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VanVleet's return buoys ailing Raptors in tight win over Wizards – CBC.ca

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Fred VanVleet’s return to action was a welcome sight for the injury-challenged Toronto Raptors on Friday.

VanVleet returned from a five-game absence because of a knee injury to lead the defending champions to a 122-118 victory over the Washington Wizards despite Bradley Beal’s impressive 37 points for the visitors.

It wasn’t the most convincing victory for the Raptors, who have won four in a row.

They led by as many as 18 points and surrendered 66 second-half points thanks to eight three-point jumpers by the Wizards. But it was an essential win, considering they lost three key players to injury in Detroit on Wednesday. Leading scorer Pascal Siakam (stretched groin), Marc Gasol (left hamstring strain) and Norm Powell (partially separated left shoulder) each are listed as out.

WATCH | Raptors hang on to beat Wizards:

Fred VanVleet made a large impact in his return from injury, finishing with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in the Toronto Raptors 122-118 win over the Washington Wizards. 1:48

As a result, VanVleet felt the time was right for his return. He was rusty at time, but good enough for 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in 33:38 on the court.

“It was very important,” he said. “I was turning the corner anyway. But to have what three of our top six guys, it’s not very fortunate for our ball club. I tried to get back out there and give our guys a better chance to win. I’d like to think I increased our chances of winning tonight regardless of how ugly it was.

“There’s no magic pill for those guys to get better. We want them to take their time. We have got to band together and do our best given the circumstance.”

WATCH | Lowry, Thomas debut in The Nutcracker:

Toronto Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and Matt Thomas made their debut on centre stage as they appeared as Cannon Dolls in the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of The Nutcracker. 2:25

Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 26 points, and centre Serge Ibaka certainly stepped up in Gasol’s absence. He checked in with 23 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of monster blocks in the first half. OG Anunoby added 18.

“We came out, and the ball was going in,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We were flying around pretty good. We had 25 deflections in the first half, which is a huge number.

“But in the second half, we never got into a rhythm at either end.”

Nurse decided to go with a small lineup in the absence of his key players. VanVleet started at point guard, and Patrick McCaw replaced Siakam.

“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Lowry said. “I think guys will continue to get comfortable every game. We have to continue to have guys step up.

“Having Freddy back definitely helped.”

The Raptors jumped out to an early 11-5 advantage, led 40-23 after the first quarter, and were up 68-52 at the half.

The Wizards closed to within 96-85 after three quarters and roared back to tie the game 107-107 with under five minutes to play after Beal, Admiral Schofield and Ish Smith each hit three-point jumpers.

But McCaw and Lowry hit late three-pointers to put Toronto ahead 116-110 and provide some breathing room.

McCaw had the difficult assignment of guarding Beal.

“I know Beal had 37, but Pat was making it tough on him in some stretches during that game,” Nurse said.

The Wizards lost for the ninth time in 11 outings. Smith finished with 26 points.

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Tiger Woods has a long, uncertain road ahead after car crash, emergency doctor says – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Madeline Holcombe and Cheri Mossburg, CNN


Published Thursday, February 25, 2021 7:10AM EST

(CNN) — Even after his emergency surgery, the path to recovery is long and uncertain for golf legend Tiger Woods, following his car accident in California.

“He is still in that acute phase where they may still have a lot of work to do in the present, in moments, in days to come,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, emergency physician Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told CNN on Wednesday. “It’s unclear to me whether he will be going back to the operating room or not.”

The 45-year-old was driving Tuesday in Rancho Palos Verdes, near Los Angeles, shortly after 7 a.m. PT when his SUV crossed a median and veered across two lanes of road before hitting a curb, hitting a tree and landing on its side in the brush, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday.

Woods sustained injuries to his leg that required a rod, screws, pins and a surgical release of the muscle covering — one that surgeons likely believed would save his leg from amputation, Faust said.

Authorities believe that the incident was “purely an accident,” but will have to pull the black box event recorder from the vehicle to make that determination, Villanueva said. When he saw Woods in the hospital Tuesday, the 15-time major champion told investigators he had no memory of the crash.

Just a month after his fifth career back surgery, the most recent crash threatens to set back his hopes of returning to golf glory.

He has made comebacks before

Though fellow golf professionals have acknowledged that Woods’ health and his family are the most important things to consider at this time, they are also not counting him out.

He has done it before, Rory McIlroy said.

Famous from an early age, Woods turned professional in 1996 at just 21 years old, and his talent and charisma transformed him into a global icon. He won a remarkable 14 golf majors from 1997 through 2008 and looked set to stroll past the all-time record of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus.

But a series of injuries and personal issues derailed that career trajectory. In 2009, a car crash outside his Florida home led to tawdry revelations about his rampant infidelity and the collapse of his marriage.

After a break from the sport, he returned to golf but without the smothering dominance of his earlier years. There was also a growing list of injuries, leading to four back operations, including spinal fusion surgery, as well as the “dark times” where the pain was so bad he couldn’t even get out of bed or play with his kids.

The operations and pain led to an addiction to opioid painkillers, and he was arrested on a DUI charge in 2017 in Florida. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving as part of a program to keep him from serving prison time.

That low point made his return to the top of the sport in 2019 all the more stunning. At the Masters, he surged to the lead and, followed by roaring crowds, clinched his first major win since the US Open in 2008 in one of the great comebacks in sports history.

World No. 2 John Rahm said he hoped Woods would be able to play golf and win more tournaments.

And that he would be able to then have a proper retirement, by standing on the iconic Swilcan Bridge in St. Andrew’s Golf Course in Scotland “and just being able to properly say goodbye to the game.”

Earlier this week, Woods said he hoped to compete at this year’s Masters.

Safety features and the seat belt saved his life, authorities say

Woods was driving a Genesis SUV courtesy vehicle by himself and is believed to have been traveling at a high rate of speed before the crash, authorities said. There were no skid marks or other indications of braking, Villanueva added.

Villanueva said that section of road is “downhill on a curve,” and he and Gonzalez said the area is known as a trouble spot for speeding and accidents. The road has seen 13 accidents since last January.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who responded to the crash, found a lucid Woods still strapped into his seat belt but trapped as the SUV had rolled over onto the driver’s side door.

“I do think the fact that he was wearing a seat belt and that the vehicle safety features worked as designed by the manufacturer likely resulted in either reducing his injury or saving his life,” Gonzalez told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

The car he was driving also featured an all-new safety platform, an executive for the automaker said in a statement to CNN.

The safety features of the Genesis GV80 include a strong focus on “passenger compartment protection/reinforcement areas,” said Dana White, Chief Communications Officer for Genesis Motor North America. “This includes the use of advanced high strength steel for rigidity and safety.”

The vehicle was equipped with 10 standard airbags, including a “center-side airbag unique to Genesis that deploys between the front seats,” according to White.

While the exterior of the vehicle was mangled in the crash, the interior damage was such that Woods could survive.

“We have seen accidents with far less obvious (damage) that are fatalities,” Villanueva told CNN.

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Analyzing Ottawa’s North Division impact as Flames hit crucial stretch – Sportsnet.ca

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Despite (still) being the bottom-feeder of the North Division, the narrative is starting to change — at least a little — around the Ottawa Senators.

Maybe they aren’t the pushovers they once looked to be, on a pace to be one of the worst outfits in league history, hearkening back to their expansion season. Maybe Matt Murray, who barely survived January with a .845 save percentage, will recover well enough to be closer to his .900 February save percentage the rest of the season.

Maybe they will turn out closer to the team that gave Toronto a heck of a fight in an unexpected 5-3 season-opening win, and less like the one that got outscored 16-3 in a three-game set against Vancouver last month.

Or, maybe, their current 4-2-0 run is a deepfake and they’ll revert back to another form.

Whatever we get from the Senators in the next week and a half could greatly impact many aspects of the Calgary Flames. At 9-9-1 and fifth in the North Division — three points out of a playoff spot — Calgary will meet the Senators for five of their next six games. Everyone else has already played the Senators more than once, and usually to good results.

Except for their most recent opponent.

At a most crucial time in Calgary’s season, here is an overview of how the non-Toronto North Division teams have played the Senators in certain key stretches, and what followed after.

WINNIPEG JETS

Overall record vs. Senators: 4-1-0

Sitting second in the North Division by points percentage (.639), I don’t know if we’ve gotten a full view of the Jets yet. Patrik Laine played one game before he was injured then traded and the player he was dealt for, Pierre-Luc Dubois, got injured, has played three games and spent the last one on the wing rather than his usual centre.

Some things haven’t changed here from last year, though. They still allow a pile of 5-on-5 scoring chances each game, which puts added pressure on Connor Hellebuyck — it also hasn’t changed that Hellebuyck is fully capable of dealing with his workload.

But the Jets chug on and haven’t hit the lulls we’ve seen from some others around them in the standings. They’ve been steady, not losing back-to-back games in regulation yet, but also haven’t strung together a monster winning streak. They’ve won two in a row on a couple of occasions and their longest streak of the season came when they won three in a row… against Ottawa from Jan. 19-23.

That stretch got Winnipeg off to a 4-1-0 start to the season. The closest of those results was a 4-3 overtime win that came the day after the Jets played Toronto, so Laurent Brossoit was in net. The others were 4-1 and 6-3 wins.

Playing the Sens didn’t really change Winnipeg’s track at all. After their 6-3 win, they played the very next day against Edmonton and lost 4-3 with Brossoit in net. Two days later they beat Edmonton 6-4 and had a three-day break.

Winnipeg later met Ottawa again on Feb. 11 and 13, winning one 5-1 and losing the other 2-1. In fact, Ottawa’s win on Feb. 13 was the beginning of this respectable little stretch they’re on right now.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Overall record vs. Senators: 3-0-0

The Canucks were the first panic team to meet Ottawa this year and were, at least briefly, able to get off the mat.

Vancouver started its season 2-5-0 before first meeting Ottawa. The three-game set they played from Jan. 25-28 inspired hope that the Canucks could get back on track towards the exceedingly high expectations surrounding them following Canada’s best playoff run last summer.

The Canucks won all three of those games convincingly, with an aggregate 16-3 score in their favour. The Lotto Line, which had been in a rut, woke up a bit. Elias Pettersson scored his second and third goals of the season and added a couple of assists, J.T. Miller scored his first two of the season, and Brock Boeser recorded his third two-goal game of the month.

Vancouver came out of it fourth in the North and believing that perhaps the worst of the season was behind them. Their first game after the Senators series reinforced the belief, a 4-1 win over a Winnipeg Jets team fresh off a three day break.

Those starry-eyed days were short-lived, though. The Canucks followed that Jets game with a horrible trip through Montreal and Toronto, and even though they’ve measurably been playing better in the last two weeks than at any other point this season, Vancouver is still quickly sliding out of the race.

They are 2-8-2 in their past 12, sixth in the division, and closer to seventh place than fifth in points percentage. And there’s no more games against Ottawa to save them in the near future — they won’t face them again until a couple of road games in mid-March.

EDMONTON OILERS

Overall record vs. Senators: 4-0-0

When the Oilers first played the Senators this season, it was nearly panic time.

A 4-6-0 start had Edmonton fifth in the division by points and sixth by points percentage. They had split a couple home games with Toronto earlier in the week that dialled down the temperature a degree, but a bad series against the last place Sens and who knows how bad things could begin to spiral?

Still finding themselves after a really disheartening playoff elimination to Chicago, Edmonton was facing the same questions about commitment to defence and whether or not their goaltending was good enough to keep them afloat. Mike Smith was still injured when the Oilers first played the Sens, and Mikko Koskinen was beginning to show signs of fatigue.

From Jan. 31 to Feb. 9, the Oilers played five games and four of them were against Ottawa. They won all four by an aggregate 18-10 and, on the morning of Feb. 10, found themselves third in the North and with brand new life.

Since that series of games, the Oilers are 5-1-0 with wins against each of Montreal, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver all in that stretch. There are still questions about defence, but in their past six games Edmonton’s opponents have been held to two goals or less four times. Smith is back and, between him and Koskinen, the net split is uneasily settling as expected.

The depth players have made an appearance and been key reasons for a couple of these wins while Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl…well…they keep doing what they’ve always done.

Edmonton has gone from sheer panic to second in the North and the NHL’s hottest team since playing the Senators.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Overall record vs. Senators: 1-1-2

While other teams have been able to spin positives, real or temporary, out of their meetings with Ottawa, the Montreal Canadiens have gone another route.

Oddly enough, the Sens have been a momentum killer for the Habs. Between Feb. 4-6, the teams played two games and the Habs entered with a 7-1-2 record, a North Division juggernaut, and had just scored 11 goals in two games against Vancouver. Montreal’s only regulation loss to that point, a 2-0 decision to Calgary, was played well enough to be a win.

But the two-game split Montreal had with Ottawa turned out to be an ominous sign of things to come.

This series is where the percentages suddenly and abruptly started catching up to Montreal. The NHL’s most high-event, high-powered offence at the time went ice cold, scoring four goals on 70 shots against Matt Murray — it was the first time all season Murray had allowed less than three goals in a game and he did it in back-to-back starts against Montreal.

The Habs followed these two games with losses to Toronto and Edmonton before barely scratching out a come-from-behind 2-1 win against Toronto in a rematch on Feb. 13. In those three games, Montreal scored just three times.

Following that win, Montreal went on a six-day break and returned to play Ottawa on Sunday night and again on Tuesday. The Habs were outshot in both games, dropped both in extra time and have now fallen to fourth in the division.

Given where the Canadiens were at the start of this month, just before their first game against Ottawa, it’s unfathomable that Claude Julien became the first coaching casualty of the 2021 season.

“It’s an NHL team, it’s a good young team, they work extremely hard and they have a good young coach,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said after letting Julien go Wednesday. “They’re a good hockey team and they’re up and coming.”

CALGARY FLAMES

Overall record vs. Senators: 0-0-0

So what’ll it be for the Flames, whose coach has also been a target for criticism amidst their own slide? More than the coach even, Calgary is a team with bigger player personnel questions to ponder if things go sideways this season. And if it really goes wrong soon, maybe Brad Treliving will feel a need to be proactive and make a splash before long.

This is why the next two and a half weeks could be season-defining ones for Calgary. After a three-game winning streak earlier this month, they have won just two of their past six and were humiliated in a 7-1 drubbing to Edmonton on Saturday night. They allow the first goal of the game far too often and slow starts are unfortunately a defining characteristic about this group right now.

At the end of last week their GM went on Calgary radio to say the Flames’ effort just wasn’t good enough and challenged them to be a harder team. But it never seemed any big change was imminent.

Why? Because this stretch of games coming up is where the Flames should be making up ground. It’s maybe not the time to make a move and wait on a replacement through quarantine. Instead, we could learn a lot about Calgary’s chances here.

Currently fifth in the division and just three points out of a playoff spot, a strong week could vault them back into the picture and calm calls for change.

But a bad run against the last place team? That could all but end the Flames, and maybe start shifting them into a tier with Vancouver instead of Edmonton or Winnipeg or Montreal.

It’s interesting timing for sure. The Flames must have had this stretch marked on their calendar for some time, but just as they get here the Senators aren’t playing like a soft touch anymore. They’ve been mostly hanging around games recently, been tough to compete against, have strung together a respectable record for a week and a half, and were the tip of the spear in this year’s first coach firing.

The softest portion of Calgary’s first half schedule has suddenly turned into a nail-biter.

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Thursday Habs Headlines: The Canadiens mid-season coaching shake-up – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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In today’s links, the hockey world chimes in on the Habs coaching change, Gallagher vents about Tuesday’s disallowed goal, will Price up his game now that there’s fresh blood behind the bench, and more.

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