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To draw even with Avalanche, Blues know settling score with Kadri isn’t the way to go – Sportsnet.ca

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To be blunt, engaging in the blame game isn’t going to have much of an impact on the outcome of this intense, Western Conference series.

It’s understandable why the St. Louis Blues would be frustrated right now, of course. They lost Jordan Binnington for at least the remainder of this duel with the Colorado Avalanche, which they trail in 2-1, after Nazem Kadri collided with their goalie in Game 3. But this is one of those situations where taking a number is required.

Don’t get me wrong, if there is an opportunity to exact some in-game revenge on Kadri — whether his actions were accidental or accidentally on purpose — the Blues will take advantage of every chance they get to land a hit on him.

The Avalanche centre was already on the Blues’ radar going into the series for his illegal check to the head of Justin Faulk during the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs that resulted in an eight-game suspension. His role in the collision that has knocked Binnington out of this matchup with a suspected knee injury has been a major talking point the past two days — for its impact on the series, and beyond it.

On Sunday, the Avalanche said they were working with law enforcement officials to investigate threats made toward Kadri. Akim Aliu, the co-founder of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, said he spoke to Kadri, who shared he had been subjected to “racist attacks and threats.”

Conduct like that is, plainly, horrible and intolerable. While the investigation unfolds away from the rink, the series itself resumes on Monday.

Since the collision, the Blues have seemed to straddle that fine line between letting it be known they weren’t OK with what had transpired between Kadri and Binnington, yet also realizing they couldn’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about how they would retaliate.

“As for the play, we’re not going to talk about it too much. You ask any player there who’s played the game, you assume a guy who knows what he’s doing,” Blues defenceman Robert Bortuzzo told reporters in St. Louis on Sunday. “But having said that we’re not going to misplace anywhere energy moving forward here.”

For the record, the Blues weren’t buying Kadri’s explanation that he was pushed into Binnington by Blues defenceman Calle Rosen, since the video evidence suggests Kadri was the one who initiated the contact with Rosen while trying to hunt down the loose puck near the blue paint after Binnington made a save but couldn’t prevent a rebound.

“I just think from his comments, he said that he got pushed and he’s behind our guy (Rosen), so I don’t know how that makes sense,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn told reporters. “But we’ll move on and worry about winning a hockey game.

“Here to win the series, that’s what it boils down to. You don’t focus on just him. You focus on going out there and winning a hockey game. That’s all you can really control.”

Easier said than done, of course.

Aside from the collision with Binnington, Kadri had a huge impact on Game 3, providing a beautiful tip-in goal after a shot by Cale Makar, while also setting up Artturi Lehkonen for the eventual game-winner late in the second period with a perfect pass off the wall, after Schenn poked a rebound attempt over the net at the other end.

There’s little doubt the Blues will try to use this situation as something to rally around after the 5-2, Game 3 loss.

Yes, it’s a big blow, given how well Binnington has been playing since reclaiming the crease in Game 4 of the opening-round series with the Minnesota Wild.

Never mind the eye-popping numbers (4-1 record, 1.79 goals-against average, .949 save percentage) he produced, the confidence Binnington was exuding between the pipes has been infectious.

Blues head coach Craig Berube confirmed on Sunday, Binnington is gone for at least the remainder of this series. He won’t require surgery, yet the only way he gets back is if his time finds a way to advance at least past the second round.

The Blues won’t move on if they’re more concerned about chasing Kadri around the ice or taking silly penalties trying to settle a score.

The only chance the Blues have is if they remain committed to playing a determined and structured style of play that has slowed the high-octane Avalanche attack at various points through three games.

Another big factor could be Blues goalie Ville Husso, whose ability to morph into the starting role was a storyline all season long.

After posting a 37-save shutout in the series opener against the Minnesota Wild, Husso has given up 13 goals, leaving his playoff numbers (1-3 record, 3.38 goals-against average, .891 save percentage) looking pedestrian and nothing like a guy who is likely to cash in as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Yet this shouldn’t be viewed as a dire situation for the Blues, as Husso has it in him.

“It’s a tough loss. You know, we’re not going to sugarcoat that but at the same time, we have a guy who has been great for us all year and I’m sure he’s excited to get in there and step up for us,” said Bortuzzo. “He’s just a kid who seems pretty unflappable. He’s got great energy in the room. Just a true character who plays with a lot of passion and I’m sure he’s champing at the bit to get in there.

“He was put in a tough spot last game, coming into a playoff game, but you can see how the fans reacted. I’m sure he’s going to embrace that. And as a team we know what we got back there. So we’re very comfortable.”

There’s a good reason for that.

“Obviously, unfortunate injury and at the same time we have full confidence in Ville,” said Schenn. “Both guys have had the net at times this year and both guys are very capable of winning hockey games. We’re looking forward to seeing what Ville can do and when he’s in the net, we’re just as confident.”

Husso showed he could carry the mail during the regular season, going 25-7-6 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .919 save percentage as the Blues finished second in the Central Division behind the Avalanche.

The Blues also recalled goalie Charlie Lindgren from the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League on Sunday.

The Avalanche lost a key player for this series on Saturday as well, with minute-munching defenceman Sam Girard out with a broken sternum, the result of a clean, but jarring hit from Blues forward Ivan Barbashev less than two minutes into the game.

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar probably knows who he is going to turn to, but wasn’t tipping his hand on Sunday about whether it would be Ryan Murray or Jack Johnson (the likely choice) coming into the lineup. Kurtis MacDermid would also be an option, especially if Bednar was looking to add a bit more of a deterrent on the physical side of things.

“Whoever fills that spot is going to be ready,” Avalanche blueliner Devon Toews told reporters. “Most of those guys were regulars for us at certain times of the year.”

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Late fumble costs Tiger-Cats in Elks win on Canada Day – TSN

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HAMILTON — Tre Ford was in his happy place Friday in Hamilton.

The Edmonton Elks quarterback got a win in his first career CFL start 30 minutes down the Queen Elizabeth Highway from his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont.

The Elks came from behind to beat the Tiger-Cats 29-25 in front of 20,233 at Tim Hortons Field.

“To come back to Hamilton and have all my family watching me get that first start and that first win has been fantastic,” Ford said.

Among Ford’s supporters were his wife, parents, sister, sister-in-law and mother-in-law, his high school football coach from A.N. Myer Secondary, his University of Waterloo head coach Chris Bertoia, eight of his former university teammates and more friends.

Ford was shaky at times as the Elks trailed by 13 points early in the second half.

But the 2021 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy winner that goes to the most outstanding Canadian university football player threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler early in the fourth quarter.

The winning play for the Elks (1-3) arrived with 1:38 remaining when defensive back Scott Hutter tackled Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans and knocked the ball loose.

Jalen Collins recovered for a 14-yard touchdown.

“I saw him tackle him and thought, ‘please punch the ball out,” Collins said. “All we needed was an opportunity to close the game out. We were fighting all night. It was ugly.”

The winless Tiger-Cats opened a season with four straight losses for the first time since 2017 when they started 0-8.

“I want to apologize to all the guys. I put both home losses on me,” Evans said. “I just have to take care of it, and we win the game.”

Evans was 20-for-31 in passing for 197 yards and a touchdown throw. He was intercepted twice.

Ford’s numbers didn’t sparkle, although he did rush for 61 yards on six carries. The 24-year-old competed 15 of 26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once.

Edmonton’s defence helped out with interceptions by Sheldon Brady and Matthew Thomas, as well as the pivotal late-game recovered fumble by Collins.

“A big shout out to the defence,” Ford said. “They won us that game. They made what, three or four turnovers? They did super well.

“I have room for improvement. I’m not going to complain because we did win. But I’m going to hit the film room to see what I can critique and where I can get better.”

Hamilton went after the rookie with various blitzes in the first half.
“My legs are going to open things up for my arm,” Ford said.

Ford credited teammate and quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who started in Edmonton’s three losses this season, for advising him during the game on defensive reads.

“He’s been like that since day one, even though we’re competitors for the position,” Ford said.

He admitted to early jitters as Hamilton led 16-6 after the first quarter and 19-9 at halftime.

“I always get nervous for the first play of every game,” Ford said. “I think it’s a good thing because it means I care and that I want to win.”

Evans hit Steven Dunbar for a 21-yard strike, and Lawrence Woods returned a kickoff of 72 yards for Hamilton’s first-half touchdowns.

Edmonton’s Kai Locksley scored on a one-yard plunge.

Elks kicker Sergio Castillo made two of his three field-goal attempts, while Hamilton counterpart Michael Domagala nailed his three and gave the Ticats at lead with a 33-yarder with 3:10 remaining in the game

“We’re not good enough right now,” Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. “We’re not executing at the level which needs to happen. We’re just not making those plays we need to make.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2022.

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Raptors sign forward Otto Porter Jr. to 2-year deal: reports – CBC.ca

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The Toronto Raptors have signed forward Otto Porter Jr., who was a key member of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship team.

The two-year deal was first reported by Yahoo Sports, and confirmed to The Canadian Press by a source close to negotiations.

The 29-year-old Porter averaged 8.2 points per game this past season. He’s a tenacious defender and solid long-range shooter, with a career average of 39.8 per cent from behind the arc.

Porter was selected third overall by Washington in the 2013 draft, and played the first six seasons of his career there before being traded to Chicago in 2019. Orlando then acquired him at the 2021 trade deadline, and he signed with the Warriors in the 2021 off-season.

The Raptors have been busy since free agency opened at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, signing Canadian forward Chris Boucher to a three-year deal, and signing veteran forward Thaddeus Young to a multi-year contract extension.

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Blue Jays’ bats assist bullpen, carry the day in comfortable win over Rays – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – The Blue Jays may have discovered the solution to their bullpen issues: score nine runs a game.

Sustainable? Maybe not, but the Blue Jays are hitting at their best right now, with an MLB-leading 170 runs scored in June to go along with 50 home runs last month. Wearing their red jerseys in front of a sellout Canada Day crowd of 44,445 Friday, some of that offensive output carried into July with a festive 9-2 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

“It was so special,” said starter Jose Berrios. “I’ve heard a lot about this day, but being here and pitching today was very emotional. I know a lot of Canadians enjoy it and want to be at the ballpark on a day like today.”

“It was amazing, to say the least,” added Cavan Biggio, who reached base four times Friday. “In 2020 and 2021 we definitely missed this place. Now we’re finally back and we’re experiencing that energy that we’ve all been looking forward to on a nightly basis.”

A Lourdes Gurriel Jr. home run put the finishing touch on this one, but the Blue Jays also hit six doubles, five of which came off Rays starter Corey Kluber in a five-run third inning. A three-run sixth created necessary breathing room for the Blue Jays, who were able to rest most of their high-leverage relievers on a day Berrios was not at his sharpest.

With three hits, including his fifth home run of the season, Gurriel Jr. helped drive the Blue Jays’ offence. But don’t overlook Biggio, who walked twice while also hitting two doubles on a day his season on-base percentage climbed to .385.

“Today was great,” Biggio said. “Just hit after hit. A good pitcher, a good experienced guy on the mound, but we had a plan and we were able to execute it.”

Even before a pitch was thrown, Blue Jays fans had plenty to cheer about Friday. The recently retired Russell Martin was honoured with a memorable video narrated by former teammate Jose Bautista and personal messages from the likes of former Jays manager John Gibbons and fellow Canadian Joey Votto.

As the video tributes played in centre field, most Blue Jays players watched from the dugout. The fans also responded warmly to Martin, who later threw out the ceremonial first pitch to another athletic catcher who wears No. 55: Gabriel Moreno.

“Unbelievable career,” Biggio said of Martin. “What stands out to me the most is he played 14 years in the majors and made the playoffs 10 times. That’s what this game’s all about: it’s about winning.”

As for Berrios, he was effective enough, allowing two runs on eight hits over the course of five innings. He worked in and out of trouble, though, stranding nine runners, including both of the batters he walked.

While his fastball averaged 93.6 m.p.h., the Rays weren’t often fooled by the right-hander, who generated eight swinging strikes on 98 total pitches. Still, the Blue Jays will take that from Berrios, especially considering he had allowed 14 earned runs over the course of his previous two starts.

“He’s better than what he did today,” Montoyo said. “He was missing by a little bit and that made him throw even more pitches and work harder …  at the end of the day, he did the job.”

But realistically, the Blue Jays would have been in a tough spot without so much help from their offence. Adam Cimber was presumed unavailable after pitching three days in a row, and David Phelps was likely off limits given that he’d just pitched in four of five. This was not an ideal day for the Blue Jays to try preserving a one- or two-run lead.

Thanks to their lineup, they didn’t have to. With the exception of one inning from Trent Thornton, the Blue Jays were able to avoid their high-leverage relievers, putting them in a relatively strong position entering Saturday’s double-header. 

“If our pitching gives us a chance, our offence is going to go and that’s exactly what happened,” Montoyo said. “We should be better tomorrow because of that.”

Sergio Romo made his Blue Jays debut with a clean inning seventh inning that featured two strikeouts and Max Castillo pitched the final two innings without incident as Toronto improved to 44-33 on the season while increasing their lead over the Rays to 3.5 games.

All told, this was pretty close to how the Blue Jays would have drawn it up. And end of the day, they’re in Toronto again, playing at home on Canada Day for the first time since 2019. In case any doubt remained as to the day’s significance, an impromptu rendition of O Canada broke out in the stands as the Blue Jays closed out the win. Soon after the fans finished singing, the players completed their 9-2 win.

“The energy and pride that this country embodies was definitely on full display,” Biggio said.

Or, as Montoyo put it: “You could tell the happiness about it.”

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