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UPDATED: Bobby Ryan rejoins Senators for the first time since late November – Ottawa Sun

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Bobby Ryan has been given clearance to rejoin the Ottawa Senators.

After entering the NHL’s Players’ Assistance program Nov. 20 following a game against the Detroit Red Wings, the 32-year-old Ryan returned to the ice with his teammates for the first time since coming back to Ottawa just before Christmas.

Though he’s medically cleared to resume skating with the team, he isn’t ready to start playing again and coach D.J. Smith told reporters following the club’s skate there’s no timetable for when Ryan might be able to play again.


Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan was back practising with his team at the Canadian Tire Centre. February 5, 2020.

Errol McGihon /

Postmedia

The fact he’s allowed to skate with his teammates is significant. Once he’s had the opportunity to practise with the team he’ll be put back in the lineup, but it certainly sounds like the Senators are going to ease Ryan back.

Naturally, this is a step in the right direction and Ryan was one of the last players off the ice as the club prepared to face the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night at the Canadian Tire Centre.

“He looked good,” Smith said. “He’s certainly a ways away. It’s like missing training camp and then showing up. He’s going to have to skate with us, do the drills, get in all the battle stuff, systems and all this stuff. He’s a ways away, but he took his first step today.”


Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan and head coach D.J. Smith during team practice at the Canadian Tire Centre. February 5, 2020.

Errol McGihon /

Postmedia

Of course, this was as good mentally, as it was physically for Ryan. He had been skating on his own since he returned to Ottawa in late December and that’s never easy for any player. The Senators were thrilled to see him back on the ice with them.

“It’s exciting. He’s gone through a lot and we’re here to support him,” said goaltender Craig Anderson. “Just seeing him out there with a whole group of guys instead of skating by himself is definitely a treat for us. We’re looking forward to seeing him compete with us on a daily basis and work himself back into the lineup.”

Just being around his teammates will be good for Ryan, who didn’t speak with the media.

“I would say it’s never easy when you play a team sport to be out there as an individual working on your own game,” added Anderson. “Especially one-on-one with a coach that’s just putting you through the paces. To be able to have some camaraderie and the team aspect of it is definitely uplifting and definitely a positive feeling.

“Hopefully he’s feeling the same vibe as everyone else around here that we’re happy to have him out there and we’re enjoying his presence. He’s such a great asset when he’s playing and playing well. We need him to get back to that for himself and for us.”

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The player’s assistance program was started in 1996 by the league and the NHL Players’ Association and is funded by both parties. It’s a confidential program that provides players and their families with assistance with mental health, substance abuse and other matters.

Since the program is confidential, the only time an announcement is made by the NHL and the NHLPA is if a player has to take a leave of absence from the team. That’s why the news about Ryan became public and all matters surrounding the decision have been kept private.

The return to practice doesn’t mean Ryan will go on the road with the club when the Senators depart for a two-game road trip that begins Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg and continues Tuesday night in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.

“It’s a 1 p.m. game (in Winnipeg), there’s a day off in Colorado so he won’t get enough skating,” Smith said. “He’ll skate with (player development co-ordinator) Shean Donovan and his crew back here, who do a really good job getting our guys ready. Every injured guy or every guy that hasn’t skated has been in shape and I think they’re doing a really nice job — him and Jesse Winchester. So those guys will skate (Ryan) while we’re gone.”

Ryan’s presence will be a boost for the rest of the players.

“It was a great to see him,” said defenceman Dylan DeMelo. “He’s been through a lot, he had some time off and we haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s been around the last month or so and it’s great to see him. He’s well liked in here, he’s been a great teammate and he’s a great person. We’ve missed him and we’re happy he was back out there today.”

As DeMelo noted, Ryan is popular with his teammates.

“He’s a really good guy,” said Smith. “The guys like him and you can see they support him. When you have tough times that’s what teammates are for and families are for and the guys are certainly have him back.”

SENATORS COULD CERTAINLY USE BOBBY RYAN’S SKILLS IN SHOOTOUT

The Ottawa Senators will be thankful to have Bobby Ryan back the next time they go to a shootout.

A 3-2 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night at the Canadian Tire Centre was the club’s fifth straight in the skills contest this season and the club has lost seven straight in extra time.

In fact, 10 of the club’s last 22 games have gone to overtime and their last win in extra time was Dec. 19. The 32-year-old Ryan is 21-for-64 lifetime in the shootout and has scored 10 game-deciding goals.

“We certainly could have used him (Tuesday) night,” said coach D.J. Smith Wednesday. “In saying that I thought we played hard and I was saying to someone today that the good part is when we do turn the corner and eventually get in the playoffs that shootouts don’t decide playoff games.”

As goalie Craig Anderson noted, Ryan has a good shot.

“Bob’s got an element of surprise in his shot and his skill is there with some of the best,” said Anderson.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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Joshua Roy off to a hot start at the World Juniors – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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The Montreal Canadiens have several prospects in action at this summer’s World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton. In today’s episode of Habsent Minded Extra, I’m taking a look at how fifth-rounder Joshua Roy has become a key member of the powerhouse Canadians in their quest for gold.

He has played most of his minutes so far on the top line with Mason McTavish and Connor Bedard. That trio has been relied upon to drive offense for the team so far, and while their initial contest against Latvia was somewhat lukewarm, they exploded against Slovakia on Thursday night.

In a selfless act, Roy gave up a chance at a breakaway and his first goal of the tournament by passing to McTavish, and insisting that the latter take his attempt at notching the hat trick, which he did.

With the game well in hand for Canada in the third period, head coach Dave Cameron brought out the line blender. This saw Roy shifted down in the lineup to play with Islanders prospect William Dufour, and Senators prospect Zack Ostapchuk. An eyebrow raiser at first given Roy’s performance, but it yielded results almost immediately.

Roy scored his first goal of the tournament, and added an assist on an Ostapchuk goal to finish with four points against Slovakia, tying him for second in tournament scoring behind McTavish.

Whether that line blending sticks or not, Roy showed in this game is that he can produce wherever they put him in the lineup. With Dufour and Ostapchuk, he actually gets to play more of a similar trigger-man role that he’s used to in Sherbrooke, and it may even help his overall production.

His selflessness, and acceptance of a checking and puck retrieval role with the top guns means they can put him right back on that top line as well. After barely missing out on the roster for the ill-fated December 2021 tournament, he has established himself as a versatile tool for team Canada.

That versatility should earn him plenty of playing time for the remainder of this tournament, and could make him a no-brainer for a big role with the team when they reconvene in December for the next one.

Click the play button below to listen to my full thoughts on Roy’s hot start ahead of tonight’s game against Czechia.

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Series preview: Blue Jays head into crucial set against surging Guardians – Sportsnet.ca

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We may be in the dog days of August but the American League wild-card race is intensifying to the point where every series carries weight for contending teams.

That’s been the case for the Toronto Blue Jays all month and will continue as the club opens a three-game set at Rogers Centre against the Cleveland Guardians on Friday.

Here is a look at the Guardians-Blue Jays series.

Probable pitchers

Friday, 7:07 p.m. ET: Cleveland RHP Cal Quantrill (8-5, 3.88 ERA) vs. Toronto RHP Jose Berrios (8-4, 5.19 ERA)

Saturday, 3:07 p.m. ET: Cleveland RHP Triston McKenzie (8-8, 3.16 ERA) vs. TBA

Sunday, 1:37 p.m. ET: Cleveland RHP Shane Bieber (7-6, 3.21 ERA) vs. TBA

(All games on Sportsnet)

Latest on the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays (60-50) currently sit atop the AL wild-card standings with a half-game lead over the Mariners and a two-game lead over the third-place Tampa Bay Rays.

The Blue Jays are coming off a 3-5 road trip through Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Baltimore. You could make the argument that Toronto got lucky when Wednesday’s game in Baltimore was rained out, given the weather prevented an opportunity to be swept in three games by the surging Orioles.

The Blue Jays’ record against teams above .500 stands at 29-38 and that will need to improve in a hurry. Following the set against Cleveland, Toronto will host the Orioles for three games and then head to Yankee Stadium for a four-game series.

It’s fair to say this is an important stretch for a Blue Jays club that lost outfielder George Springer, starter Ross Stripling and reliever Tim Mayza to the injured list on the recent road trip.

Latest on the Guardians

The AL Central-leading Guardians (59-52) arrive in Toronto fresh off a sweep of the Detroit Tigers and have won eight of their last 11 games.

In recent years, the Guardians have typically been buoyed by their pitching staff. That area has been a struggle for the team for parts of this season,but  it looks to be rounding into form.

Each of the three starters Cleveland will throw at the Blue Jays — Cal Quantrill, Triston McKenzie and Shane Bieber — is coming off a dominant, scoreless outing. Since the all-star break, the right-handed trio has combined for a 3.48 ERA over 12 starts.

Reliever James Karinchak won’t make the trip to Toronto due to Canadian vaccination requirements.

Home sweet home

Blue Jays right-hander Jose Berrios was slated to start Wednesday’s game but because it was postponed, he’ll now take the mound on Friday. That might actually work out in his favour.

Berrios has been the author of some weird splits this season:

— In 11 starts at home, he sports a 3.23 ERA with 70 strikeouts across 64 innings.

— In 11 starts on the road, Berrios has posted a whopping 7.50 ERA with just 37 strikeouts over 54 innings.

There are times a pitcher’s bloated ERA can be explained away as the result of one or two bad outings. That’s not the case for Berrios, though.

The veteran has allowed at least five earned runs in six of his road starts. That includes his only outing against the Guardians this season — a May 5 contest in which he allowed six runs on eight hits over 4.2 innings.

The pitchers set to follow Berrios and toe the rubber in Saturday and Sunday’s games have yet to be announced by the Blue Jays.

Meaningful debuts

Remember all that hullabaloo about whether Whit Merrifield would get a COVID-19 vaccine and be allowed to travel to Toronto?

Well, shortly after he was acquired at the trade deadline by the Blue Jays, the utility player indicated that he did in fact get vaccinated. This series will feature his first home game with his new club.

Merrifield is hitting .286 (6-for-21) while playing mostly in centrefield since his trade from the Kansas City Royals.

In 15 career games at Rogers Centre, he sports a .263/.364/.421 slash line with two homers and three doubles.

This series will also mark a homecoming of sorts for a pair of Guardians players: Quantrill, of Port Hope, Ont., and first baseman Josh Naylor, a native of Mississauga, Ont.

This is Naylor’s fourth year in the major leagues and third with the Guardians, but the 25-year-old has yet to take the field for a major-league game at Rogers Centre. Quantrill, meanwhile, made his lone MLB start at Rogers Centre in 2019 when he was a member of the San Diego Padres.

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Showcasing ‘super-elite’ shot, Bedard continues to amaze in early WJC performance – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — Really, Canada’s first two games at the 2022 World Junior Championship could not have been more different. The only common threads were the end result and Connor Bedard.

Canada’s opener was a tense affair with a Latvian squad that refused to go away. Its second contest, a stomping of Slovakia, was over before the first period was in the books. Step 1 in each victory, though, was a shot from Bedard less than eight minutes into the night to open the scoring. On Tuesday, it was a patented drag-and-snap beauty. Wednesday night, he finished off a wonderful give-and-go with captain Mason McTavish, taking just half a beat when the puck came back to him to make sure it ended up in the net.

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Wherever Bedard goes, it’s the same story: Goals get scored and jaws hit the floor over the way this projected first-overall pick — who turned 17 less than a month ago — fires pucks.

“His shot is just super-elite,” says Brennan Othmann, who played on Bedard’s line to finish up the win over Slovakia. “We all talk about it all the time. I know a lot of guys with good shots, but that guy can really shoot the puck.”

Indeed, there’s no debating what this North Vancouver kid’s super power is. And while there’s obviously a gift-from-the-heavens element to any phenom’s game, there’s also the on-the-ground reality of what it takes to perfect it. Whether in his backyard or on the ice, Bedard has been flinging pucks ever since he could hold a stick.

“It’s something I enjoy,” he said just before the tournament. “If you ask any kid what he wants to work on it’s not skating, it’s shooting pucks.”

[brightcove videoID=6289091747001 playerID=2540680026001 height=360 width=640]

Born in 2005, Bedard is basically the same age as composite hockey sticks. His weapon is extra-whippy and he uses an elongated shaft that — whether he’s wearing Team Canada’s colours or that of his Western Hockey League club, the Regina Pats — allows him to swirl the puck around way out from his body before he decides whether to let it go from the outer reaches or, in a flash, suck it back in and let fly from whatever angle he feels gives him the best chance to befuddle the goalie.

The results are getting a little ridiculous. In 11 games for Canada over two World Under-18 Championships, Bedard has 13 goals. This is now his second attempt at the 2022 World Junior Championship after the original event was cancelled four days into the competition at Christmastime. Bedard, at basically 16-and-a-half years old, scored four goals in two games then. Tack two more on now and he’s got six in four outings. It’s by no means a perfect comparison, but just for quick-and-dirty reference, here’s how some other super-duper stars from this century fared at the first world junior tournament they played in: Connor McDavid, one goal in seven games; Auston Matthews, one goal in five games; Sidney Crosby, two goals in six games; Alex Ovechkin, six goals in six games.

[brightcove videoID=6286825336001 playerID=2540680026001 height=360 width=640]

So, if you wanted to get slightly silly about it, you could point out that Bedard is even outpacing Ovechkin, a player who has a realistic shot at finishing his career as the NHL’s all-time leading goal-scorer. Sure, comparisons to active legends are inherently exuberant, but just follow Bedard’s lead and have fun with it.

“It’s pretty crazy,” he says when asked about hearing his name mentioned with the likes of McDavid and Crosby. “I haven’t played a game in the NHL or even finished a full second year of junior, so it’s wild and whenever I hear that it’s definitely an honour.”

Anybody projecting Bedard to be in that class — and you don’t have to be the tin foil hat-type to do it — knows it takes more than one signature attribute to scale those heights. The more people see Bedard play, the more they realize there are layers to his game. When he’s not the triggerman, his vision and passing ability make him a more-than-capable set-up guy. What’s more, despite falling well short of six-feet, he’s in no way afraid to mix it up. Bedard is a stout 181 pounds, meaning he’s got a very different body type than the teenage featherweights the likes of Patrick Kane or Johnny Gaudreau would have been. During a pre-tournament game versus Sweden, Bedard got tangled up with forward Ake Stakkestad for an extended stretch in the Swedish crease. Near the end of the first period against Slovakia, the entire bench seemed to be jawing at him before a neutral-zone face-off. While understanding the best place for him is on the ice, not in the box, Bedard didn’t cower from anything, visibly giving it back to people verbally and standing his ground with anyone who poked or prodded him.

“When you’re that good of a player and that talked about, players are going to want to get under your skin,” says Canadian defenceman Donovan Sebrango. “He loves it and that’s what I love about him. He’s a special player. I don’t think you can really find a weakness to his game and he’s 17 years old.”

Perhaps most horrifying for opponents right now is the fact Bedard and McTavish have hit it off like a house on fire. With two games in the books, McTavish woke up Friday morning as the tournament scoring leader thanks to a 4-4-8 line, while Bedard has a pair of assists to go with his two goals. Canada, which had the day off Friday, will likely get its stiffest preliminary-round tests in its final two contests of this stage on Saturday versus Czechia and Monday against Finland. Guess which Canadian players will be the focus of pre-game meeting for those clubs.

“On the ice, no one can really stop them right now,” Sebrango said of McTavish and Bedard. “Their chemistry on and off the ice; they act like brothers. I don’t know if anybody can stop them.”

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