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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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Kevin Durant Didn't Previously Express Wish For Nets To Fire Steve Nash, Sean Marks – RealGM.com

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Kevin Durant met with Joe Tsai recently in London and it was revealed he expressed a lack of faith in the direction of the Brooklyn Nets. Durant reportedly issued an ultimatum that he is not interested in continuing with the Nets if Steve Nash remains as head coach and Sean Marks continues running the front office.

“The timing of it is also unusual,” said Brian Windhorst on Tuesday. “While star players have gotten coaches fired for decades and will get them fired for decades, he didn’t express this, as far as I’m aware to the Nets at the end of the season. And he didn’t express this to the Nets when he made his trade demand. So doing it now is a maneuver. A maneuver that I don’t think worked. 

“Because as I talk to teams out there, they don’t think his increased his trade value, they think this hurt his trade value.”

Windhorst also noted that Tsai statement of support for Nash and Marks also includes a sentence the league paid strong attention to stating “We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

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Thousands of tickets still available for world junior hockey tournament in Edmonton – CBC Sports

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Odd summer timing and an ongoing sexual assault scandal at Hockey Canada could be the reason thousands of tickets to the world junior championship are still available on the eve of the tournament, says an Edmonton professor.

Prof. Dan Mason, who teaches in the faculty of kinesiology, sport, and recreation at the University of Alberta, said when Canada hosts, there are usually so many fans who want to see the home team take the ice that they are willing to buy Hockey Canada’s packaged games that include teams that are not Canadian.

“So Latvia vs. Slovakia, for example, those games will be sold out as well because in order to get the tickets to watch Canada play, you have to buy a package that includes some of the other games,” he said on Friday.

“The fact that there are still Team Canada tickets available, that tells you the demand is much lower than it usually is for this kind of event.”

WATCH l World junior tournament to go ahead amidst Hockey Canada controversy:

World junior hockey tournament to go ahead amidst Hockey Canada controversy

7 hours ago

Duration 2:07

Ticket sales for the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton are below expectations as the tournament kicks of this week in the shadow of an ongoing sexual assault scandal at Hockey Canada.

The tournament runs from Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

The initial 2022 championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., was called off Dec. 29 after just four days because of rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials, which forced game forfeitures.

The 10-country tournament will be minus Russia, barred from participating by the International Ice Hockey Federation because of that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Holiday tradition

Around 1,500 tickets are still available for purchase on Ticketmaster to the first game between Czech Republic and Slovakia on Tuesday. About 1,300 tickets are available for the next day when Canada takes on Latvia. About 1,500 seats for the final game are also available with hundreds of other tickets to watch the 11-day tournament.

This time of year, you probably already had plans to go to the lake … or do something summer-related.— Edmonton professor Dan Mason on poor ticket sales for an August world juniors

Mason said the timing of the games could be why interest is so low. The tournament typically runs over the Christmas holidays.

“Over the past 30 years or so, TSN has built the world juniors into this holiday event that people partake in,” he said.

“I watch it with my family over the [Christmas] break though so it’s kind of become part of our holiday tradition.

“This time of year, you probably already had plans to go to the lake, go to the mountains or do something summer-related. I don’t think we’re willing to give up those plans to watch hockey.”

Many people could also be waiting for a former judge on the Supreme Court of Canada to begin independently reviewing Hockey Canada’s governance amid calls for a change of leadership.

The review comes after members of the 2018 world junior team were accused of a group sexual assault after a gala event, and after Hockey Canada reached a settlement.

“I think there’s people who weren’t sure if they would go or not, and maybe deciding not to go because of that,” Mason said.

The CEO of Explore Edmonton, which promotes tourism in the Alberta capital, said in an email the marketing organization paused its promotion of the games in response to the allegations.

“As the host city for the upcoming tournament, we continue to have discussions with Hockey Canada officials about their plans to address the need for change,” said Traci Bednard.

Mason said inflation and less disposable income could be other factors working against the tournament.

“Canada may be more focused on that player development piece than trying to sort of make money off of a tournament being held in the summer,” he said.

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Nets owner Tsai backs coach, GM amid reported Durant standoff – theScore

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Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai has pledged his support of the coaching staff and front office after Kevin Durant reportedly demanded that the team trade him or fire head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks

Tsai took to Twitter on Monday, saying, “Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

Durant’s ultimatum is apparently a result of his lack of faith in the team’s direction, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported earlier Monday. The 33-year-old is firm in his stance, Charania adds.

The former MVP requested a trade at the end of June following a disappointing season that ended in a first-round exit. Little was known at the time about his reasons for the decision.

The Nets have reportedly had discussions with nearly every team in the league in hopes of getting a historic package of players and draft picks in return for Durant. Brooklyn reportedly proposed a trade with the Toronto Raptors involving Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and talked about a deal with the Boston Celtics that would include star Jaylen Brown.

The Raptors, Celtics, and Miami Heat are seen as the most likely trade destinations for Durant, sources told Charania.

The Nets aim to take “every last asset” from their trade partner in any deal for Durant, according to Charania.

Nash, a Hall of Fame point guard, has been at the helm of the Nets for two seasons. It is his first job in professional coaching. Meanwhile, Marks has held the position of general manager since 2016 after being an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs.

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