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Monday, July 24, 2017

{allcanada} July 25: Neilson replaces Kelly as coach of Maple Leafs

THIS DATE IN HISTORY: July 25

1977: Roger Neilson gets his first job as an NHL coach when he's hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs to replace Red Kelly.

Neilson comes to Toronto after spending 10 seasons as coach of Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League and one as an assistant with Dallas of the Central Hockey League. He leads the Maple Leafs to the Semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his first season, but is fired after Toronto goes 34-33-13 in 1978-79. Neilson goes on to coach seven other NHL teams and finishes his career in 2001-02. He coaches exactly 1,000 games and finishes 460-378-3 with 159 ties. Neilson's only trip to the Stanley Cup Final comes with the Vancouver Canucks in 1982; however, the New York Islanders sweep the series in four games.

Neilson earns the nickname "Captain Video" because he's one of the first coaches to use videotape to analyze opponents. He also pioneers the use of headsets with microphones to communicate with his assistant coaches. He dedicates his life to hockey and is regarded as one of the best teachers in the sport.

Neilson is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2002; he dies of cancer on June 21, 2003.

 

MORE MOMENTS

1975: Evgeni Nabokov, who holds many of the San Jose Sharks' goaltending records, is born in Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, then a part of the Soviet Union. The Sharks take a flyer on Nabokov in the ninth round (No. 219) of the 1994 NHL Draft. He comes to North America in 1997 and spends most of the next three seasons in the minor leagues before being promoted to the NHL for 11 games in 1999-2000. Nabokov wins the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2000-01 (32-21-7, 2.19 goals-against average, .915 save percentage, six shutouts), is named a First-Team All-Star in 2007-08, when he leads the NHL with 46 wins, and spends 10 seasons with the Sharks. Beginning in 2011, he plays three seasons with the Islanders, then joins the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2014-15 season before announcing his retirement on Feb. 11, 2015. He has more wins (293), shutouts (50) and games played (563) than any goalie in Sharks history, and ends his NHL career with 353 wins, 59 shutouts and 2.44 GAA.

 

1990: Left wing Brian Propp, one of the NHL's most consistent scorers of the 1980s, signs as a free agent with the Minnesota North Stars after 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers. Propp scores 73 points (26 goals, 47 assists) in his first season with Minnesota, then contributes 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 23 games during the North Stars' run to the Stanley Cup Final. He retires after the 1993-94 season with 1,004 points (425 goals, 579 assists) in 1,016 NHL games, as well as 148 points (64 goals, 84 assists) in 160 playoff games.

Brian Propp of the Minnesota North Stars scores a goal on Andre Racicot of the Montreal Canadiens. 

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{allcanada} Liriano recovers early as Blue Jays top A's

 

TORONTO — Francisco Liriano shook off two straight rough starts to earn his first win since the all-star break and Russell Martin homered as the Toronto Blue Jays snapped a three-game slide with a 4-2 win over the lowly Oakland Athletics on Monday.

Both teams, last in their respective divisions, opened their four-game series 10 games below .500.

Liriano (6-5) allowed two runs on two hits while walking two and striking out five over five innings to help raise Toronto's disappointing record to 45-54.

Bouncing back from two short outings in a row, Liriano threw 86 pitches, 51 for strikes. The veteran lefty was chased from his last start in Boston after 1 2/3 innings and lasted just two innings in his start before that in Detroit.

Ryan Goins, Ezequiel Carrera and Justin Smoak also drove in runs for the Blue Jays and Roberto Osuna struck out the side in the ninth for his 25th save of the season.

Matt Chapman hit a home run for the Athletics (44-55) and Ryon Healy had an RBI single.

Chris Smith (0-1) went six innings, allowing three runs on six hits. He also walked three and struck out two.

Healy gave Oakland a 1-0 lead in the first inning, bringing in Marcus Semien from second base on a single. But Toronto replied in the bottom of the frame with Martin's 10th homer of the season, a solo shot to left-centre field to tie the game.

Toronto cashed in two runs in the fourth, the first on a one-out Carrera single and the second on a two-out base hit from Goins, both with the bases loaded. The Blue Jays looked poised to break the game open but Jose Bautista hit a weak ground ball to end the threat.

Chapman's solo homer cut the lead to 3-2 in the next inning. The homer, a no-doubter to deep centre-field with one out, snapped a streak of 12 straight retired batters for Liriano that started in the first inning.

Toronto doubled its lead to 4-2 in the seventh when reliever Josh Smith walked Smoak with the bases loaded. Canadian John Axford had started the inning for Oakland but was replaced after he loaded the bases with nobody out.

The Blue Jays had a solid chance to tack on some insurance in the sixth but failed to execute a safety squeeze. Smith snagged a bunt from Kevin Pillar and fired it to catcher Josh Phegley, beating a running Steve Pearce to the plate by a mile.

Goins made a nice defensive play in the fourth, running at full speed from the infield to the right-field foul line to catch a fly ball while sliding on his knees. Pillar followed that up with a nice catch at the centre-field wall for the next out.

NOTES: Goins is now 9 for 12 with the bases loaded this season. ... Attendance was 39,613. ... Right-hander Cesar Valdez (0-0, 2.70 earned-run average) will make his first start for Toronto in Tuesday night's game.

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{allcanada} Canucks, F Boucher avoid salary arbitration

 
 
The Vancouver Canucks and forward Reid Boucher have avoided salary arbitration on a new one-year deal that pays $687,500.

Boucher and the club had their arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 1.

The 23-year-old started the 2016-17 season with New Jersey and then was claimed three times on waivers. He was taken in January by Nashville and New Jersey again, and finally by the Canucks. In 39 games spread between the three teams, Boucher scored six goals and four assists.

In 112 NHL contests, the native of Lansing, Michigan has tallied 17 goals and 20 assists.

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{allcanada} Hajrullahu field goal helps Argos capture wild victory over Redblacks

 

TORONTO — Lirim Hajrullahu's 34-yard field goal gave the Toronto Argonauts a wild 27-24 home win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Monday night.

Hajrullahu's field goal on the game's final play capped an eight-play, 52-yard drive after Ottawa rallied to tie the score 24-24 on Trevor Harris's 31-yard TD strike with 2:17 remaining. It came after Toronto's Cody Fajardo was stopped on a third-down gamble, to the dismay of the season-high BMO Field gathering of 15,801.

Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray, who completed 40-of-55 passes for 367 yards, hit Anthony Coombs on a nine-yard TD strike at 6:56 of the fourth to snap a 17-17 tie. It was set up by Marcus Ball's interception.

But the win was a costly one as Toronto (3-2) played the second half without linebacker Bear Woods and defensive linemen Victor Butler and Cleyong Laing.

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Butler suffered an apparent knee injury while Woods reportedly underwent concussion protocol and Laing left the field on a cart with a left leg injury.

And that's certainly a concern moving forward as Toronto begins a stretch of four games in 19 days. The Argos visit the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night.

The Redblacks (1-4-1) know all about that. They played their third game in 11 nights and fourth in 18 on Monday. But the defending Grey Cup champions showed tremendous grit by rallying to tie the score 17-17 on Josh Stangby's 15-yard run and Mossis Madu's two-point convert in the fourth.

The season-high gathering came on a night when the Argos offered a promotion of two tickets for $19.97 in commemoration of their 1996-97 Grey Cup-winning teams.

Before the game, the Argos added former quarterback Doug Flutie to its all-time team. Flutie played his final two CFL seasons in Toronto, leading the franchise to their Grey Cup titles in 1996-97 before joining the NFL's Buffalo Bills.

Flutie topped the list of former Argos attending the game. Also taking it in were receiver Brandon Marshall of the NFL's New York Giants and Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard.

Declan Cross had a touchdown for Toronto. Hajrullahu booted two converts, two singles and three field goals. The other points came on a safety.

Brad Sinopoli had a touchdown and two-point convert for Ottawa. Brett Maher added a single and convert.

Harris hit Sinopoli on a four-yard TD strike, then for the two-point convert to pull Ottawa to within 12-9 with 50 seconds left in the opening half. Harris fumbled on the half's final play and was slow to get up with an apparent eye injury while Laing was injured while recovering the loose ball.

Both Butler and Woods were hurt earlier in the second and on the bench when Sinopoli registered his scoring grabs.

After Hajrullahu opened the scoring with a 47-yard field goal at 1:52 of the second, Cross hauled in Ray's four-yard touchdown pass to put Toronto ahead 10-0. It capped a smart 11-play, 100-yard drive.

Maher cut Toronto's lead to 10-1 with a missed 54-yard field goal try before surrendering a safety to put the Argos ahead 12-1 at 4:58 of the second.

Hajrullahu accounted for all of the third-quarter scoring with a field goal and two singles that boosted Toronto's lead to 17-9.

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{allcanada} Justin Bieber abruptly cancels rest of world tour

 

Is it too late now to say sorry?

Justin Bieber is calling it quits on the rest of his Purpose World Tour, but has failed to provide a reason for the sudden cancellation.

"Due to unforeseen circumstances, Justin Bieber will cancel the remainder of the Purpose World Tour concerts," his tour rep said in a statement on Monday. "Justin loves his fans and hates to disappoint them. He thanks his fans for the incredible experience of the Purpose World Tour over last 18 months."

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The cryptic and carefully worded statement continued, "He is grateful and honored to have shared that experience with his cast and crew for over 150 successful shows across 6 continents during this run. However, after careful consideration he has decided he will not be performing any further dates."

Tickets are being refunded at the point of purchase.

Bieber, 23, had been slated to perform in Arlington, Texas, this weekend. He also had planned stadium dates in Colorado and New Jersey, plus international stops in countries including Japan and the Philippines, left on the tour.

The cancellation comes days after China announced that the singer — who in the past has been arrested, accused of abandoning his pet monkey in Germany and photographed leaving a brothel in Brazil — was banned from performing in China because of his "bad behavior."

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{allcanada} Pinty’s News & Notes: Saskatoon & Edmonton

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After another successful event as part of the IndyCar weekend in Toronto with the running of the Pinty's Grand Prix of Toronto, the NASCAR Pinty's Series competitors are loading up their haulers and heading west.

The annual western swing for the series gets underway this week with a new twist for the drivers this season.

/vpt_twin_100In the previous three seasons, the competitors would travel to Edmonton International Raceway for an event and then drive to Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a race. This season the series will stop in Saskatoon first and will run a doubleheader for the first time in the history of NASCAR's national stock car championship in Canada.

The Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100s presented by Bayer will be two separate events with points for each event awarded to the competitors. This will give them three races on the trip west versus the two they've ran since 2014.

One driver looking forward to returning to WGR is defending series champion Cayden Lapcevich. The NASCAR Next driver scored his first series win at the track last season and will go for his second win of the season in the first of two 100-lap races at the fast .333-mile track.

In Edmonton, their race will be held three days later on Saturday night and Alex Tagliani will attempt to become the first driver to win multiple races at the quarter-mile bullring located just south of Edmonton, Alberta.

edmonton_race_logo_2017While both Lapcevich and Tagliani have reason to be confident returning this season, no driver enters this group of three races in four days hotter than Kevin Lacroix.

The St. Eustache, Quebec, driver has already scored three wins this season including back-to-back wins at Circuit ICAR and Toronto prior to this western swing. While Lacroix has scored all seven of his series wins so far on road courses, he did capture the pole at Edmonton last year and is ready to go for his first oval-track series win.

Another driver looking forward to returning west is 2014 series champion L.P. Dumoulin. Although Dumoulin hasn't visited Victory Lane since his title-winning season – including a win in Saskatoon that year – he finished second in both western events in 2016.

RACES: Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100s presented by Bayer
PLACE: Wyant Group Raceway, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
WHEN: Wednesday, July 27
TIME: Race #1 6 p.m., Race #2 8:30 p.m. (Approx.) (Starting positions for Race #2 will be determined by driver's fastest lap in Race 1 of the Twins.)
TELECAST: TSN – Saturday, Aug. 5, Noon ET; RDS – Sunday, Aug. 20, 5 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: .333-mile asphalt oval
2016 RACE WINNER: Cayden Lapcevich
2016 POLE WINNER: Andrew Ranger
EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice 12:30-1:30 p.m., Qualifying 3 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 4:35 p.m.
TWITTER: @wyantgrprace
EVENT HASHTAG: #VPT100
NASCAR IMC CONTACT: Jason Christley, (386) 547-2469, jchristley@nascar.com

 

RACE: LUXXUR 300
PLACE: Edmonton International Raceway, Wetaskiwin, Alta.
DATE: Saturday, July 29
TIME: 7:30 p.m. MT
TELECAST: TSN – Saturday, Aug. 12, 1 p.m. ET; RDS – Friday, Sept. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: .25-mile asphalt oval
2016 WINNER: Alex Tagliani
2016 POLESITTER: Kevin Lacroix
EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice 12:45-1:45 p.m., Qualifying 4:05 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 6:10 p.m.
TRACK CONTACT: Loretta Thiering, 780-497-8262, speedway@syban.net
TRACK TWITTER: @EIRNASCAR
EVENT TWITTER HASHTAG: #LUXXUR300
NASCAR IMC CONTACT: Jason Christley, (386) 547-2469, jchristley@nascar.com

RACE CENTRAL LIVE: EVENT SCHEDULE & ENTRY LIST

Wyant Group Raceway Fast Facts

The Race: The ninth annual Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100's will be the seventh and eighth of 13 events on the 2017 NASCAR Pinty's schedule, and the lone trip to Saskatchewan and Wyant Group Raceway.

The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 21 cars will have secured starting positions through two-lap time trials while the remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. For the second race, the starting field will be determined by the fastest lap completed during race #1. Each race is scheduled for 100 laps (53.6 kilometers – 33.3 miles) and will be held at 6 p.m. and approximately 8:30 p.m., respectively.

The Track: Wyant Group Raceway was constructed as a .333-mile oval with graduated banking in 2005 and opened to stock car auto racing in 2006. The track has welcomed the Pinty's Series each year since 2009.

Pole Winners: The first eight WGR races have produced five different pole winners, with four, led by J.R. Fitzpatrick, D.J. Kennington and Scott Steckly with two apiece. Andrew Ranger started from the pole here last season. Steckly set the track qualifying record at 14.616 seconds (82.020 mph) in 2014.

Race Winners: Defending series champion Cayden Lapcevich scored his first series win at the track last year. D.J. Kennington leads active drivers with two wins. Retired four-time series champion Scott Steckly owns overall record with three wins. L.P. Dumoulin earned his first oval victory in this race in 2014.

Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100s Notes

Looking To End Long Winless Streaks: Two former Wyant Group Raceway event winners – L.P. Dumoulin and D.J. Kennington – are still looking for their first win since 2014 and 2013, respectively. Dumoulin won this event in 2014 and heads into the Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100s finishing second in this race last season. Kennington finished sixth here last year and is a two-time winner at the Saskatoon track in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

Can Lacroix Score First Oval Track Victory?: Kevin Lacroix enters this week as the hottest driver on the tour winning three races so far this season including two in a row. He's owned the road courses picking up his wins at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Circuit ICAR and most recently, in Toronto. All seven of Lacroix's Pinty's Series wins have come on road courses and he's yet to capture a checkered flag on an oval track.

New On Schedule: For the first time in the history of the series, there will be two races in one night with the running of the Twin Prairie Thunder 100s. Both races will feature separate points, purses and bonus awards and be scored as two unique events.

Busy Schedule: Wednesday's Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100s will be the two of three events in four days for the Pinty's Series during its annual western swing in Saskatoon and Alberta. The competitors will head out Thursday morning for Edmonton, Alberta to compete at EIR on Saturday July 29th. The series will then get a 15-day break before racing at Quebec's Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres on Sunday, Aug. 13.

Edmonton International Raceway Fast Facts

The Race: The NASCAR Pinty's Series is set to visit Edmonton International Raceway for the fourth consecutive year. The LUXXUR 300 will be the ninth of 13 events on the 2017 season schedule.

The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 21 cars will have secured starting positions through two-lap time trials while the remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 300 laps (121 kilometers – 75 miles) and will have a five-minute midway break at or near the conclusion of Lap 150.

The Track: Edmonton is the second facility to play host to the NASCAR Pinty's Series in the province of Alberta along with Edmonton City Centre Airport (2007-12). The track was first paved in 1994 and received a new coat of asphalt and other improvements just prior to the 2014 event. Edmonton, under the ownership of Ron and Loretta Thiering for nearly 20 years, has been a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series member since 2005.

The Winners: Andrew Ranger won the inaugural event in 2014 and Scott Steckly won in 2105. Alex Tagliani took the lead on Lap 88 and remained out front the rest of the way to win last year's caution-filled event.

The Polesitters: Alex Tagliani holds the record in pole qualifying at Edmonton with a fast lap of 12.514 seconds (71.919 mph) in 2014. Kevin Lacroix won his first pole here last year and only one on an oval to date.

Luxxur 300 Notes

West-based Competitors To Make Appearances: The Luxxur 300 will be the second NASCAR Pinty's Series appearance of the season for Sherwood Park, Alberta, native Noel Dowler. He also competed in the series return to Delaware Speedway in June. Ian Admiraal, also from nearby Sherwood Park, Alberta is also slated to make his first start of the season at Edmonton.

Several Drivers Keep Edmonton Start Streak Alive: D.J. Kennington, the only driver to start every race in the history of the series (125), leads a group of eight other drivers who've start the previous three NASCAR Pinty's Series at the track. Of the drivers to start every race at the track Andrew Ranger and Alex Tagliani have scored wins there.

New Seating Available At Track: For the first time while hosting a Pinty's Series race, EIR will open a new grandstand section to fans in the Turn 4 area of the track. The seating was in the process of being installed during last year's event and not open to the general public.

Special Events Scheduled In Edmonton Area: Event sponsor Luxxur and Edmonton International Raceway have partnered to host several BBQ events on Thursday and Friday in conjunction the race on Saturday. The first event will be the NASCAR Pinty's Luxxur 300 BBQ at Richardson Pioneer on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. and also a BBQ at CTV Studios in West Edmonton from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. On Friday a BBQ will be held at Richardson Pioneer in Camrose from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information contact EIR.

NASCAR Home Tracks: Werner and Thiering Locked In Tight Battle In Provincial Standings

Lee Werner leads Erica Thiering by just four points in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Division I points  standings at Edmonton International Raceway (80-76). Both drivers have won twice and have finished in the top-10 in all five races held so far this season. The difference so far is Werner has scored top-five finishes in all five starts while Thiering has scored four.

 

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{allcanada} Alias Grace: Anna Paquin and a Bunch of Bodies Fill Miniseries Teaser Trailer

 

Video: https://youtu.be/M_ubH90kigo

There aren't any vampires in Alias Grace, one of Anna Paquin's first TV gigs since True Blood, but that doesn't mean that the world of this Netflix miniseries isn't a dangerous place to inhabit. Because, as the first teaser trailer for the Margaret Atwood novel's adaptation shows us, corpses pop up at a rather alarming rate when Grace Marks (11.22.63's Sarah Gadon) is in the picture.

The six-part drama — which also stars Chuck's Zachary Levi — is the story of the controversial real-life conviction of Marks, an Irish immigrant who becomes a Canadian domestic servant and is later sentenced to prison for the murders of her employer and his housekeeper in 1843.

In the brief preview, Gadon's Marks gives us an overview of the conflicting rumors swirling about her, including that she is "an inhuman female demon" and "an innocent victim of a blaggard forced against my will and in danger of my own life." Meanwhile, various characters — including Paquin's Nancy Montgomery — are choked, slapped, dragged, tossed and marched away.

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{allcanada} Canadiens look to limit Price's workload

 

The Montreal Canadiens signed Carey Price to an extension through the 2025-26 season earlier this off-season, now the team is looking to make they don't overwork their star goaltender.

Price started 62 games last season in his return from a knee injury which cost him most of the 2015-16 campaign. He's started 65 or more games in the regular season three times in his 10-year career and Canadiens goaltending coach Stephen Waite has no plans to allow that number to rise to four.

"I don't believe your starter can play 65 to 70 games a year anymore. It's too tough -- physically and mentally -- and that'll catch up with you in the spring, for sure," Waite told NHL.com. "That's why a good backup can start 20, 22… even 24 games a year, and give your No. 1 goalie a break while still helping you make the playoffs. But if your backup can't stay above .500, then you're in trouble. That's why the backup has a huge job to handle."

Al Montoya, Price's backup, made 19 starts in his first year with the Canadiens last season, earning a two-year extension in the process. He posted an 8-6-4 with a 2.67 goals against average and .912 save percentage. Price's record on the year sat at 37-20-5 with a 2.23 GAA and a .923 save percentage. He posted three shutouts to Montoya's two.

"He gives us a chance to win every time he plays, and that's huge when your backup has to start an average of 20 games in today's NHL," Waite said of Montoya. "We needed him to play at least .500 hockey if we were going to make the playoffs, and that's exactly what he did. He's a very big part of our team."

Waite said the Canadiens won't save Montoya's starts for certain matchups, instead their focus will be on giving Price the right off-days.

Price has made a total of 500 starts in the NHL, posting a 270-175-55 record with a career .920 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average.

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{allcanada} Oduya signs one-year contract with Senators

 

Defenseman Johnny Oduya signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Ottawa Senators on Monday. The contract has games played, time-on-ice and playoff bonuses that could add up to another $1.25 million.

Oduya, who turns 36 on Oct. 1, had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 52 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars last season.

After playing with Chicago from 2012-15 and winning the Stanley Cup twice (2013, 2015), Oduya signed a two-year contract with the Stars on July 15, 2015. He was traded to the Blackhawks on Feb. 28.

Selected in the seventh round (No. 221) of the 2001 NHL Draft by the Washington Capitals, Oduya went unsigned and played in Sweden before being signed by the New Jersey Devils on July 24, 2006. Oduya has 182 points (37 goals, 145 assists) in 798 regular-season games with the Blackhawks, Stars, Devils and Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.

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{allcanada} Hellebuyck signs one-year, $2.25 million contract with Jets

 

Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.

Hellebuyck, 24, was scheduled for an arbitration hearing Aug. 1.

He was 26-19-4 with a 2.89 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and four shutouts in an NHL career high 56 games (53 starts) last season.

Hellebuyck split time with MIchael Hutchinson last season, and the Jets allowed 255 goals, fourth-most in the NHL last season. They signed unrestricted free agent goalie Steve Mason to a two-year, $8.2 million contract July 1.

Selected by Winnipeg in the fifth round (No. 130) of the 2012 NHL Draft, Hellebuyck is 39-30-5 with a 2.71 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and six shutouts in 82 NHL games.

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{allcanada} Argos' Wilder ready for start at RB against Redblacks

 

TORONTO — James Wilder Jr. is hoping to get a little physical with the Ottawa Redblacks on Monday night.

Wilder will get the start at running back for the Toronto Argonauts (2-2) in place of veteran Brandon Whitaker. Whitaker is coming off a 1,000-yard rushing campaign last year but has run for just 66 yards on 22 carries (three-yard average) this season.

You can watch the game LIVE on TSN at 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt.

Wilder also has 66 rushing yards in his first CFL season season but on 14 carries (4.7-yard average). The six-foot-three, 226-pound Wilder is a bigger presence than the five-foot-10, 200-pound Whitaker and that could be a factor considering Ottawa (1-3-1) is playing its third game in 11 nights and for the fourth time in 18 days.

"James has certainly shown us flashes," Toronto head coach Marc Trestman said. "His No. 1 job is to make sure Ricky (Argos starter Ricky Ray) is protected and take care of the football when he gets that opportunity.

"We hope he will and do something with it."

Wilder has plenty to offer Toronto's offence. He's big enough to take on either linebackers or defensive linemen in pass protection and is certainly a load to bring down on rushing plays although CFL running backs traditionally get the ball much less than they do south of the border.

"It's more a passing league than a running league," Wilder said. "It's a little harder to get that rhythm so you have to take advantage of every carry you get but you also have to stay disciplined not to try to do too much on those limited carries."

Wilder can also present mismatches coming out of the backfield on passing downs or even lining up in the slot opposite a linebacker. Getting Wilder the ball both as a runner and receiver could help Toronto's offence systematically wear down Ottawa's defence.

Trouble is, Toronto features a predominantly passing offence. The Argos boast the league's top aerial attack (382.3 yards per game) but are last in rushing (37.8 yards per game).

Then again, Ottawa's defence is allowing a league-worse 5.8 yards per rushing attempt this season.

Wilder, who played collegiately at Florida State, joined the Argos this season after spending time in the NFL with Cincinnati and Buffalo. His father, James Sr., was an NFL running back for 10 seasons with Tampa Bay, Washington and Detroit, rushing for 6,008 yards in 129 career games.

The elder Wilder remains Tampa Bay's career rushing leader with 5,957 yards and 37 TDs over nine seasons (1981-89).

Monday night's game is important to both teams. Ottawa is coming off a 24-19 win over Montreal on Wednesday night and could move atop the East Division with another victory.

"To be honest with you, we did a lot of good things against Montreal," Ottawa defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelso said. "First of all, we held them to under 20 points and if you do that you have a chance to win.

"We got some turnovers (five) which we hadn't been getting this season."

Toronto won the first meeting on July 8, rallying from a 12-1 half-time deficit for a 26-25 win at TD Place.

Toronto hasn't played since 33-25 road loss to Winnipeg on July 13 and enters action Monday tied with the Alouettes (2-3) for first in the East. And the Argos are about to feel Ottawa's pain as Monday night's game begins a stretch of four matchups in 19 days.

"This is just part of our league," Trestman said. "I know Rick (Ottawa head coach) is certainly saying the same thing to his guys . . . each and every team goes through this process."

Toronto will visit the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night before hosting the Calgary Stampeders on Aug. 3. Then the Argos will have eight days off before facing the Alouettes in Montreal.

Ottawa quarterback Trevor Harris — who began his CFL career with Toronto in 2012 — comes in as the league leader in passing yards (1,755) and TDs (10). His favourite target is Greg Ellingson, who's tops in receiving yards (584) on 36 catches (16.2-yard average) with two TDs while Canadian Brad Sinopoli is fourth (34 receptions, 415 yards, two touchdowns).

Toronto counters with a defence that's ranked first overall in sacks (14), second in fewest rushing yards allowed (65.3 per game) and third in offensive points (21.5 per game) and passing yards (289.5).

But Toronto had no sacks against Winnipeg and allowed two rushing TDs.

NOTES — Toronto will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its 1996-97 Grey Cup-winning teams Monday, with former quarterback Doug Flutie among the former players scheduled to attend. Flutie will also be formally inducted as an All-Time Argo member.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

{allcanada} Blake, Bure portraits unveiled

 

Toe Blake was one-third of one of the most famous trios in NHL history. He played left wing on the famed "Punch Line" of the Montreal Canadiens, with Elmer Lach in the middle and Maurice Richard on right wing. They helped revive the Canadiens after one of the few downturns in franchise history and keyed Montreal's Stanley Cup championship teams in 1944 and 1946.

Some people felt Blake was the embodiment of old-time hockey; he once tried to take on the entire Detroit Red Wings team. But Blake also served as Montreal's captain from 1940-48, was skilled enough to lead the NHL in scoring in 1938-39, and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team three times. Blake's playing career came to a premature end on Jan. 11, 1948, when a collision with Bill Juzda of the New York Rangers resulted in a badly broken leg and forced him to retire at 35. Seven years later, he returned to the Canadiens as coach and guided them to eight championships in 13 seasons.

In his NHL100 profile of Blake, author Stu Hackel wrote that the player nicknamed The Old Lamplighter was the one the Canadiens rebuilt around after missing the playoffs in 1939-40:

"When coach Dick Irvin moved from [the] Toronto [Maple Leafs] to Montreal in the summer of 1940, he saw only one bona fide NHL player on the Canadiens roster: Blake. He made Toe captain and started to rebuild around him.

"Lach arrived that year, and the promising Richard came in 1942. A series of injuries to Richard caused concern that he might be too brittle for the NHL. After he started 1943-44 skating with Blake and Lach, another injury soon sidelined him. He returned to the lineup playing with others. But during a schedule break around Christmas, Irvin traveled to Saskatchewan to visit his family, leaving Blake to run practices. Foreshadowing his future as a coach, Blake put Richard and Lach back on a line with him, and Irvin kept them together when he rejoined the team for the Dec. 30 game against the Red Wings. That night, Richard -- who had four points on the season -- got three goals and two assists in an 8-3 win. The 'Punch Line' was born, and hockey was never the same.

"'That's when my career really got going,'" Richard told famed broadcaster Dick Irvin, the coach's son, for his book "The Habs: An Oral History of the Montreal Canadiens 1940-80." "Richard spoke no English at first and Lach spoke no French. Blake handled the translating and much more. Lach told the author Irvin that Blake 'was good for me and Rocket. We called him "The Old Man." He was in his 30s. One thing about Toe was the way he practiced. Boy, how he would work. He always said, "The way you practice is the way you played." He never fooled around in practice. That's what made us successful.'

"Richard had 30 goals in the season's last 30 games, becoming the most explosive performer the game had seen, aided by his linemates. Each had a role. Although strong shooters themselves, Blake and Lach gladly hunted and fought for pucks to feed Richard, who was nearly unstoppable inside the blue line. All three understood where to be in certain situations and they could move the puck to each other without looking. 'I knew by feel,' Lach told the author Irvin. 'It was very clear in my mind.'

"Richard was overjoyed to skate with the Canadiens star he had admired as a teenager. 'My hero was Toe Blake,' he told author Roger Kahn."

Harris said that because Blake was better known as a coach than a player, finding a picture of him in a Canadiens uniform rather than behind the Montreal bench wasn't easy.

"There might be hundreds of photos of Toe Blake behind the Canadiens bench or drinking from the Stanley Cup," he said. "However, there are not many of him in uniform, and so the image I used was a black-and-white promotional shot. Adding color to these old images is a bit challenging, but it's also very rewarding."

Bure came along more than 40 years after Blake's playing career ended, and he wasted no time becoming a star. He made his NHL debut as a 20-year-old with the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 5, 1991, and quickly earned the nickname The Russian Rocket after jumping from CSKA Moscow in his hometown to the NHL.

After scoring 34 goals as an NHL rookie in 1991-92, Bure took off with back-to-back 60-goal seasons. He had the kind of goal-scoring fire that fans love, and the crowds at Pacific Coliseum quickly made him a favorite. His end-to-end rushes made life miserable for opponents but lifted fans out of their seats. His overtime goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals eliminated the Calgary Flames and sparked the Canucks to a run that didn't end until they lost 3-2 to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

But Bure's run in Vancouver ended after a battle with management saw him traded to the Florida Panthers on Jan. 17, 1999.

He showed fans in South Florida that his scoring touch was alive and well by leading the NHL in goals with 58 in 1999-2000 (despite coming off knee surgery) and 59 in 2000-01. But after Bure scored 22 goals in 56 games for the Panthers in 2001-02, he was traded to the Rangers. Despite scoring 12 goals in 12 games after the trade, Bure couldn't lift New York into the playoffs.

He played 39 games for the Rangers in 2002-03, but more knee issues and operations ended his career shortly before his 32nd birthday. In 702 NHL games, he had 779 points (437 goals, 342 assists), as well as 70 points (35 goals, 35 assists) in 64 playoff games.

Author John MacKinnon, in his NHL100 profile of Bure, wrote about Bure's legacy with the Canucks:

"By consensus in Vancouver, Bure easily remains the best and most exciting player to don a Canucks jersey. The Canucks and Bure repaired their relationship over time, and Vancouver retired his No. 10 on Nov. 2, 2013.

"It was well deserved. With his blinding speed and offensive flair, Bure was a rare player who consistently delivered art on ice, when he was healthy.

"'I loved to score, but I was trying to do something creative, to beat the guys with different moves,' Bure said in 2012 upon his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. 'Then, you didn't have [the] internet, or so many cameras. You had to go on the ice and do something there so that people would go talk to their friends and say, "Maybe it's fun to go watch that team or that player."

"'That's something I wanted to do.'"

Harris' portrait of Bure is from his early days with the Canucks.

"During Pavel Bure's career with the Canucks, the team went through a few uniform refinements and Bure himself even changed numbers," Harris said. "After a long deliberation, the prominently black version with the No. 10 won out."

 

Toe Blake

Toe Blake Centennial Portrait

 

Pavel Bure

Pavel Bure Centennial Portrait

 

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{allcanada} Senators keep roster intact after run to conference final

 

Perhaps the Ottawa Senators didn't need a particularly active offseason, coming off their best postseason since advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007.

After all, reaching the second overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins suggests the Senators are on the right track, and deviating from that might not be prudent.

The Senators had better hope that's the case, because it does not appear their roster will look much different when training camp starts in September than it did when their season ended May 25.

The biggest change is the departure of defenseman Marc Methot, who was Erik Karlsson's primary defense partner the past five seasons.

Otherwise, basically nothing has changed.

The Senators did take care of some internal business, re-signing goaltender Mike Condon and forwards Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Tom Pyatt and Ryan Dzingel.

The bright side of the lack of new faces is it leaves room for some of Ottawa's prospects, led by defenseman Thomas Chabot and center Colin White, to make the opening night roster. The downside is several of the Senators' Eastern Conference rivals made significant additions in the offseason.

Here is what the Senators look like today:

 

Key arrival

Nate Thompson, F: The 32-year-old signed a two-year, $3.3 million contract July 1. Thompson was one of the top faceoff men for the Anaheim Ducks over the past three seasons, winning 922 of 1,752 draws (52.6 percent), and can play on the penalty kill, but that's about it. He had 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 159 games and was one of the worst possession players on the Ducks in his three seasons with them.

 

Key departures

Marc Methot, D: Since Methot joined the Senators in a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 1, 2012, no one played more minutes with Karlsson. Methot was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21 and then traded to the Dallas Stars five days later. He played 19:49 per game last season, fourth on the Senators behind defensemen Karlsson (26:50), Cody Ceci (23:12) and Dion Phaneuf (23:02), and was on the second penalty-kill unit. … Chris Neil, F: The Senators decided to not offer a contract to Neil, whose 1,026 games are third on Ottawa's all-time list behind Chris Phillips (1,179) and Alfredsson (1,178). He had four points (one goal, three assists) and averaged 7:34 of ice time in 53 games last season, and played in two of 19 games in the playoffs. … Viktor Stalberg, F: Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 28, the day before the NHL Trade Deadline, Stalberg played on both special teams and had two goals and two assists in 18 games for the Senators. He signed a two-year contract with EV Zug of the National League in Switzerland. … Tommy Wingels, F: Acquired in a trade from the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 24, Wingels had two goals and two assists in 36 games for the Senators. He signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1.

 

On the cusp

Thomas Chabot, D: It would be shocking if Chabot is not in the opening night lineup. Selected in the first round (No. 18) of the 2015 NHL Draft, he played one game for Ottawa last season before being sent back to Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had 45 points (10 goals, 35 assists) in 34 regular-season games for Saint John and 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 18 playoff games. He also was Canada's best defenseman at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. … Colin White, F: After getting a taste of the NHL last season, White is poised to make the jump full-time, especially with center Derick Brassard expected to miss the start of the season after having offseason shoulder surgery. Selected with the 21st pick of the 2015 draft, White, 20, had 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 35 games for Boston College last season and eight points (seven goals, one assist) in seven games to help the United States win gold at World Juniors. He had two goals and one assist in three games for Binghamton of the American Hockey League, and was held scoreless in two regular-season games and one playoff game for the Senators.

 

What they still need

Scoring help. The Senators scored 206 goals last season (22nd in the NHL), so adding a proven scorer should be high on general manager Pierre Dorion's wish list. It would be fair to expect Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and even Dzingel to improve on their numbers from last season because each is on the upswing of his career arc, and based on how Bobby Ryan performed in the playoffs (six goals, nine assists in 19 games), perhaps he will bounce back from his 13-goal output last season, the lowest of his NHL career in a full season. But the Senators need to add at least one more scorer, if not two, to become a real threat.

 

Pete Jensen's fantasy focus

Karlsson had surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot June 14 and was expected to need four months to recover. If he misses the start of the regular season after the Senators lost Methot in the expansion draft, goaltender Craig Anderson could start slow and regress fantasy-wise this season. Anderson finished among the top 10 fantasy players at his position last season and helped Ottawa to Game 7 of the conference final, but he is 36 years old and has not put together back-to-back strong seasons since joining the Senators in 2010-11.

Projected lineup

Clarke MacArthur -- Kyle Turris -- Mark Stone

Mike Hoffman -- Derick Brassard -- Bobby Ryan

Zack Smith -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau -- Colin White

Ryan Dzingel -- Nate Thompson -- Tom Pyatt

Fredrik Claesson -- Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf -- Cody Ceci

Thomas Chabot -- Chris Wideman

Craig Anderson

Mike Condon

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{allcanada} Whitecaps fall to undermanned Timbers

 

VANCOUVER — Sebastian Blanco scored early in the second half as the undermanned Portland Timbers snapped a six-game winless streak with a gutsy 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday afternoon.

Jeremy Ebobisse had Portland's other goal and also set up the winner, while Andrew Jacobson replied for Vancouver.

With injuries, suspensions and the CONCACAF Gold Cup wreaking havoc on the Timbers' roster, Ebobisse opened the scoring in the 14th minute in his first start in Major League Soccer before Jacobson tied things up in the 45th.

Blanco then gave his team its second lead in the 49th minute when the Argentine midfielder sliced through the Whitecaps defence before getting a backheel return pass from Ebobisse and rolling the ball past a helpless David Ousted to send the Timbers' boisterous travelling supporters at B.C. Place Stadium into a frenzy.

Vancouver (8-8-3) was coming off consecutive wins — 3-2 over New York City FC at home on July 5 and a 1-0 road triumph over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday — while Portland (8-8-6) entered play on a 0-3-3 run.

The Timbers, who started the season 5-2-1, picked up their first victory in MLS since June 10. Portland now sits three points up on Vancouver for fourth in the Western Conference, but the Whitecaps do have three games in hand.

The Timbers grabbed an unexpected lead thanks to some sloppy Vancouver defending. The Whitecaps cleared a corner only as far as Blanco, who fed Dairon Asprilla on the right. Asprilla in turn fired a shot across the face of goal that Ebobisse got a piece of to beat Ousted for the rookie's first in MLS.

The teams traded a couple of chances as the half wore on before Vancouver finally got an equalizer in the 45th minute.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker, wearing the captain's armband with Kendall Waston not yet back from the Gold Cup, got his head to a Cristian Bolanos corner at the near post, and Jacobson redirected the ball over the line for his second goal of the season.

Looking for a spark after Blanco gave Portland the lead, Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson brought on midfielders Yordy Reyna and Alphonso Davies, who scored three times for Canada at the Gold Cup, in quick succession near the hour mark looking to get something out of the game.

Brek Shea also subbed on soon after and had a great chance in the 80th minute, but Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was there to make a great save.

Gleeson was at it again in the 85th when he stopped Parker's header on a Vancouver free kick,

Ousted made a good stop on Jack Barmby at the other end moments later, but the Whitecaps couldn't muster much more in what can only be described as a bitterly disappointing performance — a game that seemed there for the taking against a weakened but determined opponent.

Portland strikers Fanendo Adi and Victor Arboleda were suspended for Sunday's match after getting sent off in Wednesday's 4-1 home defeat to Real Salt Lake, while midfielders Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman, defender Alvas Powell, and forward Darren Mattocks remained away on Gold Cup duty.

On the injury front, defenders Gbenga Arokoyo (Achilles tendon), Liam Ridgewell (quad), Amobi Okugo (knee), Chance Myers (hamstring) and Vytas Andriuskevicius (calf) were also unavailable.

Timbers midfielder Diego Chara recovered from a hamstring problem in time to start, but head coach Caleb Porter still had to call up Harold Hanson and Augustine Williams from the club's USL affiliate to fill out a bench that included just four outfield players instead of the usual six.

The Whitecaps, meanwhile, were minus Waston, but had all four of their Canadians who participated at the Gold Cup back in the fold, with Davies, defender Marcel de Jong and midfielder Russell Teibert starting on the bench.

Notes: Vancouver plays its next three games on the road, beginning Saturday against FC Dallas, which sits tops in the West. ... Portland visits the third-place Houston Dynamo the same day.

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