WINNIPEG — For a guy who sees himself at the Last Chance Cafe, Saku Maenalanen is doing everything in his power to earn a seat at the table — or at the very least, extend his reservation for a longer look.
Maenalanen came into Winnipeg Jets training camp as mostly an unknown, a forward who had a brief cup of coffee during the 2018-19 season, appearing in 34 games for Rod Brind’Amour’s Carolina Hurricanes, notching four goals and four assists while splitting the season in the American Hockey League with the Charlotte Checkers.
After spending the past three seasons playing overseas, Maenalanen returned to North America on a one-year, two-way deal with the Jets and a distinct goal in mind.
“I wanted to play in the NHL. This is my last chance,” Maenalanen said before suiting up in his second preseason game, a 5-3 win for the Jets over the Ottawa Senators. “I’m 28 years old. That’s why I’m here. I’m a much better player. That’s why I went back to Europe to play games, and now I’m ready.
“This is a good chance for me.”
Originally chosen in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators, Maenalanen believes his game has matured and that he’s ready to take the next step.
Only time will tell if he can convince Jets head coach Rick Bowness and the rest of the coaching staff that he’s ready to beat out one of the incumbents for the job or can vault himself past one of the prospects vying for a spot on the opening-day roster.
Maenalanen has been noticeable throughout training camp and had a solid debut against the Oilers in the 4-0 loss on Sunday night, doing enough to earn an unplanned second look on Tuesday.
“He’s a big, strong guy. He’s not afraid,” said Bowness. “He’s around the net. He did a good job on the penalty kill, so we tried to get him some more minutes.”
Maenalanen, who noted he’s often been used on the penalty kill when suiting up for the Finnish national team, seemed to take advantage of those roughly three additional minutes (moving him to 14:18 on Tuesday), producing two shots on goal and four shot attempts while being credited with two hits.
“The first thing that jumps out is he’s very skilled and has a great release,” said Jets forward hopeful Mikey Eyssimont, who meshed well on a line with Maenalanen on Tuesday. “You saw that on that toe-drag shot (in the third period). But he can put a little bit of grit into his game, as well. He’s (got) a big body and he uses it well.”
Eyssimont has also shown well through two games and was rewarded with a power-play goal on Tuesday, tipping home a one-timer from Kyle Connor.
Although Eyssimont is drawing attention for his pain-in-the-you-know-where style and dogged determination, he was filling in for Pierre-Luc Dubois on the Jets’ top power play unit against the Senators and made his opportunity count.
While Maenalanen is trying to force his way into the discussion for a roster spot, Eyssimont is likely battling to be one of the first call-ups, though his tenacity is sure to have caught the attention of the coaching staff so far.
Speaking of forwards leaving an impression, 2020 second-rounder Daniel Torgersson also had a night to remember, scoring twice and rattling a chance off the post as he attempted to complete the hat trick — sparking memories of Hannu Jarvenpaa’s preseason highlight pack from the Jets 1.0 era.
Torgersson got a taste of the North American game late last season, suiting up in four games with the Manitoba Moose to help get him ready for his first NHL training camp.
Suiting up for Sweden and capturing a bronze medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship in August also helped Torgersson get in the right frame of mind.
On Tuesday, Torgersson showed off some smarts in finding a soft spot in the slot, allowing Connor (who paced the offensive attack with a goal and three points) to find him for a perfect one-timer that opened the scoring, just 22 seconds after serving a minor penalty for tripping.
“I took a stupid penalty in the offensive zone and then the team had a pretty good PK. We killed the PK and then I don’t really know,” said Torgersson. “I just came into the offensive zone and (Kyle) Connor just passed me the puck and I thought, (expletive), I need to hit the net’ and I did it.”
Torgersson converted a pass from Alex Limoges on the doorstep for his other goal, then nearly wrapped up his first three-goal outing in recent memory.
“I hoped so, sometimes you get lucky, but other times you don’t have luck with you,” said Torgersson, asked if he thought the third-period chance was going in. “So next time.”
When you’re destined for the Moose like Torgersson is, doing enough to get that next game and survive the next round of cuts is all you can really focus on.
The blue line battle has been a topic of conversation and will continue to be throughout training camp as the jockeying for position continues.
It was an up-and-down showing for Ville Heinola, who got caught pinching on a goal by Tyler Motte on an odd-man rush, but also converted a perfect pass from Adam Lowry after a smart zone entry by Cole Perfetti.
Heinola showed some offensive flair, recording three shots on goal and six shot attempts to go along with two hits and three blocked shots.
Heinola, who played 17:34, is trying to make an impact but must show Bowness and associate coach Scott Arniel that his risk/reward quotient is at the right level.
Dylan Samberg, another candidate for a job on the back end, was mostly solid in his preseason debut.
Former Brandon Wheat Kings forward and Roblin, MB. product Jayce Hawryluk chipped a puck past Samberg on the Senators first goal from Cole Reinhardt, but that marker had more to do with Neal Pionk being caught out of position on the play.
Samberg ended up with four shot attempts, three hits and a blocked shot in just under 20 minutes of work, often looking like the player that was comfortable in his first taste of NHL action last season — when he overcame an injury on the opening day of training camp.
For those vying for a spot on the blue line or on the fringes of the forward group, the next step is to start separating yourself from the competition — something that hasn’t happened yet in the eyes of the head coach.
Bowness was unhappy with the Jets puck management and shift length during the first two periods.
“For a lot of guys, that was their first game but that being said, we have to play a lot faster than that,” said Bowness. “The two things that slow you up are long shifts and turnovers, and we were guilty of both tonight. Take out the Xs and Os and everything. If you want to stay out there for 55 seconds and you’re going to turn pucks over, you’re going to play very, very slow, which we did.
“In the third, we shortened the shifts up, we started going north and we looked a lot better. There’s a right way to play and it took us until the third to figure that out.”
The Jets are back in action on Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre, before returning home to host the Edmonton Oilers on the day they unveil Dale Hawerchuk’s statue.
Canada coach John Herdman disputes Croatian counterpart's account of skipped post-match handshake – The Globe and Mail
Canada coach John Herdman is disputing his Croatian counterpart’s account of why there was no handshake after their World Cup game.
Herdman had antagonized the Croatian camp with a heated postgame message to his players after Canada’s opening 1-0 loss to Belgium at the soccer showcase. Asked in a pitch-side interview what he had said in a postgame huddle to his players, Herdman replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff – Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”
That prompted a stern lecture from Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic on the need for respect. And after Croatia beat the Canadians 4-1 Sunday, Dalic was asked if he had a chance to shake hands with Herdman following the final whistle.
“I did not see the other head coach after the match,” he said through an interpreter. “When I lose I always congratulate the winner. He was not there and that’s his way of doing things. He’s obviously mad. He is a good coach. He is a high-quality professional. But it will take some time for him to learn some things.”
Herdman, whose postgame news conference preceded Dalic’s on Sunday, disputed that account Wednesday when asked about it.
“Look, we shook hands before the game. So that happened,” he said. “At the end of the game, the usual process – no different than [with Belgium coach] Roberto Martinez. You shake hands with the coach, then you go shake hands with the referee.
“When I turned round, [Dalic] was already off down the touchline, which is his right to do. He’s celebrating. He’s just beaten Canada. It was a big celebration for him. He was off and I couldn’t get to shake his hand. I went into the field, shook the ref’s hand, shook players’ hands. And didn’t get to see him.
“That moment’s gone. We’re into process now – team huddle, see your fans, flash interviews, calm yourself down so you don’t say anything and move on.”
Argentina coast past Poland 2-0 to top World Cup Group C – Al Jazeera English
Second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez cap a return to form for the South American giants.
Argentina coasted past Poland in a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night to top Group C and confirm their place in the last 16 of the World Cup, signalling a return to form for the South American giants after a poor start to this year’s tournament.
Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez’s second-half goals capped a dominant display by coach Lionel Scaloni’s charges at Stadium 974 – which was packed to the rafters with tens of thousands of raucous Argentinian supporters – to set up a clash with Australia on Saturday.
After a goalless first 45 minutes, Mac Allister got on the end of Nahuel Molina’s cross just one minute into the second period and, despite making weak contact, he saw his shot creep over the line with Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny beaten.
The second goal was the result of patient buildup play which saw Argentina shift the ball around before Enzo Fernandez made a defence-splitting pass for Julian Alvarez, who found space in the box and smashed it into the top corner to effectively kill the game in the 67th minute.
Poland were lifeless throughout but managed to also squeeze through to the knockout phase on goal difference at the expense of Mexico, who beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Group C’s other match.
They will meet defending champions France in the last 16 on Sunday.
Messi misses from the penalty spot
The first half’s defining moment came in the 39th minute when Argentina captain and talisman Lionel Messi failed to convert from the penalty spot on his record-breaking 22nd World Cup match, one more than the late Diego Maradona managed for La Albiceleste.
Poland were up in arms when Argentina were awarded the penalty after a VAR check for a foul on Messi when Szczesny’s glove brushed his face as the Paris St Germain forward rose up for a header at the far post.
But Szczesny was up to the task and despite the Argentina fans raising the decibel levels inside the arena, he kept his composure and guessed correctly, diving to his left and using one hand to swat aside Messi’s effort.
Not to be deterred, Messi never stopped surging forward and he was a menace to Poland all throughout the game with his dribbling ability and vision.
His glittering performance stood in stark contrast to that of Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski, who was deprived of service and virtually anonymous for the duration of the match.
Messi, 35, has admitted this will likely be his last World Cup outing while Lewandoski, 34, has said he is unsure if he will make it to the 2026 edition in North America but would like to do so.
Maple Leafs extend win streak to five games as Marner enters record book – Sportsnet.ca
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