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Hughes 'strong as I've ever been' ahead of Cup Qualifier with Canucks –



Quinn Hughes said he felt better than ever when he skated with Vancouver Canucks teammates for the first time in Phase 2 of the NHL Return to Play Plan at Rogers Arena on Tuesday.

“Definitely recharged and chomping at the bit,” the rookie defenseman said. “I think maybe the four months here were a blessing in disguise for me because I feel really strong now and think that I can perform better in the playoffs now than I would have 3 1/2 months ago. … I feel as strong as I’ve ever been, so I’m confident, excited and ready to come back here.”

It was Vancouver’s first day skating in Phase 2, which began June 8 when the NHL allowed for voluntary workouts on and off the ice in small groups at team facilities. In addition to Hughes, notable players who participated in two sessions were forwards Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.

Hughes, who led NHL rookies with 53 points (eight goals, 45 assists) and 25 power-play points this season, played in 68 of Vancouver’s 69 games before the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“Everyone’s going through this (quarantine) for the first time, so people don’t really know what to expect,” Hughes said. “But, for me personally, it was really nice to see the boys again today. Everyone missed each other, and it was a fun day.”

The Canucks went 36-27-6 (.565 points percentage) in the regular season before it was paused and will enter the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. They will play the No. 10 seed, the Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, .558), in one of eight best-of-5 series.

Provided health and safety conditions allow and the NHL and NHL Players’ Association reach an agreement on Phases 3 and 4 of the Return to Play Plan, training camps will open July 10. A start date for the qualifiers and hub cities — one for the 12 participating Western Conference teams, one for the 12 Eastern teams — have not been determined.

Hughes said he never stopped trying to improve during the pause.

“This time away from the game has given me a lot of time to reflect on what I can get better at, reflect on the future and what that series (against the Wild) may look like,” the 20-year-old said. “They’re going to play hard — it’s going to be do-or-die. They’re going to probably play pretty physical, and those are things I’m going to have to get used to, and I welcome that. I think it’ll be really fun, honestly.”

Hughes, along with Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, is widely regarded as a top candidate for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. He said the voting is out of his control at this point and that he’s solely focused on the qualifier series.

“It’s amazing; when you’re in the season, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it a lot, but, now that the season’s over, I haven’t really thought about it because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter,” Hughes said. “For me, it was obviously a goal and something I wanted to do and accomplish. There are a lot of great rookies this year. If I do end up winning, that’s something I’ll cherish and it’s a blessing, but, if I don’t, I can tip my cap.”

Hughes became the third defenseman in the NHL modern era (since 1943-44) to lead rookies in scoring in a season, joining Bobby Orr (1966-67) and Brian Leetch (1988-89).

“When you say those two names, it sounds a little bit crazy, so, no, I wouldn’t [have expected] to hear that,” Hughes said. “But, at the same time, I expected myself to have a really good season. After playing those five games [last season and having three assists], I thought I played good but knew I had another level. When I had that success, I really thought that I could have a tremendous year.”

Hughes was living at his family’s house in Plymouth, Michigan, during the pause. He said he spent most of his time with his younger brothers, Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Luke, playing basketball 2-3 hours per day, in-line skating and swimming, among other activities, to stay in shape.

“I’m more competitive at home than I would be here, honestly,” Hughes said with a laugh. “I had a lot of fun at home with those guys because we don’t spend a lot of time together during the year. It was pretty rowdy at the house; it was a good time.”

With 24 teams set to compete for the Stanley Cup, Hughes said he is confident players around the NHL will bring the intensity.

“I expect it to be very competitive and very good hockey,” Hughes said. “We haven’t played in a while, but we’re all professionals and I think you can pick these things up quickly. … It should be really good, high-end hockey.”

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Washington NFL team to retire nickname on Monday: reports –



The Washington Redskins plan to announce Monday that they will retire their controversial team nickname, multiple outlets reported Sunday night.

One source told Sports Business Journal that the team “felt it was important to remove any doubts as to the future of the name.” The report indicated that a new nickname would not be immediately announced due to pending trademark issues.

Sunday night’s story further backed Saturday reporting from Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio and Yahoo’s Charles Robinson, who each talked about an “imminent” name change. Robinson said Saturday the change would come “in the next 24-48 hours,” adding “the NFL is starting to take steps to tell everybody who has Washington’s nickname on its platform to start scrubbing it, start taking it off, which means something’s coming.”

Team owner Daniel Snyder has been under mounting pressure to change the team nickname, logo and mascot, with many Native American groups calling the name racist. Pressure ramped up this month, with companies such as Nike, PepsiCo, Bank of America and FedEx threatening to cut advertising ties with the team.

WATCH | Pro sports teams reconsidering Indigenous nicknames:

CBC News’ Raffy Boudjikanian reports on the Washington Redskins’ plans to review their nickname, followed closely by the Cleveland Indians’ decision to reconsider their team nickname. 2:30

FedEx asked team to change name

On July 2, FedEx asked the team to change the name. FedEx signed a 27-year, $205 million US deal in 1999 for the naming rights to FedEx Field in Landover, Md., where the club plays its home games. A day later, the team announced it was conducting a “thorough review” of the team’s name.

Sports Business Journal reported Sunday that the club has finished that review.

Nike pulled all Redskins merchandise off its website, making Washington the only NFL franchise not listed on the site’s NFL index.

Last Wednesday, Amazon pulled Redskins merchandise from its site. Two days earlier, The Washington Post reported that three minority owners of the team hired an investment banking firm to find buyers for their shares of the club.

Snyder, in 2013, said he would “never” change the name.

The franchise began using the Redskins nickname in 1933, when it was based in Boston and previously called the Braves. Team owner George Preston Marshall moved the club to Washington in 1937.

A statue of Marshall was removed from the Redskins’ former Washington venue, RFK Stadium, on June 19 in the wake of protests seeking racial equality following the death of George Floyd. Under Marshall’s leadership, the Redskins were the last NFL team to integrate, adding their first Black players in 1962.

Washington is scheduled to open the season at home against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 13.

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Montreal Canadiens reveal their expanded roster for Phase 3 – Habs Eyes on the Prize



With Phase 3 set to begin on Monday, the Montreal Canadiens have announced their list of 30 skaters and four goaltenders who will be on the ice as part of the expanded roster.

The notable absence at camp will be Max Domi, who is waiting seven to 10 days after Phase 3 begins before making a decision on whether to join the team (he is listed on the roster). Karl Alzner has already opted out of participating.

Alexander Romanov will be joining the club as well after agreeing to a contract, It will be hs first time on the ice with the NHL team.

The list of players Claude Julien will have at his disposal this week while devising his lineup for the Stanley Cup Qualifier versus the Pittsburgh Penguins are:

Forwards (17)

Defencemen (12)

Goaltenders (4)

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Montoyo says competition on for rotation spot after Anderson’s injury –



TORONTO – A pathway to the starting rotation for Nate Pearson – or someone else if the Toronto Blue Jays are intent on manipulating their top prospect’s service time – is open after Chase Anderson suffered an oblique strain and is uncertain to be ready for opening day.

Manager Charlie Montoyo says the club still plans to deploy a five-man rotation, which is set to include Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thornton, who ripped through a roughly-60-pitch live batting practice session Sunday.

Given the way he pitched during the first spring training, the work he put on from then to now, and how he impressed again during an intrasquad outing Saturday, Pearson would seem like an automatic in light of Anderson’s injury.

But, since the Blue Jays can push his free agency back a year by assigning him to the club’s Alternate Training Site for about a week, he’s far from a lock to break with the team.

“They’re going to compete for that spot,” Montoyo, without specifying names, said of the club’s young pitchers. “I love the fact that all these guys know they are competing. We’re building them all up, so they’re all going to have a chance to compete. We’ll see where we go a week and a half from now. Other stuff can happen from here to when we start, as you know.”

Beyond Pearson, left-handers Ryan Borucki and Anthony Kay and righty Thomas Hatch are the likeliest other contenders, although the Blue Jays are trying to stretch out other pitchers, too.

“It’s a crazy year, as you know,” said Montoyo, “and we’ve got so many options, which is great for all these kids because they’ll be competing for a spot if Chase is not ready by the time this season starts.”

Anderson hurt himself while loosening up ahead of a recent bullpen and Montoyo said the veteran right-hander was already built up for 3-4 innings of work, building toward more ahead of opening day.

Montoyo described him as day-to-day.

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THORNTON SHARP: Trent Thornton knows better than to take a place in the Blue Jays rotation for granted but he had essentially sewn up a spot during the spring training and he’s right back where he left off at summer camp.

The sophomore righty looked sharp in throwing an estimated 50-60 pitches Sunday, routinely generating poor contacts and awkward swings. He came away pleased with how he felt physically and, after snapping off a pair of pretty curveballs to catch teammates looking, with how he manipulated his pitches.

“I thought I executed pretty much all my pitches,” said Thornton. “Elevated fastball was definitely a point of emphasis today, I thought I did a decent job with that. As far as my off-speed, breaking balls, changeup, cutter all felt really, really good, and felt like I got to accomplish a lot of what I wanted to.”

Thornton was able to throw throughout the shutdown, getting a key to the field from his high school coach so he could get his work in. His dad gave him a weight set for his garage while a trainer allowed him to work out in isolation at his gym.

“I feel great,” he said. “I don’t feel like I missed a beat at all. Within another week or two, I feel like I can just let the reins off.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

UNCERTAIN SHUN: Shun Yamaguchi arrived at spring training determined to win a spot in the Blue Jays rotation but appeared to be destined for the bullpen.


“Same as March. I still haven’t gotten a formal notice on what type of role I’ll be playing in,” Yamaguchi, in comments interpreted Yuto Sakurai, said after logging 30-35 pitches during a couple of innings of live batting practice. “For me, I personally do want to be in a starting role so I’m trying my best to get the fifth spot.”

As things stand, it would appear he has some work to do for that to happen.

Yamaguchi allowed nine runs over nine innings with five walks and six strikeouts in four Grapefruit League games as he transitioned to the North American game after 14 seasons in Japan, and the thinking then was that his stuff would be best utilized in relief.

“At this point, to be honest with you, I’ve been able to adjust to the ball and I have a limited amount of time left until the regular season, so I can’t really be talking about the ball slipping out of my hand and whatnot,” said Yamaguchi. “Every day I’m trying to adjust and throw the ball better.”

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