Neymar suspended, will miss El Clásico against Real Madrid

Madrid had been held by Atletico to a 1-1 draw earlier on Sunday, opening the door for Barcelona to take over the lead.The first card came after Neymar bent over to tie his boot laces and did not give space for a Malaga player to cleanly take a free kick. Barcelona forward Neymar has been handed a two-game suspension for sarcastically applauding an assistant referee and will miss Barcelona’s game against Real Madrid in the Spanish league.The two-match ban announced Tuesday comes in addition to a one-game suspension he was automatically required to serve after being sent off in a 2-0 loss at Malaga on Sunday. After the Madrid game, he will also have to sit out the match against last-place Osasuna. A highlight of the Spanish season, the game between the league leaders is on April 23 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Third-place Atletico Madrid is 10 points off the lead.Neymar was criticized by fans and local media for needlessly picking up two yellow cards that hurt Barcelona’s chances of a comeback against Malaga. There will be four games left in the league when he returns to the squad. A victory by Madrid could all but secure its first league title since 2012.Defending champion Barcelona is three points behind Madrid, which has a game in hand. The second came with about 25 minutes left in the game when Neymar charged into an opponent with no real chance of winning back the ball.Upset, he left the field and applauded the assistant as he went toward the changing rooms. Referee Gil Manzano included Neymar’s sarcastic reaction in his report to the Spanish federation’s competition committee, which met on Tuesday to rule on the case.Barcelona, which is expected to appeal, had tried to defend the player by saying that he didn’t directly address the assistant and never yelled or touched any member of the match officials.The committee included in its ruling its “concern with the clear and unacceptable pressure by part of the media” in relation to its decision.The first league game Neymar will miss is at Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Borussia Dortmund player injured after explosions near team bus

I hope that football will be the focus again tomorrow.”LETTER FOUNDState prosecutor Sandra Luecke said the letter found near the blast site was being examined. It wouldn’t be the first time that something didn’t work out the way it was planned. All that is still being investigated. Borussia Dortmund’s team bus was attacked with explosives on Tuesday shortly before the start of their Champions League clash with AS Monaco, injuring defender Marc Bartra and forcing the match to be postponed by a day.German police said on Tuesday they did not know who was behind the attack, in which three explosions went off at 7:15 p.m. 24, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is running in a tight battle for a fourth term.“The risk of a terrorist attack is not new today,” Lange said.“We have been preparing for this for a long time. The authenticity of the letter is being examined,” she said.Terrorism expert Davis Lewin told Bild that the explosive devices appeared to have been “quite weak”.“That doesn’t really fit in with the strategy of Islamist attacks, which until now have gone for large numbers of victims such as in the (truck) attacks in Nice and Berlin,” he said.“On the other hand, terror organisations like ISIS have called upon their followers to go out with home-made bombs. A police spokesman had earlier said “the explosive devices were placed outside the bus”.Windows on the bus were broken but the damage was limited.Dortmund police said earlier on Twitter: “After the initial investigation, we assume that this was an attack using serious explosives.”While the motive was unclear, it revived memories of the November 2015 attacks in Paris that targeted entertainment venues including the Stade de France where France were playing Germany in a soccer friendly.A deadly truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market in December killed 12 people – putting the issue of security at the heart of the national election on Sept. It is being investigated very professionally.”German interior minister Thomas de Maziere said on Twitter: “My thoughts are with the team. It’s just too early to tell what’s behind this attack.”A spokesman for Borussia Dortmund said the injured player, Bartra, was being operated on for a broken bone in his right wrist and shrapnel in his arm.“The bus turned into the main street, when there was a huge boom, a real explosion,” Sky television quoted Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki as saying.“I was sitting in the back row next to Marc Bartra, hit by fragments … We want to be careful. He has made 12 appearances for the Spanish national team.Borussia Dortmund’s managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke said: “The whole team is in a state of shock.”The stadium emptied quickly and without incident.AS Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic told Croatian newspaper 24sata: “We are currently in the stadium, in a safe place, but the feeling’s horrible.”Dortmund and UEFA said the match would go ahead on Wednesday at 1645 GMT.UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said: “I was deeply disturbed by the explosions which occurred tonight in Dortmund.”FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “The thoughts of every one of us at FIFA are with the people of Dortmund, and the fans of both Borussia Dortmund and Monaco following today’s troubling events.” She declined to provide details about the contents of the letter.“The investigation is at this time is for attempted manslaughter. Video: Player injured after blasts hit Borussia Dortmund team bus (Reuters)

Prosecutors said a letter had been found near the scene of the blast, but declined to give details of its contents and said it was not clear whether it was authentic.“At this time, it is still not clear what the real background to this act is,” Dortmund police chief Gregor Lange told a late night news conference in the western German city.Police earlier said there had been no risk to the Signal Iduna Park stadium, the largest in Germany, holding more than 80,000 fans, where the first leg of the quarter-final of Europe’s top club soccer competition was due to have been played.Lange said police assumed the team bus was deliberately targeted in the attack as it left the team hotel on the way to the stadium.The devices were placed in a bush alongside the street, Bild newspaper reported, without giving a source. I do not want to suggest that this was a terrorist attack. near the hotel where the team was staying, but said the team appeared to be the target. A letter was found near the scene of the crime. after the bang, we all ducked.”Bartra, 26, joined Dortmund for 8 million euros ($8.5 million) last year from Barcelona, after coming through the Catalan club’s youth system. It’s important now to get to the bottom of this.

Kelly: Bettman, NHL lucky to have five Canadian teams in playoffs, but do they realize it?

Pakistan. (Credit where credit’s due – they got that one right.)Because who wouldn’t rather see a dreary, mid-season Carolina/Florida matchup than a knockout game featuring the best players in the world competing for something that matters more than an extra night of concession receipts?The World Cup of Hockey won’t fill this rooting void (and especially so if Russia sends its best team to Pyeongchang).All the NHL has managed to do is fracture its most compelling argument for global relevance into competing once-every-four-years tournaments. About a month ago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about the potential return of five Canadian franchises to the playoffs after 2016’s blank slate.You knew the question irritated Bettman because of how broadly he smiled as it was being asked. Well, I’m sure they’ll be happy to change for us.”If the NHL had the international run of things, there’d be a hockey team in the Gobi Desert. The NHL works this rule in reverse. “So last year when everybody was saying it was the end of NHL hockey in Canada – what a difference a year makes,” Bettman said, in what sounded like a rehearsed line. Them.You know what the NHL wants here – Pittsburgh against Washington, Chicago against New York, New York against anybody really. It’s ruthless drive to grow the game by shaking a few bucks from the pockets of warm-weather rubes may in time be its undoing.Regardless of the marketing synergies or expansion fees accrued, it still boggles the mind that there will soon be NHL hockey in Las Vegas – a place where the second-best ice surface in town is at a casino and only open around Christmas. God forbid, a Calgary or an Ottawa or some other city most of our southern neighbours can’t find on a map (which, in fairness, includes all of them).From our perspective, a Canadian resurgence in the NHL is a return to high form and to the league’s foundation. Just look at him. There is a (very slim) possibility that all five could make the second round of eight.That’s good for Canada and good for the game. Wait, what? They’ve already had a pro hockey team. But without Canada, the same cannot be said of the NHL. This is not a man who goes to work happy.Instead, Bettman’s a daycare worker with 35 million kids and he can’t understand why they don’t want to help him move the preschool to Seattle.Five of seven Canadian teams will take part in the playoffs this year. Canadian teams matter not just because they make more money or draw more viewers, but because they bring the sport to markets willing to put hockey at the centre of their civic culture. It’s a time-travel machine whose landing co-ordinates are advertising disaster. “But that’s a testament to our competitive balance and how anything can happen any year, any night, and that’s what’s great about the game.”The end of NHL hockey in Canada? The calculus of that decision presumably went like this: Americans won’t care and Canadians won’t complain too much. There was plenty of whining and garment-rending, but I can’t recall “everybody” talking about packing it in on the national game and giving roller derby a try instead.Bettman is confusing what happened with what he thought he heard – a common mistake made by people with an agenda.Based on his rare, clenched-jaw pronouncements north of the border, one also suspects Bettman’s kind of had it up to here with Canada never shutting up about hockey, and its place in hockey, and hey, what are these guys doing to hockey? Regardless of the entrants, the NHL playoffs always appeal to Canada because they are full of Canadians. Not one of the 23 (soon to be 24) American teams can make the same claim.A number of Canadian storylines make this postseason a little more interesting than most – the debut of Connor McDavid, the Leafs’ return, the potential for provincial showdowns, the reasonable hope that the Canadiens are good enough to compete for a championship.But none is more compelling than the reminder that just seven teams give the NHL its organizational rationale.If the NHL folded tomorrow, Canadian hockey would not end. They want a storyline that features U.S.-based teams with pedigree, one that might finally be noisy enough to distract a few of the kids drifting toward soccer and e-sports.You know what the NHL fears – a run that features multiple Canadian teams in the final few groupings. And though few of them feel particularly warmly toward each other, it’s hard not to view the postseason to come from the perspective of Us v. He’s the sort of business executive who’s never more terrifying than when he’s trying to be gracious. With the Knicks and Lakers out of it, this is hockey’s big chance – again. Because one presumes nomadic herding tribes must want nothing more than a little of that Big League Feel.Last week, the NHL kicked Canada in the nethers again by deciding to give the Olympics a pass. From the Avenue of the Americas view, it’s a retreat into parochialism. Two showcases cannot make up in quantity what the Olympics alone showcased in terms of quality.Instead of a great uniting whole, Canada is reduced once again to its city-based tribes. It folded two years ago.One can imagine the English Premier League saying to itself, “You know who else needs our brand of tough-minded British football? It’s just a little galling that it lets the NHL off the hook.It’s been obvious for some time that Canadian hockey succeeds despite the league, rather than because of it. They already have their own sports? As long as that’s the case, the jerseys they’re wearing will only matter so much.But it is important to occasionally remind the league where its bread is buttered. They want the league running tight with the NBA playoffs in America’s biggest media markets. No other organizing body in the world works so hard at ignoring its base in order to reward people who’ve shown little or no interest in their sport.It’s an axiom of business that any endeavour that is not expanding is, in fact, contracting.

For the Flames, Anaheim is a troublesome first-round matchup

He hasn’t played an NHL playoff series since his first full season, 2006-07, absent for the Flames’ 2015 two-round postseason cameo series because of a bicep tear. That’s how close the league is and that’s why it’s such a battle to get in.“And once you get in,” Giordano concluded hopefully, “everyone has a shot.” 1 team statistically, the Chicago Blackhawks.But Anaheim?Anaheim always poses problems – and this year’s series is further underscored by the bad blood that occurred in the final meeting of the season when a knee-on-knee collision between Giordano and Anaheim’s top defenceman, Cam Fowler, put Fowler on the shelf for between two and six weeks.Fowler plays more minutes a night than any Duck player (24 minutes 50 seconds) and is arguably their second most important player after team captain Ryan Getzlaf.Fowler will almost certainly miss the entire first round and his absence will represent a competitive edge to the Flames, who played without Giordano, their best defencemen, in the series two years ago because he was injured. “That game happened, but it’s done with. For Calgary, it has been the opposite. Murray, a likeable straight shooter, probably even meant it.But his counterpart in Calgary, Brad Treliving, replied in kind, labelling Murray’s comments about Giordano “asinine” and without merit.“Mark Giordano is a true pro,” Treliving said, “and we’re going to go into the series not worried about what’s happened before. “Not a lot separates most teams in the West. They always rally in support of their own player. It has been Death Valley. It doesn’t completely close the gap between the teams, but it narrows it a little.Predictably, Ducks general manager Bob Murray was livid that Giordano didn’t receive a suspension and was critical of the way the Calgary captain plays – which is how you’d expect the GM of a team smack in the midst of its championship window to respond. The Ducks have the unhappy distinction of having lost three consecutive Game 7s on home ice – to Nashville last year; to Chicago in the third round two years ago; and to Detroit in the second round the year before that.So the Ducks need to get their playoffs off on the right foot, and though they’d never acknowledge it publicly, getting Calgary to open is probably as good as it gets for them, in what they anticipate will be a long playoff run.Giordano, incidentally, knew exactly how many more regular-season wins separated Anaheim and Calgary this season – one. It’s a playoff series and emotions are going to be high, but as a team and an individual, you can’t let it affect your game.”The matchup represents an interesting psychological puzzle because many of the Flames players, including starting goaltender Brian Elliott and head coach Glen Gulutzan, are comparative newcomers and thus really shouldn’t have to answer for more than a decade of failure in Anaheim.For their part, the Ducks have a few of their own demons to exorcise, after they were upset in the opening round last year by a wild-card team, the Nashville Predators. Having already answered the bell once, Giordano believes the matter has been resolved and he will not face extra attention from any Duck player, seeking another pound of flesh.“If you play a lot against other teams’ top lines, you’re going to get extra attention, whether you like it or not,” Giordano said. There’s a method to the madness there – to put something in the officials’ heads going into the series.”So the war of words is already under way, even before the teams hit the ice for the series opener Thursday in Anaheim.Because of who he is and how he plays, Giordano will be a focal point. Two years ago, in their past playoff appearance, the Flames lost to the Ducks in five relatively easy games.Calgary matched up reasonably well against a lot of Western Conference opponents, and even might have preferred to face the No. After delivering the hit on Fowler, Giordano was jumped by the Ducks’ Josh Manson, the predictable coming-to-the-defence-of-a-teammate ethic that still governs NHL player conduct. Anaheim is home to Disneyland, otherwise known as the Happiest Place on Earth. The Flames have lost their past 25 regular-season games in Anaheim, an NHL record. In 61/2 months of hockey, that’s a narrow gap.“Those are the sorts of things you want to bring up to the guys,” Giordano said. You can’t pick your playoff opponent, Calgary Flames’ defenceman Mark Giordano was saying Monday, but what would happen, even if you could?With the Pacific Division standings such a closely contested jumble right until the end of the NHL regular season, the Flames would almost certainly have chosen anyone but the Anaheim Ducks to play in the opening playoff round. In our division, it was pretty tight.

Baby Maple Leafs learn playoff hockey also includes bigger scrums

When Pat Quinn was head coach of the Leafs, he once stopped near the end of a scrum to watch with obvious amusement a pushing match, accompanied by an F-bomb contest, between a Philadelphia talking head and, ahem, your usually mild-mannered agent.However, some of the newcomers do provide amusement. He will bark questions such as, “What do you have to say to the fans?” at bemused players and coaches, who reply with a cliché or two.However, Tuesday proved to be a decent day for nuggets despite the crush. Very few of them actually ask a question, which makes them expensive microphone stands.The overcrowded scrums lend themselves to the odd pushing match between camera operators and foul-tempered scribes who object to being hit on the back of the head by a camera lens for the 13th time. Reporters who usually cover the latest crisis at city hall are dispatched to Leaf Land to find out how they are going to somehow knock off the Washington Capitals.Any veteran sportswriter knows it will be a bad day when the first thing he sees at the arena parking lot are two satellite television news trucks.In the dressing room of the Leafs practice facility is a crush of people carrying television cameras, microphones, digital recorders, smartphones and even the odd notebook. Matthews’s eyes widened in interest.“You get tired in season, and the takeout containers start filling up,” he said. “I think I’m pretty responsible with that kind of stuff. One of them, who obviously spends much time in front of a mirror thinking, “I’m a steely-eyed newsman,” is hilariously famous for striding into the Leafs room a couple of times a year determined to get to the bottom of their latest malfeasance. Over the past couple of days, there was much conversation about how the youthful Toronto Maple Leafs would quickly learn that playoff hockey in the NHL is a much different animal from the regular season.On Tuesday, at their first official postseason practice of the new era, any of the baby Leafs who paid attention noticed the different atmosphere was not just on the ice, where there is a lot less time and room to make plays because even the worst floaters in the league are fired up enough to check hard. In a clear bid to find out who the real leaders are on the team, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun asked Matthews who picks the restaurant when the Leafs’ youngsters are going for dinner.“It’s usually Morgan [Rielly],” Matthews said. But the great recession of 2008 combined with the decline of the media business created waves of layoffs and buyouts that decimated the troops. This was a curious thing to ask the fellow who designs and runs the practice, but Brown recovered nicely as the scrum ended.After Babcock said he expects Frederik Andersen, who left last Saturday’s game after a bump on the head, to play in Thursday’s series opener against the Capitals, and he hopes injured defencemen Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak will, as well, Brown tried again.“Your fan base is obviously satisfied already with what this team has accomplished,” Brown said. He has developed an almost somnambulant style in scrums, tossing out a few platitudes while all marvel at how a 19-year-old handles the media.But then someone mentioned he was talking to Matthews’s father, who lamented the discovery of a large pile of takeout-food boxes in his son’s apartment. When the Leafs make the playoffs is when every news director at every television station or radio station and every news editor at every newspaper or website discovers them. A rough count before the club’s public-relations staff opened the room showed there were 30 media types storming the players’ boudoir.Ten years ago, 30 would have been the number of those covering a rather important regular-season game. “This is his fourth year here; he’s got a pretty good [knowledge] of the restaurants.”So if you are looking to bet on someone other than Matthews as the next Leaf captain, Rielly might be worth a buck or two.Head coach Mike Babcock’s scrum paid off, too, after a slow start when Lance Brown of CTV Toronto wondered if he noticed an increase in tempo at the practice because of the playoffs. They are there to stick their microphones in the face of any stray player whose lips are moving, turning every scrum into a sardine convention. I know if my parents are coming, I will clean up as much as I can.”It was the followup that struck gold. Instead, it was everywhere they turned. On one side of the room, the Leafs’ prize rookie, Auston Matthews, was giving his usual non-committal answers to a crowd. Nevertheless, this is at least double the regular-season media contingent.Most of the new faces know as much about hockey as Kim Kardashian. “Are you …” And then Babcock interjected with, “That’s not what they’re yelling at me when I’m walking around Yorkville, so you’re meeting different people than me.”“What are they saying?”“Let’s get going!”

Tough love: Milan Lucic is older, wiser, but no less frightening

There is much more to him than the tough guy on the ice. He credits Marc Savard and David Krejci for taking him under wing, and making him a better, more confident player.“They taught me about playing smarter and being more efficient,” Lucic says.You can see that in him as an older player. Edmonton won 47 games this season, its most since 50 in 1986-87. The Art Ross Trophy winner is rarely roughed up, and that is because of the fear that Lucic, his hulking 235-pound bodyguard, will retaliate. It shows that there is a will here to win.”He says he has been telling his teammates that if they keep playing as well as they have, they can go far into the postseason.“It’s the first time for many of them, so it is definitely going to be a new experience,” he says. He has stepped up to the plate.”Lucic has fought only six times, and has deferred when opportunities presented themselves. You always look forward to this time of year.“I am excited to see what Connor is capable of in the playoffs. Milan Lucic is older and wiser. The Oilers are in them for the first time in nearly 11 years. He has been there and done that, and done it well.In his mid-teens, McDavid made a video and imagined himself playing on a dream line with Lucic. Of course, things change.”Lucic picks and chooses his fights now. He took his game to another level at the end of the season. His father was an immigrant from Serbia who came to Canada when he was 27. He was one of the biggest names available, and it was a sign that things were markedly improved when Edmonton was able to get him. He was gregarious and accommodating and his wife, Brittany, was there with him. I am fortunate to call him my teammate and am excited to be at his side and be part of this journey with him.”He is not the man he used to be, but in one way, Lucic is.“At the end, what I focus on is keeping that love I had for the game as an eight- or nine-year-old kid,” he says. That is in keeping with his stature as a veteran and assistant captain. “But even for a guy who has been there, it is still exciting. A man changes with time and circumstances. He will, but not without thought.“When I came into the league, I kind of knew the way to make a name for myself, and for me the best way was to stick up for myself and my teammates,” Lucic said Tuesday after the Oilers practised at Rogers Place for their first-round playoff game on Wednesday against San Jose. “I remind myself of that every day.” At the time, he said he came because of McDavid – that a guy only gets to play with a talent like that perhaps once in a lifetime. He went 20 games at one point this season without a penalty, and is barely in the top five on the team in penalty minutes. He finished the regular season with 23 goals, three more than Taylor Hall scored in New Jersey. He remembers breaking in with the Bruins in 2007, and playing only limited minutes for about half of the season. Reality is better than fiction.“His is such a great voice in the dressing room,” McDavid said Tuesday. Lucic had 50 points, including nine in the past 10 games as the Oilers pushed their way up the standings. He had a quiet stretch early on, but has finished with a flourish. Together, they have two little girls.Lucic is not what you expect. He is not the fellow who taunted fans in Montreal from the penalty box a few years ago, making an obscene gesture and pretending to hoist the Stanley Cup over his head. So I can’t really say that I saw it coming.“A lot of has to do with Connor, but other guys have stepped up their game, too. You are full of piss and vinegar and single and living your dream.“Now it is 10 years later and I have a wife and two kids, and I have a better understanding of what’s good and what’s bad. Lucic has been in 102, and won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2010-11.“Maybe I was pressing a little too hard in December and January,” Lucic says.The Oilers announced his signing as a free agent with great fanfare on Canada Day. He is 29, and the playoffs are only a day away. He is friendly and outgoing and doesn’t give easy answers during interviews. “He knows what it takes to do this, and we know guys on other teams aren’t taking liberties with me or any of our other young players.”Louie DeBrusk, a brawler when he played with the Oilers and three other teams in the NHL, says there is nobody in the league that can compare with Lucic.“He is the type of player that every tough guy wants to be,” says DeBrusk, now a broadcaster. The Oilers came within an eyelash of unseating Anaheim atop the Pacific Division.“There was a lot of uncertainty about the Oilers this year,” Lucic says. “Coming in, I thought we would most likely be pushing for a wild-card spot rather than the division lead. He had a natural hat trick – three straight goals – when Edmonton dispatched with the Sharks last week in San Jose. He was a longshoreman, an occupation every bit as tough and gritty as a hockey enforcer.It is not to say that Milan Lucic is softer now, but he is more mature. He is not the same guy who became engaged in a late-night scuffle once outside a poutine joint in Vancouver. He remains the most frightening player in the NHL, and has helped Connor McDavid enjoy an MVP-calibre season. “He is one of the toughest guys in the league, but he is going to score 30 goals one of these years for the Oilers.“I can’t think of another guy in the NHL that is like him.”It hasn’t always been that way for Lucic. “You don’t think of much when you enter the league at 19 or 20. He talks from his heart and commands respect from his teammates. Lucic was close to his dad, and was shocked in 2015 when Dobro Lucic killed himself. He is not the man he used to be. Before that, with the Oilers trailing 1-0, he had an extended slugfest with Micheal Haley.“We are lucky to have him at this time of year,” Oilers’ coach Todd McLellan says.“Milan’s completely, emotionally attached to this group now and his play has reflected that. Combined, the Oiler players have only participated in 342 postseason games.

Habs’ Pacioretty has been team’s heartbeat in second season as captain

9 game in Arizona, where he scored twice and added two assists in a come-from-behind win.“For me, he carried the team,” said Danault.A few days after the near-debacle in the desert, coach Michel Therrien would be fired, Julien would be hired, and the Habs would take flight to the league’s second-best record since the middle of February (they also swept the regular-season series with the Rangers, which is neither here nor there).The Habs have also been among the top two or three defensive teams in hockey over the span.Though the Rangers are no pushover – loaded as they are with offensive balance and backstopped by Henrik Lundqvist in goal – the underlying stats suggest they and the Habs have been trending in opposite directions over the past 25 games, particularly at five-on-five.Beating the Blueshirts would hold particular significance for Pacioretty, who grew up idolizing them.It could also provide a signature playoff moment for a captain who has yet to accrue any.No one will be happier for that to happen than his teammates.“I don’t think people necessarily realize what he goes through every day. The team’s offence can’t afford the loss of the NHL’s sixth-leading goal scorer.But in addition to possessing uncommon offensive prowess, Pacioretty is a legendarily self-critical player, who by his own admission had chronic difficulty earlier in his career in leaving his work at the rink; as the father of two young boys, he now has less time for ruminating.There are still relapses here and there – after a hard-fought loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last month, Pacioretty was incandescent, kicking himself for a couple of missed chances and batting aside any suggestions there were any silver linings in the performance.Last year, Pacioretty was voted team captain, an honour that brought him to tears, and after a record-breaking start, the Habs’ season promptly crumbled around their new leader’s feet.If the ‘C’ looked like an anchor – and it did – the burden appears considerably lighter as the Habs look to avenge a 2014 Eastern Conference final defeat at the hands of the Rangers.A lot of attention will focus on goaltender Carey Price, injured by a sliding Chris Kreider early in that series, and that’s perfectly appropriate; Price is the club’s best player.But as Julien points out, good goaltending is only helpful insofar as you can score on the other guy, and that’s Pacioretty’s department.The big left-winger potted 35 goals for the third time in four seasons, only Alex Ovechkin, Joe Pavelski, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane have more goals since 2013 (he’s within five of the latter three).Teammates say he’s more or less the same guy he’s always been behind closed doors, but no one disputes the idea he has grown into his leadership role this season.“Everyone gets older, and you start to learn how to cope with things better,” said winger Paul Byron.All teams have their peaks and troughs in a given season, and when the Habs began to wobble after another strong start, their captain stepped to the fore.Phillip Danault, who has centred Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov for much of the year, pointed to a Jan. 31 hat trick against Buffalo and to the left-winger’s performance in a Feb. He’s the face of it, too.” He’s the focal point in the media, he’s thinking about every single person on this team and how to help them do their job better,” said veteran winger Torrey Mitchell. A ping got you a click, duly tracked by young Katie Pacioretty.He reckons he loosed more snapshots in that cellar in New Canaan, Conn. “He’s the heartbeat of the team. Anyway, the point is Max Pacioretty would conscript his sister and commandeer one of those little clickers sometimes used to take attendance in cinemas and hockey arenas.Into the basement they would go, where Pacioretty would fire shot after shot at an old soft-drink can that had been hung up as a target. “Literally all day long, every day.”An NHL player is necessarily more driven than the average beer-leaguer, but as Pacioretty allowed, “you probably have to be a little bit nuts.”By that standard, you might call the Montreal Canadiens’ captain, upon whom a great deal depends for the Habs in the coming NHL playoffs, a recovering obsessive.Speaking of recovery, he is also famed for his recuperative powers, which will once again be put to good use after taking an accidental stick under the visor from teammate Michael McCarron in practice Tuesday.Though the 28-year-old left the ice clutching his face, coach Claude Julien said the club is “very confident” he will suit up for the playoff opener against the New York Rangers on Wednesday.Good thing, too. He would have been about nine or maybe 10 years old, that part is fuzzy. – the ceiling was too low for a full windup – than any hockey player alive or dead.“I know everybody says that, but I really believe it,” Pacioretty said earlier this season.

Raptors to play Bucks in first round of NBA playoffs

3 Raptors.Toronto won the season series with Milwaukee 3-1.The Raptors one loss to the Bucks was a 101-94 defeat on March 4, when Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry was inactive and recovering from wrist surgery.Atlanta will take on the No. 4 Washington Wizards. That meant the Bucks were locked into the sixth seed, facing the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Raptors will play the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs.Dwight Howard had 19 points and 12 rebounds as the resurgent Hawks won their fourth straight game, routing the listless Charlotte Hornets 103-76 on Tuesday night to wrap up the No.

Blue Jays drop home opener to Brewers as slump continues

“Everything gets exaggerated, everything gets accentuated.”Shapiro spent a busy day on the hustings extolling the virtues of the Blue Jays, beginning with a live radio chat on CBC’s Metro Morning early in the a.m.At the ballpark, he was also on with Hamilton’s CHCH-TV and then CBC news Toronto before doing due diligence on Prime Time Sports, broadcast live on Sportsnet, an entity of Rogers Communications Inc., which just happen to be the owners of the Blue Jays.Talk about all in the family.The show was being shot live from a small stage that was built near the front of the Blue Jay dugout in foul territory down the third-base line. Happ got roughed up for two more home runs and the Blue Jays offence had another anemic showing as the Brewers rained on Toronto’s opening day parade with a 4-3 win.Happ had eight strikeouts but could only last 4.2-innings, allowing four of the Brewers’ runs off four hits – two of them homers by Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana.Happ, a 20-game winner from last season, has now given up four homers in both his starts this season, both losses. “That’s the nature of the first week of the season,” Shapiro said. “It’s all booming, so we got to keep it going,” he said.A win or two would help. Losing five of the first six games on the road was not exactly the lightening-rod start the Toronto Blue Jays were looking for to carry into Tuesday night’s home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.And the fact that Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays’ third baseman and best player, was unable to start at third base nursing a sore right calf injury only added to the jittery mood of the club’s supporters just over a week into the start of the 2017 season. Tim & Sid, another Rogers sports chat TV show, was also airing live on a nearby portable stage.As the fans settled into their seats for the game, Donaldson, whose injury is not expected to keep him out very long, was still given his due.It started with a video montage on the stadium’s giant TV screen showing clips of Donaldson’s hard-charging playing style that quickly endeared him to Toronto’s baseball fans shortly after his arrival on the scene in 2015.Then Donaldson walked out to the field to a thunderous applause where he was greeted at third base by Gibbons, who presented him with the 2016 Silver Slugger Award as the American League’s top-hitting third baseman.After that, newly minted Hall of Fame member Tim Raines, a Blue Jay minor-league instructor, threw out the first pitch to former Blue Jay great Roberto Alomar.Gibbons said it is all part of the opening-day mystique, which he said he can appreciate. “And then when this night’s over, we’ll just kind of settle in into the normal routines of baseball,” he added.These are heady times for Toronto sports lovers, with the Maple Leafs in hockey and the Raptors in basketball both heading for the playoffs. We’re going to come tomorrow and 154 days after that and we’re going to try and change that.“Unfortunately that means we’re going to have to put a couple of real good weeks together to kind of get back to even, but we knew we can do that.”Toronto only counted five hits – three by Kendrys Morales and two doubles by Troy Tulowitzki, who cashed all three Toronto runs.Before the game, Shapiro suggested the concern over a slow start is a bit overblown, given the time of year. But he did not get much help from the bats in his latest setback that dropped Toronto’s record to a surprising 1-6.“We’re not in a good spot, that’s for sure,” Happ said after the game. Still, the first game of the year at home is always the great equalizer, no matter if your team is considered the dregs of the division or a championship contender, the latter of which this veteran club definitely see themselves as this year.The fans still turn out in droves to show the love for the boys of summer, at least for the home opener, when everything seems shiny and new and exciting regardless of the won-loss record.And so it was Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, where a long-soldout capacity gathering of close to 49,000 ecstatically welcomed back their wounded warriors, the sting of a lousy start conveniently overlooked, at least for the time being.“For the fans, it’s that renewal of their bond around the game, their bond with the team,” Blue Jays president and chief executive officer Mark Shapiro said during an interview on the field about two hours prior to first pitch.“And for the players it is a reminder of just how incredible it is in this market, in this city, in this country in general.”If the Blue Jays don’t start winning soon they will see how quickly that tide can shift.Starter J.A. “We’re just not playing good enough to win games. This year, the Blue Jays are shooting for their third straight post-season appearance.Veteran Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista, playing in his ninth home opener for the Blue Jays, said he has noticed an upswing in the sports landscape in the city since his arrival.

CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge to leave post in June

“While the Board and I have differing views on the future of the league, we both believe passionately in this game, its players, its partners and its fans.“I wish the CFL great success in the future.”The weight of expectation on Orridge’s shoulders was immediate. Jeffrey Orridge’s tenure as CFL commissioner was a short but tumultuous one.The league dropped a bombshell Wednesday by announcing Orridge and the CFL’s board of governors mutually agreed to part ways effective June 30. On the day he was formally unveiled as CFL commissioner, one of the first questions Orridge faced was how he was going to deal with the Toronto Argonauts’ muddled ownership issue.Fortunately for Orridge, interim commissioner Jim Lawson — the league’s chairman — had pretty much negotiated the sale of the franchise in May 2015 to Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, and Bell, with the team relocating to a refurbished BMO Field last season.Orridge did come under fire for the CFL’s fallout with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport that led to the league not having drug testing for more than a year. Orridge’s comments came months after Jeff Miller, the NFL’s top health and safety officer, acknowledged a link between football-related head trauma and brain disease, the first time a senior league official conceded football’s connection to CTE.Following Miller’s admission, an American federal judge gave final approval to a US$1-billion class-action lawsuit settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players.The CFL was named in a $200-million class-action lawsuit over concussions and brain trauma. “Jeffrey played an important role in developing the league’s strategic plan which has, in a short time, helped to elevate some key metrics that underpin the health of the league.“On behalf of the Board of Governors we wish Jeffrey continued success and thank him for his hard work and integrity during his tenure with the CFL.” The stunning development comes just over two years after Orridge was hired amid much fanfare as the first African American chief executive of a major North American sports league. The case is on appeal.Before joining the CFL, Orridge negotiated the media rights to several Olympic Games for the CBC, but was also with the broadcaster when it lost control of its NHL rights to Rogers in 2014.“In his time with the CFL, Jeffrey worked tirelessly to promote player health and safety, the integrity of the League on and off the field, and the values of diversity and inclusion,” Lawson said. judge dismissed former player Arland Bruce III’s lawsuit against the league, Cohon, neuroscientist Dr. But in March, a B.C. No official reason was given for the move, but in a statement Orridge said he and the CFL’s board of governors didn’t see eye to eye on the league’s future. Ultimately a new policy was reached with the CFL Players’ Association and implemented in the collective-bargaining agreement.Last November, Orridge drew widespread criticism when, in his Grey Cup address, he denied the existence of a link between playing football and the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Charles Tator, the CFL Alumni Association and every team in the league.Bruce claimed the defendants downplayed the effects of repetitive head trauma and misrepresented player safety issues about concussions. Orridge succeeded Mark Cohon, who spent eight years on the job.“It has been an honour to serve as CFL Commissioner and help to prepare this historic league for the future by deepening our relationship with fans and sponsors, increasing its relevance with the next generation, and expanding our reach beyond Canada,” Orridge said.

Sidney Crosby has NHL’s bestselling jersey of 2016-17

The league says sales of merchandise on during the 2016-17 regular season were up 14 per cent year-over-year, while jersey sales rose 11 per cent during the same period. Sidney Crosby has the bestselling jersey in the NHL for the first time since the 2013-14 season.The league announced Wednesday that sales show the Pittsburgh Penguins captain leading the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for the most popular jersey this season.Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews makes his debut on the list at No. 4, followed by New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Impact suspends Wandrille Lefevre for ‘unacceptable’ Instagram gun post

The Chartres, France native, a product of the team’s academy, became a Canadian citizen in 2015.He has played three times for Canad.The central defender has appeared in two of Montreal’s five matches this season, both as a late substitution. The 27-year-old was not at practice on Wednesday. The Montreal Impact suspended Wandrille Lefevre on Wednesday, a day after the defender posted a picture of himself holding a gun with a caption referencing U.S President Donald Trump on social media.“Due to an unacceptable social media post of concern to the club, the Montreal Impact has suspended defender Wandrille Lefevre pending further consideration of this matter,” the club said in a statement on Twitter. There was no word on how long he will be suspended or whether he will miss a home game Saturday against Atlanta.Lefevre’s Instagram post on Tuesday, since taken down, showed a picture of himself holding a gun, with another gun on a table.“Since Donald is in power, prevention is better than a cure,” the picture’s caption read in French, followed by a winking emoji.Lefevre, 27, is in his fifth season with the Impact.

NHL adding iPads on benches for playoffs

NHL coaches will have more technology on the bench than ever before as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.Three iPad Pros will be available for coaches on every bench and officials will also have them to review coach’s challenges, The Associated Press has learned. With the iPads, which were tested late in the regular season, they’ll have real-time video capabilities to show players their own shifts minutes after they happen as they discuss adjustments.The monitors had already become a game-changer for coaches, giving them more information on challenges and for player feedback. The technology will be even more valuable in the playoffs when goals are scarcer and the offside and goaltender interference challenges can decide a game — or a series.The St. With the aid of the monitors, headsets and video coaches watching live, each team developed its own step-by-step process in deciding when to challenge a goal for goalie interference or offside and tried to perfect it.Speed will be key as the league cracks down on coaches who dawdle before deciding to challenge.“When you have challenges, to have the ability to quickly look at what you’re doing and now they’re trying to expedite it even that much more,” Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “The referees, the league wants to get it right, the coaches want to get it right.”During the season, 86 of 313 coach’s challenges were successful in overturning calls. This season, coaches have been able to use video monitors on the bench to help them decide when to challenge offside and goaltender interference situations. “When you’re in those critical moments, you’ve got to make that decision in a hurry. I think it’s been important since the beginning of the year. Louis Blues lost Game 2 to the Chicago Blackhawks last year when a coach’s challenge wiped out a go-ahead goal by Vladimir Tarasenko, and even though they won the series they felt the attrition of needing seven games to advance.“It’s going to be huge in the playoffs,” Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. Late in the season, Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan looked at film of Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray on the bench before a shootout, and coach Guy Boucher has also used the advanced technology beyond challenges.“We look at it because sometimes we’re not seeing everything that’s going on on the ice,” Boucher said. It helps is also between periods because instead of looking at 12 different things between periods, we might have to look at five or six, so it’s quicker for us to get back to our players and tell them about adjustments because sometimes we already know a few adjustments and a lot of times we’ll address it right on the bench.”But the biggest impact all season has been on coaches because they can point out the exact time of a potential offside or explain to an official what they see as goaltender interference.Trotz recalled a goaltender interference challenge earlier this season where he was able to point out how an opponent was pushing down on Braden Holtby’s blocker and keeping him from being able to rotate and make the save.“We explained it and we won it,” he said. “It’s good also for feedback with our players and, yeah, it’s good for challenges and all that. You better have somebody good back there that knows what you want to see and the ability to make the decision quick.”Having iPads in the hands of assistant coaches will provide a crucial benefit for player adjustments. All 16 playoff arenas have been outfitted with the iPads and also Macs for video coaches as part of a collaboration with Apple.