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Pascal Siakam joins Marc Gasol and Norm Powell on sidelines indefinitely as injuries ravage the Raptors – Toronto Star

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The Raptors’ injury situation seemed bad enough earlier this season but it’s nothing compared to what the defending champions are dealing with now.

Paskal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norm Powell are all out indefinitely after getting hurt during Wednesday night’s victory in Detroit. Three-fifths of this week’s starting lineup went down with potentially serious injuries just when it seemed like the team was finally getting back to full health.

Medical updates on Gasol and Powell were expected Thursday, but word of an injury to Siakam came as a surprise. Toronto stated in a release Thursday night that its star forward had been diagnosed with a stretched groin after an “awkward landing” with 6:47 to play. Siakam remained in the game until the end of the Raptors’ 112-99 victory.

The news on the Raptors’ other two players wasn’t any better. Gasol has been diagnosed with a strained left hamstring and Powell suffered a subluxation (partial dislocation) of his left shoulder. Guard Fred VanVleet is nearing a return from a left knee injury, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be joined by the other three any time soon.

“All three players will be re-evaluated over the coming weeks and their conditions updated as necessary,” the Raptors said the end of their injury update.

Every time it has appeared Toronto was about to get healthy this season, another player or two has gone down. First it was Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. Then it was VanVleet. This latest setback could be the most difficult one to overcome yet as it takes away the Raptors’ leading scorer in Siakam, the recently surging Powell and Gasol, who has been a lockdown defender in the post.

Gasol hurt himself while running back on defence during Wednesday’s first quarter against the Pistons. Powell’s injury took place in the fourth quarter when he tried to fight through a screen set by forward Blake Griffin. Siakam’s injury, apparently, happened a few minutes prior to Powell’s, it just wasn’t as obvious. All three were evaluated on Toronto’s off-day.

“It’s super concerning,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters when asked about Gasol and Powell in Detroit. “It looked like (Powell) was in a lot of pain. They’ve both been playing great. It’s not unlike Kyle and Serge who were really in a groove when they went down a long time ago. Those two guys were really in a nice groove right now and it’s too bad.”

All of this comes in a week that began with Nurse talking about possible lineup changes as he prepared for the return of VanVleet from a knee injury. Powell had been making a case to hang on to a starting role by playing the best basketball of his career and Nurse seemed to be openly mulling the notion of bringing VanVleet off the bench instead.

Then there was the talk about what to do with promising forward Chris Boucher, who earned an opportunity after helping replace Ibaka earlier this year and had no clear path to playing time. That won’t be a concern now with young Canadian now set for as many minutes as he can handle with Gasol and Siakam out of the lineup.

Nurse’s easiest decision should be filling Gasol’s spot with Ibaka. Boucher becomes the top candidate to take over for Siakam and, after that, the Raptors head coach will have to get creative. The six-foot-six Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was used at centre for stretches against Detroit. Centre Dewan Hernandez is another option after he was recalled from the Raptors 905 on Thursday.

The beneficiary of Powell’s absence should be Patrick McCaw. The 24-year-old was expected to have a big role on this team, but he missed the start of the season with a knee injury and has been slowly working his way back since. McCaw has appeared in six games so far and he could replace Powell either in the starting lineup or by coming off the bench.

Raptors fans have yet to see all that much of McCaw. He appeared in 26 games last season and averaged just 13.2 minutes. Despite the young age, he has been in the league since 2016 and was a useful role player for the Warriors during their runs to NBA titles. That experience could be key.

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“I love Pat, we all love Pat,” Siakam said earlier this week. “And, obviously, he’s a three-time NBA champ, he has the experience, and he’s played with a lot of great players and against them. He can move on defence, handle the ball, shoot the three when he wants to.”

Toronto is going to need a lot of that over the next couple of weeks. One man down, next man up, is daunting enough. Three down men all at once, just doesn’t seem fair.

Gregor Chisholm is a Toronto-based columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @GregorChisholm or reach him via email: gchisholm@thestar.ca

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Montreal showed they can win without Carey Price stealing the game – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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After the Montreal Canadiens stunned the Pittsburgh Penguins to qualify for the 2020 NHL Playoffs, many of the plaudits went to Carey Price in net. While it’s deserved praise, many pundits and fans alike thought that the Canadiens stood no chance against the Philadelphia Flyers unless Price was god-like between the pipes. Two things are true with that after Friday’s game: Price has been out of this world through two games of this series as well, and also didn’t need to be in Friday’s 5-0 shutout.

It sounds strange to say given Price’s shutout, but the Flyers rarely seemed to put Price in a position of danger. Even their few good chances were casually brushed aside by the Montreal netminder. He was mostly great, but based on the play of the Flyers, he wasn’t the biggest factor in Montreal securing a huge victory.

Right from the outset, Montreal dominated possession of the puck. It took Philadelphia 17 minutes to register a shot on net, and in that time Montreal had built up a two-goal lead, and would add another early in the next period. In short, the Habs’ offence came to play in all facets.

Natural Stat Trick

Looking at the above chart, at no point in time did the Flyers mount an even remotely threatening attack, while Montreal jumped into the game and never took their foot off the gas.

This was the best we’ve seen the Canadiens in a long time, and certainly in this post-season. Their Achilles’ heel has been a lack of elite finishing talent, and in Friday’s game they just wore down the Flyers like a river erodes its banks. Sooner or later things break down, and in the case of the Habs it was in the form of goals against Carter Hart and Brian Elliott.

A saying I’ve said multiple times recently is that “goalies can’t score goals” in regard to Price having to do so much on his own. Yesterday at least, he ddin’t have to. Montreal had always put up impressive shot numbers during the season, and now they may be starting to find the back of the net.

The Canadiens can win this series against the Flyers, and they can do it without relying solely on their franchise goalie.

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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask opts out of NHL playoffs – CBC.ca

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Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has opted out of the NHL playoffs.

The team announced the change on Twitter on Saturday morning, less than two hours before their third game in their series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family,” Rask said in a statement. “I want to thank the Bruins and my teammates for their support and wish them success.”

The Bruins are currently tied 1-1 in their series against the Hurricanes. 

Jaroslav Halak will take over starting goalie duties for the Bruins. 

When the NHL first returned to play, Rask missed the start of the play-in due to COVID-19 concerns. After reports of a cough, he quarantined for two days in his hotel room before being allowed to hit the ice.

Rask hasn’t been shy about his criticism when it comes to the playoff environment in Toronto. While you’re trying to play as hard as you can, he said, the series “doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there.”

“There’s no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game,” he said, adding that while there can still be scrums after the whistle, “there’s no atmosphere.”

Don Sweeney, the Bruins’ general manager, said Rask’s comments weren’t related to his departure but acknowledged that he was having a “tough time being away in this environment.”

“This is playoff hockey, let’s make no mistake about it,” Sweeney said during a media availability before Game 3 on Saturday. “Tuukka, in his own right, felt that he needed to be elsewhere rather than being here in this current situation.

“He’s the same goaltender that went to the Stanley Cup finals in a Game 7 last year … and he’ll be the same player when we get up and running again next year.”

And while Rask didn’t give any indication to the team that he was “absolutely” going to opt out, Sweeney said the decision didn’t come as a surprise.

“The priority for Tuukka at this point and time — and rightfully so — has to be his family, and we support that,” he said, adding that Rask’s family is healthy and safe. 

The Bruins goalie has three daughters, one of them a newborn.

Rask is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender.

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Alphonso Davies just wowed the world on this goal (VIDEO) | Offside – Daily Hive

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Alphonso Davies has arrived on the global stage.

The 19-year-old Canadian soccer star just wowed fans from around the world setting up a world-class goal in the Champions League quarter-final.

The former Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder who now stars as a left back for Bayern Munich in Germany, Davies’ assist on Bayern’s fifth goal was truly amazing.

Davies danced past two FC Barcelona players before blowing by a defender and setting up a teammate for Bayern’s fifth goal of the match. I repeat, he did this against FC Barcelona, one of the best teams on the planet.

Bayern won the match 8-2 and will play in the Champions League semi-final on August 19.

It’s been a superb season for Davies, who has taken his game to another level. A key player on Bayern’s Bundesliga championship squad, Davies is now widely considered one of the best left backs in the entire world.

Not only did Davies star on the world stage, he did so playing against one of his idols, Lionel Messi.

This is a dream come true for Davies, who said in 2018 he was most looking forward to playing in Champions League matches prior to making the move to Europe.

“At a very young age, every time you hear that [Champions League] song come on, you know something special is about to happen,” Davies told Daily Hive two years ago.

“Whoever made the Champions League is a brilliant guy… Having the top teams from Spain, England, Germany – all over Europe – to play against each other, it’s exciting to watch.”

He just made it more exciting.

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