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How Timothy Liljegren is trying to earn another shot with the Maple Leafs – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — The Timothy Liljegren we got used to seeing in the AHL most of last season, wasn’t the one we saw during his first taste of NHL action.

With just a single assist in limited minutes across 11 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 21-year-old’s play was, largely, forgettable.

After failing to make the big club out of training camp last month, the Toronto Marlies defenceman is working to rediscover the form that saw him put up 30 points in 40 AHL games last year, earn an all-star nod and had fans and experts clamouring for his call-up in the first place. And, maybe, get another crack at the NHL.

“Yeah, I think just experience,” replied the 2017 first-round pick Saturday when asked why he struggled to find his footing in the NHL.

“I feel like I’ve been (with the Marlies) for a long time and I know the AHL now, it makes it a little bit easier. But, yeah, I think I was kind of nervous last year when I came up and I think I played solid, but not as good as I’ve been down here. So (I’m) just trying to continue to play good here and, hopefully, I’ll be able to translate my game from here.”

The results at the AHL level have been promising so far.

Liljegren has five assists and 14 shots in five games for the Marlies and is tied for the team lead in points.

“We’re really happy with how he’s doing so far. He has created a lot for us in his first couple of games and also has been strong and consistent offensively,” coach Greg Moore said last week.

Liljegren’s presence among the Marlies’ early points leaders bodes well for the six-foot, 198-pound Swede.

Highly touted as a skilled, right-handed D-man coming out of the 2017 draft, Liljegren seemed to put it all together in the AHL last season. He was finally racking up points, after middling results as an underager in the two campaigns prior, and rounding out his game by showing he could be trusted in all areas of the ice.

But the offence dried up in the NHL and his play cratered overall.

Per Evolving-Hockey, Liljegren had a team-worst 43.35 Corsi for percentage and 35.58 expected goals for percentage at 5-on-5, the fewest individual shots on goal per 60 minutes (1.06 iSF), third-lowest points per 60 (0.53) and sixth-highest giveaways per 60 (3.18) in sheltered, but meagre minutes (10:18 ATOI) with the Leafs.

Back with the Marlies, he’s showing renewed confidence.

Liljegren has made opponents look silly with dekes to open up passing and shooting lanes, as evidenced by his toe-drag against the Moose on Friday and his look to Joey Anderson in the slot Tuesday, also against Manitoba.

“(I want to) continue to grow my offence. I think, especially last year when I played with the Leafs, I don’t think I created a lot of offence, so that’s what I’m focusing on and what I’ve been focusing on with the Marlies,” said Liljegren, who geared his off-season around building up his strength and conditioning.

Liljegren’s also been breaking out of the Marlies’ zone effectively and jumping into the play to create opportunities off the rush.

The split-second, cost-benefit analysis involved in taking those chances is another aspect of his game that’s been a personal point of emphasis and one he’s been working on with Moore.

“I just try to guide (players) sometimes toward answers, if what they give just needs a little nudge,” said Moore of their discussions of different offensive and defensive scenarios.

“But, ultimately, within that process, Timothy is a really smart player and he comes to his own conclusions and works through that, which is a great sign for an elite athlete for his future and what he can become once he continues to build that process out and get strong with it.”

Because, sometimes, in the narrow field of view under the microscope in Toronto, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Liljegren is still relatively early on in his development. He won’t turn 22 until the end of April and has another year after this remaining on his entry-level contract.

“Any time there’s a guy like that, that’s had some time (in the NHL), back to the American League, really the message for any player in that situation, is to continue to build consistency within what they’re doing, especially defensively and in different situations, and then to continue to push the envelope and develop offensively, and not lose puck-touches and continue to gain another level in that area so that the confidence continues to get higher and higher,” said Moore of what the Leafs are hoping to see from Liljegren in the AHL.

“So that when he gets back, he has an opportunity, hopefully, (and) he’s gotten specific reps to put himself in a better spot.”

While Toronto’s depth-bolstering moves to the blue line in the off-season present roadblocks, Liljegren continues to trust the process with the intention of making his next appearance in The Show one to remember.

“(They want me to) just continue to grow as a player. I think I had really good development last year. I’m just trying to continue on the same path,” he said

“Obviously, the Leafs have a good D-corps right now and it’s a strange season, so I’m just trying to focus on being good here and hopefully get a chance.”

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CFL to return in August

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The Canadian Football League (CFL), which saw its entire 2020 campaign wiped out by the COVID-19 outbreak, said on Monday its board of governors voted unanimously to kick off a shortened 14-game season in August.

The CFL, whose biggest source of revenue comes from ticket sales rather than TV deals like those enjoyed by larger U.S.-based leagues, also said fans will be able to return to the stands in line with provincial guidelines.

“This is an exciting day for Canadian football and for Canada itself,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a news release.

“I want to thank our fans, players, coaches, and partners for their incredible support and patience as we’ve worked together towards this day.”

The season will begin Aug. 5 while the Grey Cup championship game will be played Dec. 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.

The full schedule will be released on Tuesday along with each of the league’s nine team’s plan for distributing tickets to season ticket holders and, where government restrictions on stadium capacity allow, ticket sales to the general public.

After first delaying its 2020 season, the CFL decided to scrap it entirely following a last-ditch effort to secure financing from the Canadian government to stage a shortened campaign that would have been held entirely in Manitoba was turned down.

The CFL had previously said it would only move forward with a 2021 season if it could secure the government approvals for its plans to keep players and coaches safe and the green light to allow a “significant” number of fans to attend games.

“We are on track to receive all of the necessary health and safety approvals, thanks to our tireless medical advisers and staff, and the dedicated government officials who have been working with them,” said Ambrosie.

“And while the outlook for fans in the stands varies from province to province, we are confident that process is also on the right track.”

 

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA

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Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.

Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.

USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.

It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.

Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.

However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.

“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.

“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.

“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.

“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”

HEADLINE FIGHT

Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.

However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.

“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.

“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”

As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.

“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.

“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

 

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships, the International Skating Union (ISU) said on Wednesday, after the 2020 event Canada was to host was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.

“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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