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Timely return for Horvat, Pettersson key amid Canucks’ steep playoff climb – Sportsnet.ca

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VANCOUVER – When the Vancouver Canucks began their ambitious expedition three weeks ago to climb back into a playoff spot, looking up at the North Division standings would have been like looking up at the North Face of the Eiger.

That famous limestone wall in the Alps is terrifyingly high and steep and usually covered with ice. And then the Canucks started their climb without crampons, losing their best forward, Elias Pettersson, due to a reported wrist injury that has proven to be far more troubling than initially diagnosed.

When Canucks captain Bo Horvat hobbled to the dressing room during Monday’s 4-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets after being struck just above his skate by teammate Alex Edler’s slapshot, it was like the mountaineers were losing their ropes, too.

Free climb the Eiger? Not a chance. Which is why coach Travis Green’s surprising announcement Tuesday that Horvat is “day-to-day” was extraordinarily good news for the Canucks.

It looked like Horvat, who has played 240 consecutive National Hockey League games, might be done for the season. Instead, he could play Wednesday’s rematch against the Jets or, at least, be available one week later against the Calgary Flames after the Canucks’ six-day schedule break.

“I’d call it day-to-day right now,” Green told reporters on Zoom as the Canucks held a spartan practice at Rogers Arena. “I haven’t ruled him out for tomorrow.”

It is worth remembering that Green also originally characterized Pettersson’s injury, sustained and/or exacerbated during back-to-back games in Winnipeg on March 1 and 2, as “day-to-day” before further tests revealed a more serious problem.

But Green said Tuesday that medical imaging had already been completed on Horvat, and the coach is hopeful he’ll play Wednesday.

His early exit on Monday left the Canucks without any of their top four centres: Pettersson, Horvat, Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle. There is a chance that Sutter could also play Wednesday after missing one game, Green said, and Beagle is getting closer to playing after missing the last six with an undisclosed injury.

The return of Horvat and Pettersson is absolutely necessary if the Canucks are going to continue upwards.

That playoff peak still looks dauntingly far away and the route almost vertical. But the Canucks have surprised us by climbing well above the valley floor so far, going 8-3-1 in March even without Pettersson.

The key, as climbers and hockey players know, is to not look too far ahead lest you lose hope or footing. Just worry about the next step.

“You know, the guys that are playing, they just care about playing well and doing what they can to win the game,” Green said. “[Injuries are] not talked about as much as you think in a locker room. The guys that are in the lineup are just concerned with getting the job done, really. Probably coaches think about it a little more, the fans, media. But the players are worried about playing their best game and worrying about themselves, trying to make sure that they play the way we need to win.”

With 20 games remaining, the 16-17-3 Canucks probably need 28 points or 14 wins, minimum, just to give themselves a chance of making the Stanley Cup tournament in May. Each game they lose, the climb gets steeper.

“I’m definitely not thinking about the math,” Green continued. “We’re just worrying about the game tomorrow. We’ve been playing some pretty good hockey here as of late. I think it’s important that you don’t start looking 10 games down the road, 15 games down the road. Just worry about the next game.

“If we were in a playoff spot right now, we’d be saying the same thing. We’re not looking at numbers saying we’ve got to win five in a row. We’ve got to win the next game and worry about the next game, and then reset, take our break, and get ready to play again.”

The Canucks have built themselves a trade-deadline safety net by claiming forwards Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Assuming general manager Jim Benning doesn’t flip them ahead of the April 12 trade deadline, Vesey and Boyd are good enough depth players to fill a couple of holes in the lineup should the Canucks finally become deadline sellers and leverage players on expiring contracts for assets.

But Benning also knows how tirelessly his players have worked to climb back towards the playoff race. In management’s view, and for the sake of that ever-evolving team culture, they probably deserve at least a little more time to prove that their ascent has not stalled.

Benning can afford to wait a little longer. Judging by the unprecedented gridlock amid one of the most challenging trading markets NHL GMs have ever navigated, waiting may not be a matter of choice.

“Obviously, a few of the guys out right now are pretty important to our lineup — certainly some of our more reliable guys out there,” veteran defenceman Tyler Myers said. “We know how important each and every game is but. . . the mindset stays the same. We’d like those guys back as fast as possible, but the focus is on tomorrow night. Last night’s done.”

Hammer in another piton and try to keep going higher.

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Maple Leafs' goalie Petr Mrazek exits with groin injury vs. Senators – The Athletic

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Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Petr Mrazek exited after the second period of a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday with what the team called a groin injury. The team had no further update on his status after the game.

Mrazek went down awkwardly on the final shot of the period from Ottawa’s Victor Mete, then hobbled down the tunnel at the end of the period. Mrazek made 26 saves but allowed three first-period goals. Jack Campbell came on for the Leafs in goal to start the third period.

Mrazek, 29, was making his debut with the Leafs after signing a three-year deal in the offseason.

(Photo: Chris Tanouye / Getty Images)

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Umpire's 'Blown' Check-Swing Call Ends Epic Dodgers-Giants Series And Stuns Fans – Yahoo

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Of course the epic National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants would finish in controversy.

The Giants’ Wilmer Flores struck out on what many believed was a blown check-swing call by first base umpire Gabe Morales. The out preserved the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory in Game 5 on Thursday, allowing the team to advance to the National League Championship Series against Atlanta.

The chances of a Giants rally appeared dim at the time. The count was 0-2, there were two outs, a runner on first, and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was pitching. Not to mention that Flores had never gotten a hit off Scherzer before, the San Francisco Chronicle noted.

But the anticlimactic ending to the momentous playoff clash between the historic rivals angered fans. Reporters and Major Leaguers, including the New York Mets’ Kevin Pillar (a former Giant), chimed in, too.

Check out the reactions of what some called “the check swing heard round the world.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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Cardinals acquire Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz from Eagles – Sportsnet.ca

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The undefeated Arizona Cardinals have added another weapon to their arsenal.

The Cardinals, who are the only 5-0 team in the NFL, acquired three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz from the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday for cornerback Tay Gowan and a 2022 fifth-round draft pick.

Ertz played with the Eagles since they selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He set an NFL record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season with 116 catches and also had a career-high 1,163 yards during the 2018 season. Ertz, who was selected to the Pro Bowl three consecutive years from 2017-19, caught the game-winning touchdown during Super Bowl LII to help the Eagles defeat the New England Patriots 41-33 and capture their first Super Bowl.

“Zach Ertz built a special legacy in Philadelphia,” Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “Talented, tough, and passionate, he helped to establish our team’s culture and played a vital role in our success over the years.

“Zach created so many memories that will live on forever, from setting numerous franchise and league records, to reaching across the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in our first-ever Super Bowl championship. He will always be a member of the Eagles family, not only because of what he accomplished on the field, but also because of the wonderful person, dedicated leader, and exemplary role model that he was for nine seasons in Philadelphia. We wish Zach and Julie nothing but the best.”

The 30-year-old Ertz has 18 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns in six games this season. Philadelphia lost 28-22 Thursday night to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Ertz hauling in a touchdown catch.

The Cardinals play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

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