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Oilers need to tighten defensive game if going to find playoff success –



EDMONTON — How do you lose at home to the Minnesota Wild, despite leading three times in the game?

You have a scoring line that scores three goals, but you have a checking line that gives up just as many. Deflect a puck into your own cage in the third period, and voila!

It’s a 5-3 win for Minnesota, which got the rare blueliner hat trick from defenceman Jared Spurgeon.

Oilers head coach Dave Tippet couldn’t complain about Leon Draisaitl’s line, which popped three. But the Riley Sheahan-Josh Archibald-Tyler Benson line? Not only did they not provide any depth scoring, they spent the night fishing the puck out of their own net, all going minus-three.

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What does a coach hope for when he has one scoring line, with Connor McDavid still on the shelf?

“You are hoping something comes alive or that the other lines don’t get scored on,” said Tippett. “One line got scored on — a lot.”

“When you give up four, that’s too many,” continued Tippett, whose team has gone a respectable 3-2-1 sans McDavid, though the totality of all the injuries is beginning to add up. “The margin for error is slim, but when you give up four, you have to score five and that’s too many. Too many goals against.”

It is the reason why nobody has any confidence that the Toronto Maple Leafs can win a playoff round, even if they make the post-season. Or why Calgarians are looking at their Flames with a critical eye these days.

Good teams keep the puck out of their net with consistency, and only five NHL teams allow more goals on a nightly basis than Toronto. Calgary, meanwhile, is the only one of 16 teams currently holding down a playoff position that has a negative goal differential, at minus-11.

Edmonton is no hell at plus-four, but since Jan. 1 they’ve been the 13th stingiest team in the NHL — a direct cause of its 11-5-3 record since then. And with McDavid playing they tend to score enough, so that No. 13 ranking is just fine.

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You might win the odd game 6-5, but as long as you’re playing games like that, you’re not going to be preparing for any playoff success.

“We gave up (39) shots tonight? Not good enough,” said Oilers defenceman Matt Benning. “They just kind of took us over down low, and we really didn’t have the pushback. We sustained some pressure, looked good. But there were times when they just took it to us.”

The teams emerged from the dressing room tied 3-3 after 40 minutes, but Minnesota absolutely owned the final period, sweeping the season series 3-0 from the club that calls Wild GM Bill Guerin an alumnus.

Wild defenceman Carson Soucy scored, and over 100 friends and family from nearby Irma, Alta., could be heard cheering at Rogers Place. Then Spurgeon capped a hat trick with an empty netter, sending the Spurgeon clan home happy as well.

“It’s about 15 minutes (to drive for his dad), 25 in rush hour and it’s pretty special,” Spurgeon said. “My grandma was watching (at home) and my sister and my niece are here. It’s pretty awesome.”

It was a crucial, gutsy win for the Wild, closing out their dads trip here in Edmonton in style. They won the first game in front of their dads with a come-from-behind shootout win at Vancouver.

“It gives you goosebumps,” said interim head coach Dean Evason. “Just as you’re talking, saying it, it gives you goosebumps. The look around the room after and to see all the jerseys and huge smiles on dads and mentors. It’s special for sure. Very special.”

Adam Larsson deflected the game-winner past his own goalie, giving the Wild their first lead of the night halfway through the third period. They’d earned it though, walking into the Oilers building and beating them fair and square.

The Oilers leave Saturday for a three-game trip through Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas, all sandwiched around Monday’s trading deadline.

McDavid looks like he’ll be ready to return in L.A., or at worst, Tuesday in Anaheim.

Here’s a scoop: That will help.

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Jays (Finally) Win One – Bluebird Banter



Jays 6 Orioles 1

It is about time.

This is just a space holder for the recap, my tennis went long.

Ross Stripling was amazing. Just 1 hit allowed in 6.1. He threw 72 pitches and was in control.

And the offence finally broke through for 6 runs in the 8th (imagine the Hallaluah chorus playing here). And George Springer got his 1000th hit.

Life is good again.

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Here are the Raptors games you don’t want to miss in the 2022-23 season –



The Toronto Raptors will open their 2022-23 NBA season on Oct. 19 at Scotiabank Arena. Their regular season will conclude on April 9 at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here are some things to highlight in the Raptors’ schedule this season.

Facing off against familiar foes

As has become customary, former beloved Raptors — especially those from the 2019 championship team — are likely to receive heroes’ welcomes upon their return to Toronto. If you’re looking to join in on the festivities, here’s a list of notable players and their arrivals back at Scotiabank Arena:

Demar DeRozan: In his second season with the Chicago Bulls, DeRozan is scheduled to pay two visits to Toronto: First on Nov. 6, and then on Feb. 28.

Serge Ibaka: Now with the Milwaukee Bucks, Ibaka is slated to return to Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 4 and the season finale on April 9.

Kawhi Leonard: The 2019 Finals MVP missed all of last season recovering from a partial tear in his right knee. He will, hopefully, be available when his Los Angeles Clippers come to town on Dec. 27.

Kyle Lowry: The return to Toronto for perhaps the most beloved Raptor of all time, and his Miami Heat, will be on Nov. 16 and March 28.

Norman Powell: Now a member of the Clippers, Powell will be accompanying Leonard when Los Angeles visits Toronto on Dec. 27.

Jonas Valanciunas: The well-liked New Orleans Pelicans centre and his team will be visiting on Feb. 23.

January could prove to be a pivotal month

Looking at each individual month of the schedule, January stands out since it features both the longest homestand the team will enjoy as well as the start of its longest road trip.

For six games and 11 days between Jan. 4 and Jan. 14, the Raptors will play in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena as they look to kick off the new year with some wind in their sails. The Raptors will face Milwaukee, New York, Portland, Charlotte twice (but not on a back-to-back) and then Atlanta during that period.

Beginning on Jan. 25 and then lasting seven games and 12 days until Feb. 5, the Raptors will be on their longest road swing of the season with stops in Sacramento, Golden State, Portland, Phoenix, Utah, Houston and Memphis.

The contests against Golden State and Portland will be back-to-backs and are one of 12 back-to-back sets the team will play this season (two fewer than last season).

Given the scheduling quirks in January, it could be important month as a means for the Raptors to rack up wins during the homestand and test themselves out on the road still with plenty of runway until the post-season.

Other games of note

Here’s a quick list of other notable games to keep an eye on:

Nov. 23/Dec. 16 — versus Brooklyn: It’s unclear if Kevin Durant will still be a member of the Brooklyn Nets when they make their trips up north, but if he is, that will surely be a scene at Scotiabank Arena.

Nov. 26 — versus Dallas: The NBA’s brightest young star, Luka Doncic, and his Dallas Mavericks are coming to town early in the season. As a bonus, Canadian national team stud Dwight Powell also plays for Dallas.

Dec. 5 — versus Boston: The eighth annual Giants of Africa Game celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.

Dec. 7 — versus Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers make their annual visit to Toronto.

Dec. 18 — versus Golden State: Canadian Andrew Wiggins and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors make their only trip to the Six.

Dec. 29 — versus Memphis: Raptors fans will be in for a treat as high-flying point guard Ja Morant will make his only trip to Toronto, but more importantly, Canadians Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke will be playing on home soil once again.

Jan. 6/Jan. 22 — versus New York: R.J. Barrett and the New York Knicks will be in Toronto in January.

Jan. 8 — versus Portland: Dame time is well and good, but the real attraction with this match is the opportunity to see London, Ont., native Shaedon Sharpe live. The most mysterious pick in the 2022 draft, no one really knows what kind of player he may be.

Feb. 10 — versus Utah: Canada’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the Utah Jazz will take on the Raptors in Toronto.

March 14 — versus Denver: Two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic and Canadian star guard Jamal Murray will be in town with the Denver Nuggets to take on the Raptors.

March 16 — versus Oklahoma City: A game after hosting Murray, the Raptors will invite in another of Canada’s best in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort when they face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

March 22 — versus Indiana: With three Canadians on the Indiana Pacers roster (Oshae Brissett and rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard), this Wednesday night in March should be a special one at Scotiabank Arena.

March 24 — versus Detroit: Canadian veterans Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph feature on this young, exciting Detroit Pistons team, but the storyline that will likely be on Raptors fans’ minds when the Pistons visit will be if Dwane Casey will, once again, get the best of his former team.

U.S. national television games

Lastly, for those who care about this kind of thing, the Raptors announced they will be on U.S. national television four times (twice on ESPN and twice on TNT). Additionally, Toronto will play on NBATV five times this season.

The Raptors will appear on two more U.S. national television games than last season.

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Czechia pulls off major upset over U.S., advances to WJC semifinal vs. Canada –



Czechia completed a 4-2 upset win over the previously unbeaten United States on Wednesday to punch its ticket to the semifinal of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton.

After the United States’ Logan Cooley opened the scoring just over 12 minutes into the game, Czechia responded with three straight tallies to take control of the contest against the defending champs.

Jan Mysak, Petr Hauser, Matyas Sapovaliv and Jiri Kulich all scored for Czechia. Kulich also recorded two assists.

Matthew Berard of the U.S. was assessed a five-minute major and a match penalty for slew-footing early in the third period. Czechia was unable to capitalize on the man advantage.

Later in the third, Czechia’s Stanislav Svozil received a five-minute major and a match penalty of his own after initiating a knee-on-knee hit with Cooley. The third-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft would remain in the game after the collision.

The U.S. capitalized on the man advantage courtesy of Carter Mazur to cut the deficit to 3-2. Kulich would later add an empty netter

Luke Hughes of the U.S. sustained an apparent lower-body injury early in the first period, he would exit the game and return for the start of the second frame.

Czechia is set to play Canada in Thursday’s semifinals. Sweden plays Finland in the other semi.

Czechia, which hasn’t won a medal at the event since 2005 when it captured bronze, went 1-0-1-2 in the round-robin stage.

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