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Springer injury concerns deepen as Manoah, Blue Jays unravel vs. Nationals – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Charlie Montoyo kept declining to speculate about the severity of George Springer’s left knee sprain – the gruesome-looking injury suffered in Seattle originally diagnosed as a left ankle sprain – and really, he didn’t have to.

Even as the Toronto Blue Jays manager fought off attempts to label the star outfielder’s status and expressed hope that he’ll again bat atop the lineup this season, the sombre pitch to his usually upbeat tenor sure suggested that Montoyo was bracing for the worst.

When more definitive word arrives wasn’t immediately clear – Springer was due to be examined by a Washington Nationals physician before Tuesday night’s 12-6 loss in the American capital, and the team offered no update afterwards. But his placement on the 10-day injured list, with versatile prospect Otto Lopez recalled from triple-A Buffalo to take his place, means the three-time all-star will be out at least through Aug. 24, and it’s hard to imagine it not being longer than that.

Regardless of how much time he ends up missing, the Blue Jays don’t have highway to spare waiting for Springer to return and drive them up the wild-card standings. This is a moment for others to emerge and carry the freight, and whether it happens or not will help determine this season’s fate.

“He’s down. Not only George, the whole team – he’s one of our best players, we’re doing pretty good with him at the top of our lineup,” said Montoyo. “Now, we’ve got to do what we did when he we lost him the first time. Somebody has got to pick up the slack and do the best they can, and we’ve done that before. Let’s do it again until he comes back.”

It didn’t happen in their first shot at it against a stripped-down Nationals club that had lost seven straight, as a six-run third inning unravelled on Alek Manoah, who without his best stuff got BABIP’d and Angel Hernandez’d while also missing spots during the pivotal frame.

Highlighted by an Alcides Escobar two-run double and Yadiel Hernandez two-run single that Bo Bichette nearly gobbled up on a dive, that rally turned a 1-1 tie into a 7-1 Nationals lead. That helped Erick Fedde get through five innings with only three runs allowed, and provided enough margin for error for a bullpen that needed it.

The Blue Jays, as they do, tried to avoid a fourth loss in five outings by rallying for a three-spot in the eighth after Mason Thompson loaded the bases on a single and two walks. Kyle Finnegan took over and Santiago Espinal beat out the return on a potential double play ball to bring in one run, Luis Garcia booted another potential twin-kill grounder from Reese McGuire to plate a second and Alejandro Kirk made it 8-6 with an RBI single.

But Marcus Semien just missed a hanging slider that he popped to short right for the second out before Bichette grounded out to end the frame, and Tayler Saucedo and Rafael Dolis couldn’t put up a zero in the bottom half, as Ryan Zimmerman delivered a sacrifice fly, old friend Riley Adams capped a three-hit night with a two-run double and Victor Robles cashed him in with a single.

Game over.

Asking the offence to undo a seven-run deficit and continually piling innings on the bullpen is unfair, of course, and that’s why Manoah’s inability to stop the bleeding was so costly.

“I trust the kid. It’s an overworked bullpen. You start taking guys out in the third inning, you’re not going to have enough,” Montoyo said of balancing the leash on Manoah and trying to keep the game in check. “These guys are throwing a lot. I still trust Manoah, tough luck, balls finding holes and stuff. He had to find a way to give us at least three full innings, so he was going to get some leeway just because of our bullpen situation.”

Adams, traded to Washington before the deadline for Brad Hand, started the rally with a base hit and after Fedde struck out, Manoah lost the handle on a fastball that hit Robles before Escobar ambushed a middle-middle sinker to make it 3-1.

Juan Soto then walked when Hernandez declined to call two pitches in the zone strike three, and consecutive singles by Josh Bell and Hernandez, who homered in the second to open the scoring, and a Carter Kieboom sacrifice fly opened things up.

Down a couple ticks in velocity and lacking his usual swing and miss stuff – he generated only two whiffs in 53 pitches – Manoah said his approach was “just continue to make pitches.”

“They hit the ball pretty good, tonight,” he added later.

Adams opened the fourth by greeting Trent Thornton with his second homer since joining the Nationals, but Teoscar Hernandez kept lighting it up with a two-run homer in the fifth that cut the deficit to 8-3.

Named the American League’s player of the week Monday, Hernandez has been doing more than his share of the heavy lifting and the Blue Jays will need more from him, Randal Grichuk and Corey Dickerson, whose run-scoring groundout in the second tied the game 1-1, in Springer’s absence.

Steadier relief work, long the club’s Achilles’ heel, will be another necessity, and to that end Montoyo said “there’s a good chance” that Tim Mayza will return from the injured list Wednesday.

That will be a lift, a needed one after Montoyo said Springer reported some knee pain a couple days ago as the discomfort in his ankle eased. An MRI revealed a left knee sprain and pushed his status for the season into limbo.

“I wish I did (know if he’ll be back), honestly, but I don’t,” said Montoyo. “I don’t even want to speculate how long it’s going to take. But, of course, our hope is that he’s back before the year is over, for sure. But I don’t want to speculate on timeline because I don’t really know.”

Definitively, sure, but in tone, he sure sounded like someone who had a sense of where the situation is headed with Springer, and it’s not to the place he or the Blue Jays want.

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Oilers power play still a fright for opposing teams – Edmonton Sun

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Over the last two seasons, the Oilers have a 28.6 success rate on the power play, almost five percent higher than Boston, St. Louis and Carolina at 23.8

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While the Edmonton Oilers have Zack Kassian and Darnell Nurse to shoo the flies away from the stars, they really beat teams up on their power play with 107 goals in 127 games over the last two seasons—with Boston Bruins a distant second at 92.

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The Oilers are up a goal before the first face-off. And they’re doing it, even though 10 teams including Arizona and Ottawa, have somehow drawn more than their 374 power plays. Yes, the Oilers have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Over the last two seasons, the Oilers have a 28.6 success rate on the power play, almost five percent higher than Boston, St. Louis and Carolina at 23.8.

Assistant coach Glen Gulutzan, who looks after the scariest power play, trotted out his new wrinkle first unit Monday at practice with free-agent signee Zach Hyman in the Alex Chiasson/James Neal role as the net-front. Chiasson is on a PTO in Vancouver, Neal on a tryout in St. Louis right now.

The guts of the power play remain — McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyson Barrie on the point from the PP — along with the former Maple Leafs winger. The second unit, which might rotate in for the last 15-30 seconds, has Jesse Puljujarvi as big-body net-front, with Nurse on the blueline and Kailer Yamamoto in Nugent-Hopkins’ spot. Evan Bouchard may play with Nurse on the point. Maybe Kyle Turris as the other forward

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“We know Hymes (Hyman) game (from Toronto). He’s going to get a lot of pucks back for us (after shots),” said Nugent-Hopkins, as the team prepares for the expansion Seattle Kraken Tuesday at Rogers Place. “His presence in front, his hard work … what he’s good at is entering the zone and holding onto the puck, too.”

“A good power play is a tool that can have an impact on a game. Say you’re up 2-1 and you score a third that way, that puts the hammer down,” said Oiler coach Dave Tippett. “We have structure there, but also we have some road hockey to it.”

With the NHL cracking down on cross-checking, and inevitably calling a raft of those penalties in the early going of the season, we’ll see if the Oilers get more calls.

AUDITION TIME

Darnell Nurse is healthy and wealthy, signing that eight-year $74 million contract, which got everybody’s attention around the NHL, now he also has to catch the eye of the selectors for Canada’s Olympic team blueline.

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“As a player, you want to compete for the Stanley Cup but as a kid watching those big moments in history at the Olympics … you hope one day you can be a part of that,” said the Edmonton Oilers defenceman, who finished seventh in Norris trophy voting in his breakout last season. “For me, that’s (Olympics) always going to be a thought in the back of my head but most importantly we have to take care of business here. If we don’t do that, those other dreams are out the window.”

The right side of the Canadian defence probably has two givens; Alex Pietrangelo and Dougie Hamilton (Jersey) amongst the four to be picked but the left is more wide-open with Shea Thedore, Pietrangelo’s Vegas teammate, Adam Pelech (Islanders), Jakob Chychrun (Arizona), Morgan Rielly (Leafs) and Thomas Chabot (Ottawa) all in the mix along with Nurse.

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TEAMMATE AND MENTOR

Nurse admits he’s been watching how three-time Cup champion and two-time Norris trophy winner Duncan Keith played the game since the Oilers No. 1 D-man was the horse on the Soo Greyhounds’ blue line, with current Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe behind the bench.

“I followed Duncan when I was in junior … he was the man. Every time you turned on TV, he was in the finals. I would watch Duncan going up and down the ice. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer some day but it’s not just what he does on the ice. You also see how he takes care of his body, how he comes to the rink prepared every night. He’s got things we can all pick from him,” said Nurse.

Keith will be on the ice Friday after finishing his two-week quarantine.

HURRY UP AND WAIT

The unvaxxed Josh Archibald still isn’t a participant at Oiler practices, five days after he left quarantine. The fast, fourth-line aggressive winger who has been Oilers top penalty-killing forward, isn’t helping himself with his Covid stance. But there’s no message-sending from the team. Sources confirms he isn’t feeling right physically.

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This ‘n that: The Oilers will salute the late Joey Moss Tuesday with a locker-room announcement at the Seattle game … Tippett worked for Seattle as a consultant, one of their first hires as they prepped for their expansion season, before coming to the Oilers in 2019. “I was there three years ago now, and I saw the work they were putting in. It’s going to be a fantastic franchise, there’s a ton of excitement in Seattle for that team. They’re doing everything right there,” said Tippett … Judging by the work of the big guns on the PP at practice Monday, McDavid and Draisaitl may both play against Kraken … Defenceman Kris Russell (neck issue) was back with the experienced Oiler group Monday.

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Prescott helps Cowboys crush Eagles in first home game since injury on Monday Night Football – TSN

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott ran toward the tunnel, raising his arms to the fans and tossing them souvenirs after the Dallas Cowboys manhandled the Philadelphia Eagles in prime time.

The scene was a stark contrast to almost a year earlier, when the star quarterback was in tears as he rode on a cart through the same spot after the gruesome ankle injury that ended his season.

Prescott threw for three touchdowns in his first home game since the injury, Trevon Diggs returned an interception 59 yards for a score and the Cowboys beat the Eagles 41-21 on Monday night.

“Just thankful for everything that I’ve been through, all of the hard work that made me account for just to be back out here doing what I love,” Prescott said. “It’s the greatest place to play football.”

Ezekiel Elliott ran for a season-high 95 yards and two touchdowns, and tight end Dalton Schultz had the first two-TD game of his career.

Except for a fumble in the end zone that gave the Eagles (1-2) their first touchdown, Prescott was efficient, going 21 of 26 for 238 yards without an interception in the first NFC East game for both teams.

Prescott’s first game at AT&T Stadium since the season-ending compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in Week 5 last year against the New York Giants was also the return to full capacity after the pandemic-imposed limits last season. There were 93,267 fans inside with the retractable roof open at the $1.2 billion facility.

“A guy like Dak, he’s going to be psyched regardless,” Elliott said. “There’s not any extra he can get besides just the competitor he is, the player he is.”

The Cowboys (2-1) had a 19-1 edge in first downs late in the first half, but the Eagles were down just 20-7 at the break. After Javon Hargrave forced Prescott’s fumble and caught the ball for the score, the Eagles stuffed the QB on a fourth-down sneak at the other end.

Diggs stepped in front of a pass from Hurts to the sideline on the third play of the second half and ran untouched for his first career TD while becoming the first Dallas player with a pick in each of the first three games since Everson Walls in 1985.

Diggs and Cincinnati’s Logan Wilson share the NFL lead with three interceptions.

Hurts had completions of 41 yards to Quez Watkins, 38 yards to tight end Dallas Goedert and 27 yards to tight end Zach Ertz while finishing 25 of 39 for 326 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Plenty of the Texas native’s passing yards, and the second TD, came with the game out of reach.

“I didn’t do a good enough job of leading,” Hurts said. “I didn’t do a good enough of running our offense, doing the things I need to do. This one’s on me.”

Prescott’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Schultz put the Cowboys ahead for good at 14-7 late in the first quarter, and a 2-yarder to Cedrick Wilson on fourth down essentially put the game away at 34-14 early in the fourth.

Any doubt was erased when rookies Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa shared a sack of Hurts on a desperation try on fourth-and-9 midway through the fourth quarter. Odighizuwa had his first career sack in the first half, dropping Hurts for an 11-yard loss.

Schultz, who led Dallas with 80 yards receiving, scored again on a 22-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Tony Pollard added 60 yards rushing on 11 carries as the Cowboys finished with 160 yards on the ground against the NFL’s No. 2 run defense.

“They had a good game plan to run the ball, we were second and 4, second and 3,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “One thing we’re known for is stopping the run. We couldn’t get off the field.”

HALL OF FAME RINGS

Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Cowboys to a pair of Super Bowl titles in the 1990s, made a rare appearance on their home field when he was presented his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring at halftime along with safety Cliff Harris and receiver Drew Pearson. All three were inducted this summer.

Johnson started his speech by thanking owner Jerry Jones and ended it with the famous line he first shouted after an NFC championship game win over San Francisco during the 1992 season: “How ’bout them Cowboys!” Johnson and Jones split acrimoniously after another Super Bowl title to finish the 1993 season. The two hugged before Jones put the ring on Johnson.

INJURIES

Eagles: LG Isaac Seumalo was taken off on a cart after injuring his right foot in the fourth quarter. The Eagles were already without LT Jordan Mailata (knee) and RG Brandon Brooks (chest strain). S K’Von Wallace injured his left shoulder in the first quarter trying to tackle Elliott and didn’t return.

UP NEXT

Eagles: Defending AFC champion Kansas City visits Sunday with the Chiefs coming off consecutive losses for the first time since October 2019.

Cowboys: Carolina visits Sunday with the Panthers seeking their first 4-0 start since the 2015 season, when they started 14-0 and lost to Denver in the Super Bowl.

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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5 Maple Leafs notes: Marner willing to try ‘something new’ on power play – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – And now for something completely different.

Mitch Marner is a versatile, adaptable sort of star player.

Over the course of his hockey life, he’s played centre and wing. He’s driven offence and been tasked with shutting down some of the toughest forwards in the business. He has run the power play and volunteered to assume a prominent position on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ penalty kill.

So, it’s noteworthy that Marner is now trying something he’s never done at any level: move from the flank to the slot on the power play.

“I’ve never played it, to be honest, so it’s definitely something new to me,” Marner said Monday, before jetting to Montreal for the Leafs’ 5-2 preseason loss.

“I love to try new things, so I’m excited to give that give it a shot. Hopefully, I get used to it pretty fast.”

The rearrangement of Toronto’s beleaguered top power-play crew is no small storyline heading into 2021-22.

Despite loading their 5-on-4 unit with more than $40 million worth of talent, the 2020-21 Leafs’ power-play tumbled to 16th overall (20 per cent) in the regular season, then converted on only 13 per cent of those opportunities in their seven-game collapse to Montreal. (Among all playoff teams, only Vegas and Nashville’s power plays were less effective.)

Coach Sheldon Keefe watched his high-powered superstars go just plus-2 in 23 power-play chances in a series in which the Leafs lost three one-goal games.

Yep. Power-plays matter.

The PP’s ineffectiveness turned to ugly when Marner vehemently shot down an unverified rumour that he had refused to accept a coaching staff request to move off the half-wall last season.

“It’s a complete lie,” said Marner after the season, visibly upset by the idea. “It sucks that stuff like that’s being said, but I’m not surprised either.

“I think everyone can see I’ll try and play any role I can to help this team win.”

So disastrous was Toronto’s 2021 power play that it cost assistant coach Manny Malhotra his primary responsibility.

Keefe has flipped the PP to new assistant Spencer Carbery’s purview, and changes are already underway.

“Tough conversation, you know, because [Malhotra] was brought here to do a job. But Manny’s a team guy, and he’s still very much involved in everything that we’re doing off the ice, including the power play,” Keefe said.

“Spencer’s a great coach. He’s got a good vision and a good plan and has that perspective as a head coach [with the Hershey Bears] in terms of how things play out.

“The biggest thing is just fresh voice, fresh eyes, good ideas. And just like it seems a good fit for us, given what we went through last season.”

Marner scored 20 goals last season, all even-strength.

Even though he saw more PP minutes (3:08 per game) than any Leaf not named Auston Matthews, and even though he’s striving to develop into a dual shooting threat, Marner never scored once on the man-advantage.

Yet despite cries from the outside to adjust the formation and try William Nylander on the flank, Marner stayed put.

That changes under Carbery.

The assistant’s first look at Nylander on the flank resulted in a power-play goal Saturday in exhibition, as John Tavares tipped a Nylander shot 10 seconds into a PP.

“It’s not really a big deal. I like to play whatever,” Nylander said. “As long as you’re on the powerplay, it’s fun.”

Marner’s teammates believe he’ll adapt fine to the bumper spot, and Carbery has been showing him video of Brayden Point’s slot work on Tampa Bay’s deadly PP as an example.

From the middle, Marner can feed Matthews or Nylander for one-timers — or fire the puck on net himself to create havoc and loose pucks for a net-front guy, like Nick Ritchie, to bang home.

“He’s just so smart, he can play anywhere. I think he just wants to be productive, be helpful. He wants to be in the middle of the ice, wants to get lots of puck touches, and he’s very good at that,” Morgan Rielly said.

“Being the middle, I think he’s gonna get lots of action. I mean, he’ll go wherever anybody tells him to go. He just wants to help the team.”

Kase set to be Keefe’s Swiss army knife

While Nick Ritchie and Michael Bunting appear to have penciled themselves in as Toronto’s brand-new top-six wingers, Ondrej Kase has all the tools and experience to steal some of that ice time in event of injury or underperformance.

Keefe believes Kase’s troubled injury history has lessened the level of hype he’s gotten so far in Toronto, but the coach is excited to see what he can contribute in a variety of roles.

“He’s got a really good skillset, both offensively — the ability to make plays and finish plays — but also he’s tenacious on the puck. So, I think he can move up and down our lineup and play anywhere we feel we need him,” Keefe said.

“It’s evident when you watch him that he’s an NHL player.”

Kase finished off a beauty pass by Rielly Monday and tied a game-high with four shots on net during his first peek in a Leafs sweater.

A 20-goal man for Anaheim in 2017-18, Kase could potentially slide onto the Leafs’ second power-play unit. But Keefe is also going to try him out on the penalty kill, as the coach searches for the best winger to take up some of Zach Hyman’s PK minutes.

“[Kase] hasn’t had a great deal of time on the penalty kill in his career, but I’m hoping to get him some looks there,” Keefe said. “From a skillset standpoint, in terms of how he skates, his anticipation, he’s hungry on the puck — those are all the things we want on our penalty kill. He seems to have those traits.”

Make-or-break season for Liljegren?

Time flies.

Although it seems like yesterday Timothy Liljegren garnered headlines as a promising first-round draft pick in this city — a right-shot defenceman, finally! — the prospect reminded us Monday that he’s now spent the bulk of four seasons with the Marlies.

Rare is the player who breaks through and establishes himself as a bona fide after that many tours on the minor league circuit. (Justin Holl, for example, is the exception, not the rule.) At some point, the potential needs to pop.

So… where does that leave the 22-year-old Swede heading into a training camp where he’s clearly the seventh-best D-man?

“Tough to tell. Going into my fifth year, I need to play good,” Liljegren said. “It’s my fifth year. I need to get things done, you know.

“I gotta fight for my spot on the roster. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

That means cleaning up turnovers, playing sound positional hockey, and chipping in offence when he spots a chance.

Liljegren believes he “grew a lot as a person” from a tumultuous 2020-21 campaign that saw him jostling from the AHL to the taxi squad and eventually sneaking into a pair of late-season NHL games.

Keefe has paired Liljegren with the laid-back Jake Muzzin in camp, hoping the veteran’s wisdom and calming presence rubs off.

And yet, barring an injury to a member of the top six, we don’t see Liljegren suiting up on Opening Night.

“I can’t focus on other things,” Liljegren said. “I just have to focus on playing a good game.”

Nylander impressed by Fernandez’s U.S. Open run

William Nylander tends to keep his public commentary concise.

So, after 16 months passed without an original tweet, the star forward was compelled to break his silence while taking in September’s incredible U.S. Open women’s final between Britain’s Emma Raducanu and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez.

Both unseeded. Both entering the tournament as teenagers.

“I thought it was amazing. Both young women doing an unbelievable job,” said Nylander, an avid tennis player himself.

“I can just imagine for both girls, they probably didn’t think they were going to be in the final. And all of a sudden, they’re there — 20,000 fans, and the entire world’s watching on TV. I mean, it’s pretty cool to see what they were able to do.”

Maple Leafs lineup for preseason Game 2

Ritchie-Brooks-Marner
Gusev-Kämpf-Kase
Mikheyev-Semyonov-Simmonds
Seney-Der-Arguchintsev-Anderson

Rielly-Dermott
Dahlström-Holl
Rubins-Menell

Campbell
Mrazek

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