kid know it’s still a man’s game. Sometimes a punch in the face is what a guy needs.”

The NHL disagrees, feeling on the late second period wallop by Tkachuk was a hockey play that Kassian went postal on. He grabbed Tkachuk, who wouldn’t fight and threw a blizzard of punches while the linesmen were very slow to break it up. He shrugged off the first Tkachuk hit but not the last one two minutes from the second intermission.

He thought it was a Raffi Torres type play; the NHL disagreed, calling it clean. If he gets three games, that means he won’t play in the rematch here Jan. 29. Oilers play Nashville here Tuesday and Arizona Saturday. It also means they’ve lost their first-line right-winger which will necessitate some roster juggling.

The Battle of Alberta certainly needs the juice of the Tkachuk-Kassian rivalry. The hits and the fight and the cheeky war of words afterwards is good for business.

Of course, it was pretty tame stuff in today’s sanitized NHL, compared to the old-school violent Uncivil War between the two clubs but it livened things up

Calgary fans think Tkachuk is a fine young fellow, a kid who plays hard and who did nothing wrong to be rag-dolled by Kassian. In OilerNation, he’s the blackest of the black hats in Calgary; they grudgingly acknowledge that he’s a helluva player, always in the middle of the action with a high skill-set, but they think he’s a serial hit and run guy, a guy who starts stuff but won’t back it up.

“It’s boys being boys, right? It’s two guys competing. That’s why you play the game,” said Calgary coach Geoff Ward, who felt there was no real harm, just lots of mayhem. “Gets both benches going. Both guys doing whatever they can to get a spark for their team, trying to gain momentum.

“The only thing I’d like to have seen was one of the linesmen jumping in a little sooner. I thought one of the linesmen could have gotten in and grabbed Kassian but that’s what it is.”

For those who think Tkachuk never fights, he’s had seven in his NHL career, ranging from tussles with big aggressive guys to greasy guys to non-fighters. Brooks Orpik, Matt Dumba, Jake Dotchin, Alex Wennberg, Joe Cramarossa, Ryan Kesler and Brayden McNab.

To his credit, at least Tkachuk was drilling Kassian, who has had 33 NHL fights, not going after Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl Saturday night.

The villain angle harkens back to the 80s when Neal Sheehy was sliming Wayne Gretzky and wouldn’t fight after slamming him into the boards even though his bio said he was the heavyweight boxing champ at Harvard, a joke because there was no fight team. He was hated here.

“Made my career,” the current player agent Sheehy has said over and over again.

Maybe the oddest comment to come out of the angry game Saturday was Rasmus Andersson’s on a Flames post-game show.

“They’ve got a lot of pretenders over there. That’s one of the biggest coward moves I’ve ever seen from Kassian. That’s the kind of player he is,” said the Swedish defenceman, whose had two career bouts against Brayden Schenn and Jared McCann.

Now them’s fighting words.

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Blue Jays’ bats struggle vs. Rays’ latest development success story – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow long ago made the Tampa Bay Rays’ return for Chris Archer in their 2018 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates absurdly one-sided, yet here’s Shane Baz ready to be another problem for Toronto Blue Jays and the American League.

The 22-year-old right-hander, sitting on an overpowering 96.9 m.p.h. with his fastball and generating 11 misses on 21 swings at his slider, made a dazzling debut Monday in a 6-4 victory. Teoscar Hernandez, in the second, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., in the fifth, took him deep but that was all the Blue Jays could manage against the latest power arm churned out by the Rays’ seemingly unending assembly line.

In keeping the game under control for five innings, Baz outduelled Robbie Ray, whose fastball was down a tick from the dominant heater he deployed last week when he struck out 13 Rays over seven innings of one-run ball.

This time, Rays hitters chewed him up in each of his 4.2 innings, finally breaking through in the decisive fifth, when Yandy Diaz followed a pair of hits with a three-run homer that erased a 2-0 Blue Jays lead.

“They made me battle,” said Ray. “I had to be on the whole night. They worked some deep counts, laid off some really good pitches. The one pitch (to Diaz), I made my pitch, fastball in off the plate, the guy sucked his hands in, nothing you can really do about it.”

Two batters later, Julian Merryweather escaped the inning, but the Rays scratched out runs against Tayler Saucedo in the sixth, Nate Pearson in the seventh and Ryan Borucki in the eighth that came in handy in the ninth, when Marcus Semien hit a two-run shot.

The Blue Jays (84-66) eventually loaded the bases but Dietrich Enns caught Breyvic Valera looking to close things out, the loss dropping them 1.5 games back of idle Boston for the first wild card. The New York Yankees (83-67), who beat Texas 4-3, moved a half-game behind them for the second spot.

Baz’s arrival is the latest dividend paid by the Rays’ clever trading, which was also on display in the eighth when J.P. Feyereisen worked around an error to put up a zero. The terrific set-up man was acquired with Drew Rasmussen in a May deal that sent to Milwaukee shortstop Willy Adames and righty Trevor Richards, later flipped to the Blue Jays for Rowdy Tellez.

Rasmussen, stretched out in a pinch last month only to throw 27 innings of 1.33-ERA ball in six starts, goes Tuesday against Alek Manoah, highlighting again how well the Rays develop and maximize their arms. Baz allowed just the two homers and struck out five and could be a late-season weapon added to their playoff mix.

“First time we see him, good arm,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s what I saw from him, another good arm for the Rays comes up from the minor-leagues.”

They’re very much the standard, in that regard, but the Blue Jays can certainly point to Ray’s turnaround this year as one of their success stories, even after a rare tougher night.

Though he could have created some separation between himself and Gerrit Cole in the Cy Young Award race, Ray still has a slight edge over the Yankees ace in several pitching categories.

Each still has a couple of starts to swing not only that race, but also the competition for a post-season berth. The teams meet next week in Toronto.

“You’ve got to give Diaz credit,” Montoyo said of Ray’s one fateful pitch. “They did a good job grinding out the at-bats but Robbie Ray is still Robbie Ray, Cy Young candidate, and Diaz did a good job. Other than that, Robbie kept us in the game. He did throw a lot of pitches, but Robbie Ray has done that before.”

Ray, like Baz, was also a trade acquisition, one picked up as a low-cost rental at the deadline last summer. The 29-year-old lefty, a former all-star, was a mess at the time, but showed flashes of a turnaround, prompting the Blue Jays to re-sign him to an $8-million, one-year deal.

Why?

“The thing that stood out most was his competitiveness and his drive and seeing it up close was very attractive to us,” said GM Ross Atkins. “It just increased our belief that he would get back to the form he had before, or close to it.”

So, too, did the time they spent together last summer, giving them an opportunity to find “reason to believe that he’ll get back to that form.”

“When you have the time with the player, the likelihood of them being successful is higher,” added Atkins. “That’s the takeaway for me, as opposed to someone that you haven’t spent time with and you’re doing it all from 30,000 feet.”

Similar but different, the Blue Jays can use their time with Jose Berrios, who is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season, to build a relationship that perhaps tips the scales when the time comes.

Those are just a couple of the ways the Blue Jays can counter the seemingly constant supply of pitching the Rays produce.

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Jones scores four TDs as Packers bounce back to beat Lions – TSN

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Jones caught three of Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes and rushed for a fourth score, and the Green Bay Packers had a welcome return to normal after an embarrassing opening-week loss, beating the Detroit Lions 35-17 on Monday night.

Green Bay (1-1) won its ninth straight home opener. The Packers, who got thumped 38-3 by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, looked more like the team that went 13-3 in each of coach Matt LaFleur’s first two seasons.

Rodgers went 22 of 27 for 255 yards and surpassed John Elway for 10th all-time in passing yards with 51,633. Rodgers has followed up each of the Packers’ last five regular-season losses by throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in his next game.

Jones became the first Packers running back to catch three touchdown passes in a game since Andy Uram against the Chicago Cardinals in 1942. He had 17 carries for 67 yards and six catches for 48 yards.

Detroit’s Jared Goff completed 13 of his first 14 passes but struggled the rest of the way as the Lions (0-2) blew a 17-14 halftime lead. Goff finished 26 of 36 for 246 yards. He connected on touchdown passes to Quintez Cephus and T.J. Hockenson but also threw an interception and lost a fumble.

Green Bay scored touchdowns on its first three second-half possessions to seize control.

The Packers faced third-and-12 on their opening series of the second half when Rodgers threw a 50-yard completion to Davante Adams, who ended the night with eight catches for 121 yards.

Lions rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu injured his thigh on the play, further weakening a secondary that already lost cornerback Jeff Okudah to a ruptured Achilles tendon in Detroit’s season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Green Bay dominated the rest of the way.

Rodgers capped that drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan. Detroit’s next series ended when Goff threw an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 25.

Rodgers threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jones to extend the Packers’ lead to 28-17.

Green Bay’s Krys Barnes recovered Goff’s fumble at the Detroit 23 on the Lions’ next snap. Jones scored on a 1-yard run and that was that.

INJURIES

Lions: WR Tyrell Williams missed the game with a concussion. … Melifonwu did not return after the thigh injury.

Packers: TE Josiah Deguara was out with a concussion.

ST. BROWN VS. ST. BROWN

The Packers activated wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown from the practice squad, giving him the chance to play against his younger brother. The Lions selected receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown out of Southern California in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Amon-Ra had the better stat line with three receptions for 18 yards, while Equanimeous had one catch for no gain.

PACKERS’ LINE CHANGE

Green Bay’s Lucas Patrick, who started at left guard against New Orleans, was active after getting out of concussion protocol. But he wasn’t on the field for the opening series.

Jon Runyan Jr. was at left guard instead in the 2020 sixth-round pick’s first career start. Runyan’s father was an All-Pro tackle who went on to represent New Jersey in Congress from 2011-15.

IN MEMORIAM

The Packers wore a helmet decal to honor Ted Thompson, who worked as the team’s general manager from 2005-17 and died Jan. 20 at the age of 68. The Packers also honored Thompson during a halftime ceremony.

UP NEXT

Lions: Host Baltimore (1-1) on Sunday. The Ravens are coming off a Sunday night victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Packers: At San Francisco (2-0) on Sunday night. This will be the fourth time in the last three seasons the Packers have played at San Francisco. They won 34-17 last season. Two years ago, the Packers lost 37-8 to the 49ers in the regular season and 37-20 in the NFC championship game.

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Josh Donaldson swapping jerseys with Vlad Guerrero a Blue Jays moment that won’t be forgotten – Toronto Star

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It was a moment Blue Jays fans won’t soon forget, and one they will hope eventually represents a passing of the torch from one American League most valuable player to another.

Josh Donaldson, Toronto’s 2015 MVP now with the Minnesota Twins, signing and exchanging jerseys with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is vying for his first MVP nod this season, following a three-game series between the two teams.

The pair set up the jersey exchange on Saturday and it caused quite a stir of emotion a day later, the end of an already emotional weekend with Donaldson’s return and the Jays back in a wild-card spot.

There they were — the man who last led the Jays’ World Series hopes and the man fans hope can take Toronto one step further by clinching the top prize.

“He just told me after, ‘Stay focused and keep working hard until the end,’” Guerrero Jr. said post-game of his interaction with Donaldson.

Donaldson, 35, is no stranger to hearing fans at Rogers Centre shout “MVP, MVP” during an at-bat. This time around he received a standing ovation during his first plate appearance of the series but the kinds of cheers he once received were now directed at the 22-year-old Guerrero.

The veteran was all for it. When asked on Saturday if he thought Guerrero deserved to join him and 1987 winner George Bell as Blue Jays MVPs, Donaldson’s answer was clear.

“It should happen,” Donaldson said. “He’s put up (an) astronomical season from the offensive side and he’s contributing on the defensive side. The guy’s got a 1.000 OPS at 22 years old, being a huge contributor.”

Guerrero’s stiffest competition in the race for AL MVP is Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who many believe is a lock for the award as his team’s staff ace and most productive hitter — he is doing something that has never before been seen in Major League Baseball. But Guerrero, who is vying for the Triple Crown as the league leader in home runs, batting average and runs batted in, is mounting a late season challenge for the award as Ohtani navigates some late season troubles.

The Angels star’s numbers at the plate have dipped in the second half of the season and there has been talk of him being shut down from pitching in the final portion of the season because of arm soreness. And then there’s the age-old question: can a player be the most valuable if his team is not headed to the playoffs? Guerrero and the Jays could very well be; Ohtani and the Angels are not in post-season contention.

To Donaldson, there are holes in the argument for Ohtani: he didn’t start every fifth day, the recent injury could cause him to miss most of September on the mound and, as a designated hitter, he doesn’t impact both sides of the game. Guerrero, on the other hand, strikes fear in opposing lineups unlike any other player this season, Donaldson said.

And if the Jays make the playoffs, Donaldson said, that should tip the scales in Guerrero’s favour.

“If you take Vlad out of that lineup, this isn’t the same team,” Donaldson said. “Not that this isn’t a good lineup, because it is. But what Vlad’s doing is … he’s that security blanket for the rest of that lineup (with) what he’s producing. He takes pressure off of everybody else.”

Hearing that kind of praise from Donaldson, who spent the weekend at the ballpark happily reuniting with familiar faces he knew from his four years in Toronto and touting Guerrero’s MVP worthiness to anyone who would listen, left Guerrero nearly speechless but maybe not surprised. Guerrero, who was signed by the Jays the same year Donaldson won the MVP in 2015, said Donaldson has long been supportive of his career.

“Coming from Josh, it’s unbelievable what he said. Especially coming from someone that already won the MVP,” Guerrero said. “Since I was in the minors when he was here, he was always giving me advice, especially in spring training. When I was playing third, helping me out, taking ground balls with him. He’s always been great to me and I really appreciate his comments.”

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