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Maple Leafs rally around injured defenceman Jake Muzzin – Toronto Sun

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Mitch Marner got emotional when Jake Muzzin broke the news about his cervical spine injury and the fact the Maple Leafs defenceman will be out indefinitely. 

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“It was just him and me in the room when he told me, and it’s a sad thing,” Marner said of his close friend. “There are a lot bigger things here than hockey and playing this game, and that’s your family and people around you that you love.”

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Muzzin has been with his teammates at the rink, and is working out in the gym as he recovers. Still, there is no clarity about Muzzin’s future in the National Hockey League.

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“He has been awesome, just so much support and positivity,” Marner said. “He is a great person to have around.” 

There’s no doubt that Muzzin is the kind of player and person who brings the Leafs together, an integral part of the leadership group who can’t be adequately replaced. 

“It’s difficult to see,” captain John Tavares said. “We think so much of him and care about him a lot. He’s such a big part of our locker room and our team, so not easy news at all. We’re there for him.”

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LINE ’EM UP

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe will keep Marner and Auston Matthews apart on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, following the coach’s script in the win against Vancouver on Saturday.

Matthews will be between Michael Bunting and William Nylander, while Marner will be on the right side with Tavares and Alex Kerfoot.

“I just liked the way that it looked,” Keefe said. “It makes sense to continue with it for a little bit here. Bringing (Pontus) Holmberg in (from the Toronto Marlies) gives us a natural centre on that (third) line as well. We want to give (Holmberg) more of an opportunity.”

Tavares and Marner work well together, but there is an adjustment for Tavares in playing with one of the best passers in the NHL.

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“I know how well he reads time and space and seeing the play develop a couple steps ahead,” Tavares said. “For me, it’s trying to put my myself in a spot … he usually has a good sense of where you’re going before it’s even coming. Always be ready. His ability to play with tremendous pace, and his ability to slow it down is elite as well is hard to teach and his deception is second to none.”

SPEZZA’S NEW LIFE

Speaking after the Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic on Sunday, Jason Spezza, now working in the Leafs’ front office after he retired in May, said that other than not playing, there hasn’t been a big change in his daily business. 

“I still get (camaraderie) with the guys,” Spezza said. “I’m still in the room after the game and I have been able to stay connected with the guys quite a bit. It has been nice in that sense.

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“My schedule has stayed about the same. I train every morning, I stay active. I’m at the rink every day, I’m working, I get home about the same time. I haven’t been home more as I have travelled with the team the whole time. It has been good.”

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Spezza wasn’t surprised when Keefe started six Swedes on Saturday to honour Borje Salming.

“Sheldon pays a lot of attention to a lot of little things and you will see it pop up throughout the year when guys are in their home towns,” Spezza said. “You have to be careful as a coach you don’t go too overboard, but something like that shows the touch he has. He has a good touch.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Goalie Ilya Samsonov continues to work his way back from a knee injury and looked good in practice on Monday … General manager Kyle Dubas said the plan is for goalie Joseph Woll to take part in full practice on Tuesday with the Marlies. Woll had a setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery and then hurt his ankle in training … Tavares, sitting on 399 career goals since scoring on Nov. 6 in Carolina, has just 11 goals in 53 career games against the Penguins … Current odds set by bookmakers have the Leafs with a 90% chance of making the playoffs. 

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

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Novak Djokovic shares message to Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina – Tennis World USA

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Novak Djokovic congratulated Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina on “an amazing tournament.” On Saturday, 23-year-old Rybakina fell just short of landing her second Grand Slam title. In the Australian Open final, Rybakina was up by a set before 24-year-old Aryna Sabalenka stormed back to win 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Six months ago, Djokovic and Rybakina lifted titles at Wimbledon. “@lenarybakina, amazing tournament,” Djokovic captioned his Instagram Story.

Djokovic congratulates Rybakina

Rybakina has now made Grand Slam finals in two of the last three Major tournaments.

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After winning Wimbledon and finishing as runner-up at the Australian Open, Rybakina admits her confidence levels have increased and she now believes even more that she can win Grand Slams. “For sure, that’s the goal, to be in the second week of all the Grand Slam, to play finals.

I mean, now I have more confidence of course even after this final. I just need to work hard, same as I did during pre-season and actually throughout the years, be healthy, and for sure the results are going to come. I would say I’m trying to not think about expectations and everything.

Still after a great pre-season like this I was thinking I should show it on the court. Then, of course, the results are going to be there. First few weeks was not that great…but I think in the end it’s just confidence to go forward, to keep on working.

I feel now good physically also. I know if I’m going to keep on working, the results are going to be (good),” Rybakina said after the match, per Tennis Majors. Rybakina has proved over the last six months that she has what it takes to be a legitimate Grand Slam contender.

En route to reaching the Australian Open final, Rybakina defeated world No 1 Iga Swiatek. It will be interesting to see how will Rybakina do after a strong Australian Open run.

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Maple Leafs’ Murray dealing with ankle injury, Samsonov to start vs. Capitals – Sportsnet.ca

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Bo Horvat puts up four assists as Canucks top Blue Jackets – Sportsnet.ca

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