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‘Sometimes it’s tough love’: Bond among Leafs’ Kapanen, Keefe pays off – Sportsnet.ca



TORONTO — Kasperi Kapanen has said some things.

We all have, of course, but as the 23-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs winger reflects back on his days as an aspiring NHLer he acknowledges that he may have occasionally spoken out of turn with his coach in the American Hockey League.

You know, the same coach who now stands behind the Leafs’ bench: Sheldon Keefe.

“I should have just shut my mouth sometimes,” Kapanen said in a recent interview. “During the game the emotions are high and I might have said something back sometimes.”

He’s quick to point out that it never went too far.

That in those moments where the heat was turned up highest it was always two fiery guys who were chasing the same outcome, rather than two people locked in an adversarial relationship.

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The word “stubborn” comes to mind — especially as it relates to the 2014 first-round draft pick who endured three seasons of yo-yoing between the AHL and NHL before finally establishing himself as a full-time Maple Leaf.

“We certainly weren’t shy about telling each other how we felt,” Kapanen said. “Sometimes I might have kind of stepped over the line a bit, but I think it just shows how comfortable we were with each other and we could kind of tell each other anything. Sometimes it’s tough love.

“We’ve both got some strong personalities, but that’s in the past and we’re doing good now.”

In Keefe’s eyes, there’s been some natural maturation from the player but also a dramatic change in his working conditions.

Most of the friction derived from Kapanen’s desire to reach the NHL as soon as possible, and that decision was not in either man’s hands. All Keefe could do was try to help grow Kapanen’s game to the point where he forced the organization’s hand — which he eventually did in the second half of the 2017-18 season.

“A big part of it, first of all, is that nobody really likes to play in the American League,” Keefe said. “Particularly players of that calibre and that talent. That pedigree. They want to be in the NHL fast so when it’s not happening you’re not always getting the best version of that player when they come to the rink every day.

“That’s a big challenge and that was one for Kappy.”

What he sees now is a player who consistently exudes good energy and works diligently at his craft. He’s a bit of a high-quality utility man that can help plug holes up and down the Leafs lineup, as evidenced by the fact he’s already topped 100 minutes at 5-on-5 this season with four different forwards: Alexander Kerfoot (187:57), John Tavares (160:15), Jason Spezza (156:01) and Pierre Engvall (103:51).

Kapanen can also contribute on both specialty teams and has elite speed, which is why he would be extremely difficult to part with if the Leafs decided to deal from their surplus of forward depth in order to acquire defensive help or a backup goaltender ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

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The past with Keefe, warts and all, comes with benefits. A coach still adjusting to life in the NHL already knows what buttons to push. And he’s seen Kapanen quietly put together a productive stretch with nine points to show for his last 10 games.

“There’s a history there. There’s, I hope, some trust in it,” Keefe said. “But also you have information — you’re not filling as many gaps in terms of what a player’s been through and what their personality might be and what they might respond to.”

Kapanen made a noticeable impact during Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Calgary by pushing the pace and matching his season high with four shots on goal. His legs felt good and he nearly ended the game in overtime before getting denied on the doorstep by Flames goalie David Rittich.

He also finished a couple checks, which is a point of continued emphasis. The Leafs aren’t a particularly physical team but Kapanen sees that as one of the key elements to his own game.

“This season I haven’t been using my body as much as I should maybe. So, I’m kind of finding it right now,” he said. “I think I just need to get a little pissed off — get a little pissed off and throw the body around.”

As for what fuels that competitive edge?

He tries to summon it from within, rather than, say, looking to take a hit from an opponent.

“It’s mostly probably me just not scoring or just not making any good plays,” Kapanen said. “That’s usually what gets me upset.”

And, with time, he’s learned not to send any of that extra emotion in the direction of his coach.

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Terence Davis was drawn to Raptors’ ‘winning’ culture as an undrafted rookie – Sportsnet.ca



No matter the stature of a player trying to make the leap from college basketball to the NBA, the transition can be challenging.

Expectations, both internal and external, skyrocket. Margins for error shrink. Obligations and temptations alike multiply.

It’s the transition from high school to university, except there are millions of people watching and life-changing sums of money hanging in the balance.

Belief in who one is and what one can accomplish are essential. Terence Davis, who rejected the idea of signing a two-way deal after being passed over at the NBA draft — opting instead to become a 22-year-old unrestricted free agent — had enough of both to spare.

“On draft night, I tweeted that I couldn’t take a two-way deal — that I was better than that,” Davis said during a phone interview on Tim and Sid Thursday. “Probably some people took it as arrogant, but it wasn’t. It was just, you know, something I really believed in.”

With that level of self-belief comes decisions, though. When draft night ended, Davis had to begin the process of finding an NBA home. As he did, the Toronto Raptors‘ history of turning players in his position into NBA-calibre talent wasn’t lost on him.

“I actually came by the tweet where Fred [VanVleet talked about having] to do the same thing,” Davis said. “I did the same thing he did, stand in front of my family and tell them that I wasn’t getting drafted. …I definitely knew that guys would come through Toronto and have pretty big careers.”

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VanVleet and Davis went on to have a dinner in Los Angeles, which would act as a building block in their friendship before he came to Toronto. But more than just that connection, it was the type of organizational structure the Raptors have created over the last decade.

“The organization is one of a kind,” he said. “I’m so fortunate and blessed to have my first years in the NBA at this organization. …You got Masai [Ujiri, team president] and Nick Nurse [team head coach] and they’re all about winning. There’s a winning culture here, and the skill development is off the charts.”

Reaching a decision to join the Raptors was one step, but far from the last one. Davis signed a two-year deal with Toronto after an impressive showing at NBA Summer League. Then he turned heads with a series of strong pre-season performances and earned immediate regular season playing time in Nurse’s rotation.

By any measure, as the schedule reaches the home stretch before the playoffs, he’s exceeded expectations during his rookie season.

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In 58 games so far, he’s averaging 8.2 points on 47.4 per cent shooting from the floor — including 41.5 per cent from long range on a little under four attempts per game — and has consistently risen to the occasion when core rotation players have missed time with injury.

No one — much less someone just taking their first NBA steps — makes it by going it alone, though. And as Davis has worked through the growing pains of adjusting to NBA life, there’s one player in particular who’s been a guiding hand.

“Serge, Serge Ibaka,” Davis said. “I really leaned on him because he’s been in the league a very long time …man, he just helped me out through so many things in the season, [whether it was] eating right, or taking care of your body, putting the extra work in, the extra time in — even at home games, me and him, we go in and we get a lift in after home games.

“…not many rookies have a guy like that, a vet like that [who] they can lean on and is mentoring them. I really thank Serge for that and I hope the relationship can continue for years to come.”

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Bobby Ryan receives standing ovation after hat trick leads Senators to win – CBC.ca



Bobby Ryan had a hat trick in his first home game in more than three months to lead the Ottawa Senators to a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

Ryan entered the joint NHL/NHLPA assistance program on Nov. 20 after admitting to having a problem with alcohol.

He had last played on Nov. 16 in Buffalo but had been skating on his own since late December.

Fans were quick to cheer Ryan on Thursday, giving him a standing ovation and chanting his name.

Connor Brown and Rudolfs Balcers also scored as Ottawa (22-31-12) snapped a four-game winless streak. Marcus Hogberg was solid making 32 saves.

J.T. Miller and Tyler Toffoli scored for the Canucks (34-23-6), while Thatcher Demko stopped 21 shots.

Vancouver missed out on an opportunity to gain ground in the Pacific Division as they played game two of a four-game road trip (1-1-0).

Leading 2-1 to open the third, the Senators regained their two-goal lead just 14 seconds in as Ottawa won the opening faceoff to take control offensively.

Balcers scored when he picked up a Chris Tierney rebound. Brown hit the 40-point mark (14 goals and 26 assists) for the first time in his career with an assist on the play.

The Canucks made it a one-goal game again as Toffoli tipped Miller’s point shot midway through the period, but Ryan scored his second of the night with just over two minutes remaining and then added an empty-net goal to complete the hat trick.

Hogberg was solid through the second period, but the Canucks finally found a way to beat him with 15 seconds remaining in the period to make it 2-1.

The Senators netminder had robbed Vancouver numerous times through the period, including a point blank save on Jay Beagle, but was unable to stop Miller’s point shot.

For the second straight game the Canucks gave up the first two goals as the Senators scored twice in a span of 31 seconds.

Brown opened the scoring as he took the puck at centre and came down and beat Demko with a wrist shot. Seconds later Ryan made it 2-0 with his first since the opening game of the season.

Notes: Ottawa’s Colin White and Anthony Duclair missed their second straight game due to injury. Vancouver’s Jordie Benn and Zack MacEwen were a healthy scratch.

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All-female crew to work NHL game between Vegas Golden Knights and Calgary Flames – The Globe and Mail



Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Leah Hextall will make up two-thirds of the all-female broadcast trio, along with reporter Christine Simpson, during the NHL game on March 8.

Leah Hextall

An all-female broadcast team will cover an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights on Sportsnet next week.

Play-by-play announcer Leah Hextall, game analyst Cassie Campbell-Pascall and reporter Christine Simpson will work the March 8 game in Calgary to cap the broadcaster’s week of programming recognizing International Women’s Day.

Sunday’s broadcast will be produced by a female production team live from Calgary, Toronto and Salmon Arm, B.C., including Rogers Hometown Hockey executive producer Alison Redmond, game producer Maria Skinner and director Dawn Landis.

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Sportsnet’s campaign will also include features on female sports trailblazers including tennis star Billie Jean King, Toronto Raptors vice-president of basketball operations Teresa Resch and former WTA head Stacey Allaster.

“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to inspire young women and put a spotlight on what is possible, while encouraging continued conversation and action to overcome gender-based barriers for women in the workplace,” Redmond said in a release. “I’m proud to work with highly talented women, whose skill, experience and perspective allow us to deliver sports programming at its best.”

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