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Mailbag: Teams that benefit from pause, players who compare to Forsberg –



Which team do you think will benefit the most if the season starts again? Then who do you think will benefit the least? — @AMatthews1921

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche benefit the most. Sorry, I know you asked for one, but I’m copping out and giving two because choosing between them is near impossible. It’s all because of health. Columbus and Colorado were significantly banged up before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, and each should have close to a full lineup if and when the season returns. We’re talking about significant players back in the lineups too. 

The Blue Jackets will have defenseman Seth Jones and forward Oliver Bjorkstrand back from their ankle injuries. Each is skating, and if the Stanley Cup Playoffs were being played right now, Jones and Bjorkstrand would most likely be in the lineup. Forward Alexandre Texier, who has been out since Dec. 31 because of a lumbar stress fracture, would also most likely be playing. Forward Cam Atkinson, who was dealing with an ankle injury when the season was paused, will certainly be available. It’s also possible defenseman Dean Kukan (knee) will be back. And although it’s not likely that forwards Brandon Dubinsky (wrist) and Josh Anderson (shoulder surgery) will return in time to play this season, the number of skaters who will be back should make Columbus a dangerous opponent. In addition, the Blue Jackets signed goalies Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins each to a two-year contract, giving them peace of mind. 

Video: NYR@CBJ: Merzlikins slides across to stone Zibanejad

The Avalanche were without top-six forwards Nathan MacKinnon (lower body), Mikko Rantanen (upper body), Nazem Kadri (lower body) and Andre Burakovsky (lower body), along with depth forward Matt Calvert (lower body) and goalie Philipp Grubauer (lower body) when the season was paused. Assuming they’re all back, the Avalanche will be healthy, talented and hungry, a trio of ingredients that I think could be enough to get past the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division (Colorado was two points back when season was paused).

I can’t pick a specific team that will not benefit from this pause, but I have written in a previous mailbag that I am leery of some of the older teams in the NHL and how quickly they can bounce back. I’d put the Blues, Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights in that category. Each has a roster with an average age of at least 28 years old. The Blue Jackets’ average age is 26, the Avalanche’s is 27.

Which current player reminds you most of Peter Forsberg? — @DavidDugan77

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl, Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, and Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg.

All five would probably grumble or laugh, or both, if I told them they compare to Peter Forsberg. It’s a high honor to be mentioned in the same breath with a player who averaged 1.25 points per game during an NHL career cut short by injuries. Forsberg scored 825 points (249 goals, 636 assists) in 708 games, won the Calder Trophy (1995), the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy (each in 2003), and was named an NHL First Team All-Star three times (1998, 1999, 2003). He also won the Stanley Cup twice (1996, 2001) and averaged 1.13 points per game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring 171 points (64 goals, 107 assists) in 151 games. 

Video: Peter Forsberg won two Stanley Cups with Avalanche

But Malkin, Draisaitl, Eichel, Zibanejad and Filip Forsberg all have the type of complete game that Peter Forsberg had in his prime. Their skill is among the best in the NHL. They each have a terrific shot along with a nose for the net. They set up goals with 20/20 vision. They see all the angles. They play with intelligence. They can play with finesse or power. They can play in the defensive zone. 

Among the five, though, Malkin compares most favorably if you look at statistics and awards. He is averaging 1.19 points per game in his NHL career (1,076 points in 907 games), has won the Hart Trophy (2012), the Art Ross Trophy twice (2009, 2012), the Calder Trophy (2007), the Conn Smythe Trophy (2009), and is a three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016, 2017). He’s also been named an NHL First Team All-Star three times (2008, 2009, 2012). 

But Draisaitl, Eichel, Zibanejad and Filip Forsberg are coming into his prime now. 

Since the start of last season, Draisaitl leads the NHL with 215 points (93 goals, 122 assists) in 153 games (1.41 points per game), Eichel has 160 points (64 goals, 96 assists) in 145 games (1.10 points per game), and Zibanejad has 149 points (71 goals, 78 assists) in 139 games (1.07 points per game). Filip Forsberg has averaged 27.5 goals and 57.8 points per season since 2014-15, including 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) in 63 games this season.

They’ll probably be uncomfortable if they read this, knowing someone is comparing them to a Hockey Hall of Famer, but Malkin, Draisaitl, Eichel, Zibanejad and Filip Forsberg all deserve the comparison because of how they play the game.

Which Canadian team will be next to bring the Stanley Cup north of the border? It’s been 27 years. How much longer does Canada have to wait? — @theashcity

Canada’s longest drought without a Stanley Cup champion will eventually be broken by the Toronto Maple Leafs. I hesitate to say when it will happen, but they remind me of the Washington Capitals in the early part of the Alex OvechkinNicklas Backstrom era. The Capitals had great individual skill, excellent goaltending, strong coaching, an ownership willing to spend, and a smart management staff. But they were not capable of figuring out how to put it all together as a team. From 2008-17, Washington failed to break through in the playoffs and was eliminated by the Rangers, Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens. Among those five teams, New York and Pittsburgh proved the most trouble, eliminating Washington three times each.  

The Maple Leafs have similar individual talent with forwards Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander, and Frederik Andersen is a reliable goalie. Ownership clearly is not hesitant about spending to the NHL salary cap, and they have a smart management staff which is constantly adapting and embracing new information. But they haven’t found an answer for the Boston Bruins, losing to them in seven games in each of the past two seasons after losing in six games to the Capitals in 2017. The Maple Leafs are still growing, just as the Capitals were during those nine seasons from 2008-17. They are learning lessons from losing, as the Capitals did. Sometimes it just takes time. I don’t think it’ll take Toronto as long as it took Washington, but making that prediction is a setup for failure. The Maple Leafs need to stay the course and keep building, especially at defenseman, and if they do that, I believe they’ll win the Cup for the first time since 1967 and become the first team from Canada to win it since the Canadiens in 1993.

The Flyers are known for trading away talent. What are your thoughts on Carter Hart, his potential and where the Flyers could be in the near future? — @theashcity

A frequent contributor to the mailbag, @theashcity gets another question this week.

I’m not sure that’s what the Flyers are known for. They’re known for being the “Broad Street Bullies.” Although it’s true they have traded away some talented players before they began fulfilling their potential (goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Patrick Sharp immediately come to mind), they’re not alone in that category. Every team has a few trades they wish they never made. 

Specific to Hart, he certainly looks like the real deal to me, the goalie Flyers fans have been waiting for since Ron Hextall in the late 1980s. They didn’t give Bobrovsky enough runway to become the goalie he has become. Roman Cechmanek didn’t last. Neither did Robert Esche. Steve Mason was good, but never quite loved. Martin Biron was solid, but never seemed like the Flyers’ first choice. The same goes for Brian Boucher. Ilya Bryzgalov never lived up to his contract, which is why it was bought out. 

Video: NYR@PHI: Hart robs Panarin with great save

Hart is 21 years old and has played 74 NHL games (70 starts), going 40-26-4 with a 2.59 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. But he looks confident, fearless, and his technique is sound. He looks like he could and should be the No. 1 goalie in Philadelphia for a decade, if not longer. Hart looks like he should be the goalie who leads his team to a Stanley Cup championship, or at least puts them in position to try to win one, similar to Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers. I say “looks like” only because he’s young and we don’t know for sure how everything will play out, but I’d count on the Flyers keeping him off the trading block, that’s for sure.

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Oilers on the lookout for Flames' desperation after watching Avs-Blues Game 5 –



CALGARY — Everyone knows how hard it is to eliminate a group of National Hockey League players, or more specifically, to send a Calgary Flames team that won 50 regular season games into its summer.

But just in case any of the Edmonton Oilers needed a refresher, many were watching Wednesday night as the St. Louis Blues forged a heroic comeback on the road in Denver. Down 3-1 in the series and 3-0 in the game, the Blues scored four goals, two in the last five minutes including one after going down 4-3, and won a game in overtime to stay alive.

Game 5 can be seen on Sportsnet, starting at 9:30 a.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. MT.

“Just another thing to see in your head, that you know it’s not going to be easy,” said Edmonton defenceman Brett Kulak, who played for the Montreal Canadiens team that came back from down 3-1 to beat Toronto a year ago. “We’re in a good spot this series (up 3-1), but the job’s not done. We all we all know what needs to get done and we got one more win to go. Now, we’re looking to get it.”

So, how does Edmonton match Calgary’s desperation in Game 5?

“We are desperate to close the series. That’s how,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was all business Thursday morning. “We want to come out and have a strong performance. play our best game in the series, and close the series out.”

Matthew Tkachuk scored 42 goals in the regular season, and opened this series with a Game 1 hat trick. Since then, he chipped in just a single assist in the next three games, all Flames losses.

There was a time when No. 19 wore the black hat in the Battle of Alberta, and used that antagonistic side of his game to inject himself into the series. Usually offence followed, and when it was all said and done, “Matthew” and “Tkachuk” were the two words trending in both Northern and Southern Alberta.

Thus far in Round 2, Tkachuk has been neither pest nor producer, something that will have to change if the Flames are going to turn this thing around.

What has to change?

“Just the skill set. He’s got to use it more to his advantage,” his coach, Darryl Sutter, said. “It’s got nothing to do with effort, with any of our guys who haven’t been as productive after Game 1 of the series. But you have to give Edmonton credit in that too.

“Maybe our guys are doing all they can. Maybe Edmonton is just a little bit better,” Sutter proposed. “That’s kind of the (sidebar) that nobody’s talked about. It’s always been about the negative. Not the good stuff that’s gone on.”

So far, the best Flames forward in this series has been Mikael Backlund, but he’s a 12-goal guy. If the big boys don’t weigh in — starting with Game 5 — it’s hard to see Calgary winning three straight over Edmonton.

As for Johnny Gaudreau, who is a pending UFA, Thursday night could be his last game at the Saddledome — or for the Flames organization, for that matter. He’s not looking ahead that far, of course.

“I really enjoy playing with all these guys in this locker room,” Gaudreau said. “We have a good group in there. It’s been fun all year long.”

Defenceman Chris Tanev took the morning skate next to Oliver Kylington and looks to be in for the Flames again in Game 5. His suspected shoulder injury cost him four playoff games — from Game 7 of Round 1 through Game 3 of Round 2 — and left him doubled over in pain on the Calgary bench at times upon his return in Game 4.

The Flames like their leader on the ice and in their midst, even if it’s pretty clear they are getting something less than 90 percent of their assistant captain.

“You know, even-strength minutes, he was really good last game,” said Sutter of the 17:12 Tanev played at even-strength (19:24 in total). “He made his partner a better player, and with the experience on our back end — or lack of experience or back end — he was important.”

Plenty of players are playing through the pain here, on both sides. Namely, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse for Edmonton, who have both gutted their way through these playoffs at something less than 100 per cent.

“He’s such a huge part of our team on and off the ice.” Tkachuk said of Tanev. “So, when you get a guy like that to come in for a big game, that definitely motivates you to be a lot.”

“We won 55 games this year. We’re pretty good at getting set for the next one.”

Looks like the same lines as Game 4 for both teams, with Tanev still a bit of question mark and Draisaitl and Nurse once again eschewing the skate.

Evander Kane, whose partner gave birth to a newborn son on Wednesday, remained at home in Edmonton. He’ll be down in time for the game. In other Oilers news, the Finnish media continues to report that goalie Mikko Koskinen is headed for Lugano in the Swiss League next season.

Here are Thursday night’s expected lineups.




















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CFLPA voting on new tentative agreement with CFL on Thursday – TSN



The CFL and CFL Players’ Association have reached another tentative seven-year agreement.

According to a league source, the two sides hammered out a second agreement in principle Thursday, two days after CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie unveiled the league’s final offer to its players.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the CFL nor the CFLPA have confirmed the deal.

The new agreement is pending ratification by both the CFL Players’ Association membership and the league’s board of governors. According to two sources, the players will vote on the deal Thursday night.

Players on six of the nine CFL teams must vote to ratify the deal, with the required margin being at least 50 per cent plus one of ballots in favour.

Time is of the essence as the CFL pre-season schedule is slated to kick off Friday night with two games.

On Monday, the players voted against a tentative deal that the union had recommended they accept. The CFLPA is also recommending the ratification of Thursday’s tentative agreement.

According to sources, CFL teams will have seven Canadian starters and 21 in total on rosters this year. In 2023, that number increases to eight with one being a nationalized Canadian — an American who has spent either five years in the CFL or at least three with the same team.

Clubs will also be able to rotate two nationalized Canadians for up to 49 per cent of snaps. Teams can move to three nationalized Canadians in 2024 but the two franchises that play the most Canadians at the end of the season will receive additional second-round draft picks.

And the seven pure Canadian starters per game will remain intact throughout the term of deal, which can be reopened after five years when the CFL’s broadcast agreement with TSN expires.

The CFL will also provide $1.225 million in a ratification pool for players.

The biggest asset the CFL receives in the deal is extended labour piece and the opportunity to really rebuild its business.

Last December, the league announced a partnership with Genius Sports, a data, technology and commercial company that connects sports, betting and media. In August 2021, the CFL signed a multi-year partnership with BetRegal to become its official online sports-gaming partner.

Last month, the single-game sports betting industry opened fully in Ontario.

But Canadian Justin Palardy, a former kicker who spent time with five CFL teams from 2010-15, took to social media to voice his displeasure with the deal.

“Like I said on another tweet, what’s the point of drafting more (Canadians) if we’re getting rid of Canadian starters?” he tweeted. “You may think it’s a terrific idea, doesn’t mean it makes sense.”

The two sides had been at odds regarding the Canadian ratio.

Last Wednesday, the CFL and CFLPA reached a tentative seven-year agreement, ending a four-day strike by seven of the league’s nine teams. At first glance, there seemed to be many positives for the players, including a revenue-sharing model, the ability to reopen the pact in five years once the CFL signed a new broadcast deal, and veteran players having the ability to negotiate partially guaranteed contracts.

But the agreement also called for CFL teams to increase the number of Canadian starters from seven to eight. The extra would’ve also been a nationalized Canadian.

In addition, three other nationalized Canadians could play up to 49 per cent of snaps. And the deal didn’t include a ratification bonus.

On Tuesday, Ambrosie unveiled an amended proposal that included a $1-million ratification pool and the abolition of the three nationalized Canadians playing 49 per cent of snaps. However, it also reduced the number of Canadian starters to seven, including one nationalized Canadian.

Not only did Ambrosie say it was the CFL’s final offer, but it was good until midnight ET on Thursday, given the league’s exhibition schedule was slated to begin Friday night with two games. Ambrosie added if the players rejected the offer and opted to go back on strike, they’d be served notice to vacate their respective training-camp facilities.

It marked the second time Ambrosie had gone public with a final contract offer to the CFLPA. On May 14, he posted a letter to fans on the league’s website detailing the league’s proposal to players hours before the former CBA was set to expire.

The next day, players on seven CFL teams opted against reporting to training camp and went on strike. The Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders both opened camp as schedule because they weren’t in a legal strike position, as per provincial labour laws, at the time.

It marked just the second work stoppage in league history and first since 1974.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

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Rocket advance with win in 3OT thriller | – American Hockey League



The Laval Rocket are off to the Eastern Conference Finals after a wild 6-5 triple-overtime victory over the Rochester Americans on Wednesday night.

The Rocket completed a three-game sweep of the Amerks and will face either Charlotte or Springfield in the next round.

Working on a power play following a delay of game penalty against Rochester, former Amerk Jean-Sébastien Dea wristed a shot that beat Aaron Dell at 1:51 of the third OT period to give the Rocket the victory. It was the second goal of the night for Dea, and came on Laval’s 60th shot of the evening.

Rochester nearly escaped with a Game 3 victory, scoring three times in the third period to take a 5-4 lead before Jesse Ylönen netted the equalizer for the Rocket with 1:07 remaining in regulation.

Back home in front of an energetic crowd of 10,662 fans at Blue Cross Arena, the Amerks struck quickly when Mark Jankowski pounced on a loose puck and scored his sixth goal of the playoffs just 1:04 into the contest.

JJ Peterka made it 2-0 in favor of Rochester with a power-play goal at 8:05, and that lead held until late in the second period, when Laval scored four goals in a span of 3:56 to swing the game in their favor.

Brandon Gignac started the comeback with 6:08 to go in the second period with a nifty deflection of a Corey Schueneman shot from the point. Danick Martel tied things up 55 seconds later, taking Gabriel Bourque’s pass from behind the net and snapping home his fifth goal of the series.

Just 76 seconds after that, the Rocket took their first lead of the night as Xavier Ouellet floated a shot from the left point through traffic that found the top corner over the glove of Aaron Dell.

And with 2:12 to go before intermission, Dea put Laval in front by two, hitting an open cage with Dell out of position following a collision with a teammate in front.

Rochester regrouped during the break and needed just 1:32 to tie things back up. Brett Murray scored 13 seconds into the third period to pull the Amerks to within 4-3, and Peterka got his second of the night 1:19 later off a slick feed from Peyton Krebs.

Murray then scored his second of the period at 8:35, getting a piece of Ethan Prow’s shot from the point and deflecting it home to put Rochester back in front.

Laval outshot Rochester 24-12 during sudden death and killed off two Amerks power plays before converting on their own for the winner.

Cayden Primeau (6-1) made 34 saves and earned his fourth consecutive victory in net for the Rocket. Dell (5-5) stopped a career-high 54 shots for Rochester.

North Division Finals (best-of-5)
N3-Laval Rocket vs. N5-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Sun., May 22 – LAVAL 6, Rochester 1
Game 2 – Mon., May 23 – LAVAL 3, Rochester 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 25 – Laval 6, ROCHESTER 5 (3OT)

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