Sidney Crosby is the best player in the game. Period.

Most of the voters for the Lou Marsh Trophy probably won’t agree, since they declined to select him as Canada’s athlete of the year, but a lot of people who know a thing or two about hockey think that at the very least Sidney Crosby is still the best player in the game.“That’s a mantle you earn over time,” Wayne Gretzky told ESPN.com. He actually ranked him third behind McDavid and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. A few months later, Crosby was again the best player and the driving force in an even greater collection of talent, leading Canada to the World Cup of Hockey title.Prior to the Penguins’ game Friday night against the Los Angeles Kings, Crosby had 21 goals and 12 assists in 24 games, six points behind McDavid. It’s going to be the group of six.” Only the coach did not say Crosby. In the last calendar year, he was far and away the best player on the Penguins and, despite the presence of such offensive talents as Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang, was still acknowledged as the one who carried the team to the 2016 Stanley Cup. Only three players have scored 60 or more goals in the past 20 years – Mario Lemieux with 69 in 1995-96, Alexander Ovechkin (65) in 2007-08 and Steven Stamkos (60) in 2011-12.Analytics people will say Crosby’s current pace is unsustainable, but there are not many who would bet against him, especially his peers. Right now, Sidney deserves to be known as the best player in the game. He’s a fun player to watch.”ESPN.com asked 12 people around the NHL – Gretzky, nine players, a coach and a scout – to name the best player in the league. Until somebody takes that mantle away from him, he’s still going to hold the crown.”Crosby, who will lead the Pittsburgh Penguins into the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night to face the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the subject of the great player debate now for a couple of reasons: One, he is in one of the best stretches of his career despite missing six games early this season because of concussion concerns; and two, the heir apparent is really starting to assert himself.McDavid, who will turn 20 in four weeks, was leading the NHL in points before last night’s games with 39 in 32 games on 12 goals and 27 assists. Absolutely. The Penguins were also flying high, with seven consecutive wins.Crosby’s 21 goals in 24 games represents a pace for about 65 goals by the end of the season. “It’s one of those things where you earn that right to have that title – until somebody takes it away from you. I don’t know if we have any one guy who can do it. I think it’s going to be by committee. “You think you’ve seen it all until he pulls another trick out of the bag. It was not until McDavid arrived and hoisted the Oilers on his back that the team was able to harness its collection of young talent and rise to the lofty heights (for the Oilers, anyway) of third in the Pacific Division.To keep this argument as simple as possible, one can say Crosby, 29, has done better with better teams. He’s been the best player consistently in his career. We don’t always use him in that capacity but sometimes we do, and the reason we do is because he’s so capable.”Something that may slow down the Penguins is the loss of Letang, who leads their defencemen with 19 points in 25 games. “Is Connor [McDavid] a great player? Absolutely. “I think he’s as good a defensive centre as he is an offensive centre when we want to use him in that capacity. Does Connor have an opportunity to be the next Crosby? Then again, the coach declined to be identified.Speaking of coaches, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Crosby does not get enough credit for his defensive work, something McDavid is still learning.“I’ve said for a long time that his play away from the puck gets underrated,” Sullivan said. He apparently has a leg injury and is expected to miss about two weeks.While Justin Schultz may take over as the top offensive threat from the blue line and on the power play, Sullivan said replacing Letang will not be that simple.“He logs a lot of minutes,” the coach said. “Those aren’t easy minutes to replace. Like Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who enjoyed a run with five goals in 10 games at the World Cup thanks to having Crosby as his centre.“Some of the plays he makes, I think he surprises people every year, especially with the talent that he has,” Marchand told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week. He’s won Stanley Cups and he’s won gold medals.

U.S., Canadian women promise to excite in winter hockey champions series

“Whatever rivalry you can think of, magnify that, because that’s what it’s going to look like. Only Sweden has also finished among the top two at the Olympics, earning silver in 2006. Since losing a heartbreaker in Russia, the Americans have won seven of 10 closely contested games against Canada at five international events. “Women’s hockey has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go.”With a little more than a year to go before the 2018 Olympics, the games Saturday and Monday will provide a preview of the Pyeongchang Games because about half of the women who participated in the dramatic gold medal game in Sochi will be on the ice.The two teams never just show up and go through the motions when they’re on the ice together, either.“This rivalry transcends not just women’s hockey or women’s sports, but sports in general,” Carey said. … The heart, the passion, the grit that we play with, and that Canada plays with, it’s the best 60 minutes of hockey that you’ll see in women’s hockey.”Even though the stakes will be low for the national teams, the intensity is expected to be high as extremely competitive athletes hope to help their country win while doing enough to earn a spot on the team for the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation world championship – taking place in the same venue this spring – and the Olympics in 2018.And unlike NHL players, everyone knows the best female hockey players will be going for gold in South Korea in about 14 months. The two teams will meet again Monday night in Sarnia, Ont., wrapping up a home-and-home set of friendlies that will likely stoke the flames of an emotionally charged series. It’s a great opportunity to see where we’re at.”USA Hockey believes it is set up for continued success, including at the Olympics where it will desperately seek an elusive gold medal. The U.S. Canada and the U.S., though, are helmets and shoulder pads above the rest of the world.The Canadians have won four-straight Olympic golds, beating the Americans in three of those finals. The most an American or Canadian woman can make, in fledgling pro hockey leagues and with financial support from USA Hockey or Canada’s Athlete Assistance Program, is about $35,000 (U.S.).“All of us are making a sacrifice and we realize that,” said Anne Schleper, who plays defence for the Americans and for the Buffalo Beauts in the National Women’s Hockey League. This rivalry has been happening since the early 1990s and every game is a battle.“We’re determined to settle that in 2018, but you get a glimpse of that.” “It’s a great time of year for us to play them again in a way we haven’t in the past. With a deep and talented pool of players, USA Hockey invited 37 prospects to it training camp this week and a vast majority of them have already finished their college careers.“In 2010, we had nine or 10 post-grad players in our pool and now we have 24,” said Reagan Carey, general manager of the U.S. national team. The rest of the field has had to settle for bronze.Since the first IIHF women’s world championships in 1990, the Canadians and Americans have not allowed another country to advance to the finals. beat Canada earlier this year at the world championships, winning the eight-nation tournament for the third-straight time over Canada and sixth time in seven opportunities.“We take that seriously and it still hurts,” Canadian forward Haley Irwin acknowledged. “Expect blood, sweat and tears put into every shift, every period, until the last puck drops. “It’s women’s hockey at its finest,” said Megan Bozek, who plays defence for the U.S. beat Canada in 1998 when women’s ice hockey became an Olympic sport. Nearly 18 million people were watching on TV when the Canadian women’s hockey team rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit to beat the United States 3-2 in overtime to win Olympic gold in 2014.A few thousand fans are expected to show up when the Canadians play the Americans at USA Hockey Arena in suburban Detroit on Saturday in the first Team USA Winter Champions Series, resuming one of the best rivalries on ice, and many more will be tuned in on NBCSN. “That’s a significant leap.”And it’s not a leap to say these women are truly doing it for the love of the game: None of them are, or will, get rich by playing hockey. The U.S.

Auston Matthews continues torrid goal pace, scoring as few have before

“We’re finding each other more and more out there and really have a sense of where each other is at pretty much all the time.”Matthews nearly had his second of the game Thursday on a remarkable chance in overtime. 23, against New Jersey to break the 13-game drought.Few teenagers come into the league and score quite this easily.The last to produce at this pace at a similar age was Sidney Crosby, who tallied 39 goals as an 18-year-old rookie for Pittsburgh. Ihnacak was 25-years-old at the time.What Matthews is doing is more special than both given the significant decrease in scoring today compared with the wide-open game of the 1980s.“He’s just got a knack for the net,” teammate Nazem Kadri said. The attempt was ultimately denied by Smith.Matthews finished with four shots and six attempts in 19 minutes, 52 seconds.He’s now scored at least once in seven of the past 10 games, potting a pair on Nov. Laine, a teenager producing equally inspiring numbers for the Jets, has 17 goals and 25 points to 14 goals and 23 points for Matthews.Asked if he expected to produce this much right away, Matthews said: “I put a lot of expectations for myself. He’s physically ready to combat NHL talent that way and perhaps better seasoned than most first-year players following a campaign with men in the Swiss League.The Leafs are also ensuring that Matthews gets all kinds of offensive opportunities alongside fellow rookies William Nylander and Zach Hyman. “He’s going to do well for a long time.” “He’s getting those minutes to be able to succeed.”“I think every game myself, Hyman, Willie, continue to gel more and more,” Matthews said. The shot was fired with such speed that on-ice officials weren’t actually sure whether it found the back of the net.Matthews has scored 11 of his goals at even-strength, a mark that ties him for fifth in the NHL and puts him first among rookies. He got the puck at the top of the right faceoff circle and just rifled it past Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. He ranks first on Toronto in offensive-zone start percentage (63 per cent). Auston Matthews couldn’t score for almost a month.For 13 games, from late October to late November, the Toronto Maple Leafs rookie fired 45 shots on goal and none found the back of the net. I feel I’m capable of doing a lot out there.”Kadri believes Matthews’s big six-foot-three, 216-pound frame has helped him step in right away and produce. Nylander floated him a pass as he was charging hard to the net and the American centre batting it out of mid-air. More opportunities to start in the offensive zone means more chances to score and indeed Matthews’s line has been the club’s most productive and dangerous all season long.“He’s getting the opportunity,” Kadri said, crediting Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “He’s got that offensive instinct and obviously he can cash in on the power play too which is basically how those high-production players get such high production. He’s also producing at a 65-point pace, which would threaten Peter Ihnacak’s record of 66 points in a rookie season. “It’s always fun to score goals,” Matthews said after the 3-2 shootout defeat Thursday night, the fourth-straight loss on home ice for the Leafs. The 19-year-old has ripped off eight goals in 10 games since then, including his team-leading 14th against the Arizona Coyotes, his favourite club as a kid growing up in Scottsdale, Ariz. Only Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine has scored more among first-year players than Matthews. Eric Lindros scored 41 goals in 61 games at the age of 19 in his first year for the Philadelphia Flyers, Jeff Skinner also managing 31 goals at 18-years-old for the Hurricanes.“Auston’s a heck of a player,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s what I like to do.”Peter Holland scored the shootout winner for the Coyotes in his first game since being traded by the Maple Leafs last week.Matthews is on pace for 40 goals this season, which would eclipse Wendel Clark’s rookie record of 34 set during the 1985-86 season. He’s definitely got a knack for the net.”Only three of Matthews’s goals have actually come with the man advantage, including the one on Thursday night.

Perreault scores shootout winner, Jets get past Panthers

Connor Hellebuyck made 41 saves in net.Aleksander Barkov, Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck scored a trio of power-play goals in the second period for Florida (13-13-5). Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and an assist with Adam Lowry and Bryan Little also chipping in during regulation for Winnipeg (14-16-3). Jaromir Jagr picked up his 1,129th career assist and 1,884th point on the goal. Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom was in the penalty box for each one. Mathieu Perreault scored the winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout to lift the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday.Perreault did some slow stick-handling with the puck before flipping a forehand shot past Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, a goal that ended Winnipeg’s four-game losing streak. Winnipeg has given up a power-play goal in each of its past four games.Winnipeg had three shots on goal in overtime, while Florida had two. Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba watched as his shot banged off the post.The Panthers finish a three-game road trip Friday against Colorado, while Winnipeg hosts the Avalanche Sunday. Smith added an assist.Luongo made 29 stops for the Panthers.Florida had a 3-2 lead heading into the third period, but with the teams on a four-on-four, Little took a cross-ice pass from Blake Wheeler and shot it into the net at 2:36 as Luongo was sliding over from the other side.Florida outshot the Jets 42-29 after three periods.The Jets were being outshot 19-7 in the first when Byfuglien took a pass from rookie Patrik Laine and put a high shot from the bottom of the circle over Luongo’s glove with 11 seconds left in the period.An earlier review in the period decided the puck hadn’t crossed the goal-line and Florida was denied a goal.The Panthers scored the trio of power-play goals as Enstrom was sitting in the penalty box for interference, then holding, then interference again.Barkov evened the game 1-1 at 4:51 of the second. Jagr is now three points away from tying Mark Messier (1,887) for second on the NHL’s all-time points list.Smith followed up with his fifth goal of the season at 8:36 to give the Panthers the 2-1 lead, but Lowry put the Jets back in a tie at 10:11 when he banged in a loose puck.Less than two minutes later, Trocheck made it 3-2 with a shot that went past a screened Hellebuyck at 11:58.The Panthers were 3 for 3 on the power play after the second and the Jets 0 for 2.

Ex-Leaf Holland scores shootout winner to lift Coyotes over Toronto

for hockey practice, just like Canadian kids, but never had to worry about snowstorms.“But it was 65 degrees and sunny,” he said. Lots of nights the Corsi numbers may look good, but you never really got on the inside at all.”A few minutes before Matthews scored, the Leafs were lucky to avoid giving up a shorthanded goal. Marner took one from defenceman Roman Polak and scored his eighth goal of the season with a great wrist shot on a breakaway. Thanks to a late penalty to Coyotes defenceman Michael Stone, the Leafs closed out the first period with a power play, and Matthews scored with eight seconds to play. “I was going outside in shorts and flip-flops. You were always rooting for the Coyotes, but secretly you wanted to see some fun happen from those special players. It was the first time this season that the Leafs were tied after two periods of play.But Matthews did manage to score on the Coyotes. Two minutes later, with the Coyotes on a five-on-three power play, defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson put them ahead 2-1 with his sixth goal of the season.But Marner broke an 11-game scoreless streak when he finished a play the Leafs had been trying all night to tie the score. He fired a long shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that caught the far corner of the net and gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead.There was no doubt his 14th goal of the season was his favourite so far, as he was keenly anticipating his first game against his childhood favourites.“I was so young and it was always loud in there,” Matthews said on Wednesday of watching the Coyotes, first at America West Arena in downtownPhoenix and later in suburban Glendale. Then once I got older,I remember Alex Ovechkincoming to town, Sidney Crosby and those guys.“They were fun games to watch, where Ovechkin scored on his back and when Crosby was falling down on his backhand and was able to roof it. Matthews had two great chances in close but was stopped each time.The Leafs tied their season high for shots in one period with 21 in the first, but an indifferent second period left them with little to show for it as the score was tied 2-2 headed into the third. While Holland had a quiet night other than the shootout winner, Matthews was one of the best players on the ice, scoring a goal and twice nearly winning the game in overtime for the Leafs.The second overtime in as many games for the Leafs was another roller coaster of thrills, as Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen matched counterpart Mike Smith in several big saves. “I was always fascinated by the Zamboni for some reason. “They don’t mind going back inside and they say, ‘Hey, you’re going to stop 40 tonight.’“In saying that, they don’t let you get to their net easy. On a night of first games against significant teams, it was the fringe player who hit the jackpot.Peter Holland, who was deemed excess baggage by the Toronto Maple Leafs and traded to the Arizona Coyotes for a conditional draft pick last week, beat his hometown team in the first meeting since the deal by scoring the lone goal in the shootout Thursday night. Jordan Martinook scored at 1:10. They’re on the inside, they’re above you, they make you work to get there. Rieder gladly swooped in and scooped up the puck but was stopped by Andersen.The Leafs sagged badly in the second period, handing the Coyotes the lead before Mitch Marner tied the score at 13:56. Toronto dominated the Coyotes for the whole period but could not solve Smith, who went into the game with a save percentage of .929, an impressive stat considering his team is at the bottom of the Pacific Division.“They count on their goaltender,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said. With defenceman Luke Schenn off for tripping, Coyotes winger Tobias Rieder was handed a breakaway thanks to a brain cramp suffered by Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner.He was carrying the puck up the left side, and as he reached centre ice inexplicably left a drop pass for … no one. The 3-2 loss extended the Leafs’

winless streak at Air Canada Centre to three games.This spoiled Leafs rookie star Auston Matthews’ first NHL game against the Coyotes, the team he grew up watching in Scottsdale, Ariz. Matthews noted he used to get up as early as 6 a.m. To me, it was normal.”The goal was more than a lasting memory for Matthews, as the Coyotes goalie was frustrating the Leafs at every turn. They were good memories.”The Coyotes hit Toronto just in time for the first major storm of the winter, which saw a lot of empty seats for the first period as the snow made a mess of traffic. Thanks to something the coaching staff noticed about the Coyotes, the Leafs were firing long passes up the boards to players stationed alone at the Phoenix blue line.

Even without big names, hopes are high for Team Canada in world junior hockey

We’ll see different combinations but, on every line, I think we can see some speed, scoring and responsible play. We talked about being special and I think those guys showed they can be special.”Strome, who started the season with the Arizona Coyotes, is a natural fit with his Erie Otters linemate Raddysh, and he played at the team’s summer development camp with gritty Tyson Jost of the University of North Dakota.Mathieu Joseph, who has 25 goals in 29 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs, New York Islanders first-round pick Mathew Barzal and Saginaw Spirit forward Mitchell Stephens are among the others who can add offensive spark.Strome, Stephens, Gauthier, Anthony Cirelli and rushing defenceman Thomas Chabot played at last year’s world juniors and will be counted on for leadership.A question mark is Pierre-Luc Dubois, the 2016 third-overall pick by Columbus who has been off his usual scoring pace with Cape Breton and did not have a good camp. We’re good at putting pressure on the other team. We have four lines plus one [player], that can be producing offensively, playing responsibly, playing with speed. 26 in Toronto.“Now we prepare,” he said. We have hockey players. “We have skating, we’ve got some of the physical aspect, we have good puck movement. 5.Ducharme and his staff will begin work on forming lines and defence pairs among the 13 forwards, seven rearguards and two goalies on the roster ahead of the tournament opener Jan. And this year the stakes may be higher in Montreal and Toronto, where Canada won gold in two years ago.Canada could have had an awesome lineup, but six players eligible for the under-20 tournament are already in the NHL, including McDavid, Mitch Marner, Travis Konecny, Lawson Crouse, Jacob Chychrun and Anthony Beauvillier. “If every guy is moving in the same direction, that’s how you win games, and I think that’s what we’re going to do this year.”After routing the Czech Republic 8-0 in an exhibition game, the team made its final cuts and headed Thursday to Mont-Tremblant, Que., for some team-building ahead of a pre-tournament game Monday night against Finland at the Bell Centre, where the final will be played on Jan. But other teams will also be missing stars. “We wanted to evaluate players, but we already started talking about our style of play, our philosophy and our mindset.“Now we’ll move away, practise, get ready and become a stronger group. We can defend. The big centre/left-winger hopes to find his form at the world juniors.Chabot, Noah Juulsen and 6-foot-4 Philippe Myers are expected to lead the defence.“With the group of seven [defencemen] we have now we’re complete,” Ducharme said. “We want to be a complete team,” said coach Dominique Ducharme, the Drummondville Voltigeurs coach and general manager who led the Halifax Mooseheads to the 2013 Memorial Cup.“We’ve got speed, skill,” Ducharme says. “We’re reliable. The Americans will be without Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Matthew Tkachuk, Zach Werenski and Noah Hanifin and the Finns won’t have Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho and Jesse Puljujarvi.“It doesn’t matter if you have a big superstar or not,” said Val d’Or Foreurs forward Julien Gauthier. It’s a question of balance.”Carter Hart, a smooth 18-year-old who has put up impressive numbers in the Western Hockey League this season, is expected to be the starting goalie, with Connor Ingram as backup.Dark horses who could make a mark in the tournament include Boston University defenceman Dante Fabbro, big centre Nicolas Roy of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, energetic forward Dillon Dube of the Kelowna Rockets or right winger Blake Speers, who has returned from a wrist injury after starting the season with the New Jersey Devils.There are four sets of club teammates on the squad – Hart and Juulsen with the Everett Silvertips, Strome and Raddysh with Erie, Chabot and Joseph with Saint John and a pair of defencemen in Myers and Jeremy Lauzon from the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.Others on the squad include speedy forward Michael McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads and defencemen Jake Bean of the Calgary Hitmen and Kale Clague of the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Canadian Press We want to put all that together.”The heat will be on Canada after being eliminated last year by tournament host Finland in the quarter-finals. Without an obvious star player to carry the pressure and expectations, Canada’s team for the world junior hockey championship will be all about teamwork, speed and desire.The final 22-man roster that emerged from this week’s four-day selection camp in Boisbriand, Que., is deep in very good players, such as 2015 third-overall NHL draft pick Dylan Strome and Ontario Hockey League scoring leader Taylor Raddysh, but it doesn’t have a Connor McDavid or a John Tavares to claim the spotlight.

Potomak sisters herald a new wave of B.C. talent for national women’s hockey team

“We’ve always been really good at holding each other accountable and training together and practising the right things.“I think she’s helped me probably more so than I’ve helped her because she’s older and she went through it first and always lent me a hand.”The Potomaks will wear the Canadian jersey multiple times over the next month.Sarah was also named to the Canadian women’s under-22 squad competing Jan. series and with the under-22 squad.Saskatoon forward Sophie Shirley, who makes her national team debut in the U.S. Two are from the same family.Sarah and Amy Potomak of Aldergrove, B.C., will wear the Maple Leaf in Canada’s two-game series against the United States starting Saturday in Plymouth, Mich. The Potomak forwards and defenceman Micah Hart of Saanichton represent a veritable explosion of players from British Columbia, which has been under-represented on the Canadian women’s team for years.Goaltender Daniele Dube is the only B.C. player to appear in a women’s world championship, more than two decades ago.Sarah Potomak, who turns 19 on Monday, and 17-year-old Amy will be the first sisters to play on the national team together.“There’s no words to describe how awesome this feeling is,” Amy said.Added Sarah: “It’s kind of surreal. 7-15 in the Czech Republic.Hart, Erin Ambrose of Keswick, Ont., Halli Krzyzaniak of Neepawa, Man., Jillian Saulnier of Halifax and Saskatoon’s Emily Clark join Sarah doing double duty for Canada in the U.S. The Canadian Press The second game is Monday in Sarnia, Ont. We’ve played together since we were little and stuff and always dreamed about being on the national team together, but we never really thought that would happen.“The fact that will actually happen, playing against the U.S. 4-7 in the Nations Cup in Fussen, Germany, and Telfs, Austria.Amy will play for Canada in the world under-18 championship Jan. They’ll congregate in Calgary in late summer and spend half a year preparing to defend the gold medal in Pyeongchang, South Korea.Canada is 1-7 versus the United States since beating them 3-2 in overtime in the 2014 Olympic final.There’s nothing like facing the Americans in front of a crowd either wildly for or against you to expose a player’s strengths and weaknesses. A wave of players from Canada’s most westerly province has hit the national women’s hockey team. series, will also join Amy on the under-18 team.This cross-pollination of rosters helps Davidson determine who is ready to play in the 2017 women’s world championship and also who gets invited to try out for the Olympic team next year.“This will be the last chance to see all three programs in best-on-best kind of thing before we have to make world championship decisions and then leading into centralization,” Davidson said.The women invited to try out for the Olympic team will be announced shortly after the world championship April 1-8 in Plymouth. So the Potomak sisters’ first game as Canadian teammates will be a test.“This series is kind of like a tryout, so it’s big for me and Amy to perform well and help Canada beat the U.S.,” Sarah said.The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver were a turning point for girls’ hockey in B.C., in both inspiring kids to play the game and BC Hockey getting serious about putting them on the national team.BC Hockey used $330,000 in Legacies Now funding from the provincial government to overhaul its female high-performance program between 2006 and 2010.It was a changed system by the time the Potomaks and Hart entered it.“There’s not a lot of depth in B.C., but I definitely think it’s improving all over,” Sarah said. together is pretty special.”Sarah is a shifty, abrasive forward with a sense of occasion. She has already scored five game winners for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers this season.Three inches taller and almost 10 pounds heavier than her older sister, Amy proved at Canada’s fall camp she can think and skate at national team speed, according to Melody Davidson, Hockey Canada’s general manager of national women’s teams programs.Sarah signalled B.C.’s drought on the national squad was ending when she was named to Canada’s roster for the 2015 Four Nations Cup.“We’ve definitely helped each other a lot,” Amy said.

Barcelona soccer club extends contract of Luis Suarez to 2021

Barcelona said that Suarez’s new contract – which has a buyout clause of €200-million ($278 million) – will be signed on Friday. His previous deal was due to expire in 2019.“I’m incredibly happy for being where I want to be,” Suarez said. We have a good relationship.”Since transferring from Liverpool in 2014, Suarez has scored 97 goals in 116 matches, helping the Spanish club win eight titles, including the 2015 Champions League. Suarez’s hat trick in the 3-0 win at Granada in the final round of the league last season secured Barcelona the title.Suarez had a troubled start.His debut with Barcelona was delayed because of a suspension for biting an opponent at the 2014 World Cup, keeping him from officially starting his career with the Spanish club until October, 2014.Two months ago, Barcelona signed a three-year extension with Neymar, whose contract was to expire in 2018. The Associated Press “It was a decision that I wanted and that the club wanted. Barcelona has reached a deal to extend the contract of Uruguay striker Luis Suarez to June, 2021, securing another piece of its powerful attack for four more seasons.The club recently also extended Neymar’s contract until 2021, and now it will try to seal a deal with Lionel Messi to keep together its formidable trio. Messi’s current deal also ends in 2018, and negotiations are reportedly under way to try to keep the five-time world player of the year as a member of the trio that broke scoring records in each of the last two seasons.Neymar’s buyout clause is fixed at €200-million for the first year of the new contract, €222-million for the second and €250-million for the final three years.Another priority for the club in the coming months will be to renew the contract of midfielder Andres Iniesta, whose current deal also ends in 2018.Barcelona this year extended the contract of defender Javier Mascherano until 2019. He also won two Spanish leagues, two Copas del Rey, a Spanish Super Cup, a European Super Cup and FIFA’s Club World Cup.Suarez was last season’s leading scorer in the Spanish league with 40 goals, five more than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.The 29-year-old Suarez has 13 goals in 20 games this season.Key goals for Barcelona include one in the Champions League final against Juventus, and two in the 4-0 rout of Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium last season.

First-place Montreal Canadiens happy, but also wary

I think everyone’s happy with the way we’re playing for the most part, but we can’t get complacent by any means,” Petry said.The key, he continued, is putting in work. It wouldn’t be the last time.Has last year’s dolorous December made them suspicious of everything-is-awesome vibes?“I don’t know if ‘suspicious’ is the right word. They ultimately lost, heroically. But this is a club that refuses to bask in the fact it is the best team in hockey.The Habs’ record of 19-6-4 is exemplary, particularly given the recent injury to first-line centre Alex Galchenyuk – a lower-body issue likely involving more of those dreaded leg ligaments.It’s easy to forget, as they prepare to face the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre in a mid-December weekday game, that a year ago they were in an almost identical situation: 20-8-3, just three points off the overall lead.Except the bus was already sliding inexorably toward the ditch, where it would eventually tumble most of the way to the bottom and burst into flames.True, Price had gone out with a week-to-week injury by then, but they largely dominated the Sharks. But it’s still really early,” said Gallagher.All professional athletes will tell you complacency is the enemy. In addition to facing Stanley Cup finalist San Jose on Friday, the Habs will play league powers Washington, Anaheim, Minnesota and Columbus between now and Christmas.The good news is that this year’s Habs are armed with secondary offensive weapons such as Alex Radulov, who looks like the club’s best-ever free agent signing, and the speedy Paul Byron, who at 10 goals is already within one of his career high. We have an understanding – we can’t feel too good about ourselves,” said winger Brendan Gallagher.Since Waite came over from Chicago four years ago, he has hammered away at Price with one mantra: Prepare only for the task at hand, dedicate yourself entirely to the game ahead, worry only about the next shot.And Price has adhered to it scrupulously – “that consistency may be the most impressive thing about him,” said Waite.Price is the team’s emotional leader – not even captain Max Pacioretty would quibble with that assertion – so perhaps it’s no accident that his mindset is rubbing off on the rest of the team.“I think so far this year we’ve done a good job of having that mentality. Given the prevailing attitude in the room, Therrien probably doesn’t need to remind his charges to get to work. We need to change that,” Therrien said.There is still much to tinker with. Goalie guru Stéphane Waite was talking about his protege, Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price, but the thought applies more generally: Success is fragile, so it’s best to focus on the now.The Habs’ fortunes feel less shaky than a year ago, precisely because Price’s various ligaments are firmly attached to the right places and in the correct number of pieces. The Ottawa native is in the conversation for best waiver-wire pickup of the past decade.But you can’t win without goals, and if the Habs are to offset their shortcomings down the middle, they need to sort out their power play.Montreal has scored just one five-on-four goal since Galchenyuk went down in Los Angeles on Dec. The Habs have expended considerable energy to make sure it doesn’t take up residence in their room.Defenceman Jeff Petry said the key is to remember there is a difference between being pleased and being satisfied.“We have to keep the vibe in here the way it is. It’s what has allowed the Habs to generally avoid slow starts.“There are going to be times when things aren’t going well … what we’ve done lately is use our speed,” he said.The Habs have lost more games than they’ve won in the past month (6-6-2) but, paradoxically, have mostly played better hockey – not as contingent on Hall of Fame-level goaltending – than they did in the early season; their underlying statistics have improved, with possession indicators suggesting they may actually be an elite team.Though Price is the player the Habs can least afford to lose, Galchenyuk and fellow centre David Desharnais could test that premise over the next six to eight weeks. The second wave featured Byron taking charge of zone entries, and centre Phillip Danault with Gallagher.“Our pace at five on five has been good, but it goes down on the power play. I think we’ve learned from [last year]. 4.In fairness, the man-advantage had been wobbly before then, limping along at a mediocre 14 per cent (7-for-48) in the past 15 games.Teams have figured out that maybe it’s a good idea to cover Shea Weber, he of the vicious slapper from the point – “the best shot in the NHL,” according to Habs coach Michel Therrien.Irony of ironies: Associate coach Kirk Muller was brought in to help fix a power play that previously hinged on P.K. Subban, who was swapped for Weber in the off-season.Some problems are tougher to crack than others, it seems.On Thursday, Therrien had Weber paired with fellow righty Petry on the first power-play unit.

Sharks’ veteran duo of Thornton and Marleau not out of gas yet

Thornton logged more than 25 minutes Wednesday night in Ottawa while Marleau scooped up 22 minutes of his own in the Sharks’ 4-3 win over the Senators, their second shootout win in as many nights.San Jose holds the puck more often than not when the duo take the ice. Thornton ranks second on the team in puck possession (55 per cent), with Marleau just a touch back in third (54 per cent).“I think both of us love the game and we still feel we can play the game at a high, high level and want to contribute each and every night,” said Marleau, born two months after Thornton in 1979.Thornton and Marleau are among the most productive players of the last decades, two stunning marvels of fitness who rarely miss a game. Ten players in the league this year weren’t even born when Thornton and Marleau were drafted in 1997.Marleau has missed only 31 games over more than 18 seasons since he was drafted second overall behind Thornton in 1997. “(I’m) having fun out there so I’ll keep going.” The underrated Marleau ranks fifth in points (1,047) during that same 19-year span and also fifth in goals (488). Asked last March about playing as long as 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, Thornton responded: “If I feel good I’d love to play that long, but right now it’s hard to say if I could.”“I feel great,” Marleau said more recently. “They know how to work their way around the rink, make plays, win battles, those types of things, put themselves in good positions and that’s allowed for good careers.“There’s no secret, you need a little luck along the way, but those guys have earned everything they’ve got.”Still, Thornton and Marleau are certainly not the players they once were.Thornton is on pace for a 30-point dropoff from last season’s marvellous 82-point campaign and his lowest point total in a full season since he was a teenager in Boston. “Now you see a lot more teams talking about it and taking a lot more optional skates, especially with a west coast team that travels as much as we do. He’s played in 95 per cent of possible games for the Boston Bruins and Sharks, missing a mere nine games since the start of the 2006-07 season.Marleau credits his longevity to adjustments in training, eating, stretching and exercise as well as a new approach to rest. Marleau has long been a terrific skater with persistence and a scorer’s touch.“But at the end of the day I think their hockey sense stands alone,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. Never the swiftest on skates, Thornton employs superb passing, vision, and an undervalued ability to protect the puck. The Sharks annually face some of the league’s most arduous travel and head coach Pete DeBoer has made it a priority to ensure that his players, especially the old guys, get to recover.“I think there wasn’t too much emphasis on rest and recovery right when we first came into the league,” Marleau said. He ranks first in games played among all NHL players during that stretch (1,472), last sitting out a game during the 2008-09 season.Thornton isn’t far behind. He hasn’t scored in 17 straight games after mustering 19 goals last year.Marleau is only slightly off-pace for his 14th 20-goal season, but he’s also on track to tally a career-low 31 points.And yet the Sharks are undeniably a better team when either player is on the ice. He’s tops in both points (1,360) and assists (981) since joining the league. A lot of practices are video, going over video and things like that.”No NHL player has been more productive than Thornton. San Jose generates the lion’s share of scoring chances when Thornton and Marleau are out there at even-strength.Both remain weapons on the power play too.Both are also unrestricted free agents with uncertain futures at season’s end. It’s been almost two decades since Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau made their NHL debuts, but the San Jose Sharks old-timers still have some gas left in the tank.The 37-year-olds are in the twilight of their Hall-of-Fame-worthy careers and no longer the stars they used to be, but they continue to play a large role for the reigning Western Conference champions and current Pacific division leaders. He’ll likely become the 45th player in NHL history to reach 500 career goals at some point this season.Both endure in different ways.

Christine Sinclair named Canada’s top women’s soccer player for 13th time

All they know is Canada’s been to back-to-back Olympic podiums, lost in the quarter-finals of a World Cup and is ranked fourth in the world. That’s probably the only constant for a Canadian women’s soccer program that has grown in leaps and bounds since Sinclair made her international debut as a 16 year old in 2000.“Oh God yeah, I think it’s night and day,” Sinclair said Thursday on a conference call. She scored seven goals and added four assists in 18 international appearances, including the winning goal in the bronze medal match in Rio.She increased her career international goal total to a whopping 165, second only to American Abby Wambach (184). that was pretty cool. collegiate player of the year.Janine Beckie, 22, has 12 goals in 22 appearances for Canada’s senior team. Lawrence’s 21-year-old Mountaineers teammate Kadeisha Buchanan — dubbed the “Christine Sinclair of defence” by Canada women’s coach John Herdman — is a finalist for the women’s MAC Hermann award given to the U.S. Sinclair, Canada’s talismanic captain and star striker, was named Canada Soccer’s women’s player of the year Thursday, winning the award for the 13th time in 17 years. They expect nothing less and I absolutely love it.”Sinclair, from Burnaby, B.C., is the veteran backbone of a growing power in women’s soccer. “The depth of the team and this program is like we’ve never seen before. 2 Germany along the way.A look at the other finalists for the Canadian women’s award shows just how well Canada has been able to build around Sinclair.Runner-up Ashley Lawrence, just 21 years old, was a big part of Canada’s podium finish in Rio and helped West Virginia reach the NCAA women’s soccer final. Canada won its second consecutive Olympic bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games, beating World No. “When I first made the national team, we were losing to the Americans 8-0, and losing to Germany 6-0, and you went into those games hoping not to lose by a touchdown.“The mentality of the team now is we’re heading into every game to win. In the process she passed the legendary Mia Hamm on the all-time scoring list in February.Sinclair said eclipsing her idol was a highlight of her year.“I had (Hamm’s) jersey growing up and I remember thinking on my first year or two on the national team ‘Oh my God she has so many goals, how is anyone ever going to reach that level?’ To pass her this year … 1 world ranking. That was something I’ll never forget.”Saying she’s not one to dwell on individual awards, Sinclair instead talked enthusiastically about Canada’s rise as a top-ranked squad.“We performed as a team pretty much every time we stepped on the field and you saw that in Rio,” she said. I love that these younger player expect to win and they know no different. For me it’s exciting because I’ve waited my whole career for this.“There is no turning back from this moment on, and we are only going to get better.”Sinclair also helped the Portland Thorns win the National Women’s Soccer League’s Shield, scoring four goals in the last five games to help her club clinch the title.The award was voted on by Canadian media and Canadian coaches. Eighteen-year-old Jessie Fleming is a star on the rise and 28-year-old Sophie Schmidt is a veteran of 137 appearances who patrols the defence for the German club FFC Frankfurt.Still, Sinclair was a star for both country and club in 2016. Christine Sinclair remembers dark times for Canada at the beginning of her international soccer career — routs at the hands of the powerful Americans and lopsided losses to European giants.Now she’s the heart of a Canadian team that wins Olympic medals and is emerging as a threat to claim the No.

NBA, players reach tentative agreement on labour deal

It’s great.”News broke of the tentative agreement just as Wednesday’s games were starting. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because neither side was releasing exact details.If the deal is ratified, the season will start a week earlier, preseason games would be capped at six and one of the most dreaded elements of the schedule — the four-game-in-five-day stretches — may be eliminated.Other details of the new proposed CBA include increases in values of rookie-scale contracts, minimum salaries and exceptions, with a 45 per cent increase in minimum salaries across the board in the first year of the new agreement. “I’m happy for our fans, the owners involved. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra heard the news after a victory over the Pacers and said he felt a sense of relief.“We’re all very fortunate to be in this profession,” Spoelstra said.Talks have gone on for months, and unlike those surrounding the most recent deal between the league and its players, these were mostly amicable. maybe.”But most players who spoke Wednesday seemed thrilled.“It just shows you how big the NBA, how popular the NBA is, that it can’t afford a lockout,” Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan said. “I want to play basketball. The NBA and its players have agreed to keep the most lucrative era in league history rolling.The sides agreed Wednesday in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement, one that could last up to seven years and needs now only to be ratified by players and owners in the coming weeks. The players were locked out for 161 games, resulting in a shortened season and plenty of frustration.“For me, this is a relief,” Heat guard Goran Dragic said. That will kick in Jan. The rookie deals will be proportionate to the salary cap, either rising or falling as that does. “The conversations were great, everything was cordial. If approved by votes of players and owners — likely to be formalities — there will be no lockout next summer and no labour issues for years to come.“It’s amazing. Players and their families will be provided with education, training and counselling and players facing allegations will be subject to a new investigation, discipline and appeals process.Another issue addressed in these negotiations was a deal where the league would help fund programs to help retired players with medical expenses. Some players reacted quickly on social media, including Golden State’s Draymond Green — who said “one day we will get it right…. The average player salary is expected to hit $8.5 million next season and rise to $10 million by 2020-21 under the new terms.“It’s fair. I’m excited,” union president Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers said. “That’s all we were asking for.”The deadline for opting out has now been extended to Jan. Everyone knows how well the game is going and didn’t want to mess that up.”NBA officials and players expressed optimism throughout the process, pointing to the league’s skyrocketing revenue and salaries — thanks to a massive new television deal — and rising TV ratings.From the outset, these talks seemed much different than the unfriendly discourse that went on five years ago, when the league and its players were so far apart that the 2011-12 season wound up getting shortened from 82 games per team to 66. Most of the major issues — such as keeping the split of basketball-related income the same as it is in the existing deal — were agreed upon weeks ago.Included in the more-than-400-page document is a proposed program that addresses domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. And contracts would be able to be extended for five, or in some cases, six years.Neither NBA Commissioner Adam Silver nor NBPA executive director Michele Roberts spoke publicly after the tentative deal was announced. It’s fair,” said Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington, his team’s player rep to the union. The deal was struck a day before the sides faced a deadline for opting out of the current deal. 13, with the NBA saying that’s “in order to give both sides enough time to review the terms of the agreement and vote to ratify.”“That’s the second-best news of the night,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks joked when asked about the CBA right after Washington’s victory over Charlotte.Two-way contracts between the NBA and the D-League will be in play for the first time, which would figure to enhance player development. It’s a great thing.”Three people briefed on the terms said the deal extends for seven seasons, with an opt-out possible after six. I didn’t want to sit home.” 1, even before this deal is likely ratified.“I think everyone negotiated in good faith,” Paul said. “People love the game too much.

Raptors roll past 76ers for fourth straight victory

Long one of the NBA’s worst teams, the Sixers haven’t won three straight games since they took four in a row from Dec. Lowry brought the Sixers crashing back to reality.Lowry buried two quick 3-pointers that brought the Raptors within two and scored on a driving layup that tied the game at 45-all. They could have used another 30 minutes to top the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors.The Raptors have won 10 of 11 games and are 11 games over .500 for the first time this season.Lowry dedicated the win to his mother on her birthday .“I got as many points as her age,” he said, laughing. 4, 2014.Robert Covington led the Sixers with 26 points and Okafor had 17.The Sixers had won two straight on the road and seemed like they could win a rare game at home when they opened with a strong first 17 minutes. “I just try and be better every single year.”He’s having his best one yet.Lowry helped blow the game open in his Philadelphia homecoming. The Raptors turned a three-point deficit to open the second quarter into a 60-54 halftime lead. DeRozan posterized Jahlil Okafor with a dunk over the Sixers big man and easily rolled to his second straight 30-point game. My work ethic,” DeRozan said. Lowry made a 3-pointer in the fourth that stretched the lead to 99-80 and earned some applause for the All-Star raised in the area.DeRozan and Lowry helped squash the Sixers’ modest two-game winning streak. He scored 30 points on Monday against Milwaukee and came in averaging a robust 27.9 points per game.“It’s just experience. A night later, Lowry and DeRozan ditched the courtside seats to team up and keep Philadelphia the worst team in the NBA.DeRozan scored 31 points and Lowry added 20 to help the Toronto Raptors win their fourth straight game, 123-114 over the 76ers on Wednesday night. The Sixers went on a mini-run late in the fourth and got within five points with 30 seconds left. 29, 2013-Jan. DeRozan continued to make the 30-point mark a routine part of his game and scored 31 points through the first three quarters. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan spent an off night in town at Villanova watching the best basketball team in the Philly area dominate in another victory.

Labanc scores in shootout, Sharks hand Senators third straight loss

The Sharks were 0 for 7 on the power play.Phaneuf gave the Senators the lead with a power-play goal at 16:14, but just over a minute later the Sharks tied it as Tierney beat Condon with a wrist shot.Marc-Edouard Vlasic got tangled up with captain Erik Karlsson and appeared to spear him late in the second period. Turris went after Vlasic and ended up with a minor penalty for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.Down 2-1, Mark Stone made a great cross-crease pass to Turris, who buried it to tie things up with under three minutes in the second.Burns had given the Sharks a 2-1 lead midway through the second on a great individual effort as he easily got around Ben Harpur, playing just his sixth NHL game, and put it behind Condon.San Jose opened the scoring at 5:57 of the first period as Couture dropped a no-look pass to Pavelski all alone at the side of the net.The Senators tied it less than two minutes later as Ryan Dzingel found Ryan in front and he beat Martin Jones far side. Midway through the period things got ugly as Mike Hoffman cross-checked Logan Couture up high from behind and was given a five-minute major and game misconduct.Patrick Marleau appeared to score on the power play, but the goal was challenged and upon review was ruled offside. 30th and just his fourth of the season.Prior to the game the Senators recognized Chris Neil for playing 1,000 NHL games. After 40 minutes it was tied 2-2, and the Senators had a tough final 20 minutes just to earn a single point.Ottawa was without Turris for much of the third as he sat in the penalty box after being handed a 10-minute misconduct at 19:40 of the second. It was Ryan’s first goal since Oct. Mike Condon, making his fourth straight start, made 26 saves. Kevin Labanc scored the shootout winner as the San Jose Sharks beat the Ottawa Senators 4-3 Wednesday night.Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Chris Tierney scored in regulation for the Sharks (18-11-5) as Martin Jones made 29 saves.Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris and Dion Phaneuf scored for the Senators (16-11-3), who have lost three in a row for the first time this season. Neil becomes just the third player in Senators franchise history to reach the milestone.

Kadeisha Buchanan claims second-straight MAC Hermann award finalist nod

Fellow Canada international and West Virginia teammate Ashley Lawrence of Toronto was a semi-finalist for the honour.Buchanan is the four-time reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Canadian international Kadeisha Buchanan is a finalist for the women’s MAC Hermann Trophy for a second-straight year.The West Virginia defender from Brampton, Ont., is up against University of Southern California midfielder Morgan Andrews and Stanford midfielder Andi Sullivan for the award granted to the top women’s player in NCAA soccer. She anchored a Mountaineers defence that allowed just 12 goals this season and lifted the team to the NCAA women’s soccer championship, where top-ranked West Virginia was defeated 3-1 by USC.Internationally, Buchanan and Lawrence helped Canada win a second-straight Olympic bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games.Wake Forest midfielder Ian Harkes, Florida Gulf Coast forward Albert Ruiz and Maryland forward Gordon Wild are the men’s MAC Hermann finalists.Vermont forward Brian Wright of Ajax, Ont., was a semi-finalist for the men’s award.