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Leafs hope Kapanen's troubling "pattern" ends with one-game benching – Toronto Sun

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Kasperi Kapanen won’t get caught sleeping again.

That’s the hope of the Maple Leafs, who are hedging their bets that a one-game benching of the winger brings to an end a disregard for team rules.

“I think we’re a pretty forgiving place,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said on Monday. “Things happen all the time … but when there is a pattern of things that have not corrected themselves, you have to do something a little bit outside what you normally might do.”

So it was that Kapanen watched the Leafs’ 2-1 overtime win versus the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night from the press box with injured teammates Morgan Rielly and Ilya Mikheyev.

Rather than have Kapanen address the benching that night, the Leafs let him stew for another 24 hours.

Kapanen, in talking to media on Monday morning before getting back into the lineup against the Florida Panthers, acknowledged careless behaviour on his part.

But after having some time to think about what he might say, there was some confusion from Kapanen regarding the situation. Kapanen copped to sleeping in on Friday causing him to be late for practice, and then said similar occurrences happened when he played for the Toronto Marlies. Keefe didn’t have a recollection of anything happening with Kapanen in the minors, but alluded to earlier incidents with the Leafs.

“It’s all to do with here, both in previous to my time coming and since arriving here (on Nov. 20 when he replaced Mike Babcock),” Keefe said. “This is not a punishment or anything like that. It’s about trying to reset the player and trying to help him grow and get better.

“Especially in this case, it was innocent, (but) it just gets to the point where you have to respond for the sake of the player and for the sake of the team.”

For his part, Kapanen was contrite, but lost some patience when questions persisted.

“They felt like sitting me out was something I deserved, and I agree,” Kapanen said. “I have to take responsibility for that.

“It’s not me not caring, it’s an honest mistake. I overslept. I don’t want my teammates to think I’m not serious about this. They sat me out and that’s it.”

Kapanen answered with a curt “no” when asked whether the thought it would hurt his standing in the organization.

Why not?

“Listen guys, if you want to talk about hockey, I’m all for it,” Kapanen said. “So talk about today or the future, that’s fine, but I overslept.”

To what extent did Kapanen seek the advice of his dad, Sami, a former NHLer?

“Nothing,” Kapanen said. “I’m a grown man and know I did wrong and just have to live up to it and just forget about it.”

As it is, the benching came in the midst of trade speculation involving the 23-year-old, the belief being that if Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is able to acquire a defenceman of repute prior to the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24, a player of Kapanen’s stature would have to be moved.

“It’s always going to be there,” Kapanen said of the trade chatter. “It’s no surprise. I don’t really read into that stuff. Just focusing on being with the guys here. We have a great group.”

Kapanen, who last off-season signed a three-year contract with an annual average value of $3.2 million US, has been battling on-ice inconsistency in 2019-20, scoring 10 goals in 51 games prior to Monday after he had 20 last season.

Keefe said his first inclination was to protect the player, but Kapanen wanted to speak publicly.

What’s clear is there is no appetite from the coach’s office for another off-ice misstep on Kapanen’s part.

“Anytime you get called out like that, and held accountable, it gives you an opportunity to reflect and grow from it and that’s really what we were looking for,” Keefe said. “We want him to be the player he is capable of being. We need him to be great and I fully expect he will be.”

TEAMMATES GET BENCHING

Not that the rest of the Maple Leafs needed to get the message sent to Kasperi Kapanen, but it found a mark in the dressing room anyway.

“It just shows there has to be accountability for actions,” veteran centre Jason Spezza said on Monday. “For the player (involved), it’s more personal, but for the team, it shows there is a standard that has to be met.

“It’s what the coaching staff expects, and we all take notice of it.”

Kapanen didn’t address the Leafs as a whole, instead talking to some of his teammates about his one-game benching on an individual basis.

Captain John Tavares, who sets a fine example each time he walks into the room, naturally concurred with Spezza.

“There is a certain expectation and a standard, especially with what we are trying to accomplish,” Tavares said. “That accountability we need, we talk a lot about it on the ice, but (it applies) off the ice as well.

“I think sometimes a situation like this can get blown out of proportion. I think it was an honest mistake. I don’t think (Kapanen) is trying to come in and be unprofessional. No one is perfect. We support Kappy.”

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

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Latvia in QF, Slovakia out – IIHF

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The teams had met only three times previously in World Junior play, most recently in 2012, and Czechia won all three by a combined score of 19-5.

Both goalies were playing in their third of four games for their respective teams, Jan Bednar having the better GAA than Bruveris – 3.36 to 3.84 – but it was Bruveris who made the difference today.

“We believed we could win,” Darels Dukurs said. “We just played one game at a time and gave it our best. We played like a team and fought for each other. We stayed focus the whole time.”

The Latvians got just the start they needed, jumping into a 2-0 lead by the halfway point of the period. Martins Lavins got the opener on a fine rush by Harijs Brants. He drove down the left wing and got the puck in front to Lavins, who quickly re-directed the puck between the open pads of Jan Bednar at 4:30.

They made it 2-0 at 12:21 off another great pass from behind the goal line. This time it was Raimonds Vitolins who fed Rainers Rullers in front. Rullers lifted a high shot over the shoulder of Bednar.

Latvia then took two successive penalties. The PK was letter perfect on the first and dodged a bullet on the second before finally succumbing. Michal Gut took a back-door pass that left him with nothing but net to shoot at, but he shot wide and looked heavenward for answers that could be more easily found on his stick tape.

But moments later he was given another opportunity through a hard pass cross crease from captain Jan Mysak, and this one he didn’t miss.

The Vitolins-Rullers combo had another sensational chance early in the second to make it a 3-1 game, but this time Bednar came across and made a great save on Rullers. Latvia had two power plays soon after but couldn’t capitalize, and it started to feel as though they had squandered chances to take control of the game.

Indeed, Czechia tied the score at 9:33 on a broken play. Captain Ralfs Bergmanis blocked a shot in front, but it landed with Stanislav Svozil. He moved in and roofed a backhand over Bruveris, and that feeling of lost opportunities care to the fore.

But credit to Latvia, and to Bergmanis in particular. He put his team ahead at 11:15 after David Jiricek made a poor clearing. Bergmanis’s quick point shot fooled Bednar and gave the underdogs another lead. Bruveris scored again six minutes later on a similar shot during a power play when his long wrister beat Bednar high.

Bednar was replaced by Tomas Suchanek to start the third, but he faced only three shots as his teammates fired 17 on Brumanis without scoring. Czechia had a golden chance to cut the lead midway through the period when Lavins closed his hand on the puck in the crease, resulting in a penalty shot. But Mysak was stoned by Bruveris and kept it a 4-2 game.

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Rory MacDonald announces retirement after 2022 PFL Playoffs exit – MMA Fighting

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Rory MacDonald is stepping away from competition after a devastating loss.

The former Bellator welterweight champion and longtime UFC contender announced his retirement on Sunday, one day after losing by first-round TKO to Dilano Taylor in the 2022 PFL semifinals.

MacDonald, 33, broke the news via Instagram.

“My time has come to put the gloves down for good,” MacDonald wrote. “I’m so thankful for this sport and every person I’ve been able to meet along the way.

“I started this sport as a 14-year-old kid, I still remember my first day and knowing this is what I want to spend my life doing. The passion for martial arts and becoming a pro MMA fighter gave me hope and a way to a better life! And I’m so thankful to God for putting that gym Toshido MMA in kelowna in my path. It truly changed the direction of my life and saved me!

“What an adventure this career has been, 17 years of professional fighting. It all came and went so fast! So many painful trainings that are etched into my being, travelling to all parts of the planet and meeting so many people.

“I’ve learned so much about myself through this career, not all of it good. And I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, but here I am 33 years old a better man because of those mistakes, to which I’m very grateful I’ve grown up.”

MacDonald went on to thank fans for their support, as well as the UFC, Bellator, and the PFL.

Debuting in 2005, MacDonald quickly emerged as one of the hottest prospects in his native Canada, beginning his career 10-0. He eventually took his talents to Montreal’s Tristar Gym, where he trained alongside UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. MacDonald joined the UFC in 2010, where he won eight of his first 10 fights, including a dominant decision win over future welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.

“The Red King” had his shot at the UFC’s 170-pound title at UFC 189 in July 2015, where he lost by fifth-round TKO to Robbie Lawler in one of the greatest fights in MMA history.

In 2017, MacDonald signed with Bellator and captured a welterweight title by beating Douglas Lima in just his second bout for the promotion. He successfully defended his belt twice before ceding it back to Lima in the finals of a grand prix tournament. MacDonald also unsuccessfully challenged Gegard Mousasi for the Bellator middleweight championship.

The last leg of MacDonald’s career came with the PFL. He signed with the league in 2019, but failed to recapture his previous success, going just 2-4 including the stunning loss to Taylor that was the final fight of his career.

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Near lead, Cameron Smith penalized a day after playing ball from 'wrong place' – Golf Channel

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – As if his week hasn’t been eventful enough, Cameron Smith began the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship four shots off the lead after being assessed a two-stroke penalty for “playing [his] ball from the wrong place” at No. 4 on Saturday. 

After starting the day at 11 under and two shots off the lead held by J.J. Spaun, Smith was informed by PGA Tour rules officials that he was now 9 under and four back after it was determined he violated Rule 14.7.

Officials discovered the violation after reviewing footage from Round 3 of Smith’s drop at the fourth hole, a par 3. The footage shows Smith dropping and playing his next shot from the hazard line, which is a violation of Rule 17.1 (when ball is in penalty area), turning his bogey-4 on the hole into a triple-bogey 6.

Full-field scores from FedEx St. Jude Championship


“When I asked him the question [if his golf ball was on the hazard line], unfortunately, he said to me, ‘No, the ball was definitely touching the line,’” said Gary Young, the PGA Tour’s chief referee. “At that point there’s no turning back. That was a moment where I know that the player has knowledge that the ball was touching the line, he just simply didn’t understand the rule that it requires the entire ball to be outside of the penalty area and in his relief area.”

The ruling took on added significance given Smith’s position on the FedExCup points list, No. 2, and his quest to overtake Scottie Scheffler atop the world ranking. The Australian will move to No. 1 on both lists with a victory Sunday at TPC Southwind.

“His answer to me is, ‘The rules are the rules,’” Young said. “He just accepted the two-stroke penalty … he very calmly left the office and he’s just going about his business for the day.”

It was yet another headline for Smith who has dominated them this week. According to Australian golfer Cam Percy and a report in The Telegraph, Smith is poised to jump to LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed rival league. Smith has repeatedly declined to address the reports.

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