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Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz: Tight races top to bottom in Western Conference –



Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2020 NHL postseason. There are 26 days left in the regular season and the races in each conference are wide open.

Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.

Thought of the day

The Western Conference is wild

With an overtime goal from Kevin Fiala on Sunday, the Minnesota Wild defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 and leapfrogged one point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks into the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Welcome to the wild Western Conference, where the Wild hold the first wild card with 77 points and the Canucks, who have 76, hold the second wild card via tiebreakers ahead of the Predators (one more regulation/overtime win) and the Jets (played one game fewer). The Arizona Coyotes are two points behind the Canucks, Predators and Jets.

The picture will look different after the Jets play the Coyotes at Bell MTS Place on Monday (8 p.m. ET; TSN 3, FS-A, FS-A PLUS, NHL.TV). If the Jets win, they’ll jump into the first wild card. A Coyotes regulation win would put them in a four-way tie in points with the Canucks, Predators and Jets for the second wild card. (The Canucks would hold the tiebreakers.)

If Winnipeg gets one point with an overtime or shootout loss, it will move into the second wild card (Minnesota would hold the first wild card because it has played fewer games), one point ahead of Vancouver, Nashville and Arizona.

Then it could all change again Tuesday, when the Predators play the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre and the Canucks play the New York Islanders at Rogers Arena.

The potential daily reshuffling of the teams makes the Western Conference wild card race compelling. It almost makes you forget that the division races in the West also are tight.

The Vegas Golden Knights lead the Edmonton Oilers by two points for first in the Pacific Division heading into their showdown at Rogers Place on Monday (9 p.m. ET; SNW, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV). In the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues, who play the Florida Panthers at Enterprise Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNP, FS-MW, FS-F, NHL.TV), are in first, two points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, who play the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-W; ALT2, NHL.TV).

It will all add up to plenty of late-night scoreboard watching through the end of the regular season April 4.

— Tom Gulitti, Staff Writer

About last night

There were seven games Sunday, all with playoff implications:

Minnesota Wild 5, Anaheim Ducks 4 (OT): Kevin Fiala scored his second power-play goal with 59 seconds left in overtime, and the Wild moved one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Wild are five points behind the third-place Dallas Stars in the Central Division.

Columbus Blue Jackets 2, Vancouver Canucks 1: Elvis Merzlikins made 26 saves and the Blue Jackets moved two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders for the first wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Canucks dropped into a tie for the second wild card in the West with the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets.

St. Louis Blues 2, Chicago Blackhawks 0: The Blues maintained their two-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche in the Central with their ninth win in their past 10 games (9-1-0).

Colorado Avalanche 4, San Jose Sharks 3: Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each had a goal and two assists for Colorado, which remained two points behind the Blues and moved eight points ahead of the Stars for second in the Central.

Carolina Hurricanes 6, Pittsburgh Penguins 2: Morgan Geekie had two goals and an assist in his NHL debut for Carolina, which moved into a tie with the Islanders for the second wild card in the East. The Penguins, third in the Metropolitan Division, remained five points behind the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals and are three points ahead of the fourth-place Blue Jackets.

Detroit Red Wings 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 4 (SO): The Lightning moved within six points of the first-place Boston Bruins and 13 points ahead of the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division.

Vegas Golden Knights 5, Calgary Flames 3: Shea Theodore broke a tie with 1:10 remaining in the third period, and the Golden Knights moved into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division. They are two points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers, and five points ahead of the third-place Flames.

If playoffs started Monday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Monday:

Eastern Conference

(1A) Boston Bruins vs. (WC2) Carolina Hurricanes

(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets

(2A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

(2M) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (3M) Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Conference

(1C) St. Louis Blues vs. (WC2) Vancouver Canucks

(1P) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (WC1) Minnesota Wild

(2C) Colorado Avalanche vs. (3C) Dallas Stars

(2P) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3P) Calgary Flames

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How the gambling industry in Canada has risen over the years



Online gambling has grown to become a huge industry, and millions of people are gambling

every day. Canada is among the countries with the most daily gamblers and is ranked in eighth place among the countries with the most people who gamble every day. The global gambling industry is estimated to be around $458.93 billion in 2022.


The industry is estimated to grow further, and some key actions are leading to spreading the word about gambling online and making it popular. Let’s have a look at it.

The legalization act

Many countries, states, and provinces are legalizing betting or are working on bills to do so. Many states in the US legalized online betting and gambling at the best online casinos, which has undoubtedly given it quicker growth, and provinces in Canada are following suit. More of these are taking advantage of the lucrative industry. These provinces include Saskatchewan, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. It is estimated that Canadians spend a whopping $16 billion in local casinos every year and $ 4 billion on offshore online gambling platforms. This is from the 20 million Canadians that are playing.

Digital solutions

Another key factor when it comes to the increase in gambling activities is access to it. The internet has become highly developed, and we spend a lot of time every day here. Almost everyone owns a few impressive devices that can take you online to connect and gamble. Online sports betting sites and casinos on the internet are getting more user-friendly and practical to use. You can create your account, deposit money and start gambling within a few minutes, and the selection of games and bets are many. You can even indulge in live gambling to play in real-time against other, real players.

Spreading the word

The increased gambling activity and the possibility of developing betting sites have created competition in the industry. It makes it more desirable to make room for a higher marketing budget and to do it both online and offline to reach a preferred target audience. There are more commercials from gambling sites out there, and we can see big sportsbooks sponsoring soccer teams or even entire championships. People are joining as new bettors every day, so now it is all about attracting them to your own site.



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Great Start from Kikuchi, Jays Beat Rays – Bluebird Banter



Rays 1 Blue Jays 4

Off the top, let’s just acknowledge how great Matt Chapman is with the glove. With almost anyone else at third base, this would have been a different game. In the sixth inning, it looked like Yusei Kikuchi was starting to lose it. He gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning. Then there was a bouncing ball up the third-base line, that Chapman pitched up, touched third and made an excellent throw to first for the double-play. The next batter hits almost exactly the grounder, a fair bit harder (103.1 MPH) that Chapman again grabbed (further) behind the bag and again made a great throw to first, getting the third out. In the seventh, he made a great catch on a popup hit behind third.

Kukichi had a terrific start. Going six innings, he gave up a solo homer, the two singles mentioned above, and one other single, just one walk with eight strikeouts. He was in charge all the way through. He may have had one more inning in him, but I was all for taking him out while things were good. Without Chapman, his last inning wouldn’t have been great.

On offence, two big swings did all the damage. Teoscar Hernandez crushed a no-doubter in the second inning, a two-run shot, 419 feet. And Santiago Espinal had his own two-run homer in the seventh. Not a no-doubter, just over the left-field wall, into the Jays bullpen, caught by David Phelps.

We only had 9 hits on the day. Teoscar (3) and Espinal (2) had 5 of the 9 hits.

Opener Matt Wisler pitched a scoreless first. After that, Ryan Yarbourgh pitched the bulk of the game, giving up 8 hits, 4 runs, and 1 walk without a strikeout, in 5.1 innings. I thought Kevin Cash left him in a little too long, but both teams have a lot of baseball ahead this weekend.

Vlad, Chapman and Moreno had 0 fors.

From the pen:

  • Trent Thornton gave up a hit and had a strikeout in the seventh
  • Phelps gave up a walk and got a strikeout in the eighth.
  • Cimber got the save (pitching his third game in a row). His fourth of the season. He finished it with a strikeout.

Jays of the Day: Kikuchi (.258 WPA), Teoscar (.189) and Espinal (.171). I’m giving Chapman an honourable mention, despite his -.076 WPA, for his glove.

No one had the Suckage number. Bo (-.087), Moreno (.080, but deserves points for helping Kukichi navigate the game) and Vlad (-.070) all came close.

Tomorrow we have a day game for Canada Day, a 3:00 Eastern start. Jose Berrios 5-4, 5.86 ERA, is hoping to bounce back from a terrible start. Corey Kluber (3-4, 3.45) gets the start for the Rays.

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Trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner begins in Russia – Al Jazeera English



The trial of United States professional basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Russia in February after authorities found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage, has begun in Moscow.

Griner, a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) all star and two-time Olympic gold medallist, arrived at a courtroom on the outskirts of the Russian capital on Friday for the trial, in which she faces up to 10 years in prison.

Arriving at Khimki City Court in handcuffs, the 31-year-old athlete wore a T-shirt showing guitar icon Jimi Hendrix and was accompanied by three people. US embassy staff were in attendance at the proceedings. Cameras were not permitted in the court.

Two witnesses were questioned by the prosecution: an airport customs official, who spoke in open court, and an unidentified witness in a closed session. according to the state news agency RIA-Novosti. The trial was then adjourned, it said, when two other witnesses did not show up, and the next session was set for July 7.

Alexander Boykov, an attorney for Griner, told reporters outside court that “I wouldn’t want to talk on the specifics of the case and on the charges and to comment on our position on it because it’s too early for it.”

US Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood told reporters at the trial that Griner told her she was “keeping the faith” and that she was doing “as well as can be expected”.

The US State Department has labelled Griner “wrongfully detained” and is negotiating for her release amid tanked relations with Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. Griner’s arrest came just days before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the neighbouring country on February 24.

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On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the case was politically motivated.

“I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes,” he told reporters.

“Only the court can pass a verdict.”

Griner’s detention has prompted concerns that Moscow could use the athlete to seek the release of a high-profile Russian in US custody, with Senator Tim Kaine warning the forward for the Phoenix Mercury could be used as a “negotiating chip”.

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Some of Griner’s supporters have called on the US to offer such a swap.

High-profile figures across the sports world have also called for Griner’s release, with NBA players wearing T-shirts that say “We are BG” at some games.

WNBA players, who are paid considerably less than their male counterparts, are often offered lucrative contracts by the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League to play during the US off-season.

Some have now left the Russian league, amid Griner’s detention and Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

US officials say Griner is one of two citizens wrongfully detained by Russia. Paul Whelan, a former US marine, has been held in Russia since 2018 after being convicted of spying. He has denied the allegation.

Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a “terrorist” organisation.

Others have suggested that she could be traded in tandem with Whelan.

After Griner’s hearing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “We – and I personally – have no higher priority than bringing her and other wrongfully detained Americans, including Paul Whelan, home.

“We won’t stop working until they are reunited with their loved ones.”

Blinken, when asked Sunday on CNN whether a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being considered, sidestepped the question.

“As a general proposition … I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he said. But he said he could not comment “in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority”.

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