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Leafs’ Adam Brooks quickly learning the value of every NHL moment – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW YORK — On your third official day in the NHL there are worse places to take an optional morning skate than this: Under the bright TV lights and famous wooden roof at Madison Square Garden.

There Adam Brooks was Friday morning, pushing himself to exhaustion alongside fellow Toronto Maple Leafs scratches Trevor Moore and Martin Marincin, and backup goaltender Michael Hutchinson.

Had he taken a moment to fully catch his breath, he might have had to pinch himself.

“It was a lot of fun out there,” said Brooks. “It was kind of hard, but it was good.”

The 23-year-old centre has taken the scenic route to this first tour of NHL duty. That includes attending a summer rookie camp and the Traverse City tournament with the New York Rangers in 2015 — a year before he was drafted 92nd overall by Toronto in his second year of eligibility — and parts of three seasons in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies.

His status with the Leafs should officially be listed as day-to-day — as in any day now he might find himself heading back to the AHL — but head coach Sheldon Keefe believes there’s value in every moment he gets to go to work alongside John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Co.

Brooks is a player Keefe came to trust during their time together with the Marlies, and the biggest hurdle he faces in taking the next step is gaining the confidence to keep doing what got him here.

“I think the ability of the players that are in the minors really isn’t as big a gap as many would think, especially for the top players down there,” said Keefe. “That’s one thing I’ve learned in being here the short time that I have. But it’s how quickly those guys can get comfortable and feeling like they can just play and be themselves and all those types of things.

“I think every day that you have in the NHL helps you move towards that.”

It’s not yet clear if Brooks will get a chance to make his Leafs debut during this recall.

The timing doesn’t appear to be in his favour with Moore ready to return from a shoulder injury and bottom-six forwards Frederik Gauther, Dmytro Timashov and Pierre Engvall all playing well for the Leafs.

Still, it was a big thrill for him just to take the warmup at Scotiabank Arena before Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. Call it a step in the right direction.

“It was cool,” said Brooks. “I knew there was a pretty good chance that I wasn’t going to play and I was still nervous. I was still nervous going out there in front of all the Leafs fans.”

As for what he’s learned in stepping behind the curtain at this level?

“Just that there’s still a lot of work to be put in,” said Brooks. “You see the guys that are in the lineup for them every night, guys that played on our team [in the AHL], and just how their games have grown from being up here all year.

“It’s something to try to aim for, and to try to get into a [NHL] game firstly, and then hopefully down the road to try to compete for a spot fully.”

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Despite all the depth in the Leafs organization, there is an opportunity for him here in the big picture.

An understated aspect of the decision to have Keefe replace Mike Babcock last month is that established roles within the team shift. You need only look at Jon Cooper in Tampa or Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh to find examples of an AHL coach who brought up trusted lieutenants after being elevated to the NHL job.

Brooks appears to be a strong candidate to do something similar in Toronto. He’s methodically worked his way up the ladder — scoring a remarkable 250 points across his final two seasons for Regina in the Western Hockey League before climbing from the Marlies fourth line to its top line.

“Sticking with it is a good way to describe [him],” said Keefe.

Now he’s up with the big club, putting in work under the most famous roof in the NHL and waiting for his coach to give him the nod.

“We haven’t had that many talks,” Brooks said of Keefe. “He just said ‘it’s good to see ya, go to work.’

“So that’s all I’m trying to do.”

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Israel Adesanya dominates Paulo Costa, finishes with devastating second-round knockout in UFC 253 main event – MMA Fighting

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It was supposed to be the toughest challenge of his career, but Israel Adesanya made it look easy as he dominated Paulo Costa to retain his middleweight title in the UFC 253 main event.

“The Last Stylebender” predicted that precision would beat power and that’s exactly how the fight played out as he avoided just about everything Costa threw at him while chopping down the Brazilian contender with leg kicks throughout the opening round. Adesanya then finished the fight with a blistering counter left hand that put Costa down and out for the final time.

The end came at 3:59 in round 2.

There was a lot of bad blood between the middleweights in the days and weeks leading to the event but Adesanya ultimately needed less than two rounds to dispatch Costa and hand him the first loss of his professional career.

“I’ve been telling you guys. Like Roy Jones said, ya’ll must have forgot. Ya’ll must have forgot,” Adesanya said in reference to his previous win over Yoel Romero before making short work of Costa on Saturday night.

“I see you media people with your little clickbait headlines. I had to make ya’ll remember.”

Wary of the power coming from Costa early, Adesanya concentrated on leg kicks in the opening exchanges while looking to chip away at his opponent’s foundation. Rather than rushing ahead to close the distance, Costa countered with a couple of stiff kicks of his own to the body while inviting Adesanya to come after him.

As the fight continued, Adesanya was methodical while dishing out a steady diet of those same leg kicks with Costa willing to stand directly in front of him. While Costa was constantly taunting Adesanya, it was the former kickboxer turned UFC champion who was inflicting far more damage.

Midway through the second round, Adesanya’s leg kicks paid off when he was able to go up to the head where he connected and opened a cut over Costa’s eye.

With a dazed look in his eyes, Costa never really recovered as Adesanya saw the hurt painted all over his opponent and he knew the end was near.

At that moment, Adesanya welcomed an exchange on the feet where he showcased his dazzling defense and then tossed the counter left hand that ultimately led to the finish. As soon as the punch connected, Costa crumbled to the mat and Adesanya only had to threw a few more shots before the referee rushed into stop the contest.

The win moved Adesanya to 20-0 in his career, 9-0 in the UFC and he’s now a two-time defending middleweight champion. Never one to sit back and wait for the next challenge, Adesanya already had a name in mind as he looked ahead to UFC 254 in a few weeks when a former champion squares off with a top ranked contender at 185 pounds.

“I already DM’d Jared Cannonier. He’s a hell of a dude. I love his energy. He’s a beautiful man,” Adesanya said. “I said you destroy Robert Whittaker and you’re next.

“He’s the one I want to fight next. He deserves it. If he beats Robert Whittaker handily and dominates him, he’s next.”

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UFC 253 video: Cold open with Ron Perlman released – MMA Fighting

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The UFC has released the cold open for tonight’s pay-per-view event and sets the table for a a rare and pivotal middleweight title fight between champ Israel Adesanya and challenger Paulo Costa.

It’s a rare meeting of two fighters undefeated in MMA, and it’s the top-billed attraction on a fight card that features a second title fight: a battle between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight belt vacated by Jon Jones.

Narrated by the longtime voice of UFC promos, Ron Perlman, check out the feature above as the hours tick toward the fight card Saturday on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

You can also follow full UFC 253 results and get info on the event’s start time here.

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Jays beat Orioles to keep momentum going – TSN

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Cavan Biggio broke up a no-hit bid with a solo home run in the sixth inning, Randal Grichuk added a three-run shot and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 Saturday night.

The Blue Jays need another victory in Sunday’s regular-season finale, and a Miami win over the Yankees in New York, to move up to second place in the AL East and the fifth seed in the league. If not, Toronto will remain in eighth place and get a first-round playoff meeting with the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays.

“Regardless of what happens tomorrow, we’re ready to go,” Biggio said.

Toronto has won four straight and six of seven following a season-worst six-game losing streak.

Baltimore’s John Means (2-4) held the Blue Jays hitless until Biggio broke a scoreless tie with his eighth homer.

Means walked infielder Jonathan Villar, the second batter of the game, and didn’t allow another baserunner until Biggio connected on a 1-0 pitch.

Biggio credited Jonathan Davis, who lined out to end a 10-pitch at bat immediately beforehand, for wearing Means down.

“He really made him work for that out, something that we weren’t doing the whole game,” Biggio said. “I can probably say confidently that (Means) doesn’t hang me a slider there if he isn’t worn out from facing JD.

“Hats off to him, he pitched a great game,” Biggio added. “He made one mistake and that’s what the run was.”

Biggio’s drive to right ended a streak of 16 consecutive outs by Means, including five straight strikeouts at one stretch. The left-hander struck out nine and walked one in six innings.

Means has a 1.52 ERA over his past four starts, giving up just a single run each time. Given how well he’s been pitching, Means isn’t quite ready for end of the season.

“I wish there was 100 games left,” he said.

Grichuk connected on the first pitch he saw from Hunter Harvey in the seventh. It was his 12th homer of the season and the 19th of his career against the Orioles, more than he’s hit against any other opponent. His seven homers against Baltimore this season are the most by one player against a single opponent. Grichuk also homered in Toronto’s 10-5 win Friday.

The Blue Jays scratched right-hander Matt Shoemaker, the scheduled starter, and turned to right-hander T.J. Zeuch. Shoemaker threw a side session before the game, meaning he could be used in the opening round of the playoffs.

Zeuch allowed five hits in five scoreless innings.

Chase Anderson (1-2) got the win, striking out the first four batters he faced in a two-inning relief stint. Anthony Bass got the final four outs for his seventh save in nine chances.

Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. yelped in pain after he fouled a pitch off his left foot in the second inning. Gurriel batted again in the fifth, but was replaced by Grichuk in the top of the sixth. The Blue Jays said Gurriel had a contusion on his foot.

He wasn’t the only Blue Jays player to leave injured. Right-hander Ross Stripling was replaced by Bass after being hit on the right shin by DJ Stewart’s comebacker in the eighth.

“They’re both fine, which is great,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Austin Hays had three hits and José Iglesias had two doubles and drove in a run, but the Orioles lost for the eighth time in 10 games. Baltimore has lost 14 of 18 overall following a 20-21 start.

“There’s been some ups and downs this year,” Hays said, “but I think we showed early on what this team is capable of doing.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: Montoyo said LHP Hyun Jin Ryu is not hurt, but would not commit to starting Ryu in Game 1 of the playoffs. Montoyo said Friday that Ryu was “a little sore” after throwing a season-high 100 pitches over seven innings against the Yankees on Thursday. … INF Rowdy Tellez (right knee) ran the bases and hit on the field before the game.

Orioles: GM Mike Elias confirmed that RHP Michael Baumann was shut down after straining a flexor muscle in his elbow at the team’s alternate training site. One of Baltimore’s top prospects, Baumann is expected to be healthy by spring training. … Elias also said he is optimistic OF Trey Mancini will be able to play next season. Mancini missed this season while undergoing treatment for colon cancer. Mancini completed chemotherapy treatment last Tuesday.

CHEEKY CRIME

Villar stole third base on catcher Pedro Severino’s throw back to the pitcher in the eighth.

ARMED AND DANGEROUS

Hernandez made a strong throw to catch Ryan Mountcastle trying to stretch out a double in the eighth. It was his seventh outfield assist of the season, matching Boston’s Alex Verdugo for most in the majors.

UP NEXT

Baltimore LHP Keegan Akin (1-2, 3.57) starts Sunday’s season finale against Blue Jays RHP Tanner Roark (2-3, 7.01). Akin has struck out 24 batters over 15 innings in September.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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