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Oilers must ‘figure out’ even-strength play as struggles persist – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — Dave Tippett takes Leon Draisaitl away from Connor McDavid. Then he puts him back.

Now, with the Pittsburgh Penguins in town for a high-profile, Friday night visit, the Edmonton Oilers head coach has Ryan Nugent-Hopkins up on McDavid’s left side, with Zack Kassian on the right. Draisaitl will centre the second line, with James Neal and Sam Gagner.

The blender is out, and the players know what’s going on here. Everybody does.

“Five-on-five, we’ve got to find a way to produce more,” admits Nugent-Hopkins, who has just six goals and 18 points this season, with only two goals at even strength. “Definitely myself is included in that. I’ve got to find a way to produce. There have been lots of chances here and there, but none have gone in the net.

One look down the Oilers lineup tells the story. Only two players are on the good side of plus-minus: Kris Russell (plus-1) and Zack Kassian (plus-8).

Oscar Klefbom is at minus-18. James Neal is minus-16. McDavid is at even while Draisaitl is at minus-7 — not what you’d expect of the league’s top-two scorers.

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One issue is the defensive play by those two stars. It was McDavid’s man who scored the game-winning goal in St. Louis, a defensive lapse that hurts when your team captain is the one making it.

“That goal was addressed this morning,” Tippett said at his Friday morning availability. “When you just look at that goal, it looks like Connor was late getting back and getting his man. There were a pile of issues before that occurred.

“On the rush read, Draisaitl should have went over instead of Nurse on the wall. When he doesn’t go there, it goes to the back of the net and it would have left Nurse in front of the net. It goes to the back of the net and Bear got beat by O’Reilly behind the net. In the meantime, Draisaitl comes back and swung through the slot and Kassian swung through the other way and McDavid was the last guy, the last-ditch effort to try to get the guy. There were lots of issues before that.”

Outside of defensive lapses, the lack of even strength production tells us two things about this Oilers team. The power play is excellent; but at five-on-five, there isn’t nearly enough juice.

“We cannot expect our power play to win games for us every night,” said Klefbom, fresh off picking up his mom, dad and sister at Edmonton International Airport, where they flew in from Sweden for the holidays. “It’s been winning a lot of games, but I think that’s not the way to success. We need to figure out how to play five-on-five. Especially when you play teams like St. Louis, like Boston and Washington, the five-on-five game has to be there.”

The Oilers have just 66 five-on-five goals, which is tied with the Vancouver Canucks for 21st in the NHL.

If the power play, which leads the league at 30.3 percent, wasn’t so strong, this team would be in trouble. And when the Oilers don’t connect with a man advantage, as was the case against St. Louis, they lost almost every time.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

“I think one of the best ways to play defence is go play in the other team’s end. That’s kind of what we’re trying to build to,” said Sam Gagner, who has moved up and down the lineup but gets very little power play time on the second unit.

That means forwards must get open early for defencemen, so breakout passes can be clean. Then those forwards have to make the right play in the neutral zone so the puck gets into the offensive zone, rather than coming back to your own goaltender on an odd-man rush.

Those neutral zone mistakes cost the Oilers both goals in the 2-1 loss at St. Louis. It was a game of big-boy hockey, where very few mistakes made — but those that were proved costly.

“We need to be a team that drives play into the other team’s end,” Gagner said. “The next step for us is getting to the blue paint and create some second-chance opportunities. It feels like goals come from that.

“Once you get the puck you’ve got to keep it, and go play in the other team’s end.”

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Golf-Olympic gold medallist Schauffele pumped for Zozo Championship in Japan

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AmericanXander Schauffele returns this week for the Zozo Championship in Japan nearly two and half months after winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Games and the 27-year-old said he is looking to grab a “special” victory at the PGA Tour event.

The tournament returns to Japan at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Thursday after last year’s edition was moved to California due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The $9.95 million event will feature Asia’s first Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, two-time major winner Collin Morikawa and Schauffele, who won gold for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics in August with a one-stroke victory.

Schauffele, whose grandparents reside in Japan, said winning at the Zozo Championship would be a huge honour for his family.

“I’m very excited,” Schauffele, who also won the Ryder Cup with the United States last month, said on Wednesday.

“Winning here would be really cool. It would be really special to sort of win twice in Japan, especially since I don’t live here.

“I think it would be a huge honour for my family if I was able to do that and I’m going to do my best this week.”

American Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, said he is looking forward to playing in front of an energetic crowd with 5,000 spectators allowed each day.

“These are some of the best fans,” Morikawa said. “I remember my first tee shot out here two years ago when there were fans on stools and lined up five, six people deep.

“They would cheer for you walking to tee boxes, hitting every tee shot whether it’s good or bad.

“They bring so much energy. I’ve said it since we returned from COVID, it’s just really good to see people out here again.”

 

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; editing by Kim Coghill)

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NHL suspends Evander Kane for 21 games over COVID-19 vaccination status – Global News

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The NHL has suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games for submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

The league on Monday announced the suspension without pay and said Kane will not be eligible to play until Nov. 30 at New Jersey. Kane will forfeit about US$1.68 million of his US$7 million salary for this season with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

The league also announced that a concurrent investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse made against Kane by his estranged wife, Anna, could not be substantiated.

“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols,” Kane said in a statement. “I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey.”

Read more:
Sharks’ Kane denies game fixing allegations from wife

The Sharks have not said what Kane’s status will be after the investigations. Kane had not been around the team since the start of training camp while these investigations were ongoing in an agreement between him and the team.

“While we are encouraged by Evander’s commitment to moving forward, we are extremely disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place by the NHL and the NHLPA,” the team said in a statement. “We will not be commenting further on Evander’s status prior to the conclusion of the NHL’s mandated suspension.”

Kane had previously been cleared by the NHL in an investigation into allegations made by Anna Kane that he bet on hockey games, including some against the Sharks.


Click to play video: 'Edmonton Oilers fans enter Rogers Place for 1st time amid new COVID-19 protocols'



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Edmonton Oilers fans enter Rogers Place for 1st time amid new COVID-19 protocols


Edmonton Oilers fans enter Rogers Place for 1st time amid new COVID-19 protocols – Sep 28, 2021

But the league did determine that Kane violated the COVID-19 protocols. A person familiar with the investigation said earlier this month that the league was looking into allegations that Kane submitted a fake vaccination card. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details weren’t made public.

Using a fake vaccination card is illegal in both the United States and Canada, as well as against NHL rules.

Read more:
Winnipeg Jets Captain Blake Wheeler goes into NHL’s COVID-19 Protocols

Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week that only four players on active rosters hadn’t been vaccinated.

Kane, 30, is three seasons into a $49 million, seven-year contract. He’s with his third organization after being drafted by and debuting with Atlanta/Winnipeg and a stint in Buffalo.

Last season, he had 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 games.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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2021–22 NBA Season Predictions: MVP, championship picks and more – Sportsnet.ca

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The 2021-22 NBA season gets going Tuesday night.

Returning to a regular 82-game schedule after last season’s 72-game affair, and many teams who appear poised and ready to chase after a ring, this could be one of the most wide-open seasons in recent memory.

There are, of course, the true powerhouses and bottom-feeders in the league. But heading into this new season, it looks like there could be more teams than usual who make the leap up into true contender status.

In an attempt to make sense of what could come, Sportsnet polled some of its basketball experts to try to predict some of the major award winners and who will win it all.

Sixth Man of the Year

Donnovan Bennett, staff writer and digital host: Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors
Michael Grange, senior basketball insider: Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
William Lou, Raptors Show host on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls
Steven Loung, NBA section editor: Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
Blake Murphy, co-host of the FAN Morning Show on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
Eric Smith, Raptors play-by-play announcer on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz

Coach of the Year

Bennett: Ime Udoka, Boston Celtics
Grange: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Lou: Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
Loung: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
Murphy: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
Smith: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets

Most Improved Player

Bennett: Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors
Grange: OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
Lou: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Loung: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Murphy: Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Smith: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets

Defensive Player of the Year

Bennett: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Grange: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Lou: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Loung: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Smith: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Rookie of the Year

Bennett: Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic
Grange: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Lou: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Loung: Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
Murphy: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Smith: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

MVP

Bennett: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Grange: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Lou: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Loung: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Smith: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Biggest sleeper team

Bennett: Chicago Bulls
Grange: Golden State Warriors
Lou: Toronto Raptors
Loung: Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Cleveland Cavaliers
Smith: Golden State Warriors

Finals matchup

Bennett: Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors
Grange: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Golden State Warriors
Lou: Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Loung: Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Brooklyn Nets vs. Denver Nuggets

NBA champion

Bennett: Golden State Warriors
Grange: Milwaukee Bucks
Lou: Brooklyn Nets
Loung: Brooklyn Nets
Murphy: Brooklyn Nets

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