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Leon Draisaitl has chance to prove he can carry Oilers without McDavid – Sportsnet.ca



TAMPA, Fla — It’s a tough night for aftermarket ticket sales here in Tampa, as the Connor McDavid-less Edmonton Oilers meet a Tampa Bay Lightning team that’s minus several of its top players.

“Stamkos is out. Cirelli is out. Kucherov is out. McDonagh is out. Rutta is out,” is how Lightning head coach Jon Cooper opened his morning press conference.

That’s Steven Stamkos, Anthony Cirelli, Nikita Kucherov, plus defencemen Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta, all announced as lower body injuries. McDavid is out with a quadriceps injury in his left leg, so that means Edmonton’s second leading scorer, and Tampa’s top two scorers, are all absent from tonight’s contest, which opens a three-game road trip for Edmonton.

“You’ve heard me say this before,” began Cooper. “The 22 guys who make your team out of camp aren’t the guys you’re going to play with the whole year. You need depth in your organization.

“It’s playing to a system and ultimately, playing hard. We can’t change,” he said. “You can’t expect someone who scores five or six goals in this league to score 50. But one of our staples is … it’s really not how many you put in the net. It’s how many you keep out.”

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What it also provides is a chance to see who rises to the challenge. A night where a young guy might get a little more of a chance to stake his claim on a roster, with the playoffs around the corner.

“It might be an opportunity to get a little power play time, or a couple of offensive zone starts,” said Oilers rookie defenceman Caleb Jones. “Look at Yamo (Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto). He’s on the power play last game and he gets one. There’s a guy right there who gets an opportunity to jump up on that unit, and he takes advantage of it.

“We’re going to need that mentality of guys stepping into bigger roles and doing the job. It was Yamo last game, and we’ll see if it’s someone else tonight.”

With McDavid out against Chicago on Tuesday, Leon Draisaitl piled up four points in a 5-3 win. In theory, McDavid’s absence should change the matchup, meaning Draisaitl will see Tampa’s No. 1 defenceman, Victor Hedman, on every shift, rather than Cooper having to make a matchup choice between McDavid’s or Draisaitl’s line.

Did Draisaitl notice a difference versus Chicago on McDavid’s first game on I.R.?

“I’m not a coach. I don’t pay too much attention to the matching and that kind of stuff,” he shrugged. “I think that if you play the right way — you play hard and you play good — then you can be on the ice against anyone.”

This two- to three-week absence of McDavid comes at a crucial point in the season. It’s a chance for Draisaitl to show the hockey world — or those in the hockey world who may not be aware —- that he can carry a team offensively, with or without McDavid.

“You’ve seen the way that happens in Pittsburgh. When one (of Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby) is out, the other one gets more attention,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “It’s a big challenge for Leon. He’s really engaged right now, and he wants this challenge. He wants to make sure we keep moving along, and we keep getting our points.”

There is some temptation for Tippett to move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off of Draisaitl’s left wing to centre another line with McDavid out. It’s a temptation the coach is resisting, for now.

“Leon’s line has just been so good, it’s hard to break them up,” he said.

Yamamoto, the right-winger on that line, marvels at Draisaitl’s patience with the puck.

“He’s probably one of the best in the NHL at holding on to the puck. His passing is ridiculous — some of the plays he makes I don’t even see myself, until he makes them,” said Yamamoto, who has a special bond with Tampa centreman Tyler Johnson, a fellow Spokane, Washington native.

“His Mom, I grew up with her teaching me how to skate, and I grew up playing hockey with him. Still skate with him in the summers now,” said the five-foot-eight, 153-pound Yamamoto. It’s a coincidence that Johnson, who is eight years older, would also be an under-sized forward who has had to battle through the stereotypes to make his way in the NHL.

“He’s a Spokane kid who went to high school with my sister,” Yamamoto said. “Him going to the (WHL Spokane) Chiefs kind of just paved the way for me, and I followed his footsteps.”

Mike Smith starts in goal for Edmonton, against Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Bolts.

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McDavid’s return puts Ken Holland under spotlight before deadline – Sportsnet.ca



EDMONTON — The eyes averted from the general manager for a moment or two Thursday, when Connor McDavid executed the rare hockey “two-a-day,” skating alone at 9 a.m. and then again with the team at noon.

McDavid would not rule out playing Friday night against Minnesota — “You’ll have to ask the doctors about (a return date). We’re taking it day by day.” — and will be leaving with the team on Saturday for a three-game trip that opens Sunday in Los Angeles.

We’re betting he plays Sunday at the latest, and McDavid’s imminent return coupled with Monday’s trade deadline has veteran GM Ken Holland under the spotlight here in Edmonton — no different than in any hockey town on the map.

“The day I took the job (back in May) I told everybody at the press conference that I hoped on March 1 that we’re playing important games, competing for a playoff spot,” Holland said on Thursday. “We’re probably a little bit above that, but just a little bit. You can say we’re first place in the division, but we’re also five points from being out.

“How has it affected my thinking? I was a seller in Detroit the last three years, and I was a buyer at the deadline for many years. Would I like to do something? Yeah, you like to do something to pitch in.”

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Holland has a dressing room full of players who have come together to win games despite the fact there was $30-million worth of players out of the lineup that lost 2-1 in overtime to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. They’re looking at their GM to give them another bullet in a Pacific Division that has never been more wide open than it is today.

In the coach’s office sits Dave Tippett, who has done a masterful job creating an all-in atmosphere where the Oilers can now beat you with their stars, or by outworking the opponents with a solid bottom six, a sturdy D-corps and excellent goaltending.

And the owner of a team that has enjoyed one playoff run in the past 13 seasons likely wouldn’t mind a playoff gate or two. All of that is running through the mind of Holland, who is also responsible for building something here that can past — which means not dealing away picks and prospects.

Especially a first-round pick.

“Certainly for a rental,” he said. “I’m not going to spend a first-round pick on a rental.”

The Franchise has missed just five games, and his team went 3-1-1, dropping points only against Tampa and Boston. Top defenceman Oscar Klefbom is on the shelf for another two to three weeks with a shoulder issue. The Oilers were in first place in the Pacific when they awoke Thursday, and have watched Vancouver add Tyler Toffoli, Vegas add Alec Martinez, Arizona add Taylor Hall earlier in the season, and the Calgary Flames free up a load of cap space when they sent Michael Frolik to Buffalo.

Does that make Holland’s trigger finger a little more itchy?

“I did that in my early years as a manager, (when) there was us, Dallas and Colorado,” he said. “Sometimes it helps, quite often it doesn’t help. Today I worry more about our team. I can’t manage against what other teams are doing. I have to factor in the prices, what am I looking for, what’s going to make us deeper and better and at what cost.”

As we wrote yesterday in our deadline preview, a left winger for McDavid is what we believe to be the biggest priority in Edmonton, though a depth centre wouldn’t hurt either.

How does Holland prioritize those needs?

“That’s fantasy hockey,” was his retort. “It depends what’s available, what’s the cost and it’s not like there’s a whole bunch of wingers and a whole bunch of offensive centreman or defensive centres. What’s the cost?

“I’m trying to weigh that in my thought process from when I was hired to a five-year deal. You have to draft and develop people. Some of the younger people have had a greater impact way quicker than I thought. So, I’m trying to decide over the next three or four days how active I’ll be.

“Yeah, I would like to pitch in because the guys in that locker room have worked extremely hard, players and coaching staff, to put us in this position. But I also have to factor in the cost and I would not trade a first-round pick for a rental.”

As for Jesse Puljujarvi, their wayward former No. 1 pick currently playing in Finland, Holland said this: “I haven’t really shopped him and nobody’s really asked.”

Stay tuned. As you can see, there are plenty of wheels in motion in Edmonton these days.

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ATP Marseille: Felix Auger-Aliassime Saves 3 MP, Beats Pierre-Hugues Herbert – ATP Tour



#NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime saved three match points on Thursday, battling through a slew of tweeners and screaming forehands to overcome Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-0, 6-7(6), 7-6(9) in a two-hour, 40-minute thriller at the Open 13 Provence that the players nor fans watching will soon forget.

The seventh seed steadied himself well after letting slip one match point in the second-set tie-break, eventually triumphing on his sixth match point to reach the quarter-finals in Marseille. Auger-Aliassime, who lost to Herbert in straight sets two weeks ago in Montpellier, struck 16 aces and won 85 per cent of his first-serve points as he continues his pursuit of a maiden ATP Tour title.

The 19-year-old Canadian has now saved multiple match points in his first two matches at this indoor ATP 250 event, erasing two of them in his first-round victory against Italian Stefano Travaglia. Auger-Aliassime will next play Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, who upset third seed David Goffin.

For a moment, it seemed destiny was on Herbert’s side. The Frenchman not only hit a tweener lob on set point in the second set to force a decider, but he struck another clutch tweener to help escape pressure on serve deep in the third set.

Then at 6/6 in the ensuing tie-break, Auger-Aliassime played a perfect point and crushed an overhead into the open court. But on the full stretch, Herbert blasted a forehand pass down the line that the diving Canadian couldn’t handle, giving him a match point on his own serve. The Frenchman was unable to muster the courageous tennis he played under pressure during the rest of the match, pushing a backhand into the net.

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On the other two match points Auger-Aliassime faced — at 5/6 and 7/8 in the same tie-break — the teen showed no fear, dictating with his forehand and then blasting an unreturned serve down the T. Felix finished off his victory with an ace out wide, letting out a roar of “Allez!”

It is a key week for the Canadian, who last year reached his first ATP Tour final in Rio de Janeiro as the World No. 104. He has since reached three additional tour-level championship matches, including one last week in Rotterdam (0-4).

Auger-Aliassime’s next opponent, Gerasimov, is a qualifier who ousted Goffin 6-4, 7-6(5). Goffin battled hard, getting back on serve in the second set after the Belarusian served for the match. 

But the in-form World No. 72 played too well from the baseline, triumphing after one hour and 33 minutes behind three breaks of serve. Gerasimov reached his first ATP Tour final earlier this year in Pune.

Did You Know?
With Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil also into the last eight in Marseille, it is the first time three Canadians have reached the quarter-finals in an ATP Tour event since 1990 Rio de Janeiro where Martin Laurendeau (QF), Andrew Sznajder (Finalist) and Martin Wostenholme (SF) did it.

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2021 Scotties tickets on sale on Friday – Tbnewswatch.com



THUNDER BAY – As Krista McCarville and company inch their way toward a spot in the championship round at the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Heats, tickets for the 2021 event in Thunder Bay are about to go on sale.

Curling Canada on Wednesday announced the first 2,000 ticket packages will be available through a pre-sale, for $395 plus fees, starting on Friday morning at 10 a.m.

A limited number of VIP tickets, priced at $429, will also be up for grabs.

Diane Imrie, vice-chair of the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts said the announcement suddenly makes things real.

“My phone has been blowing up, my email has been blowing up because pre-sale tickets went on sale today,” said Imrie. “Curling Canada sent out the notification to people and people are buying their tickets and are getting ready for the 2021 Scotties.

“And it’s perfect timing because Krista is doing great out in Moose Jaw, so we’re hoping she’ll do exactly the same next year here in Thunder Bay.”

For now, only full week packages will be made available.

A block of weekend single-day tickets are expected to be put on sale in October.

“These are full-event packages right now and it’s a great deal, if you think about all those games you get to see for a great price,” Imrie said, “It’s tickets for everything.”

Kent Maarup, vice-chair facilities for next year’s event, said it’s a great day for curling.

He cautioned the public not to wait too long, because the next block of tickets won’t be nearly as large is this one.

“We have to keep so many for media and also for families and everybody else. So they hold off a good 500 tickets just for that,” Maarup said.

Tickets will be available online and at the Fort William Gardens box office as well. Tickets can also be ordered by phone at 625-2929. Tickets prices are subject to standard facility and ticket service fees.

Imrie said she expects information on volunteers will be made public in the coming weeks, but encouraged anyone interested to sign up as soon as possible at that time as the opportunities will be open to curling fans across the country.

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