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Novak Djokovic could be barred from French Open under new vaccine law – Sportsnet.ca

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Novak Djokovic returned home Monday after being thwarted from defending his Australian Open title only to face a new predicament: He could be barred from the French Open this year, too, if he’s still not vaccinated against COVID-19.

A plane carrying the No. 1-ranked player touched down in his native Serbia, closing at least the first chapter in a dizzying drama that has resonance in the world of elite sports, Australia’s pandemic politics and the polarized debate over the coronavirus shots.

A handful of fans waving the Serbian flag greeted him at Belgrade’s airport. Djokovic has an almost iconic status in Serbia, and many there felt he was poorly treated by Australia.

But his troubles may not be over yet: He could be barred from the French Open this year, under a new law intended to exclude the unvaccinated from stadiums and other public places. Much could change between now and the start of the Grand Slam tournament in late May, but that raised the specter that the recent saga in Australia would be not just a blip but an ongoing challenge for the athlete, who is increasingly being held up as a hero by the anti-vaccine movement.

A member of the French Parliament, Christophe Castaner, said that the new law will apply anyone who wants to play in the French Open — a reversal of earlier plans to create a “bubble” around the tournament.

But some details of the law are still being hashed out — including how it will deal with people who have recently recovered from COVID-19, as Djokovic has. The question is how recent the infection has to be to qualify for an exemption to vaccination rules. France’s sports ministry said Monday once the law is in place, there will be no exceptions until further notice.

Djokovic is also the defending champion at Wimbledon, which begins in late June. But so far, England has allowed exemptions from various coronavirus regulations for visiting athletes, if they remain at their accommodation when not competing or training. The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, has said it will follow government rules on vaccination status.

It’s also not clear when Djokovic could head back to Australia. Deportation can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that can be waived, depending on the circumstances.

For now, a warm welcome awaits Djokovic, who has overwhelming support in his native Serbia where his closest family lives. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” the top-ranked tennis star and urged him to return home.

“God bless you Novak,” read one of the banners held by the fans at the airport as he was whisked through the passport control and customs and then driven by his brother Djordje to his apartment in Belgrade.

The official Tanjug news agency reported that Djokovic’s mother, Dijana, said her son will remain in Belgrade in the coming days and won’t make statements for the media.

Djokovic’s Australian saga began when he was granted an exemption to strict vaccination rules by two medical panels and the tournament organizer in order to play in the Australian Open because he had recently recovered from COVID-19. He received a visa to enter the country through an automated process. But upon arrival, border officials said the exemption was not valid and moved to deport him.

The initial news that the star had been granted the exemption sparked anger in Australia, where strict lockdowns in cities and curbs on international travel have been employed to try to control the spread of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

More than 95% of all Top 100 men and women tennis players in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two other men — American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert — skipped the Australian Open due to vaccine requirements.

In the end, Australian authorities revoked Djokovic’s visa, saying his presence could stir up anti-vaccine sentiment and that kicking him out was necessary to keep Australians safe. He was deported Sunday, a day before the tournament got underway in Melbourne.

Djokovic has won nine titles there previously. He had hoped this year to secure his 21st Grand Slam singles trophy, breaking the record he shares with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of men’s tennis. Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, but Nadal is competing.

As the legal battle played out in Australia, Djokovic acknowledged that he had attended an interview in Belgrade in December with journalists from L’Equipe newspaper after testing positive for the coronavirus. He later described this “an error” of judgment.

Asked if Djokovic would face any penalties for flouting his isolation while being infected when he returns to Serbia, Serbian officials said he would not because the country is not in a state of emergency.

Djokovic is a national hero in Serbia, whose president had called the court hearing in Australia “a farce with a lot of lies.”

“Novak, welcome home, you know that we all support you here,” said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident. “They can take away your visa, but they cannot take away your Serbian pride.”

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Instigator call the turning point in Rangers’ Game 4 win over Hurricanes – Sportsnet.ca

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Yep. They picked up right where they left off.

Game 3 between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes ended with tensions high and there was some obvious carryover into Tuesday’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden that saw the Blue Shirts even the series with a 4-1 victory.

Whistles were few and far in between during a frenetic first half of the opening period as both teams traded chances. The Rangers controlled much of the high-paced action and eventually began winning more puck battles than the Hurricanes.

Then the key turning point of Game 4 occurred.

Jacob Trouba absolutely walloped Max Domi near the penalty boxes with a hard hit at the 11:38 mark.

Steven Lorentz was in the vicinity when the open-ice hit was delivered. Instead of merely taking Trouba’s number, Lorentz immediately came to the defence of his teammate and dropped the mitts with Trouba in a rare playoff scrap.

Trouba unquestionably contacted Domi’s head, just as the Hurricanes’ forward’s feet were sliding out from beneath him mind you, yet the officials deemed it a clean hit.

The sequence resulted in an instigator call on Lorentz.

Carolina’s bench, plus head coach Rod Brind’Amour, were visibly upset when Trouba only received five for fighting.

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant told the broadcast at the first intermission “it was a great hit” before adding “Domi had his head down a little bit.”

Domi, of course, was involved in the rough stuff at the end of that heated Game 3 over the weekend.

The instigator call certainly seemed to affect the Hurricanes on the penalty kill and the Rangers capitalized with Lorentz in his team’s locker room as part of the 2-5-10 he was assessed.

Carolina was relatively sloppy while a man down and a turnover in their own end led to a missed opportunity to clear the zone. That led to Adam Fox patiently making a cross-ice saucer pass to Andrew Copp who neatly slide the puck to Frank Vatrano and the winger beat Antti Raanta low glove to open the scoring.

Brind’Amour, while wanting his players to be more disciplined, was fairly subdued in his post-game comments. He did mention he thought Trouba should’ve been given a cross-checking minor for getting his stick up on Lorentz prior to the brief punch-up.

“We’re not out there to catch guys (with their heads down) or play stupid or anything like that,” Copp said of Trouba’s hit after the game. “We’re just trying to finish our checks when we’re there and play physical when we can and make smart decisions. At the end of the day, them taking the two minutes changed the course of the game. … It’s not headhunting at all. It’s a good hit and their response warranted a penalty.”

Copp added his second assist of the period moments later when Fox, who leapfrogged Cale Makar for the active post-season lead in points among blueliners, tipped in his fourth of the playoffs on a Ryan Lindgren shot.

Lindgren, who has been excellent for the Rangers since returning to the lineup, was named the second star thanks to his two-assist night. Copp and Vatrano, both acquired in March trades, were named first and third stars of the game, respectively.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around on the Carolina side of the equation, Raanta’s performance is not why the series is even as it shifts back to PNC Arena.

Raanta did allow four goals on 28 shots, sure, however he also made a handful of highlight-reel saves to keep his team in it.

Alexis Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin were both separately stopped by Raanta on breakaway backhand deke attempts and he flashed the leather on Chris Kreider, yet his best of the night was against Mika Zibanejad.

The bigger concern for Carolina continued to be the lacklustre power play. It was only 5-for-43 in the playoffs prior to Game 4 where the issues persisted.

Carolina didn’t have trouble entering the zone when a man up. It’s just they couldn’t do much beyond moving the puck around the perimeter once the zone was established.

Their first man advantage of Game 4 occurred midway through the second period although the best scoring chance and only shot on goal during that PP was generated by the Rangers.

Brind’Amour’s group couldn’t get anything going with Lafreniere in the box serving a goalie interference minor early in the final frame either and they finished the night 0-for-2.

The Hurricanes were down by three goals heading into the third period and to say putting three behind Ilya Shesterkin in a single period is a tall task would be an understatement.

The soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner had his shutout bid ended by Teuvo Teravainen in the third but that’s all Carolina could muster.

Brind’Amour didn’t even bother pulling his goalie in the final few minutes with the score 4-1.

There was some more pushing and shoving at the final horn with Ryan Reeves giving Domi the business – which was likely more fallout from the Game 3 rough stuff – but nothing escalated further.

The Hurricanes are winless on the road this post-season but perfect at home so they’ll appreciate Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.

This series is now officially a best-of-three.

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Oilers push Flames to brink of elimination behind Nugent-Hopkins, Kane's 4 combined goals – CBC Sports

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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his second goal of the night with 3:27 left in regulation as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 5-3 on Tuesday to take a 3-1 lead in the teams’ second-round playoff series.

Evander Kane, with his NHL-best 11th and 12th of the post-season, and Zach Hyman had the other goals for Edmonton, which got 29 saves from Mike Smith. Leon Draisaitl added three assists.

Connor McDavid also had two assists to give him a league-topping 25 points in 11 playoff outings this spring for the Oilers, who kept their foot on the gas with a third straight victory over their provincial rival.

Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Rasmus Andersson, on a short-handed goal from his own end in the third period to tie proceedings 3-3, replied for Calgary, which will look to stave off elimination in the first post-season Battle of Alberta in 31 years Thursday at home in Game 5.

Jacob Markstrom stopped 21 shots.

“The main thing was that we had to keep pushing,” Nugent-Hopkins said after Rasmus Andersson scored short-handed from 150 feet away to claw the visitors all the way back from a 3-0 deficit. “Stuff like that happens, it’s hockey. Bounces happen.

“There was no quit.”

Edmonton interim head coach Jay Woodcroft credited Nugent-Hopkins, who was playing just the 32nd playoff game of his 11-season career, for stepping up with the team wobbling.

“It’s inspiring,” said Woodcroft, whose Oilers are now one win from making the Western Conference final for the first time since 2006. “There’s room for greatness from everybody on our team.

“Tonight was Ryan’s moment.”

After trailing 3-0 after the first period and 3-2 through 40 minutes, Calgary improbably knotted things in the third on an Edmonton power play when Andersson fired a 150-foot clearing attempt from his own end that somehow fooled Smith at 10:56 and stunned Rogers Place.

WATCH | Flames’ Andersson scores short-handed goal from distance:

Flames’ Andersson scores short-handed goal with shot from 132 feet away

9 hours ago

Duration 1:08

Calgary defenceman Rasmus Andersson blasts a shot from his defensive end and beats Oilers goalie Mike Smith to tie Game 4 at 3-3 in the third period.

But with the Oilers wobbling, Nugent-Hopkins shovelled home his fourth of the playoffs from Markstrom’s doorstep to send the nervous crowd into a frenzy.

Andersson then took a four-minute penalty for high-sticking with 2:40 left to effectively kill off the game before Kane iced it into an empty net.

“I can laugh now, right?” a relieved Smith said as throngs of Edmonton fans cheered wildly on the street outside the Oilers Hall of Fame Room where the team conducts its media availabilities. “I don’t think there’s been a time in my career where I’ve lost the puck, where I have no idea where it went.

“You don’t want that to happen … ever. It was an unbelievable goal by Nuge at the end there … a win is a win.”

WATCH | Nugent-Hopkins leads Oilers to big victory over Flames:

Oilers within 1 game of advancing past Flames with Nugent-Hopkins’ winner

9 hours ago

Duration 1:03

Edmonton takes a 3-1 series lead over Calgary in their second round series with a 5-3 victory in Game 4, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scores twice including the game-winning goal.

Edmonton also held a 2-1 series lead in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings only to play what the Oilers described as their worst performance of the month in a 4-0 loss.

They won’t be thrilled with this Game 4 either, but got the victory for a stranglehold on the series.

“We all believe in this group,” Andersson said. “We’ve been a good team all year and we’ve been strong on home ice. We’ve just got to go home and focus on winning one game and take it from there.

“Obviously we’re in a tough situation.”

Markstrom’s struggles, Oilers’ early lead

Markstrom, who had allowed 14 goals in the series before getting pulled after two periods with Calgary trailing Sunday’s Game 3 by a 4-0 score line, played the puck behind his own net on the first shift, but put it right on Nugent-Hopkins’ stick for him to bury his third inside a deafening arena.

The goal was the third-fastest in Oilers’ playoff history, just short of McDavid (19 seconds in 2020) and Fernando Pisani (16 seconds in 2006).

One of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top netminder, Markstrom recovered to deny Darnell Nurse on a chance a couple minutes later before Smith was at full stretch on a Johnny Gaudreau one-time chance.

Calgary winger Tyler Toffoli then took a tripping penalty and the Oilers made the visitors pay when Hyman outmuscled a hobbled Chris Tanev — back in the lineup for the first time since Game 6 of the opening round despite a suspected upper-body injury — in tight to bury his fifth goal of the series and seventh of the playoffs at 9:53.

The Flames, who topped the Pacific Division in the regular season, pushed back with a couple of decent shifts, but Kane, who was coming off a natural hat trick in Game 3, made it 3-0 with 66 seconds remaining in the period on a shot that nicked off blue-liner Nikita Zadorov.

Calgary finally showed some life on slick power play in the second with Kane off for slashing, and Lindholm eventually picked the top corner for his fifth at 9:04 after the Oilers twice failed to clear the defensive zone.

Backlund got the Flames within one at 3-2 just 36 seconds later when he stepped past Duncan Keith and fired his fourth past Smith.

Smith made a good stop on a Lindholm power-play chance early in the third before the home side got its second man-advantage with 11 minutes left in regulation.

Markstrom kept his team within striking distance with a terrific pad stop on Draisaitl, who became the first player in NHL history to register three-plus points in four straight playoff games with an assist on the Oilers’ empty-net goal.

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Button believes Vasilevskiy is the best in the business: 'There's not even a debate' – TSN

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The BarDown Podcast

A hockey podcast that doesn’t talk about last night’s scores. The BarDown podcast will investigate, uncover and explore long-form stories at the intersection of sports, pop culture, technology. We’re answering the hockey questions that no one asked.

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