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Sabres' Krueger on Eichel: 'I like the anger' – TSN

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Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger said Friday he has no problem with captain Jack Eichel voicing his frustrations, but he hopes to use it in a constructive way.

“I like the anger,” Krueger said of Eichel’s comments. “I have no problem with people outing frustration on the past. But then let’s move that conversation forward, real quick, and let’s figure out what we’re going to do about it.”

Eichel said on Thursday that he was “fed up” with losing, two days it was announced the Sabres would be one of the seven teams not to qualify under the NHL’s Return to Play 24-team playoff format.

“Listen, I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” Eichel said during a conference call with media. “You know, it’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now. It’s been a tough couple of months. It’s been a tough five years with where things have [gone]. I’m a competitor. I want to win every time I’m on the ice. I want to win a Stanley Cup every time I start a season.”

The Sabres have missed out on the postseason in all five years of Eichel’s career and nine straight in total. The 23-year-old finished with a career-high 36 goals and 42 assists in 68 games this season, Krueger’s first with the team.

On Thursday, Eichel credited his continued development to Krueger, the third coach he has had in his short career.

“I’d be lying if I said that I’m not getting frustrated with where things are going and I think we took a step this year, but I will say it’s been a pleasure working with Ralph,” Eichel said. “He does so much for our group every day. There are tough times and he does an amazing job of…narrowing our focus and getting us back to where we need to be mentally. And just the few times that I’ve spoken with him, you know, throughout this quarantine, whatever you want to call it, it’s been good.”

Defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen also credited Krueger for helping him improve this season on Thursday, but noted that he could be traded if the team elects to make changes this off-season. Krueger, however, said Friday does not want to see the 25-year-old moved.

“I want to coach Risto next season,” Krueger said. “I would enjoy coaching Risto next season. … Risto was all-in.” 

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Leafs star Auston Matthews confirms he tested positive for COVID-19 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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TORONTO – Auston Matthews felt safe in Arizona – until he wasn’t.

The star centre for the Toronto Maple Leafs confirmed Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 last month in his home state.

Matthews shared the news as the team opened training camp ahead of the NHL’s restart after the league was shut down by the novel coronavirus back in March.

“Yea, I did,” the 22-year-old said on a video conference call following practice when asked about the initial report by The Toronto Sun. “(It) didn’t really enter my training. I was able to do stuff at home, obviously wasn’t able to leave or skate or anything.

“That’s really the only thing that took a hit for me. I was skating beforehand, and having to take 2 1/2, three weeks off the ice catches up to you, but pretty much asymptomatic, felt for the most part pretty normal for the two weeks. I did my quarantine and I’m feeling healthy now, so it’s all good.”

The Sun first reported June 19 that Matthews contracted the virus while at home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and was in quarantine.

The Leafs declined to confirm the report at the time, citing the privacy of players’ medical records.

Arizona is among the U.S. states that has seen a recent spike in positive tests for the novel coronavirus.

“It was not a hot spot for like two months,” Matthews said. “It was like the safest place to be and then obviously things flipped pretty quickly there. I don’t really find it too different than it is here. Lots of stuff, for the most part, closed other than outside seating and essential services.”

Leafs winger Mitch Marner said he learned of the positive test the same way fans did, and immediately texted his friend and teammate.

“This (virus) is not a joke and something you can’t take lightly,” said the 23-year-old. “He was feeling well and not really feeling (many) of the symptoms.

“It’s great to have him back out there.”

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said hearing the news was a reality check.

“That happened right around a time when it started to hit the NHL in general with bigger numbers, and it was right there,” said the rookie bench boss. “That was just a bit of a bump to all of us in terms of paying attention to the protocols, taking this very seriously.

“That really allowed everybody to just kind of tighten up and make sure we were doing all the right things to stay healthy ourselves and then of course making sure that we’re doing our part to keep our room healthy and keep everybody that comes in healthy so that we can continue to work towards a safe return.”

Matthews, who isn’t able to pinpoint where or how he got the virus, finished the regular season tied for second in the NHL with 47 goals to go along with 80 points in 70 games.

The Leafs are set to open a best-of-five playoff qualification series with Columbus on Aug. 2 in Toronto.

The NHL has updated its COVID-19 numbers, stating 30 players tested positive during the voluntary Phase 2 of the league’s return-to-play plan from June 8 through Sunday. Another 13 tested positive outside of the league’s protocol.

The NHL added that over 600 players reported to their club’s training facilities for Phase 2 – which featured players training in small groups at their teams’ facilities – and that 4,934 COVID-19 tests were administered.

Despite his own personal experience, Matthews said he believes the league’s 24-team restart can succeed.

“The NHL and everybody have tried their best with the information that they have to make it as safe as an environment as possible.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2020.

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Indians, other teams pressured after Redskins drop nickname – Sportsnet.ca

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CLEVELAND — The spotlight for change is shining on the Cleveland Indians.

Now that the NFL’s Washington Redskins have retired their contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection and amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice, the Indians appear to be the next major sports franchise that might assume a new identity.

Along with the Indians, who recently announced they are in the early stages of evaluating a name change for the first time in 105 years, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are among those facing backlash along with the potential of sponsors pulling their financial support.

For some, the time has come for widespread changes to sports nicknames, mascots and symbols as the country reckons with its legacy of racism.

“I understand people aren’t willing to change or so quickly, or they’re hoping this moment is going to pass. It’s not,” said activist Frances Danger, who is Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole from Oklahoma. ”And now that we’ve gotten what we needed on the Redskins side, we’re going to start working on the rest of them. We’re not going to let up.”

On Monday, Washington announced it was dropping a nickname that had been in place since 1933 and had grown into an embarrassing scar for the NFL franchise. The team buckled under financial pressure from sponsors including FedEx, the shipping giant and naming rights holder to the teams’s stadium, as well as other groups.

Indians manager Terry Francona acknowledged having “mixed emotions” about the Redskins’ situation.

“I’m glad to see that they’re acting on it,” he said Monday night. “Also, I think that it was probably financially driven. … You can’t always do things when the timing is right, when it’s convenient. That’s kind of how I feel about this. I hope that our organization will lead as opposed to follow.”

While the debate over the Redskins’ nickname was waged for years, the drastic change came just two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, who once said he would never change the team’s moniker, said the franchise would undergo a “thorough review” before its next move.

Cleveland’s situation is different from Washington’s on several fronts.

First, the Indians are not feeling heat from any corporate sponsors. At least not publicly.

When the Redskins announced their review earlier this month, the Indians released a statement within hours of Washington’s that said, “we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

The Indians didn’t promise to change their nickname. But it would be hard to imagine them going through a detailed evaluation and deciding to stick with a nickname that Native American groups have condemned for years as degrading and racist.

Cleveland showed a willingness to rebrand itself when it pulled the highly debated Chief Wahoo logo off its game jerseys and caps. While the red-faced, toothy caricature remains a presence on some team merchandise, its reduced status and removal from the diamond and signage around Progressive Field was applauded as a positive step.

Even if the Indians decide to drop the nickname, there are numerous other layers — trademark contracts, new logos, Major League Baseball’s approval — to work through before the change could take effect.

While the Indians seem open to a new identity, the Braves aren’t budging.

They have no plans to change their nickname, telling season-ticket holders in a letter last week that “we will always be the Atlanta Braves.” However, the team said it will review the team’s ”tomahawk chop“ chant — a tradition borrowed in the early 1990s from Florida State’s powerful football program.

The Blackhawks, too, have no plans for change, saying their name honours a Native American leader, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation. The NHL team said it plans to work harder to raise awareness of Black Hawk and “the important contributions of all Native American people.”

“We’re trying to honour the logo and be respectful,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “There’s certainly a fine line between respect and disrespect, and I think we want to do an even better job. I think the most important thing is to be clear that we want to help educate. … I think we’ve done a good job, but we want to do a better job. And I think we’re committed to that as we go forward.”

Part of Atlanta’s insistence to keep a nickname the franchise brought from Milwaukee in 1966 is due to the the team’s “cultural working relationship” with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and other tribal leaders it collaborates with regularly.

But as teams look to make changes, Danger and other activists will continue to push them to abandon any connection with Native Americans, who have been portrayed as mascots for generations.

“We’re being paraded around without a say in how we’re seen,” she said. “It’s a less bloody continuation of that, of us being a sideshow. It’s not hard to choose the right side of history, so I hope these teams will take that step with us, side by side, as we all work together to change the world.”

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NHL training camps make for 'strange time' on first day – NHL.com

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“This isn’t training camp,” New York Rangers coach David Quinn said.

Technically it’s Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan and it signifies the training camp portion, but it was evident on Day One that these camps will be nothing like the ones players, coaches, executives and fans have come to know.

With 13 days before the teams travel to the two hub cities — the 12 Eastern Conference teams will be based in Toronto, the 12 Western Conference teams in Edmonton — for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, this is a ramp-up to the main event, not the typical six-month prelude to it.

“We’re getting ready for [Stanley Cup] Playoffs,” Calgary Flames coach Geoff Ward said. “You can call the first round whatever you want, it’s playoffs. It’s a series against one team (Calgary plays the Winnipeg Jets). We’re looking at five rounds of playoffs for us to have an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. That’s what we’re focused on. Guys have put the regular season away. Instead of preparing for a new year, we’re prepping for playoff hockey.”

It begins Aug. 1 with the Qualifiers, the start of Phase 4. The top four teams in each conference based on points percentage will play against each other in a three-game round-robin to determine each conference’s top four seeds for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The remaining eight teams in each conference will play best-of-5 series to determine who advances to the playoffs.

The losers of the eight best-of-5 series will each have an equal chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, which will be conducted Aug. 10, the day before the playoffs begin.

Before any of that happens, the 24 teams returning to play after the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus have to get their games back up to speed, find chemistry, or rediscover it, and make decisions about starting goalies and depth players.

But most importantly, the players have to get reacquainted with their teammates and their jobs. That began in earnest Monday after players had been voluntary working out in small groups at team facilities since Phase 2 began June 8. It was a welcome change.

“It’s weird, it feels like we’ve been gone for a long time, then all of a sudden you get back out on the ice with the guys again and it just felt like three or four months went by like that,” Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It’s definitely weird to be here in July, getting into a little minicamp, but good to be around the boys for a couple of days. It’s been a strange time for everyone, but at least that felt somewhat normal.”

There were strict health and safety protocols to follow — there is testing for COVID-19 every other day, and symptom and temperature checks at facilities and at home — trainers and some coaches wore masks, and sessions with the media were conducted virtually. But teams did everything they could to make a hockey practice feel like a hockey practice.

“It’s a good feeling just to have a real practice with coaches on the ice,” Jets forward Mathieu Perreault said. “The last few days we skated with just the guys, and to then actually having a coach running the practice, the whistle, a guy scoring goals and cheering, it was actually a fun day today to get back on the ice and back to work.”

It went better than most players and coaches expected, with things being smoothly managed on and off the ice, from the testing protocols to simply moving the puck around, connecting on passes, and pushing hard with some contact drills.

“To be honest, we were surprised with how sharp and on-point the execution was,” Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “I think a lot of people were going to expect rust, but guys looked sharp, guys looked in shape. The execution was high, and to be honest, it was a great first day.”

Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet marveled at the energy he saw in practice, and that it continued through a short scrimmage at the end.

“I expected everyone to be gassed halfway through,” Tocchet said, “and guys were hooting and hollering.”

The key, though, will be carrying it into Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and the rest of camp. The ability to do that at a fast pace is a great unknown.

“We can’t kill these guys,” Tocchet said. “We’re asking them to go from zero [mph] to 100 [mph], and how do we get to 100 without burning out the engine?”

For the coaches, there are also big decisions to come, such as who will be the starting goalie. At first glance, at least half of the participating teams do not have a designated No. 1 for their first game, provided everyone is healthy.

Those decisions will come in the next two weeks. Coaches weren’t going to be making them in one day, with one practice, after more than four months off.

But the evaluation of everybody and everything is now officially under way. The countdown to the restart of the season is on.

The NHL is back.

“It was just like the first day of school,” Predators coach John Hynes said.

NHL.com staff writers Tim Campbell, Tracey Myers, Mike G. Morreale and Brian Compton, and correspondents Alan Robinson and Aaron Vickers contributed to this report

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