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Oilers slowly finding ways to win on off nights for McDavid, Draisaitl – Sportsnet.ca

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It’s been years since the Edmonton Oilers had a defence corps that carried its weight offensively. We mean, Sheldon Souray kind of history here.

But after getting three goals from the blue line in a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, the Oilers are now tied for first in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens with 11 goals from their D-corps. Only the Vancouver Canucks (37 points) have more production from the back end than Edmonton (35), a team that received just six goals through 15 games a year ago.

It’s a nice stat, but what it really means is that this team is slowly finding ways to win that don’t have Connor McDavid’s or Leon Draisaitl’s fingerprints all over it.

“It’s coming for us,” said Tyson Barrie, who notched the game-winner on a deft wrist shot that chased the roving Marcus Hogberg from the Senators’ net. “We’re kind of scoring in all sorts of different ways right now, and that’s nice.”

In completing a two-game sweep, while winning all four games over Ottawa in Edmonton’s last five contests, the Oilers made full use of the tonic that are the Ottawa Senators. Edmonton entered its derby against Ottawa with a 4-6 record, and exited with an 8-7 mark, eclipsing .500 for the first time in the young season.

“We’re not a finished product by any stretch, but we’re moving in the right direction,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “If we keep getting some points, that’s what it’s all about right now.”

Ottawa got better and better as this series went on. But on a night when they finally held Draisaitl and McDavid off the score sheet, it was the third and fourth lines that assisted on a trio of goals scored by defencemen Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard and Barrie.

Mikko Koskinen faced 42 shots and acquitted himself well, perhaps a glimpse of what Tippett hopes to see now that Mike Smith is back as a security blanket for the Three Metres of Koskinen.

“We scored timely goals, we got timely saves and we found a way to get the two points,” reasoned Tippett. “The tale of the tape tonight is our defence coming though getting big goals for us. We found a way to win.”

Saviour Sens

There’s an intersection here, between the fact the Senators are more like a really good American Hockey League team, and the fact that beating any opponent in four straight games isn’t easy.

However you want to look at it, when the Oilers stepped on to the ice on Jan. 31 to play the first of this quad-set, they were 4-6 with eight points. Today they are better than .500 for the first time all season and have 16 points — right in the thick of the North Division playoff race.

“Guys are starting to put some games together, play with a little more confidence,” said Barrie, who could well be describing his own game, which has really started to come around. “We’re getting comfortable with each other, getting some stability. I don’t know if you can put your finger on one thing, but we’re just pushing the pace a little more. That’s the game we have to play if we’re going to be successful.”

Edmonton goes into Montreal for a game Thursday, then comes home for a pair against Winnipeg. They’re ready to test themselves against the top team in the North.

“We’ve won five of six, so we‘re feeling confident about ourselves,” Barrie said. “Montreal has had a great start, but we’re going to see them a lot this year. So we’ve got to beat ‘em.”

Working without a net

Trivia question: When was the last time the Oilers won a game when both McDavid and Draisaitl went pointless? How about Nov. 28, 2017.

So what does it mean? Well, there were only seven games last season where neither of Edmonton’s two top centres had a point. So there are 14 points that get away because the rest of the roster didn’t find a way to get to three goals.

So far this season there have been two occasions where No. 29 and No. 97 were shut down. The first game was a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, and now their first win sans McDavid and Draisaitl in over three calendar years.

Mike-O Mikko

So this is how it’s supposed to work. Two NHL calibre goalies, back-to-back games. They each get a start, and they each play a big part in two wins.

“(Koskinen) made some really timely saves for us tonight,” said Tippett. “A couple of real key saves at the right time to preserve the two points for us.”

Last season, Tippett leaned toward giving Koskinen and Smith two starts each, then it was then other guy’s turn. We’re not saying they’re like Rogie Vachon and Gump Worsley from the ’67-’68 Habs, Chico Resch and Billy Smith from the dynasty New York Islanders, or Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog.

But Smith-Koskinen kept enough pucks out of their nets that Edmonton was the top Canadian team last season when COVID-19 stopped the campaign. They’d like to find that same mojo again.

“He comes in tonight and plays a great game,” said Barrie. “The second half of the game he made some huge stops. We would have like to have been better with the puck in some key areas … but we got the two points, Mikko was great, and we’re over .500 now.”

Koskinen let in the first shot of the game, a tricky deflection, but was bombarded in the final 40 minutes, when the Sens outshot Edmonton 30-10. He was calm and cool, stopped everything he was supposed to and a few he wasn’t, beaten only by Evgeni Dadonov on a clear cut breakaway.

Next up

Oilers at Montreal, Thursday

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'Totally unacceptable': U.S. secretary of state calls on China to free Two Michaels – National Post

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Antony Blinken told CBC that he has been advocating for the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in talks with Chinese counterparts

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Top politicians in the United States and Canada sounded off on China on the weekend, condemning the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and signalling plans to co-operate in securing the release of the two Canadians.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the detentions “totally unacceptable,” in an interview with CBC News aired on Sunday.

“Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country,” said Blinken, who met virtually with Canadian officials on Friday as part of a round of talks last week between the Canadian federal government and U.S. President Joe Biden’s new administration.

Kovrig and Spavor, known in Canada as the two Michaels, have been detained in China on espionage charges since December 2018. Canadian officials have decried their detention as political retribution or “hostage diplomacy” by China, since their arrests came shortly after the RCMP detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on an extradition request from the United States.

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Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country

“We stand strongly with Canada when it comes to the need to see the two Michaels released immediately and unconditionally,” Blinken told CBC. “We will continue to stand with Canada on that. I’ve made that clear in my own conversations with Chinese counterparts and we look forward to the day when they’re able to return home.”

Blinken’s comments on the matter echoed those of Biden, who pledged to help bring back the two Canadians during his summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden said. “We’re going to work together until we get their safe return.”

But it’s not clear exactly how the two nations will achieve that.

“These are processes that are ongoing,” Trudeau told a news conference on Friday. “The United States is taking their role in this very seriously and we look forward to working with them on bringing the two Michaels home as soon as possible.”

Blinken has repeatedly declined to comment on questions about whether the U.S. is considering a so-called deferred prosecution agreement — a form of plea deal that could allow Meng to return to China in return for an admission of wrongdoing.

Last week, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed to The Canadian Press that prosecutors were continuing to seek Meng’s extradition to the U.S., where she is facing fraud charges.

  1. U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, appearing via video conference call, give closing remarks at the end of their virtual bilateral meeting from the White House, February 23, 2021.

    Trudeau’s swipe at Trump in call with Biden: ‘U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years’

  2. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the detention by China of Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on July 1, 2020, in Washington. U.S. intervention in the extradition proceedings against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou could be one way to bring about their freedom.

    China, Canada or U.S. could each bring about Two Michaels’ freedom, says Kovrig’s wife

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In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press that aired on Sunday, Trudeau said Canada will honour its extradition treaty, accusing China of using “trumped-up” charges “to try and pressure us to release” Meng.

“The relationship with China in Canada is deeply coloured by the fact that they have arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens, simply because we lived up to an extradition treaty with the United States,” he said in the pre-taped interview.

“They, shortly afterwards, arrested two Canadian citizens on national security trumped-up charges and have detained them for about 800 days and counting now, in an attempt to try and pressure us to release the executive. We, of course, are a country of the rule of law. We will not do that. We live by our treaties and live by the rule of law.”

We, of course, are a country of the rule of law. We will not do that. We live by our treaties and live by the rule of law

Trudeau said his talks with Biden were “very positive in us working together to try and resolve this situation and hold China to account.”

After his meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau on Friday, Blinken praised the Canadian government’s work on snuffing out politically motivated imprisonment around the globe, by getting countries to sign onto its Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention.

The declaration, a project initiated by former foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne, is from a coalition of more than 50 countries opposed to the state-sponsored political detention of foreign nationals.

“Obviously we have to focus on bringing the two Michaels home, but more broadly we have to work together to establish a basic norm in international conduct that this is simply unacceptable,” Blinken told CBC on Sunday. “That takes time. It takes effort — it takes sustained effort.”

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Over the weekend, Michael Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, told Global News that she hopes the government will “seize this moment” and convert the fresh U.S. support into action.

“What I took away from that is that President Biden has compassion for the unjust suffering that our Michael and Michael Spavor are going through, as well as that he understands that Canada has been paying a really high price since it accepted the extradition request from the U.S. two years ago,” she said.

Asked how her husband was doing, Nadjibulla said she has received letters from him and noted “he is staying mentally strong.”

“His situation is so incredibly, unspeakably difficult and he continues to stay focused on what he can control,” she said.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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Toronto Raptors' game against Chicago postponed due to COVID-19 cases – CTV Toronto

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NEW YORK —
The Toronto Raptors’ COVID-19 troubles have worsened.

The NBA called off Toronto’s game against the visiting Chicago Bulls on Sunday night due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The league said the Raptors are dealing with positive test results, and combined with contact tracing issues, won’t have the league-required eight players available for the game.

The Raptors were missing head coach Nick Nurse, five members of his staff and star forward Pascal Siakam for Friday’s victory over Houston. Assistant Sergio Scariolo stepped in to coach the team to a 122-111 win.

The Raptors had largely managed to dodge the global pandemic in an NBA season reeling from COVID-19 cases. This is Toronto’s first game rescheduled due to COVID-19, but the 30th this season league-wide. Prior to Sunday, the Raptors had been one of just four teams with no game postponements.

The Raptors had 14 players available on Friday, and played 12. Siakam was the only Raptor player listed on Saturday’s injury report as out due to health and safety protocols, suggesting the results and contact tracing investigations from Saturday showed either positive tests or exposure to individuals who had positive results.

The names of players or staff members affected were not revealed.

Players and staff are tested twice daily.

Because of Canada’s border regulations around COVID-19, and health and safety measures in Toronto, the Raptors are playing their home games out of Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

The Raptors’ next game, at least for now, is Tuesday against Detroit. Toronto then plays Boston in the team’s final game before the NBA all-star break.

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.

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Matthews skates as extra at Leafs' practice – TSN

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Auston Matthews was on the ice and skated at Toronto Maple Leafs practice, but wasn’t in his usual spot for line rushes. 

Matthews, 23, missed Toronto’s game Saturday night with a hand/wrist injury. 

He skated as an extra and didn’t take any hard shots. 

“He’s progressed here today compared to where he’s been in the last few days so that’s very positive.” Head coach Sheldon Keefe said, “So, he’s not ruled out for tomorrow. We’re just going to have to see how he is.”

Captain John Tavares continues to centre the top line alongside Joe Thornton and Mitch Marner. 

Frederik Andersen (lower body) was a full participant, while Jack Campbell was absent. 

hornton−Tavares−Marner
Barabanov−Kerfoot−Nylander
Mikheyev−Engvall−Hyman
Petan−Boyd−Spezza
Vesey−Agostino−Sabourin
 
Rielly−Brodie
Muzzin−Holl
Dermott−Bogosian
Lehtonen−Liljegren
 
Andersen, Hutchinson, Woll

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