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MLS forced to rejig tournament schedule in wake of more positive tests – Sportsnet.ca

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COVID-19 has infiltrated the MLS is Back Tournament bubble again with five members of Nashville SC testing positive and another four producing inconclusive tests.

As a result, Major League Soccer has postponed Nashville’s match against Chicago Fire FC, originally planned as one of the Florida tournament’s two openers Wednesday.

MLS said it will “continue to evaluate Nashville SC’s participation” in the tournament pending results of additional testing.

The news comes one day after FC Dallas was forced to withdraw from the World Cup-style tournament in the wake of 10 players and a coach testing positive for the virus.

Orlando City opens play Wednesday against expansion Inter Miami CF at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in the Orlando area. The Montreal Impact play the New England Revolution on Thursday.

Toronto FC’s opening game against D.C. United has been moved to Sunday morning from Friday evening in the wake of TFC’s late arrival at the tournament. Toronto was supposed to land last Friday but was delayed when additional testing was required in the wake of one member of the travelling party experiencing some symptoms.

All the tests came back negative and the team flew Monday.

The Vancouver Whitecaps open July 15 against San Jose after their opener against Dallas was scrapped.

On Tuesday, Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez said his players were doing well.

“The guys who tested positive are feeling strong. There’s been some symptoms. There’s been some things that we need to take care of for their health and safety and well-being.

“But they’re feeling strong. And some of these guys are already at the later end of their recovery. So it’s all really positive. They’re building strength. They’re getting through this adversity.”

“We’re going to be stronger after all of this,” he added. “Soccer is the last thing on our minds. It’s about (the) will to get healthy and then soccer’s going to naturally come back to us.”

Gonzalez said what happened was inevitable and there was no perfect time to hold the tournament.

“Maybe the perfect or the safest moment is in two years,” he told a virtual conference call. “But is the league going to even be in existence in two years? Probably not if we had to wait that long.

“So when is the right moment? I don’t know. I just know that it could have been yesterday and it could be tomorrow. But it had to happen. At some point there needed to be a calculated risk and we all needed to go for it.”

He said he had no regrets, calling it a “good learning lesson” for the league and other teams and a “great moment for strength and unity for the (Dallas) players and the team and their families.”

Gonzalez noted the virus is so new there really is no expert on it.

“This has existed for six, seven months. Tell me who the expert is?” he said. “The expert is after analysing this for five to 10 years. That’s the expert.”

“What we have to trust is that we’re trying our best,” he added.

The league said two of the Nashville players got their confirmed positive results on the weekend with three more getting the news Monday night. The four others were to undergo further tests in the wake of their inconclusive test results.

One member of Columbus Crew SC has also tested positive.

All 26 teams have now arrived in Orlando with all the players having undergone testing at the league’s host hotel.

Testing results from the five clubs that arrived Monday, including Toronto and Vancouver, were to be available later Tuesday.

The tournament is slated to run through Aug. 11. It marks the league’s first action since play was halted March 12, two weeks into the season, due to the global pandemic.

Toronto’s first game will now be a 9 a.m. ET start rather than 8 p.m. as originally scheduled, meaning two of its first three games will be morning kickoffs.

Friday’s game between the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders will now be played at 9 p.m. ET rather than 10:30 p.m.

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Monday Habs Headlines: Can the Habs count on their third defence pairing? – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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In today’s links, is the third line pairing up to the challenge, praise for Suzuki and Kotkaniemi, Game 1 hits, and more.

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Jets F Scheifele’s injury not believed to be long term; remains doubtful for Game 2 – TSN

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Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele’s injury is not believed to be long term, TSN’s Sara Orlesky reports.

Scheifele remains doubtful for Monday’s Game 2 against the Calgary Flames.

The 27-year-old appeared to suffer a left leg injury when he went awkwardly into the boards after getting tangled up with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk in the first period of Saturday’s Game 1.

Following the game, Jets head coach Paul Maurice called the hit an attempt to injure his player.

“It was intentional, it was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg.” Maurice told the media. “You can’t see it on the program feed, but take the blueline feed and you zoom in, he went after the back of his leg. Could’ve cut his Achilles, could’ve ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”

When asked about his involvement in the play, Tkachuk denied that he had any intentions to hurt Scheifele.

“No, absolutely not,” Tkachuk said after the game. “You know what, I’m back-checking on him and it’s such an accident and I felt terrible.”

Jets forward Patrik Laine is also doubtful for Monday’s contest.

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Maple Leafs left searching for identity after Game 1 loss to Blue Jackets – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – If we are billing the Toronto-Columbus elimination series as a tug-o-war between two distinct identities — and best believe we are — then the first 60 minutes was textbook Blue Jackets.

Even in diagraming his plan and readying a mindset to defeat the more talented offensive outfit, John Tortorella could not have drawn up a better Game 1 than the one that unfolded at Scotiabank Arena Sunday night.

Wearing their “above the puck” mantra like a second crest on their sweaters, the Blue Jackets gave up nary an odd-man rush, only committed a single minor penalty, and patiently waited around a scoreless seesaw until one costly Maple Leafs’ mistake made enough of a difference.

The Tortaterrific result: 2-0 Blue Jackets and the first shutout victory in Columbus playoff history.

Livestream the Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, plus every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sportsnet NOW.

“They did what they do best,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe had to admit post-loss. “You can’t win when you don’t score.”

“That’s the way we have to play,” said Jackets forward Cam Atkinson. “A greasy, in-your-face defensive style.”

To that end, Tortorella’s first smart move was selecting the right starting goaltender.

In his first-ever post-season game after four seasons in the shadow of Sergei Bobrovsky, Joonas Korpisalo turned aside all 28 shots he faced. Most prominent was a 10-bell save on an Auston Matthews one-timer, a rare Leafs chance from the slot.

“The save on Matthews is probably one of the best of the night,” Blue Jackets defenceman Seth Jones said. “He’s done his time behind Bob for years now, and it’s finally his chance.”

Tortorella’s second wise choice was drilling discipline into his troops.

Well aware that Keefe’s Leafs want to feast on the man-advantage, Columbus has elected to win the special-teams battle by avoiding it altogether.

Tortorella took note of the frequency of whistles Saturday in the bubble (the Rangers and Hurricanes combined for a silly 42 penalty minutes in their first outing, for example) and reinforced the need to stay out of the box.

“There’s been a lot of penalties called in these games here. We’ve really put an emphasis on playing the right way — skating, keeping our sticks down and just checking the right way,” Tortorella said.

“It’s a dangerous power play we’re playing against. We can’t give them that many opportunities.”

In the two minutes the Leafs did have 5-on-4, they registered just one shot.

The primary focus of Maple Leafs’ camp was improving defensively, and that they did, particularly in the affair’s conservative first half. But on Sunday the steady defence came at the cost of what got them into the post-season to begin with.

The highest-priced forward corps in the bubble couldn’t weasel through the layers of frustration Columbus stacks up.

So, after a hemmed-in start, Keefe abandoned his fourth line almost immediately. (Deadline rental Kyle Clifford skated all of 3:21.) He ran out his most dangerous weapon, Matthews, more than Mike Babcock ever did in a regulation playoff game (24:38). And he flashed his All-Star Game line.

And yet? Nada.

It’s difficult to win a track meet when the other guy won’t even give you a second to tie your shoes.

“They play playoff hockey. This is playoff hockey,” Zach Hyman said. “Not much out there. It’s tight.”

“We’ll learn from this.”

Each member of the Leafs’ top-six forwards finished with a dash in the plus/minus column. Mitch Marner did not register a shot on net.

The new-look third unit, featuring teenage sniper Nick Robertson, was built to produce. Yet after Robertson’s Grade-A chance on his first shift, they went quiet.

“That would be by far the hardest game he’s ever played in, I imagine,” Keefe said.

Credit Tortorella’s game plan, and the Jackets’ commitment to it, for drawing first blood in what could well be the series with the thinnest margins for error.

Knotted at 0-0 heading into the third period is where Columbus is comfortable.

This season the Jackets had 12 wins when tied after two. They celebrated 20 one-goal wins. Both marks are the most in the NHL.

Just give them a window.

Ask Frederik Andersen, who was fantastic all night but made one third-period gaffe. The goalie guessed high on an Atkinson wrister from the right wing that zipped far-side over his pad and under his blocker.

“I closed my eyes,” Atkinson said. “I knew where I wanted to shoot. I wasn’t really expecting it to go in, but obviously one of those I’ll take.”

After Alexander Wennberg thumped the empty net, Keefe stood by Andersen.

“As far as I’m concerned, he did his job. He kept them to one goal. We have to find a way to get him some help.”

One day at training camp, we asked Keefe if he was ready for this chess match with Tortorella, and the former player assured he was.

Columbus has knocked over the first significant piece and taken a firm step towards planting its own identity all over this best-of-five.

“We can’t lose sight of who we are as a team,” Keefe had reminded in the lead-up. “We need to be really good offensively.”

Tuesday, Game 2, would be a fine time to start.

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