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Rasmus Sandin eases some concern of Maple Leafs’ blue line in NHL return – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — When Rasmus Sandin was sent back to the American Hockey League in mid-October, he wasn’t sure if he’d see another shift with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.

The 19-year-old defenceman made his presence felt in his return to the NHL, earning two primary assists during Tuesday’s 7-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

For one night, at least, that helped ease some concerns around Toronto’s battered blue line.

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Sandin stepped right into Morgan Rielly’s spot on the second power-play unit and fired a shot through traffic that Zach Hyman tipped home just before the first intermission. That followed a play where he danced across the blue line and set up a John Tavares tip-in.

Call it a nice capper to a whirlwind stretch that saw the Swede take top defenceman honours at the recent world junior tournament before returning to Toronto for a day and setting off on a road trip to Texas with the AHL Marlies. That’s where he got the call back to the Leafs on Sunday night after Rielly fractured the inside of his foot blocking a shot.

“I was hoping for it,” he said of his second stint with the Leafs. “What I can control is just how I play, so I just wanted to play as good as I could down there [in the AHL] and also at the world juniors, and see where that lead me.”

The Leafs had a strong bounce-back effort following an 8-4 drubbing by the Panthers on Sunday night.

Auston Matthews scored a hat trick — bringing his goal total to 34, second only to David Pastrnak’s 36 league-wide — while Tavares finished with a goal and two assists. William Nylander hit the 20-goal mark for the third time in his career and Frederik Gauthier had the other for Toronto.

Blake Coleman, with three goals of his own, and P.K. Subban replied for the Devils.

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Canadiens fans welcome Kotkaniemi back to Montreal with boos, vulgar chant – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Carolina Hurricanes forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi (82) was not welcomed back to Montreal with open arms. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

The Carolina Hurricanes were in Montreal on Thursday night to face the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, marking the return of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was at the centre of petty off-season drama after signing an offer sheet with the Canes.

In true hockey fashion, the Bell Centre crowd greeted the 21-year-old with boos and taunting chants.

The Canadiens acknowledged the former third-overall pick by displaying him on the jumbotron, which in turn sparked another wave of disapproval from the near-sellout crowd.

It was Kotkaniemi who got the last laugh, though, tipping in a goal in the third period for his first point with the Hurricanes — much to the delight of Hockey Twitter. Carolina ended up walking away with the 4-1 victory, keeping Montreal winless on the season.

The native of Pori, Finland appeared in 171 games for the Habs over three seasons, scoring 22 goals and notching 40 assists. He also registered 12 points in 29 playoff games, including five goals in Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

Carolina tendered an offer sheet to Kotkaniemi in late August, offering a one-year contract at $6.1 million. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin chose not to match, and Montreal received a first- and third-round pick as compensation.

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Motor racing-F1 drivers defend Netflix series after Verstappen snub

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Leading Formula One drivers defended the popular Netflix “Drive to Survive” fly-on-the-wall series on Thursday after Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen said he was snubbing it because he felt some of the rivalries were “faked”.

The docu-series, now filming its fourth season, has been credited as a big factor in fuelling the sport’s growth in the United States.

 Dutch 24-year-old Verstappen earlier told the Associated Press that he recognised the importance of the series but did not like being a part of it and would not be giving any interviews.

Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen’s title rival, told reporters at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, that he had noticed a surge in interest in the country.

“In this last couple of years it’s been the steepest rise and more and more people are talking about it, more and more people engaging,” he said.

“The amount of emails and messages I get from people I’ve known for years in the States and who never knew what I was doing and now are hooked and can’t wait to come. I think a lot of them are coming this weekend.”

Verstappen’s Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, a two-times race winner who featured heavily last season, said he respected what the documentary was doing.

“What it has done for Formula One is tremendous. It’s really something I appreciate,” he said.

“The way they sell the sport is a bit of a drama. It is a show but at the end of the day it is good for the sport and is good for the fans so I am happy with it.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris, voted the second-most popular driver after Verstappen in a fan survey published on Thursday, also appreciated the show.

“I’m fine with it,” he said. “I think it’s a cool thing. Coming to America there are so many people who are now into Formula One just because of watching ‘Drive to Survive.’ I think I come across on it alright.

“I think they do a good job. I can’t really speak on behalf of Max.”

His Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo agreed: “Most of us experience the effect it’s had on the sport. There’s certainly been a lot of growth and I honestly see that most in America.

“There’s times where you want a little bit of space or privacy but I do think if you let them know no cameras in this room they are pretty good with that.”

 

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Valdez, Astros grab ALCS lead after dominant Game 5 win over Red Sox – Sportsnet.ca

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BOSTON — Framber Valdez lost his perfect game and then bounced the following pitch off the next batter’s leg.

Astros manager Dusty Baker decided it was time for a chat.

“That’s the time when you’ve really got to settle him down,” Baker said. “I said `Hey, you’re the best. Just be natural and do your thing.’ I didn’t say a whole bunch to him.”

It was enough to get Valdez through the inning — and more.

Perfect through four, the Houston left-hander took a two-hit shutout into the seventh and became the first pitcher this postseason to complete eight innings, leading the Astros over Boston 9-1 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Yordan Alvarez had three hits and three RBIs for Houston, which needs could clinch a second straight trip to the World Series with a victory at home on Friday night.

The Red Sox need a win to force a deciding seventh game on Saturday.

“We came back to Boston exactly where we wanted to be: We were 1-1,” Red Sox starter Chris Sale said. “Not in a good spot going back to Houston. There’s no denying that, but this team has won two games in the playoffs back-to-back before, and we think we can do it again.”

One day after the Astros scored seven runs to break a ninth-inning tie, they hung another crooked number on the Fenway Park scoreboard, chasing Sale while scoring five runs in the sixth. Alvarez, who homered in the second and singled in the fourth, had a two-run double to break things open.

That was plenty for Valdez, who extended the staff’s shutout streak to 14 straight innings before Rafael Devers homered with one out in the seventh — one of just three hits for Boston. The left-hander departed after retiring the Red Sox in order in the eighth.

“If a guy’s dealing, you just let him keep dealing,” Baker said. “Today, it was in the hands of Framber. Everybody talks about momentum, but momentum is controlled by the pitcher. If the pitcher’s dealing, all that momentum’s gone.”

In all, Valdez gave up one run on three hits, one walk and a hit batter, striking out five. He was also the first opposing pitcher to last eight innings in a postseason start at Fenway since Cleveland’s Charles Nagy went eight in the 1998 Division Series.

Ryne Stanek pitched a perfect ninth while the rest of Houston’s relievers rested. Astros starters had not lasted three innings all series, pitching to a 18.90 ERA in the first four games and giving up 10 homers — including a record three grand slams.

Valdez was not much better, allowing two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in Game 1.

“I didn’t get frustrated at all. I wasn’t down on myself,” Valdez said. “What I did was I decided I’m going to work really hard so that when I come out here for the next outing, I’m going to be as 100% ready as I can be, to demonstrate to my team what I’m capable of, to demonstrate to my team that I can come out here and compete with any team in the league.

“So I just worked the entire time and I had my mindset set that I was just going to come out and have a way better outing,” he said. “And that’s what I was able to do tonight.”

Valdez retired the first 12 batters on Wednesday — eight on grounders, four on strikeouts. Devers singled to lead off the fifth, then Valdez bounced the next pitch off J.D. Martinez’s leg. The Astros escaped when Hunter Renfroe grounded into a double play and Alex Verdugo bounced out to first.

Sale started almost as well, allowing just two hits — both to Alvarez — in his first five innings. But he walked Jose Altuve to start the sixth, then Michael Brantley nubbed one toward third. Devers fielded it and made the throw in time but Schwarber dropped it at first; after sliding into second, Altuve popped up and took off for third, which was uncovered.

Brantley moved up to second on a groundout to the pitcher, then Alvarez doubled to left, scoring two to make it 3-0 and chasing Sale. Ryan Brasier struck out Carlos Correa before giving up an RBI double to Yuli Gurriel and a two-run single to Jose Siri that made it 6-0.

Brantley added an RBI single in the seventh, and Gurriel singled in two more in the ninth.

Sale was charged with four runs — two earned — on three hits and two walks, striking out seven in 5 1/3 innings.

“I was good for five, and then I sucked for one,” he said. “I told myself coming into this game I had a job to do; obviously didn’t get it done. But I left (it all) out there on that mound tonight, that’s for damn sure.”

The Red Sox had won seven straight postseason games at home — dating to the 2018 ALCS — before blowing an eighth-inning lead on Tuesday night. They had never lost back-to-back postseason games under manager Alex Cora.

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Nathan Eovaldi, who won Game 2 but came on in relief and lost in Game 4, will start Friday for Boston. Baker said he had not decided on a starter.

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