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Maple Leafs tie series, but Jake Muzzin’s health more important

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In a moment like that you think only of the father, the son, the husband and the friend.

The quietest Stanley Cup Playoffs in history fell silent in those 10 minutes from the moment Jake Muzzin fell awkwardly to the ice until he was removed on a stretcher. You could hear absolutely everything inside an empty building, including medical personnel that were able to communicate with an alert Muzzin while instructing him to lie back and remain still.

Then there was the clank of sticks on the ice and boards from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, who still had nearly two minutes to run off in a 3-0 Toronto victory on Tuesday afternoon that squared up their qualifying round series.

“It was nice to close it out for him,” said captain John Tavares, who delivered his most memorable performance yet as a Leaf. “But certainly tough to see, especially just how much we love that guy.”

Muzzin is an easy guy to love. There’s an unassuming quality to the way he goes about his business that turned him into a dressing room favourite almost immediately after arriving via trade with Los Angeles in January 2019.

And until there’s a more definitive word on his condition — Muzzin was alert and moving all limbs while being transported to hospital, according to the Leafs — it’s difficult to put the situation in proper perspective.

He was injured on an awkward play. Muzzin was skating behind the net when he got cross-checked by Pierre-Luc Dubois and crashed head-first into Oliver Bjorkstrand. The veteran defenceman initially tried to stand up, but never got back on his skates.

The delay in getting the stretcher out to the far corner of Scotiabank Arena and loading Muzzin on to the spinal board gave everyone a little too much time to think.

“I was beside him there when he did go down and stayed down,” said Leafs forward Mitch Marner, a good friend. “Obviously it’s a little worrisome when you see the stretcher come out, you know a lot of things run through your mind.”

There was certainly a pall cast over a performance the Leafs had good reason to be proud of. They were smothered in Game 1 by Columbus and delivered on their objective to create better opportunities in the offensive zone, controlling more than 60 per cent of even-strength shot attempts and eventually breaking through Joonas Korpisalo’s brilliance in net.

Even if the scary nature of Muzzin’s exit turns out to be precautionary, the Leafs may need to finish this series against the Blue Jackets without him lining up on their matchup pairing with Justin Holl.

Games 3 and 4 go Thursday-Friday and a series-deciding Game 5 would be played Sunday, if necessary.

We are still getting a feel for how things work in this rapidly unfolding playoff tournament. Muzzin had to be removed from the NHL’s secure zone to go to hospital and it’s unclear exactly what kind of quarantine, if any, he’d face in the event he’s able to return inside the Toronto hub.

Protocol dictates that the NHL Event Medical Director has final say on that, although a source suggested that public health authorities would ultimately make the call based on how long he was gone, where he went and how much coronavirus risk he was exposed to.

Playing without Muzzin would rob Toronto of its safest 5-on-5 defensive option and a key penalty killer, not to mention a steadying presence in an emotional time. He’s one of two players in the dressing room already in possession of a Stanley Cup ring and has quietly taken on a leading role behind the scenes, organizing a team trip to a Buffalo Bills game, for example, at the end of training camp.

The 31-year-old was initially unsure about his move to Toronto — “I was living in a hotel with three dogs and a pregnant wife,” he said earlier this year. “Yeah, there was a lot of s— going on” — but wound up signing a $22.5-million, four-year extension with the Leafs back in February rather than pursuing free agency.

He’s started making a home here. And he spoke during the COVID-19 pause about the silver lining of spending more time with one-year-old daughter Luna and wife, Courtney, which is the kind of thing you remember when they bring the stretcher out in an empty arena.

“There’s a lot of bigger things than hockey, especially outside this world,” said Leafs forward Mitch Marner. “His family’s definitely a major priority and you’ve got to make sure you’re able to play with your kids.”

Source: – 680 News

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Paulo Costa open to competing in two divisions, would move up for Jon Jones – MMA Fighting

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Paulo Costa has no issues making the middleweight limit, but if the right opportunity comes along, he’ll gladly jump up a division.

While it’s obvious Costa is one of the larger fighters competing at 185 pounds, his first concern is conquering his current weight class as he challenges champ Israel Adesanya in the main event of UFC 253 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.

At media day on Wednesday, Costa told reporters his weight cut is on point for the official weigh-ins, which take place Friday. His weight has been a topic of conversation in the past; he was one of several fighters advised by the California State Athletic Commission to potentially move up a division. The recommendation was made following Costa’s unanimous decision win over Yoel Romero at UFC 241 in August 2019.

Because Costa’s fight night weight (213.8 pounds) was 15 percent higher than his weigh-in day weight (186 pounds), he just came in at the threshold where the CSAC asked a fighter to consider a change in divisions.

Costa, 29, doesn’t expect this to be an issue going forward, and if he ever moves up to light heavyweight, it will be by choice, not necessity.

“Every time that I come here to fight at 185 pounds, it’s been more easy to me,” Costa said. “I don’t know what happened, maybe my body’s getting mature. But as I told before, I could fight at light heavyweight anytime.

“So it depends if I have a very good opponent, a big challenge at light heavyweight or at middleweight, it depends. I have both possibilities to move in both divisions.”

A reporter asked if Costa would be interested in fighting a returning Anthony Johnson, to which he answered, “I think so.” But were he given the option to fight an even bigger fish, one that currently has plans to change divisions himself, that’s a target that Costa couldn’t pass up on.

“If Jon Jones was still there, then I’d definitely want to move up to fight him, but we’ll have to wait for this weekend to see how that fight plays out,” Costa said via a Portugues translator. “But maybe stay at middleweight if it’s interesting.”

Though Costa is 13-0 as a professional with wins in all five of his UFC fights, Adesanya has questioned the resume of his unbeaten challenger. The two have on shared opponent, Romero, with Romero also having notable victories against middleweight veteran Uriah Hall and former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks.

Costa likes how his conquests stack up against those of the champion.

“Israel said that I don’t have a good enough resume, I haven’t fought high-caliber fighters,” Costa said via a Portuguese translator. “I fought Johny Hendricks. Johny Hendricks might have been at the end of his career, but back then people said, ‘Hey, he’s not gonna get through him.’ And I did, and I fought Romero, almost knocked him out, so it doesn’t make too much sense.

“Adesanya was afraid of fighting Romero.”

Costa shied away from anointing his matchup with Adesanya as the greatest middleweight fight in UFC history, saying that he’d leave it to the media to work that angle. He did concede that it is a “rare moment” in MMA to have two undefeated fighters fighting for a world title.

In terms of legacy, though, Costa knows what the middleweight championship means to Brazil given its most well-known titleholder is Anderson Silva, arguably the country’s most beloved fighter. Before making any light heavyweight overtures, Costa is determined to do right by the standard set by Silva.

“It’s continuing the legacy for Brazil,” Costa said via a translator when asked what it means to fight for a title so strongly associated with Silva. “Holding that belt.”

“I’m proud to be a Brazilian,” he continued. “I’m a patriot and I hope that people can value me and realize that I’m the new champion.”

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Pavelski ties record for NHL postseason goals scored by US-born player – NHL.com

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Joe Pavelski tied Joe Mullen for most goals scored in the NHL postseason by a United States-born player with two for the Dallas Stars in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Friday.

Pavelski, a Wisconsin native, has scored 12 goals this postseason to give him 60 in his NHL career. Mullen, a New York native, scored 60, and Mike Modano, from Michigan, scored 58.

“It’s cool to be up there with those names,” Pavelski said this week. “We are focused right now on the Finals, so all that stuff is just extra. Just look at it another day. … But I’ve played in a lot of playoff games, scored some goals along the way, and we’re here today. So I’ll keep trying to add to it.”

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

He scored with 1:32 remaining in the first period, and with 8:25 left in the third period to tie the game 4-4. Kevin Shattenkirk scored 6:34 into overtime to move Tampa Bay one win from winning the Stanley Cup. Game 5 of the best-of-7 series is Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Pavelski declined to comment on the record after the game.

Pavelski scored 14 goals in 67 games this season after scoring 38 for the San Jose Sharks the season before. The 36-year-old has played 159 NHL postseason games and scored two goals in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers this postseason.

Video: TBL@DAL, Gm4: Pavelski scores on odd-man rush

Modano played 176 Stanley Cup Playoff games and won the Stanley Cup in 1999 when the Stars defeated the Buffalo Sabres.

Mullen played 143 playoff games and who won the Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

Pavelski is the fourth NHL player to score at least 10 goals in a postseason at age 36 or older, joining Maurice Richard (11 with the Montreal Canadiens in 1958), Wayne Gretzky (10 with the New York Rangers in 1997), and Brett Hull (10 with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002).

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Blue Jays: Taijuan Walker won’t be cheap to re-sign, but he’s worth it – Jays Journal

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Taijuan Walker has quietly been one of the better pitchers in the AL since he was traded to Toronto, and the Blue Jays should do what they can to re-sign him.

Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays front office had a very busy trade deadline this year, and with the benefit of hindsight, it’s a good thing they did. The additions of Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling, and Jonathan Villar have all come with mixed results, but there’s no doubt that they still helped push an injury-depleted roster into the playoffs.

As for Taijuan Walker, he’s not only helped in that regard, he’s proven that he could be the type of starter that the Blue Jays have to seriously pursue this winter. After the way he’s pitched down the stretch for the Blue Jays, he’s not going to come cheap if they are looking to retain him.

After throwing three hitless innings on Friday, the right-hander will finish the regular season with a 4-3 record, a 2.70 ERA, and a 1.16 WHIP across 11 starts in this abbreviated season. As impressive as those numbers are, he’s been even better since joining the Blue Jays. In those six starts he’s been good for a 1.37 ERA, and has more than proven himself capable of being a playoff starter as the team heads to the post-season.

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It’s expected that once they’re through with this playoff run, the Blue Jays will look to add to their rotation for the 2021 season. As things stand now they’ll still have Hyun Jin Ryu, Nate Pearson, Ross Stripling, Trent Thornton, and others who have pitched in relief this year like Anthony Kay, Thomas Tom Hatch, Ryan Borucki, Julian Merryweather and more. They also have Tanner Roark under contract for one more year, and a 9.5 million dollar option on Chase Anderson, but they’re set to lose Matt Shoemaker, Robbie Ray, and Walker to free agency.

They have enough options that the Blue Jays could stand pat and build a rotation with their in-house options, but I doubt that’ll be the way they go. That’s especially the case as they’ve proven that they’re ready to compete in 2021, having qualified for the post-season this year. Yes, it’s under an expanded format, but they’re still sitting at 31-27 on the season, and that a significant step for this young and talented core.

With that in mind, I believe the Blue Jays will spend to bring in a starter that could comfortably slot as the number two behind Ryu. That could very well be a spot that’s destined for a guy like Pearson, but Walker would provide important high-end depth for the next few seasons at least, and that could be a difference maker. At just 28 years old, he’s likely just entering his prime as well, and this year has been a great indication of where his potential could be.

What will it cost to retain him? I know it sounds like a cop out, but I’m honestly having a hard time taking a guess given the way the pandemic has likely changed the financial dynamics of free agency. In a normal year I wouldn’t be that surprised if he could look for 4-5 years at 15-20 million, but will there be teams lining up with that kind of offer this winter? It’ll depend on what ownership has to say about the budget, and that could be a tricky situation for a lot of teams.

Next: Blue Jays poised for an upset over Tampa Bay?

As for the Blue Jays, most of their best players are still playing on pre-arbitration contracts, and with so many other bargains on the roster, this is the perfect time to continuing adding final pieces. After that audition that Walker has shown the Blue Jays this summer, I can’t imagine they’ll let him get away without at least making a serious offer, and if he adds to his resume in the playoffs then the pressure will really fall on Atkins to keep him around. It’s been a match made in heaven so far, and a partnership well worth trying to extend.

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