EDMONTON — At 31, Kyle Turris can see the end from here. He’s in the fight of his hockey life to push it back, to become a player that gets counted on again, the way he used to be through most of his 748-game career.
At 26, Darnell Nurse has found a new level. A place in the game he’s never been before, right there among the best defencemen in the National Hockey League. As he approaches his 400th game, he has figured out what so many said he would never solve.
Now the play builds when he carries the puck over the blue line, where it used to fizzle out.
Each player scored for Edmonton in a crucial, 3-2 overtime win at Toronto on Monday, Nurse solidifying himself as Edmonton’s No. 1 defenceman, Turris, jabbing his claws into that third-line centreman job that he lost early this season.
“We played a stronger second and a better third. We’re coming together as a team,” said Turris.
Nurse buried a shot on a two-on-one with Connor McDavid for the overtime winner, the kind of goal Turris used to score. Turris, meanwhile, had an Adam Larsson shot carom off his pants and into the Leafs goal — the exact type of goal that went off Nurse in overtime the previous game, when Auston Matthews’ shot ricocheted off his foot and past Mike Smith for a Leafs game-winner.
“That’ll be the joke, right? Two overtime goals, back-to-back,” Nurse chuckled. “It’s good to be on the other side of it this time.”
Nurse’s goal, his 12th of the season, makes him the leading goal scorer among NHL defencemen. He’s never scored more than 10 in a season — an 82-game season — and was always that defenceman who made the right play all the way to the offensive blue-line, but incrementally the wrong one, the closer he was to the opposing goal.
“I’m generating more from the chances I have,” Nurse said. “Over the years I’ve found a way to get into good scoring positions, but I haven’t really capitalized. This year I’m getting myself back to those spots, and just shooting. We have great players on our team who find you when you get open. I just try to get to those spots.”
Turris is all in on getting back to those spots, areas on the ice and places in the game that he once owned but now rents, periodically.
He came here as a free agent, billed as the right-shot, third-line centreman that would round out the Oilers’ top-nine. With the trade deadline approaching, that GM Ken Holland is shopping for a right-handed third centre who can win faceoffs tells you all you need to know about how Turris’ season has gone.
“I know I have to play better, and I want to contribute more,” the likeable veteran said, happy to have scored — even if the puck went in off his butt, just his second goal of the season. “The timing of it has all been frustrating, but the bounce tonight, I feel like my legs are starting to come around… I know I need to play better, but I feel like I’m moving in that direction.”
Nashville thought Turris was done. That’s why they bought him out.
Then he came to Edmonton and played like Predators GM David Poile was right. Turris played his best game of the season, finally, on March 8. He went into COVID protocol and didn’t play again until Monday, where he matched up pretty well against a deep, good Maple Leafs team.
“I was happy for Turris. He’s gone through a lot,” head coach Dave Tippett said. “If anybody deserved to have one go in off his ass, it’s him.”
While we are slowly beginning to hear Nurse’s name tied to the 2022 Canadian Olympic team, Turris is another ineffective half-season away from the possibility of collecting two buy-out checks from two different teams. Everyone wants to see him succeed — that’s how well-liked Turris is within the game — but it comes down to production, and the veteran knows it.
Meanwhile, that third-line centre gig is still sitting there, waiting to be claimed. Or reclaimed.
“Yes,” Turris acknowledged. “Like I said, I know I need to play better. I didn’t have a good first however many games this season. I know what I can do, and I know what I can contribute. I just need to show everyone that I can.”
And isn’t it the same with his team?
The Oilers knew they could beat Toronto — they’d beaten them twice already this season — but the cold hard fact was that a loss on Monday and Toronto would be able to lord a five-game winning streak over Edmonton, should they meet in the playoffs.
Toronto was the better team in the game’s first half, and perhaps on the whole. But Mike Smith continued his renaissance season in goal, and stoned Matthews in overtime to create the rebound that went up ice and ended up in Toronto’s net.
It closes the season series at 6-1-2 for Toronto, 3-5-1 for Edmonton. But take away that three-game Leafs sweep in Edmonton, and you likely get a better picture of the parity between the two clubs.
“We look at the body of work,” Nurse said. “The six games that we played tight, hard, are more indicative of who we are as a team. They’re good games. You never know — you may be meeting late on in the playoffs.”
There was more on the line in this game than the Oilers were letting on. You knew it, they just wouldn’t say it.
“I sat here this morning and you all had questions about if we’re a team that was afraid to play in this type of series against this type of team,” Nurse told the media. “This shows what we’re capable of as a team.”
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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