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Toronto Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game #6 Preview, Projected Lineups & TV Info – Maple Leafs Hotstove – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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After losing three of five to open the season, the Maple Leafs are looking to start their first U.S. road trip since March 2020 on the right foot against a heavily-shorthanded Pittsburgh Penguins team tonight on Hockey Night in Canada (7 p.m., Sportsnet/CBC).

No one is getting fired over a loss tonight, but an under-performing Leafs team entering a Saturday night in Pittsburgh on the second half of a back-to-back early in the year, with key personnel missing from the Penguins lineup, does trigger memories of the night Mike Babcock’s tenure as a coach effectively ended in Toronto with a miserable 6-1 loss.

Add in the exasperated reaction online and the jersey toss during the loss to San Jose last night, while this isn’t a panic situation by any means yet, it’s clear the goodwill with the fan base is at its lowest point in the Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe era.

No goals and one assist in five games from Mitch Marner on the heels of last May’s playoff showing has him firmly in the fan base’s crosshairs while he continues to display defiance in the media when asked about where he wants to better his own game.

Keefe is lamenting the issues plaguing the power play as a continuation of last season, and repeatedly mentioning the team’s inability to take games over they should be taking over from the drop of the puck, without offering much in the way of clear remedies.

Just five games in, there are a few ingredients at play already for this season to snowball into a disaster scenario for the Leafs if they’re not careful, but the high-end talent on the team should really be able to step in and calm the waters before it approaches anywhere near a crisis point.

Tonight, there is no Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, or Jeff Carter lining up across the faceoff dot (Crosby and Malkin are rehabbing from surgeries, Carter is in Covid protocol). The Penguins’ top two centers tonight: Evan Rodrigues and Teddy Blueger. Kris Letang also won’t feature on the blue line due to Covid protocol.

The Leafs‘ Jack Campbell was rested last night so he can start tonight. The Penguins are coming off of three days of rest and the Leafs played and traveled last night, but the same was true of the Sharks on Friday.

Led by Matthews, Tavares, and Marner, there is no excuse for the Leafs not to start on time and deliver on offense with a convincing win to kick off their road trip.


Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge presented by a banged-up Pens team:

It is going to be a very similar type of game that we have played. They have a lot of speed, a lot of tenacity. They play a really structured game and a very quick game. They move the puck quickly out of their end and look to get on the attack. They are a team that is playing without some key people, but they have found success early in the season despite it. They have confidence in their ability to do that. It is another challenge for our group tonight.

It is a very good, healthy thing for our group to get back at it tonight. We have to find our way through these games, find ways to score, find ways to get leads, find ways to protect leads, and find ways to win the special teams battle. All of those kinds of things, we have had to work our way through. We have done it at times. I don’t think we have played poorly as a group, but we have another level to get to.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan on the message to his team with so many key players out of the lineup:

I think our players are very familiar with our style of play, with the details of how we are trying to play in each respective zone on both sides of the puck. Regardless of whether they play a more significant role in terms of minutes or things of that nature, I am not sure that changes those details.

Having said that, when we are missing some of the players who are out of our lineup, I don’t think we need to change how we play, but we need to simplify how we play. That is really the conversation we have had with our group: We are going to have to play a gritty game. We are going to have to have a collective effort. We’ve got to pay attention to detail. We’ve got to rely on our structure. We’ve got to trust that everybody is going to do their job out there.

As long as that happens, we can become a team that is hard to play against. We’ve got to manage the puck appropriately, and we’ve got to compete — most importantly, we have to compete. As long as that happens, we have good players in our lineup who can compete in this league, and we know that.

Sullivan on Kasperi Kapanen:

Kappy has had a great camp. He has worked extremely hard. he is in terrific shape. His speed is really evident. He hasn’t scored in the first few games here in the regular season, but it hasn’t been from a lack of scoring chances.

He has been a very good player for us. I really like his game. He has so much upside and room for growth with his game. There isn’t any aspect of the game that he can’t play. He is big and strong. He can play a grind game down low. He is capable of that. His speed off the rush is very threatening. He can really shoot the puck.

We’ve really liked what we have seen from Kappy at this point. As long as he stays with it, he is going to score goals for us. There is feedback that we have given him over the first week or so that we are hopeful will help him move forward just getting him into better spots to get some looks so that he can act on his talent. We are excited and encouraged about where his game can inevitably grow.

Kasperi Kapanen on receiving “tough love” from Mike Sullivan:

It is more of me trying to be the best player I possibly can day in and day out — not just on the ice but off the ice. I am in the best shape of my life right now. He and the strength guys have been on me this summer. I was here quite a bit for the summer trying to prepare for the season. I feel amazing. Sometimes, when I get sloppy or I am not at my best, he is going to let me know. That is the way a coach should be.


Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Forwards
#20 Nick Ritchie – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#58 Michael Bunting – #91 John Tavares– #88 William Nylander
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #64 David Kampf – #25 Ondrej Kase
#47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds

Defensemen
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren

Goaltenders
Starter:#36 Jack Campbell
#30 Michael Hutchinson

Extras: Michael Amadio, Travis Dermott
Injured/Out
: Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek


Pittsburgh Penguins Projected Lines

Forwards
#59 Jake Guentzel – #9 Evan Rodrigues – #42 Kasperi Kapanen
#46 Zach Aston-Reese -#53 Teddy Blueger – #23 Brock McGinn
#16 Jason Zucker – #10 Drew O’Connor – #43 Danton Heinen
#49 Dominik Simon – #11 Brian Boyle – #18 Sam Lafferty

Defensemen
#8 Brian Dumoulin – #6 John Marino
#5 Michael Matheson – #2 Chad Ruhwedel
#28 Marcus Pettersson –  #52 Mark Friedman

Goaltenders
Starter: #35 Tristan Jarry
#1 Casey DeSmith

Injured/Out: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Jeff Carter, Kris Letang 

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Soccer-Manchester City go top as Chelsea suffer defeat at West Ham

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Chelsea paid a heavy price for a 3-2 defeat at West Ham United as first Liverpool, then Manchester City, leapfrogged them in the Premier League title race on Saturday, with City ending the day on top for the first time this season.

Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea began the day with a narrow lead and twice went in front at the London Stadium, only to be stunned by a late goal from substitute defender Arthur Masuaku.

It looked as though Liverpool had let Chelsea off the hook as their later clash at Wolverhampton Wanderers went into stoppage time still goalless.

But Divock Origi, making his 100th appearance as a Liverpool substitute, latched on to a Mohamed Salah pass to smash a winner past Wolves keeper Jose Sa in the 94th minute.

In the day’s late kickoff, Manchester City outclassed Watford in a 3-1 victory at Vicarage Road with Raheem Sterling paving the way before Bernardo Silva struck twice.

Chelsea had seemed to be in control of their game after 28 minutes when Thiago Silva scored with a header from a Mason Mount corner but the European champions gifted the hosts a penalty in the 40th minute when Jorginho put his goalkeeper Edouard Mendy under pressure with a poor back pass.

Mendy brought down Jarrod Bowen for a penalty that was converted by Manuel Lanzini.

Mount restored Chelsea’s lead with a superb volley four minutes later only for West Ham to draw level early in the second half when Bowen fired in hard and low.

Masuaku clinched it for the fourth-placed hosts in the 87th minute with a cross that flew into the goal.

It meant Chelsea slipped to third spot with 33 points from 15 games, one point behind Liverpool and two behind Manchester City. West Ham have 27 points.

“We are not good enough in the details at the moment,” Tuchel told reporters. “We do too many big mistakes.”

Wolves had defended resolutely against a Liverpool side who have been in unstoppable goalscoring form.

But all their hard work came to nothing as Origi showed what a great impact substitute he can be, with his winner sparking wild celebrations on the Liverpool bench.

“It was clear: when you don’t score you just have to keep going and that’s what we did,” manager Juergen Klopp said.

“And then Divock Origi, the legend, came and finished it off for us. I love it.”

There was no such drama for City who racked up a fifth successive league win and a 31st in the calendar year, surpassing their previous club record.

“There are always things we have to improve but right now, the guys are playing at a really good level,” manager Pep Guardiola said. “We scored three beautiful goals and we could have scored more.”

Newcastle United’s wait for a first league victory of the season is over after Callum Wilson’s goal earned them a 1-0 victory against fellow relegation battlers Burnley.

The win lifted Newcastle off the bottom on goal difference, above Norwich City who play at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Brighton & Hove Albion drew for the eighth time this season as Neal Maupay rescued a point in a 1-1 draw at Southampton. Maupay struck in the eighth minute of stoppage time to deny Saints their fourth league win of the season after Armando Broja had give them a first-half lead.

 

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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Soccer-Man City take top spot after comfortable win at Watford

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Reigning champions Manchester City claimed top spot in the Premier League for the first time this season as Bernardo Silva scored twice in a 3-1 victory at Watford on Saturday.

Raheem Sterling’s early header paved the way to a comfortable win for Pep Guardiola’s side who made the most of morning leaders Chelsea’s earlier 3-2 defeat at West Ham United.

Silva fired in from a tight angle in the 31st minute and put City in cruise control just past the hour mark when he curled a delightful effort into the top corner.

In truth City’s winning margin should have been bigger against a struggling Watford side who were given some late hope when Cucho Hernandez pulled a goal back.

City’s fifth successive league win lifted them to 35 points from 15 games, one point ahead of Liverpool and two in front of Chelsea in what is shaping up to be a three-way title tussle.

The sight of Guardiola’s City hitting the top in the run-up to Christmas will send shivers through their rivals.

Once they climbed to the summit last season in January they marched off into the distance, although this time the form of Liverpool suggests they will not have things all their own way.

“It’s still the beginning, we are not even halfway through and there is a lot of hard work to do,” Silva, who is City’s surprise leading league scorer with seven goals, said.

“It’s always better to be top of the league than second, third or fourth, but it’s so close — Liverpool are just one point behind us, Chelsea are two points behind us.

“But we are in good form and we want to keep it that way.”

LONG NIGHT

It was only a fortnight ago that Claudio Ranieri’s side put Manchester United to the sword at Vicarage Road.

But they barely got a kick in the first half against City.

Once Sterling was given the freedom of the penalty area to head in Phil Foden’s cross after four minutes it always looked like being a long night for the hosts.

Jack Grealish could have had a hat-trick before halftime as he wasted several glorious chances but Silva soon showed him how to find the back of the net.

The Portuguese playmaker’s astute pass set up a chance for Ilkay Gundogan whose shot was saved by Daniel Bachmann but as the ball came out Silva was alert to drill a low shot into the net from an acute angle.

His second was a thing of beauty. Taking a pass from Kyle Walker on the right, Silva cut inside Danny Rose and curled a shot into the top corner with almost nonchalant ease.

City switched off slightly to allow Hernandez to score after his shot came back off the post, but it was a minor hiccup on a thoroughly satisfying day.

 

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Why Aaron Rodgers got away with a fine and three Buccaneers got banned – The Globe and Mail

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was fined US$14,650, a sum negotiated between the league and the players’ union while developing the COVID-19 protocols. The team was nailed for US$300,000 for its lack of oversight in the Rodgers case.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers flaunts the NFL/NFLPA coronavirus protocols and gets a fine that barely shows up in his paycheque.

Antonio Brown and two others do the same and get three-game suspensions.

What gives?

It’s complicated, but in some ways it’s also pretty simple why the Packers quarterback was fined US$14,650, a sum negotiated between the league and the players’ union while developing the COVID-19 protocols. And why Brown, teammate Mike Edwards and former Buccaneers player John Franklin III took a much bigger hit for falsifying vaccination documents.

Rodgers was fined for not wearing a mask in some instances, at a Halloween party and during press conferences. A joint investigation by the NFL and union revealed that he was wearing a mask at other points and complied with the protocols.

Aaron Rodgers admits misleading people on his vaccine status, but stands by remarks

Aaron Rodgers scorns NFL COVID-19 protocols because he can – with no consequences

Rodgers did mislead the public and the media, but he informed the club – which told the NFL – and his teammates of his status. Indeed, everyone in his ecosystem was aware he was not vaccinated, and he was testing for COVID-19 daily, and social distancing at the team facility. It was those exceptions when he did not do so that led to the fine.

The Packers were nailed for US$300,000 for their lack of oversight in the Rodgers case. Whether that indicates complicity by the organization is a matter of debate.

Tampa Bay was not fined, though it loses an important defensive back in Edwards for part of the stretch run, and doesn’t have Brown, who has missed the past five games with an ankle injury. He also sat out the Bucs’ Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams after testing positive for COVID-19.

The actions of Brown, Edwards and Franklin began during the summer and, according to a person familiar with the case, “were acting like they were vaccinated when they were not.” The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the players’ specific violations have not been announced.

“The league wanted to make an example of these three,” the person said, “and wanted to suspend them six to eight games and they settled on three.”

The agreement was the players would take the three-game suspensions for repeated protocol violations, not appeal, and there would be no public statements about the fake vaccination cards.

Another person with direct knowledge of the case told The Associated Press that all three players now are vaccinated.

“These players put all of their people at risk, and themselves and family members, their teammates and team personnel,” the person said, also speaking on condition of anonymity. “They were not wearing masks when they [needed to] and were not tested every day, acting as if they were vaccinated.”

All 32 NFL teams were visited during training camp last summer and advised of the updated COVID-19 protocols. As early as July 22 the league made a presentation to the clubs to be on the lookout for fake vaccination cards, and noted to the teams the potential for that to happen based on media reports of people buying fake cards. The NFL even placed within the slide presentation the logo of the FBI, stressing that acquiring and using a fake vaccination card is a law enforcement issue that could lead to jail time.

And the players’ association made sure all of its members were aware that they actually falsified a federal document if they had a bogus vaccination document.

However, the protocols do not outline discipline for such a violation. Thus, the negotiations between the league and union that led to the three-game dockings.

There has been speculation that Brown’s history of misconduct, which includes an eight-game suspension in 2020 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, led to stiffer discipline. Both the league and union have insisted that is not the case.

The Brown/Edwards/Franklin case is the first disciplinary action with suspensions, and was announced through a joint statement by the NFL and NFLPA, reflecting the seriousness both take with the protocols.

Will there be more such scenarios? With about 95 per cent of NFL players vaccinated – and providing valid and verified proof – the numbers say that’s not likely. By handing down relatively major penalties for such violations, both the league and union hope a loud message has been sent.

Still, imagine if that message has not been heard or heeded, and one or more star players receive suspensions when playoff time rolls around in six weeks.

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