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Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New Jersey Devils – Game #39 Preview & Projected Lines – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Coming out of the Christmas break, the Toronto Maple Leafs will get right back down to business with a back-to-back starting tonight against the New Jersey Devils tonight as they attempt to extend their winning streak to six games (7 p.m. ET, SNO).

The Devils’ disappointing season culminated last week in the trading of Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes, essentially committing to a high draft pick after a 12-19-5 start that has them sitting last in a competitive Metro Division. New Jersey came into the year tabbed in many corners as big winners in the 2019 offseason only to produce far less than expected offensively with below-average defensive results and mediocrity in the net.

In terms of overall control/possession of the puck, the Devils have been close to the bottom of the league. They’ve allowed the fifth-most shot attempts against this year while generating the 26th fewest shot attempts for. It’s of little consolation to the organization and its fans, but when looking at location-adjusted numbers, the Devils show a little better at 23rd in xGF/60 and 17th in xGA/60.

In net, Mackenzie Blackwood, now in his second season and 50 games into his NHL career, has emerged as the undisputed number one. Cory Schneider’s rapid decline saw sent to the American League earlier in the season, meaning the Devils’ backup situation has been in flux and Blackwood has taken a large percentage of the team’s starts — 24 of 36, to be exact. Considering Blackwood’s age and inexperience, his performance is one of the few bright spots for the Devils this year. However, putting aside performance relative to preseason expectations, Blackwood has been closer to average with a season stat line of 11-10-4, with a .909 Sv% and a GSAx of -8.4.

Needless to say, while the first game back can lead to some sluggishness, this is a very winnable game for the Leafs to keep their momentum going coming out of the break.

In lineup news for the Leafs, Trevor Moore, after just one game back in the lineup, is out again indefinitely with a concussion. Adam Brooks has been called up again to fill out the roster, but he won’t get into the lineup yet as Dmytro Timashov will remain in the lineup on Frederik Gauthier’s wing.

At the top of the lineup, the Leafs are going with a different look than they started with the last game. They did use these lines for parts of the game against Carolina, but this will be their first game starting with these combos, with their six best performing forwards this season making up their top two lines — Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Ilya Mikheyev, and Zach Hyman. In addition to leaving the Matthews-Marner duo in place, rather than leaving Nylander on line three with Kasperi Kapanen and Alexander Kerfoot — a combination that didn’t seem to jive — Keefe has tweaked the lines to take our first real look at the Tavares-Nylander combination.

In goal, Michael Hutchinson will start while Andersen will go at home vs. the Rangers tomorrow. Handed the weaker opponent with a rested team in front of him, this is a good opportunity for Hutchinson to string two wins together coming off his win vs. Detroit last week.


Game Day Quotes

Auston Matthews on the inconsistency in the line combinations lately:

There’s not a whole ton of line juggling going on. Just in a game where stuff is not working you try to juggle it up and get something going and it seems to click so you ride with it. I don’t think anybody really has a problem with that. In the end, you’re just trying to find four lines that are obviously clicking well and producing.

Michael Hutchinson on his win against Detroit:

Just the way I felt out there, I felt really relaxed — I said before the game I was in a really good headspace going into the game and I felt the mental game was where it should be. That goes a long way. That’s the biggest thing — if you come in relaxed and in a good headspace, the game is a lot easier for sure.

Sheldon Keefe on the decision to start Hutchinson tonight and Andersen tomorrow:

We just thought, coming out of the break it was a good chance with the back-to-back they were going to play one each. It was a chance to give Freddy an extra day here to kind of get up and running. That’s what we went with, so Hutch will be ready to go today.


Matchup Stats


Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Forwards
#11 Zach Hyman – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#47 Pierre Engvall – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#41 Dmytro Timashov – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #19 Jason Spezza

Defensemen
#44 Morgan Rielly – #94 Tyson Barrie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #83 Cody Ceci

Goaltenders
#30 Michael Hutchinson (starter)
#31 Frederik Andersen

Scratched: Martin Marincin, Adam Brooks
Injured: 
Andreas Johnsson, Trevor Moore


New Jersey Devils Projected Lines

Forwards
#63 Jesper Bratt – #13 Nico Hischier – #21 Kyle Palmeri
#20 Blake Coleman – #19 Travis Zajac – #97 Nikita Gusev
#44 Miles Wood – #86 Jack Hughes – #17 Wayne Simmonds
#90 Jesper Boqvist – #37 Pavel Zacha – #15 John Hayden

Defensemen
#6 Andy Greene – #76 P.K Subban
#8 Will Butcher – #45 Sami Vatanen
#25 Mirco Mueller – #29 Damon Severson

Goaltenders
#29 Mackenzie Blackwood (starter)
#31 Gilles Senn

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Brady's 4 TD passes lead Bucs past Raiders – TSN

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LAS VEGAS — Tom Brady dropped back and lofted a pass that just got over the defender’s arms and fell into Scotty Miller’s hands right before he reached the sideline for a 33-yard TD pass.

The 43-year-old Brady is getting back to his Super Bowl-winning form following an early season adjustment to his new team in Tampa Bay.

Brady threw four touchdown passes to move past Drew Brees for the most in NFL history and ran for another to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 45-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.

“We’re 5-2, in a decent place, not quite at the halfway point in the year,” Brady said. “We’ve got a lot of football left. We’re going to need everybody, and we’re going to need everybody’s best. And we’re going to expect everybody’s best and we’re going to try to meet the challenge every week.”

Brady finished 33 for 45 for 369 yards, while also running for Tampa Bay’s first score on a 1-yard sneak in the first quarter.

He now has 15 TD passes and one interception the past four games as he has found his rhythm with his new team.

“I think it’s knowing the guys better, knowing the system better, everything that we change each week,” coach Bruce Arians said. “There’s such good communication of what we’re trying to get done, where the ball should be going versus each coverage. It’s just total growth in the offence.”

Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter and then delivered his best pass of the day to Miller in the final minute of the first half. He then helped seal the game with the throw to Chris Godwin that put the Bucs up 31-20 over the Raiders (3-3) midway through the fourth quarter.

Brady added a fourth to rookie Tyler Johnson with 3:08 to play to give him 559 in his career, passing Brees for the most ever. Brees threw two earlier in the day for New Orleans.

Now Brady could be getting even more help when Antonio Brown joins the team following next week’s game.

“He’s a tremendous football player,” Brady said. “I played with him for a brief period of time. I’m looking forward to working with him again and see what role he can come in (and play).”

The 4-yard pass to Godwin was part of a key stretch when it appeared the Raiders were in position for a comeback after cutting the deficit to 24-17 on Derek Carr’s second TD pass of the game.

The Raiders then got a stop and were driving for the potential tying score before coming up 1 yard short of a first down on a third-and-4 pass to Darren Waller. Coach Jon Gruden opted for a field goal to make it 24-20.

Brady then engineered another TD drive to make it an 11-point game and the Bucs (5-2) put it away when Carr threw an interception on Las Vegas’ next play to set up Ronald Jones’ 1-yard run.

Carr went 24 for 36 for 284 yards, two TDs and one interception as the Raiders were unable to build on a big win at Kansas City before the bye after being without their starting offensive line all week in practice.

Starting right tackle Trent Brown tested positive for COVID-19 and four other starting linemen were sent home Wednesday because they had “high-risk” contact with Brown and didn’t rejoin the team until Sunday morning.

“I’m not going to use any excuses, we can’t,” Carr said. “We’re in a production-oriented business. The miscommunication, absolutely, it took place. It’s a game of practice, it really is. You got to be available, not just for Sundays, you got to be available all throughout the week cause there’s so much information that goes into it.”

EJECTED

The Raiders lost guard Gabe Jackson to an ejection in the third quarter after Carr’s 1-yard TD pass to Waller that cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 24-17. The officials determined that Jackson stepped on an opponent’s shoulder during a scrum after the play and he was ejected.

FAVORITE TARGET I

Carr looked for his favourite target on the opening drive, connecting on a 28-yard pass to Agholor and then a 21-yard TD. That made Carr 12 for 13 for 234 yards and four TDs with a perfect 158.3 passer rating when throwing to Agholor. It also gave the Raiders their first opening drive TD since Week 16 of last season vs. the Chargers.

FavourITE TARGET II

Brady connected with Gronkowski for the second straight week with a 5-yard TD pass in the second quarter. That’s the 92nd time those two teamed up on a TD pass in the regular season or playoffs, tying the duo of Steve Young and Jerry Rice for the second most ever. Only Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison have more with 114.

INJURY REPORT

Buccaneers: CB Carlton Davis left in the second half with a chest injury, but returned to the game.

Raiders: T Sam Young left with a knee injury in the second quarter and didn’t return.

UP NEXT

Buccaneers: Visit the Giants on Monday, Nov. 2

Raiders: Visit Cleveland on Sunday.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Lewis Hamilton overtakes Schumacher with record 92nd F1 win – Al Jazeera English

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Lewis Hamilton powers to victory in the Portuguese Grand Prix to become Formula One’s record all-time race winner.

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has become Formula One’s record all-time race winner with a dominant 92nd career victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver took the chequered flag a huge 25.592 seconds ahead of second-place team-mate Valtteri Bottas on Sunday, and 34.5 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for his eighth win of the season.

Hamilton had equalled Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record 91 wins at the previous race at the Nuerburgring.

He also took an extra point on Sunday for the fastest lap to extend his huge championship lead to 77 points over Bottas with just five races left in the coronavirus-affected season.

Hamilton is within reach of equalling Schumacher’s record of winning seven championships.

He took a record-extending 97th career pole position, starting ahead of Bottas and Verstappen on a track being used for the first time in F1.

“I only ever dreamed of being where I am today,” he said after the race and a long hug with his father Anthony, who managed his early career.

“I didn’t have a magic (crystal) ball when I chose to come here (Mercedes) – and all we have ever tried to do is make the most of it every single day. We are all rowing in the same direction.

“I have got my dad here which is amazing and my step-mum Linda – and Roscoe (his dog) – so it’s a very special day. It’s going to take time to sink in, but I was still pushing coming across the line.”

On the team radio, he emotionally told Mercedes that it was “such an honour to work with you” and his race engineer Peter ‘Bono’ Bonnington replied, saying: “It’s the same here, an honour, genuinely.”

After the race, Hamilton added: “I really owe it all to these guys for their teamwork, continually innovating and pushing the barrier ever higher every year.”

Lewis Hamilton in action during the race [Rudy Carezzevoli/Reuters]

He had cramp, he said, in his right calf in the closing stages of the race.

“Lifting my foot down the straight, it was pretty painful. I could feel it pull, but I had to get through it. It is what it is.”

His Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff, who has helped guide Hamilton to five of his world titles and the team to an unprecedented six in a row, said: “Who would’ve thought when we started this project in 2013? It’s almost a surreal number of wins.

“From Lewis, it’s his absolute passion and energy and its everything he puts into the sport – and the talent and the ability. He’s just standing out.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished fourth with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly fifth at the Algarve circuit near Portimao that was hosting Portugal’s first Grand Prix in 24 years.

Sainz was sixth with Renault’s Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo eighth and ninth.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel took the final point for Ferrari.

Lance Stroll, who missed the last race and then tested positive for COVID-19, was the only retirement of the afternoon with the team reporting floor damage.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race on the podium [Rudy Carezzevoli/Reuters]

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Georges St-Pierre calls Khabib Nurmagomedov’s UFC 254 performance ‘masterful’ – MMA Fighting

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Georges St-Pierre knows a thing or two about championship performances and he’s not sure he’s seen any better than the one that took place at UFC 254.

Saturday’s show in Abu Dhabi served as the culmination of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s career as the UFC lightweight champion announced his retirement following a dominant second-round submission win over Justin Gaethje. “The Highlight” was viewed by many as a difficult stylistic challenge for Nurmagomedov due to his mixture of power-punching and All-American wrestling, but Nurmagomedov defeated him as he has every other opponent he’s fought.

“GSP” was watching and afterwards he heaped praise on Nurmagomedov’s denouement in an interview with ESPN.

“It was a masterful performance,” St-Pierre said. “As close as you get of a perfect fight against a very, very tough threat in Justin Gaethje. A lot of people, including myself, was thinking that maybe Justin Gaethje is the answer to Khabib. Maybe Justin Gaethje will be the perfect nemesis to Khabib because of his pedigree in wrestling and in striking.

“However, Khabib did the—I would not say the unthinkable because Khabib is undefeated and he’s so good—but nobody would think that Khabib would do a performance [that] seemed so easy for him. It was just amazing.”

Indeed, as soon as the bell sounded, Nurmagomedov was as aggressive as ever. Nurmagomedov didn’t just rely on his trademark wrestling, he stood and tested Gaethje’s striking before eventually taking the fight to the ground. St-Pierre marveled at Nurmagomedov’s submission transitions, calling the sequence that led to the fight-ending triangle choke “beautiful.”

St-Pierre, 39, had his fair share of memorable wins during his run at the top of the UFC welterweight division, but even he was impressed with how Nurmagomedov handled Gaethje.

“He beat Justin everywhere,” St-Pierre said. “He threatened him standing up, he threatened him with his wrestling on the ground. Even at the end of the first round, Justin was in bad, bad, bad position.

“Justin looked like he was overwhelmed, it looked like he was panicking, like he didn’t know what to do. The threat was coming from everywhere. From under, from over, from everywhere. It was just a masterful performance.”

Given how good Nurmagomedov looked on Saturday, it may have come as a surprise to some that he chose to retire when it’s likely he could continue competing at a high level for years to come. Nurmagomedov, 32, said that part of the reason that he chose this moment to retire is because of the recent passing of his father and coach, Abdulmanap. That loss is something that St-Pierre believes Nurmagomedov used for extra motivation.

St-Pierre didn’t expect Nurmagomedov to retire, though it’s a decision that he fully supports.

“I was surprised he retired because I thought he do—Everyone in the media says he wanted to do 30-0,” St-Pierre said. “That’s his choice, what a great way to finish a career. He left an incredible legacy. One of the best to ever do it, maybe the best to ever do it.”

Watch St-Pierre’s full post-UFC 254 interview with ESPN below:

[embedded content]

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