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'This is now Rutherford's team': New Canucks prez has full control –



VANCOUVER — There are two vitally important things to know about Jim Rutherford: he manages up but demands autonomy, and he wants to win now.

Just four days after firing general manager Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks owner and chairman Francesco Aquilini announced Thursday that the 72-year-old Rutherford is the National Hockey League team’s new president of hockey operations.

Rutherford also has the title of interim general manager — ending the Stan Smyl GM era in Vancouver at a perfect 2-0 — and he will oversee the search for a more permanent replacement for Benning to work under the new president.

He was hired after meeting Aquilini at Rutherford’s home in Raleigh, N.C., and agreed to a three-year contract to build upon the Canucks’ excellent young core pieces and steer the franchise back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Rutherford already has a new coach in 66-year-old Bruce Boudreau, who replaced Travis Green on Monday and has, at least for now, re-energized a team that won only eight of its first 25 games, sparking Aquilini’s intervention and the most eventful week of operational changes for the Canucks this century.

The addition of Rutherford, one of the most successful and respected NHL managers of his era, a three-time Stanley Cup winner who is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder, further fuels momentum for an organization that has gone from zero-to-100 in a hurry.

Game 3 of this brave new world for the Canucks is Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets, but in these formative days it looks like the positive, experienced, gregarious Boudreau is exactly the coach the Canucks needed after their shockingly bad first quarter.

It will take far more than a few days to know if Rutherford is also the right choice, but he is an eye-catching one.

He resigned as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager in January, four years after orchestrating consecutive Stanley Cup victories, for what was characterized then as “personal reasons.” But those reasons partly had to do with autonomy and what Rutherford felt was the growing encroachment by those above him into hockey operations.

He needed autonomy more than he needed the money, so Rutherford abruptly walked away.

Whatever the Aquilini family is paying him now, Rutherford wouldn’t be coming to Canucks without the owners’ promise of autonomy and full authority on hockey matters.

It doesn’t mean that Rutherford won’t be in frequent contact with Francesco Aquilini — part of what gave Rutherford an advantage in Pittsburgh over his predecessor, Ray Shero, was his ability to manage up — but the new president won’t need permission to make a trade.

And Rutherford is likely to make more than one.

One aspect of the new president that became clear Thursday when Sportsnet canvassed senior executives from other NHL organizations is that Rutherford is aggressive by managerial nature and fiercely driven to win.

This would be the case even if he were not 72 years old and working on a three-year contract.

He wants to win.

That aggressiveness paid off in Pittsburgh, where his bold moves included surrendering the equivalent of two first-round picks in 2015 to acquire Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs at a time when both the player’s salary and reputation were semi-toxic. Two straight Stanley Cups followed.

But Rutherford also traded Patric Hornqvist for Mike Matheson and signed Jack Johnson to a five-year contract that was bought out after two seasons. And in the Penguins’ last seven entry drafts, the GM left his scouting department with just one first-round selection. In last summer’s draft, after Rutherford left, the Penguins had one pick among the first 153 players.

Rutherford regularly sacrificed picks to add players to push for championships while the Penguins still had Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in or near their prime years.

The fundamental difference in Vancouver is that the players regarded as foundational are mostly in their early 20s. Elias Pettersson is 23, Quinn Hughes is 22. Bo Horvat and Thatcher Demko are 26. This core is not aging out for a while, but that doesn’t mean Rutherford won’t still be aggressive.

A rebuild, or even a re-set that requires a couple of steps back to fix the Canucks’ problems on defence, probably aren’t appealing options for Rutherford.

“I’ll be shocked if Jim’s not aggressive,” one NHL source said.

It shouldn’t be understated how important it is for the Canucks to re-establish a president of hockey operations, a role that has been vacant since Trevor Linden was pushed out of that position in 2018.

There needs to be a buffer between ownership and the general manager, whose job is difficult and complicated enough without needing to keep the chairman apprised daily of hockey operations.

The president should do that. Given his experience and contacts, Rutherford will know exactly what he is getting into in Vancouver. The Canucks belong to the Aquilinis, but this is now Rutherford’s team.

Buckle up.

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49ers stun Packers with second-half comeback, advance to NFC Championship –



GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Robbie Gould continued his playoff perfection and moved the San Francisco 49ers one step away from their second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons with a 45-yard field goal as time expired for a 13-10 upset of Green Bay on Saturday night.

On a field littered with snow flurries, Gould’s kick knocked off the top-seeded Packers and possibly ended Aaron Rodgers’ tenure in Green Bay.

The 49ers (12-7) continued their postseason hex on Rodgers and advanced to an NFC championship game matchup Jan. 30 at either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-4) or Los Angeles Rams (13-5). Those teams play Sunday in Tampa.

Rodgers dropped to 0-4 in career playoff matchups against the 49ers. San Francisco beat the Packers 37-20 in the NFC championship game two seasons ago before losing 31-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

The Packers (13-5) earned the NFC’s top seed for a second straight season but again failed to reach the big game as the 49ers rallied by scoring 10 unanswered points in the final five minutes.

San Francisco tied the game with 4:41 left thanks to a breakdown by Green Bay’s special teams, the Packers’ biggest weakness all season.

Jordan Willis’ outstretched left hand blocked a punt by Corey Bojorquez, who was kicking from the front of his end zone. Talanoa Hufanga picked up the ball at the 6-yard line and ran it in to make it 10-10.

After the Packers went three-and-out, the 49ers got the ball back at their 29 with 3:20 left and drove into field-goal range. Deebo Samuel delivered a 9-yard run on third-and-8 from the Green Bay 38, and the 49ers ran down the clock to set up Gould.

A.J. Dillon’s 6-yard touchdown run capped a 69-yard drive on the game’s opening possession that put the Packers ahead 7-0. Green Bay’s offense didn’t do much of anything after that.

The temperature at kickoff was 14 degrees with a wind chill of zero, making it the fifth-coldest playoff game in Lambeau Field history. The second half was played amid snow flurries.

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Edmonton Oilers stop bleeding with monster comeback victory against Calgary Flames – Edmonton Sun



On a seven-game losing streak, with their coach on the hot seat, their goalies being roasted at the stake and the season slipping through their fingers, a centre stage Battle of Alberta was the fork in what has been a long and bumpy downhill road

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There are certain games in a hockey team’s season that mean much more than two points. They are watershed moments that tell us who they are and where they are going.


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Saturday night against the Calgary Flames was one of those games for the Edmonton Oilers.

On a seven-game losing streak, with their coach on the hot seat, their goalies being roasted at the stake and the season slipping through their fingers, a centre stage Battle of Alberta was the fork in what has been a long and bumpy downhill road.

In the end, the Oilers took the road less travelled — one that actually led to a win.

They came back from down 2-0 and rode two goals from Evan Bouchard, an outstanding night from Mikko Koskinen and a third-period winner and empty-netter from Leon Draisaitl to post a life-preserving 5-3 victory.

“It feels great,” said Draisaitl, who also chipped in two assists for a four-point night. “Losing is awful. It sucks. It is not fun. It feels like there is always a cloud around you. We are not where we want to be yet, but this is a start and you have to start at some point. (Koskinen) was amazing. It was a full team effort, a good game for us.”


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For reasons unexplained, the Sportsnet crew only saw fit to name Koskinen the third star, but his 44-save performance was the foundation that made everything else possible.

“He saved the game for us,” said Draisaitl. “He was our best player, not even close tonight. It is great for him. We love him in the dressing room and we love playing for him. He was amazing.”

The Oilers, who came in with six points to show for their previous 15 games (2-11-2), needed this game more than they’ve needed a regular season game in a looong time.

That they might have righted their season at the expense of Calgary makes it sweeter.

“It makes it extra special,” said Draisaitl. “It’s always fun beating our biggest rival in the league. But to be honest, it doesn’t really matter at this point when you are that deep into a slump.


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“You are just looking to get that first win out of the way, it doesn’t really matter who it is against. But it does make it a little bit extra special, for sure.”

Not that the Flames were exactly tearing things up. Prior to their 5-1 win over Florida this week they lost nine of their previous 10 games (the only win coming over lowly Seattle) and were outscored 43-22. So they were at a bit of a crossroads themselves.

But when the flag dropped, Calgary hit the gas first.

It was a miserable start for the Oilers, who were losing puck battles and leaving guys wide open around their net en route to a well-deserved 2-0 deficit after 20 minutes. That made it 13 goals against in the last five periods dating back to the five-goal third-period collapse against Ottawa.


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Things looked pretty bad at this point.

It turned in the second, though, starting with a pair of point shots on the power play from Bouchard.

“I thought our second period was good,” said Connor McDavid, who ended his three-game drought with a pair of assists. “We really dictated the pace of the period, drew a few penalties and our power play was able to capitalize.

“The power play is big part of the game and we were able to get ourselves back in it, to just scratch and claw to find a way to get a win.”

Brendan Perlini and Noah Hannafin traded goals before the second intermission and it was 3-3 after 40.

All the Oilers had to do was win the final period. That was no gimme after giving up nine goals in the third period of their last two games, but the game was still up for grabs.


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The Flames pushed first, outshooting Edmonton 8-2 through the first 11 minutes, but Koskinen kept it 3-3 with a handful of key stops, none better than a diving save for the ages on Dillon Dube.

“I think it is my top save in the NHL,” he said. “When you think about the situation and where we are, we really needed the win and we got it so we have to be happy for that.”

That set the stage for Draisaitl’s winner on a brilliant rush at 14:29.

“We were down 2-0 after the first, but we kept talking that we believed and that we were gong to come back and that is what happened,” said Koskinen. “It was a full team effort. I was really proud of the team.”


In what seems like a never-ending drip of injuries and illnesses, the Oilers were without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (leg), Zach Hyman (protocol) and defenceman Tyson Barrie (upper and lower body injuries, but the middle is said to be OK). Zack Kassian also sat this one out with a non-COVID illness.

Stuart Skinner emerged from COVID protocol in time for the game but they kept him on the bench as a backup given that he hadn’t been on the ice in six days.



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Shapovalov beats Zverev in straight sets, advances to Australian Open quarterfinals – TSN



MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Denis Shapovalov continued his run at the Australian Open with a dominant straight-sets upset victory over Alexander Zverev in the fourth round Sunday.

Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., defeated the third-ranked Zverev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinal.

The 22-year-old Canadian, ranked 14th, will face No. 6 Rafael Nadal in the next round. The Spaniard earned his spot in the quarterfinal with a straight-sets victory against Adrian Mannarino.

Shapovalov had never made it past the third round at the Australian Open.

The Canadian was aggressive in the match and constantly challenged the uninspired Zverev. He managed to overcome 11 double faults in the match.

Shapovalov completely dominated the third set, which ended with Zverev sending a return into the net. He fist-bumped in celebration.

Shapovalov needed two hours 21 minutes to defeat Zverev – his quickest match of the Grand Slam tournament so far. His previous three matches lasted more than three hours each, with his second-round victory over South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo going four hours 25 minutes across five sets.

But it was a much more consistent, composed performance that saw Shapovalov make relatively fast work of Zverev.

He put serious doubt in the German’s mind when he broke his opponent on the very first game of the second set. Zverev destroyed his racket in anger, smashing it multiple times against the court.

The Canadian went on to lose serve twice to go down 5-3 in the second set before breaking Zverev right back to eventually force a tiebreak. In that tiebreak, Shapovalov nearly let a 5-1 lead slip away but he held on for the 2-0 set lead.

The upset was brewing early on when Shapovalov broke the German’s serve on the fourth game to go up 3-1. He served out from there for the comfortable 6-3 opening-set win.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2022.

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