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Maple Leafs’ goaltending uncertainty a cause for concern –



TORONTO — In this episode of how the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending turns … it will be Michael Hutchinson taking back duties from Jack Campbell for Monday’s regular-season finale against the Edmonton Oilers.

In and of itself the decision doesn’t raise alarm bells with Hutchinson having delivered a 31-save shutout in his previous start against Connor McDavid and Co. last month.

But it speaks to some potentially serious underlying issues at that position.

Hutchinson entered the season as the organization’s No. 4 option in goal and will be appearing in his seventh game — one more than Campbell, who has won all six of the starts his injured left leg allowed him to make. Aaron Dell, the No. 3 option coming out of the off-season, was long ago lost on waivers to New Jersey while No. 1 Frederik Andersen hasn’t been on skates since March 19 while dealing with his own lower-body injury.

Put another way: Andersen played through injury until he couldn’t any longer and is now turning a “day-to-day” absence into week-to-week, at minimum. Campbell was rock solid behind him but isn’t considered fit enough to play Monday after making three starts in the previous 10 days.

“We’ve got to really be smart with how we manage Jack’s workload here,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. “The reality is that he hasn’t been playing at 100 per cent and the games take a toll on him. The combination of the fact that he’s not used to playing multiple games in a row and the fact that his body hasn’t quite co-operated with him the way he liked to through this season, we’ve got to be really smart.”

With six weeks remaining in the regular season, this is not where a Stanley Cup hopeful wants to find itself.

Campbell at least took part in an optional skate at Scotiabank Arena on Monday morning after missing Sunday’s practice. But it was somewhat telling that Keefe declined to confirm he’d even serve as Hutchinson’s backup against the Oilers — potentially leaving newcomer Veini Vehviläinen to do it after just two on-ice sessions since finishing a 14-day quarantine following a trade from Columbus.

Hutchinson has been steady this season with a .922 save percentage, but was pulled six minutes into his last start after giving up two goals on three shots to Ottawa. It’s hard to imagine the organization giving him a run of games unless it was left with no other choice.

Where things stand with Campbell isn’t entirely clear.

He’s already endured two extended absences with his leg issue this season — the second of which, from Feb. 28 to March 20, where he skated basically the entire time but couldn’t get comfortable. He stopped 17 of 20 shots during Saturday’s 4-3 overtime against the Oilers and then promptly missed practice.

“He took the day yesterday because he wasn’t feeling the best coming off of the game and I think he’s feeling a little bit better today and that’s positive, but I just think us continuing to roll him out there when he’s not 100 per cent is not smart,” said Keefe. “So we’ve got to manage it.”

To this point, Leafs management has been resistant to the idea of acquiring another goalie through trade — in part because they don’t want to use up more valuable cap space on the position while also hoping to make a move to upgrade their forward group before the April 12 deadline.

That would be much less of an issue if Andersen was deemed unable to return for the regular season because his $5-million cap hit could be placed on long term injured reserve and allow the team to exceed the cap ceiling.

So far that hasn’t happened.

Among the goalies likely available are James Reimer or Alex Nedeljkovic in Carolina; Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo in Columbus; Anaheim’s Ryan Miller; and Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier, who is nursing his own injury at the moment.

The Leafs are allowing fewer shots and high-danger chances than in previous seasons and are basically middle of the pack with a team-wide .909 save percentage. They’re getting by and have stayed atop the North Division standings all year long.

But as they embark on six games in nine days, the need for more goaltending depth seems more apparent than ever.

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UEFA threaten to ban breakaway clubs from all competitions



By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – European soccer‘s governing body UEFA has warned clubs linked to a breakaway Super League that they face being banned from domestic and international competitions if they set up a rival to the Champions League.

In a joint statement–statement-by-uefa-english-fa-rfef-figc-premier-league-laliga-le with Spanish, English and Italian leagues and federations, UEFA said it will consider “all measures”, including the courts and bans from domestic leagues, in opposition to plans for a breakaway competition.

UEFA said it had learnt that clubs from those countries “may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League”.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we….(and) also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way,” the statement added.

In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation” – meaning players would be banned from the World Cup.

Sunday’s UEFA statement said: “The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”


(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)

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Netherlands and Poland seal narrow Billie Jean King Cup playoff wins



(Reuters) – The Netherlands and Poland both needed deciding doubles wins to battle through their Billie Jean King Cup playoffs on Saturday but Britain, Italy and Canada all enjoyed easier passages.

In Den Bosch, the Dutch were without world number 11 Kiki Bertens for the second day because of injury and found themselves trailing China 2-1 after Wang Xiyu beat Lesley Kerkhove in Saturday’s opening singles.

But Aranxta Rus beat Wang Xinyu to level the tie and then teamed up with Demi Schuurs to defeat Zhang Shuai and Zu Yifan to send the hosts through.

It was equally tight in Poland where the hosts were pushed to the brink by Brazil.

Brazil’s Carolina Meligeni Alves took the tie into a deciding doubles with a win over Katarzyna Kawa but the Poles prevailed 3-2 as Kawa and Magdalena Frech came back from a set down to beat Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani.

Kazakhstan also won a deciding rubber to see off Argentina.

Britain led 2-0 overnight against Mexico in London but Marcela Zacarias beat Heather Watson to keep alive the tie.

Katie Boulter proved too strong for Giuliana Olmos though to clinch the tie for the hosts.

Italy beat Romania 3-1 while Canada‘s teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez sealed her country’s path as she gave her side an unassailable 3-0 lead over Serbia thanks to a three-set win over Nina Stojanovic.

Ukraine eased past Japan 4-0 while Anastasija Sevastova secured Latvia’s 3-1 victory over India.

The eight winners move forward to next year’s qualifying round where they will hope to reach the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

The old Fed Cup was re-branded last year and named after the American great and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion who won the inaugural tournament nearly 60 years ago.

This year’s 12-team Finals were postponed because of the pandemic and a new date has yet to be finalised.


(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year



(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.

With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.

F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.

The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.

“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.

The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.

“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.

One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.

The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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