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Six Flames players in NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, games postponed – Calgary Sun

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Hockey is suddenly secondary.

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The immediate concern for the Calgary Flames, with at least three games postponed due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, is the health of the skaters and staffers and their loved ones.

The Flames were supposed to embark Sunday on a two-stop road trip, but their plans changed after testing revealed multiple positives.

It was announced Monday morning that six Flames players — identified by the team as forwards Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Brad Richardson and Adam Ruzicka and defencemen Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov — and one member of the training staff had all entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol within a 24-hour window.

“As of this morning, they were doing well. They’re asymptomatic,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving on Monday afternoon. “You’re concerned for them. You’re concerned for everybody else. Of that group that tested positive, obviously there’s wives, there’s girlfriends, there’s kids attached to those players. So you’re worried about everybody. That’s just how it is. But so far, they’re doing well.

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“The biggest thing is you’re trying to keep the picture small right now,” he continued. “The picture is, OK, we tested today, we do everything that we can and communicate with everybody regularly and we see where we get to later today when we get our test results back, and then we deal with that. And you sort of repeat this process for the next few days to see where this goes.”

The Flames are, at a minimum, off the ice until Friday, and their return to the rink will hinge on the results of daily testing. In the meantime, all players are isolating.

FILE PHOTO: Calgary Flames forward Elias Lindholm (right) celebrates his first-period goal against the Winnipeg Jets during NHL action in Winnipeg with defenceman Chris Tanev on Thurs., Jan. 14, 2021.
FILE PHOTO: Calgary Flames forward Elias Lindholm (right) celebrates his first-period goal against the Winnipeg Jets during NHL action in Winnipeg with defenceman Chris Tanev on Thurs., Jan. 14, 2021. Photo by Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network

With the league citing “concern with continued spread and the likelihood of additional positive cases in the coming days,” three games were immediately postponed — Monday’s matchup against the Blackhawks in Chicago, Tuesday’s clash with the Predators in Nashville and Thursday’s home date with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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“As an appropriate precaution, the team’s training facilities have been closed, effective immediately, and will remain closed for players until further notice,” the NHL said in Monday’s announcement. “The league is in the process of reviewing and revising the Flames’ regular-season schedule.

“The Flames organization has followed, and will continue to follow, all recommended guidelines aimed at protecting the health and safety of its players, staff and community at large as set by the NHL, local, provincial and national agencies.”

Initial results Sunday turned up three positives for the Flames, and their afternoon flight to the Windy City was delayed so the entire travelling party — players, coaches and other staff — could be tested again.

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When that number grew to seven, the NHL told the team to stay put at home.

The Flames are the third squad so far this season to have their schedule halted due to the virus.

The Ottawa Senators had three games postponed in mid-November after 10 players and an assistant coach were placed in COVID-19 protocol, while the New York Islanders missed a pair later that month because eight of their skaters were unavailable.

While other teams have played shorthanded, one of the determining factors in Calgary’s case might have been the potential complications of crossing the border. If they had headed to Chicago and Nashville, anyone who tested positive during the road trip would have faced lengthy quarantines in their hotel rooms until they were eligible to return to Canada.

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“The initial thought wasn’t that we weren’t going. The initial thought is, ‘OK, we’re going to delay things,’ ” Treliving said. “And then you get the other results back, and now you’re up to seven. So in a short period of time, you go from zero to seven.

“All that information goes to the league, and they make those decisions. A lot of teams have dealt with this — we’ve all been dealing with it for the last couple of years — but I think with some of the situations, as it’s been explained to me by the league, teams may have one or two one day, then another one, and over the course of a week or so, it has escalated. This one, we went from nothing on Saturday to seven on Sunday.

“So ultimately the league made the decision that we’ll pause and see how we progress here.”

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FILE PHOTO: Calgary Flames Andrew Mangiapane during warm-up before taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday, November 23, 2021.
FILE PHOTO: Calgary Flames Andrew Mangiapane during warm-up before taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

Under provincial guidelines, any individual who tests positive for COVID-19 is legally required to isolate for the next 10 days.

That means if the Flames return to action Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, as currently scheduled, they would do so without their first-line centre (Lindholm), their leading goal-scorer (Mangiapane) and one of their workhorse defencemen and top penalty-killers (Tanev).

The lineup was the last thing on their minds Monday.

“When you get positive tests, your mind goes to the players, the staff, the families,” Treliving stressed. “That is Priority No. 1, is the health and safety of everybody and making sure you’re doing everything to keep them as safe as we possibly can.”

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @WesGilbertson

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Bombers extend Most Outstanding Defensive Player Bighill – TSN

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Adam Bighill is staying in Winnipeg.

The Blue Bombers announced Thursday the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player has signed a one-year contract extension with the team. 

Bighill has spent the past three seasons with the Blue Bombers, helping the team back-to-back Grey Cups.

A veteran of nine CFL seasons, Bighill has played in 146 games in his CFL career and ranks eighth in league history all-time in total tackles.

The three-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player had 70 tackles and added two quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries last season. He was named a CFL All-Star for the sixth time in his career.

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Denis Shapovalov Australian Open third round Reilly Opelka – TSN

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Denis Shapovalov needed three hours and 23 minutes to take down Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday, working through a handful of unforced errors and a fourth-set tiebreak.

It was a cakewalk compared to his second-round matchup.

The Richmond Hill, Ont., native went the distance with Kwon Soon-woo, needing five sets and nearly four and a half hours to dispatch of the 54th-ranked South Korean. Shapovalov lost back-to-back tiebreaks in the second and third sets but battled back to take the final two and avoid an early exit.

Watch his third-round matchup LIVE on TSN4, TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct at approximately 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT Thursday night.

“It was tough to bounce back every time. In the second set I had a set point on his serve and then the third set I had a couple of set points. I felt I was doing everything the right way, it just wasn’t going my way,” Shapovalov told TSN’s Mark Roe after the win.

“It’s definitely not easy but it’s the case sometimes. I’m just happy to be alive and have an opportunity to play in the third round. I’m pretty young so I’m sure I’ll be alright; I’ve had this before.”

Now it’s on to the third round for Shapovalov where he gets his toughest test of the tournament yet in No. 23 seed American Reilly Opelka.

Opelka has had a much easier road to Round 3, scoring straight-sets victories over Kevin Anderson in the first round and Dominik Koepfer in the second. Standing at 6-foot-11, the big-serving American isn’t much for rallies, combining for 41 aces in his first two matches in Melbourne.

“I think it’s more about recovery to be honest. I mean, Reilly’s game is pretty straightforward. He goes for his serves, he’s going for his ground strokes off the back as well so it’s going to be kind of like a guessing game a little bit on the returns and hopefully, I can take care of business on my serve and hopefully I’m getting good looks, but I’ve just got to stay patient against him,” Shapovalov said.

The 22-year-old comes into the year’s first Grand Slam with some momentum having won the men’s ATP Cup earlier this month in Sydney alongside Canadian teammates Felix Auger-Aliassime, Brayden Schnur and Steven Diez.

Fatigue from a recent bout of COVID-19 forced Shapovalov to sit out the start of the tournament but he said earlier this week he was back to feeling 100 per cent.

“Towards the end of the [ATP Cup] I got really comfortable, and the body felt good again, so that was a good sign. And, of course, leading up to this tournament I had little aches and pains, so I wasn’t practising too much but I’m really happy after the two matches that the body is feeling good and it’s definitely a good sign.”

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Sheldon Keefe calls Leafs 'soft and purposeless' after Rangers collapse – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe finally blew a gasket after his team squandered a 3-1 lead for the fourth time in its last five games. (Getty)

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Toronto Maple Leafs have a multi-goal lead but their opponents come back to win the game.

Wednesday’s tilt against the New York Rangers played out exactly like that, with the Leafs having a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and the hometown Rags storming back to earn a 6-3 victory with five consecutive goals.

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe called out his team’s effort during his post-game availability, specifically citing the defensive side of their performance.

“Today, I just thought we played soft, and we made poor decisions defensively,” Keefe said

“We couldn’t sort anything out. It was just far different. Each game has been different, so it’s hard to talk about patterns other than the obvious that we’ve been giving up leads. I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was just soft, soft and purposeless, and just kind of playing the game and hoping it was going to work out.

“I didn’t think we had anybody that played well tonight. Coaches didn’t coach well tonight. So, today is a much different game than we’ve played in the others where we’ve given up leads and such. I just didn’t think we had nearly enough urgency or purpose.”

The Leafs were without two of their top four defenseman in Jake Muzzin (concussion) and Justin Holl (COVID protocol) in New York, but missing personnel is something that can be overcome. Keefe pondered if it was a larger-scale issue that keeps putting the Leafs in this position.

“We’ve had a lot of really good starts,” Keefe said. “Obviously it’s been the finish or the second half of games that haven’t gone well. …Maybe a fast start was working against us. We thought it would be easy the rest of the way. We paid for it.”

Toronto let three third-period leads get washed away by their opponents in the previous four games before Wednesday, making it more of a concerning trend than coincidental bad luck.

The Leafs will take another stab at trying to hold a multi-goal lead when they visit Islanders on Saturday.

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