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NHL, NHLPA tentatively agree on protocols to resume play

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The NHL and NHLPA have tentatively agreed on protocols to resume play, Sportsnet can confirm. The two sides continue to negotiate an extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

Once a CBA extension is agreed upon, the NHL’s board of governors and the full membership of the NHLPA will vote on both the extension and the return-to-play protocols that were agreed to on Sunday.

The newly agreed-upon protocols cover Phase 3 and 4 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, this includes a framework for how the return-to-play would be called off if the COVID-19 virus cannot be contained.

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, the return-to-play protocols include an opt-out clause for any player that does not want to resume play this season without penalty. He adds that coaches will not be required to wear face coverings on the bench during games and no dress code will be imposed upon players on game day.

Friedman also reports that the return-to-play protocols include a framework for how the league’s two hub cities will be enforced.

“Individuals leaving… without permission may be subject to consequences up to and including removal,” Friedman reports the agreement as saying, adding “violations… will result in, for clubs, significant penalties, potentially including fines and/or loss of draft choices.”

Additionally, Friedman reports that all players will undergo “a Pre-Participation Medical Examination.” If the doctor administring the exam and the team’s infectious disease expert determine a player is unfit to return to play due to the “substantial risk of developing a serious illness” from COVID-19, that player may seek a second opinion.

In May, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to a framework for what return to play would look like and the two sides have been negotiating finer details ever since. The return-to-play format will see 24 teams return to the ice in two hub cities, each hosting one conference. The top four teams in each conference by points percentage at the time of the season pause in March will play each other to determine playoff seeding. The next eight teams in each conference have been paired up based on points percentage and will play best-of-five series to determine the other playoff spots.

The NHL initially was considering 10 cities to be hubs for these games, with Edmonton and Toronto expected to be chosen.

The NHL’s return plan has been broken down into four stages. Phase 1 began shortly after the season was suspended and saw all team facilities closed and players allowed to return home. Phase 2 began June 8 and is ongoing, with players allowed to return to team facilities to skate in small groups after testing negative for COVID-19. According to the NHL, from June 8 to 29, more than 250 players were tested under Phase 2 protocols and 15 tested positive. Additionally, 11 players tested positive outside of Phase 2 protocols in that same time period.

Phase 3 of the return plan would cover training camps for the returning teams and eventual travel to the hub cities while Phase 4 would cover playing games. Specific dates for the beginning of these phases won’t be determined until the CBA negotiation is complete and the board of governors and NHLPA membership approve the plans and CBA in a vote.

With files from The Associated Press

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Canadiens coach Julien returning to Montreal to rest after coronary procedure – Sportsnet.ca

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Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien is returning to Montreal to rest following the stenting of a coronary artery, the team announced Friday. Doctors expect a full recovery.

On Wednesday night, Julien experienced chest pains and was rushed to the hospital. The 60-year-old coach underwent testing and observation, after which it was determined one of his coronary arteries would have to be stented.

Coronary arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart, allowing it to function. There are two main coronary arteries — one on the left side of the heart and one on the right — and when one becomes narrowed, blocked, or compromised in some way, a cardiac stent can be used to remedy its functionality.

Stents are expandable coils made of metal mesh that support the walls of the artery, helping to keep them open and improve blood flow to the heart.

Julien’s return to Montreal was one of the possible outcomes of his hospitalization that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin outlined yesterday when announcing the situation.

During that announcement, Bergevin described the chances of Julien rejoining the team for its first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers as “very minimal” and there is no update on how this procedure has impacted that possibility from the team at this time.

Associate coach Kirk Muller was tasked with taking over head coaching duties in Julien’s absence.

“Claude is a guy who works closely with his assistants. For our series against the Penguins and for our game yesterday, I thought, sincerely, our team was ready,” Bergevin said. “For sure we’ll be missing Claude, but our three coaches have experience as head coaches—Kirk in Carolina, Luke [Richardson] in Binghamton, and [Dominique Ducharme] at the world junior championships. So we have experienced guys who will work together.”

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Rask: Bubble game atmosphere ‘dull at times’ – TSN

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Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 23 of 26 shots as his team fell 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday at even the playoff series at one game apiece.

After the loss, Rask said things don’t feel the same without fans in the stands.

“To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there. There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game,” he told reporters. “It’s definitely not a playoff atmosphere out there. You try and play as hard as you can. When you’re playing at a home rink and an away rink and the fans are cheering for and against you, it really creates a buzz for the series.

“There’s none of that. So, it just feels like dull at times. There are moments when there are scrums and whatnot, and then there will be five minutes when it’s coast-to-coast hockey. There’s no atmosphere. So it feels like an exhibition game,” Rask said.

Despite his feelings about the in-game atmosphere, Rask said it’s on the players to find motivation themselves in the absence of fans.

“We’re trying our best to ramp up and get energized and make it feel like a playoff game.”

Through the first two games of the series, Rask has stopped 48 of 54 shots for a save percentage of .889. He stopped 25 of 28 shots while helping Boston to a double-overtime victory in Game 1 that saw Patrice Bergeron score the winner.

Game 3 between the two teams will go Saturday at noon from Scotiabank Arena.

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Flames left with many questions after losing more than just game – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON – They lost the game, they lost Matthew Tkachuk, and for a considerable amount of time, it looked like they lost their confidence.

Yet somehow, the Calgary Flames never lost faith.

Despite yet another parade of punishment dished out by the Flames Thursday night, the Dallas Stars did well to push back on the ice and the scoreboard.

As expected.

Game on, as the series is now tied 1-1.

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

In a game with more hits than Rod Carew, the Flames were reminded of the type of big boy hockey the Stars have relished for years.

For the first two periods the Flames dished it out and they took it, but it was Gang Green that managed to sustain plenty of offensive pressure on a younger Flames club that was back on its heels most of the evening.

Yet, despite falling behind 4-2 late in the second period, and having a third-period goal overturned in controversial fashion, the Flames somehow managed to tie it with three minutes left.

Their gutsy comeback was rendered moot in the final minute when defenceman Jamie Oleksiak finished a golden pass from Corey Perry that exposed broken coverage and gave the Stars a 5-4 win, with the winner coming with 40 seconds remaining.

A dagger for a Flames team that surely understood afterwards the better team won.

“We knew they would come out harder, and we had a lot of trouble the first two periods,” said Elias Lindholm, who was demoted to the third line in favour of a possessed Sam Bennett midway through. “We were sitting back a little too much and didn’t work enough to get open. We battled back and at the end it was tight and could have gone either way. Tomorrow we have to be ready from the beginning.”

The Flames took great solace from their ability to get right back at it Friday night with an eye on atoning for their first sub-par effort in four outings.

They may have to do so without the services of Tkachuk, who left the game on three occasions with injuries. The first came from a stick to the groin courtesy of Jamie Benn, and the knockout blow that ended his evening in the third period came when he was sandwiched by Benn and the towering Oleksiak.

There was a better chance of solving the Caramilk secret than getting late-night answers from coach Geoff Ward on Tkachuk’s status after he was seen wobbling following a final blow that likely initiated concussion testing.

“Chucky is a warrior — he battles hard for us game in and game out,” said Bennett, who was the game’s ultimate beast, with a tying goal, five shots and seven hits for a team limited to one scoring chance in the first and just a few in the second. “We’ll see what’s up with him, but he’s a tough kid and he brings a lot to our team. It was unfortunate he had to leave there.”

In their previous three games the Flames had answers to everything, by way of tight defence, punishing physicality and confidence that gave them tremendous momentum.

Now there are plenty of questions outside of Tkachuk’s status:

Where has the Flames first line gone?

Johnny Gaudreau celebrated his 27th birthday much the same way he has throughout these playoffs — on the perimeter. Never a scoring threat. Ditto Sean Monahan. In an effort to kickstart their line, Lindholm was shuffled, to no avail.

“I just felt like after the first period we really only had one line going,” said Ward of Bennett and Milan Lucic’s wrecking crew, which opened the game with a Dillon Dube goal past Ben Bishop 19 seconds in.

“Inject a little life. Sam’s line was going well so I injected Sam, Looch and Benny into different lines. As the second period went on it wasn’t as lopsided as the first period. For us what we’ve got to take away from it is we were able to claw our way back. For a young team playoff-wise, that’s an important thing to learn.”

Who starts in net Friday?

This wasn’t on Cam Talbot at all.

Yes, there was one weak goal by Miro Heiskanen that he’d like to have back, but more than a handful of his 31 saves were beauties that, quite frankly, kept things from getting ugly. Yet, in a series with the first four games scheduled over five-and-a-half days, Ward said from the outset there would be the possibility of having to play two netminders.

Is now the time to introduce David Rittich to his first NHL playoff action, with the team reeling from an emotional setback?

Don’t expect an answer until shortly before the 8:30 pm MT puck drop Friday.

Can the Flames bounce back and elevate to the level the Stars were at Game 2?

It remains to be seen how the group deals with the physical toll the schedule may start to take, as well as the mental toll of really having the Stars take it to them for the first 40 minutes.

After a lacklustre series debut, Benn and Tyler Seguin started baring their teeth in a gritty game the Stars needed to win. Struggling to score through the round robin and most of the season, the Stars’ offensive explosion of sorts had to be concerning for a Flames team that made its last three games look easy with stifling defence and newfound moxie they vowed to show after last year’s playoff flop.

The Flames vowed to take the positives out of the setback, which included the late comeback and the fact they weren’t flustered by the situation room’s decision to call back Andrew Mangiapane’s goal five minutes into the third while down 4-2. Mangiapane’s skate knocked the puck in as he fell to the ice, prompting video review officials to deem it a kicking motion few Flames fans would agree with.

A shorthanded goal by Tobias Rieder with eight minutes left set up Bennett’s dramatic power play redirect with three minutes left to tie it.

Enter Oleksiak, and newfound doubt.

“They came out hard but the important thing for us is we were finally able to get our legs under us and come back and make it a game,” said Ward, whose club has lost 11-straight Game 2’s, dating back to 2004.

“That’s what it’s all about this time of year — it’s about managing your moments. It’s not always about playing a good hand well, sometimes you have to play a bad one. You put it in the rearview.”

We’ll find out Friday if that’s easier said than done.

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