Canadian government puts Olympic sports funding under review

Despite the success, the system that helped put Canadians on the podium is under scrutiny. Canada ranked third in the over all medal count with 26 medals.The stated objective for 2010 was to win more medals than any other country.The goal was the same four years later in Sochi, where Canada ranked fourth with 25 medals, including 10 gold.Canada is a winter sports power. That’s the value of this review. The country ranked second in world championship medals in 2016 with 18, behind Germany’s 19, according to OTP statisticians.Canada has also won more medals to start this 2016-17 World Cup winter season (73) than any other country, OTP said.Gains in summer sports have taken longer.Canada’s one gold among 19 medals won at the 2012 Summer Games in London was unremarkable when compared with three gold in 19 four years earlier in Beijing.While Canada remains a top-three country in the Winter Paralympic Games, the country has lost ground in the Summer Games.Other nations are putting more effort and resources into their summer para-sport athletes than they were a decade ago. Canada dropped from 50 medals to 31 to 29 over the past three Summer Paralympics.The company hired to gather data encompassing pre-2010 to the Rio Games is expected to complete its work in January, a Heritage department spokesperson told The Canadian Press in an e-mail.Findings will be submitted to Sport Canada, which will in turn make recommendations to Qualtrough in 2017. Own The Podium has been tasked with delivering the targeted approach, but how does the whole system get better? But that doesn’t mean change shouldn’t happen, she added.“The government of Canada’s decision to deploy a targeted-excellence approach has delivered in spades,” Merklinger said. Taxpayers are the largest investors in the country’s high-performance athletes to the tune of almost $200-million annually.Own The Podium (OTP) makes funding recommendations directing $70-million – about $6-million of it comes from the Canadian Olympic Committee – to sports federations whose athletes demonstrate medal potential.The strategy is called “targeted excellence” and is defined as identifying “a subset of athletes and/or teams that have a high probability of attaining stated desired Olympic and Paralympic performance results, and to provide them with focused support and funding to attain those results.”In other words, the money and resources are doled out based on the ability to produce medals.The Department of Canadian Heritage, with Sport Canada under its umbrella, is reviewing targeted excellence among other aspects of the sport system.Own The Podium has its critics as the organization that holds sway in determining which sport federations get how much targeted-excellence money. Some federations have received a small sliver of that funding pie, or sometimes, none at all.Under pressure to win medals, coaches and high-performance directors have made controversial decisions at Olympic Games in the makeup of men’s bobsleigh teams and rowing crews.OTP works with significantly more taxpayer money now than the $23-million a year it got prior to 2010.The organization also oversees a sport science and technology program, monitors sports federations’ high-performance programs and has established a program of identifying and developing the next generation of Olympians and Paralympians.The government has decided it’s time to look at whether the sports system is getting desired results affordably and if it is adapting to changing needs.“Fourteen years ago we thought this was a good idea, this was the path and this was a cutting-edge approach to high-performance sport internationally,” Minister of Sport Carla Qualtrough told The Canadian Press in 2016.“So like any coach will tell you we need to keep reviewing the game plan. Medal performances say how well we’ve done under this particular plan, but maybe there’s a different direction we need to go to achieve even better results next time.”OTP was established five years out from the 2010 Winter Games and Paralympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., to get the host country’s athletes on the podium.Anne Merklinger, OTP’s third chief executive officer following Roger Jackson and Alex Baumann, said Canada’s results in the Olympics and Paralympics in the past 11 years are an argument for the targeted approach. It’s been incredibly successful.“That said, can we improve? “The data speaks for itself. That’s the kind of thoughtful dialogue I would say needs to happen once the report is tabled.”In 2010, as the host country, Canada won 14 gold medals, a record for any country at a single Winter Games. Canada proved in 2016 it could compete with the world’s top summer sports countries, equalling its best showing at a non-boycotted Summer Olympics with 22 medals at the Rio Games.Four golds were the most for Canada at a Summer Olympics since the country won seven in 1992, and after falling short of the goal of a top-12 finish in the overall medal count in both 2008 and 2012, Canada finally cracked the top 10 in Brazil (10th).

Toronto FC loses Will Johnson and Josh Williams via free agency

Toronto FC lost two players Thursday, with free-agent midfielder Will Johnson headed to Orlando and defender Josh Williams taken by Columbus in Stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft.A source confirmed Johnson’s departure to Orlando with the deal announcement pending.The 29-year-old Canadian international, whose lone season in Toronto was interrupted by a knee injury, started 19 games for the Reds and appeared in four others. Johnson made $395,333 (all figures U.S.) last season while Williams earned $131,500, according to the MLS Players Union.Unlike Johnson, the out-of-contract Williams was eligible for the re-entry draft.Johnson came to Toronto last December in a trade with Portland that sent a conditional second-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and targeted allocation money to the Timbers.The 10-year MLS veteran, who previously played for Real Salt Lake and Chicago, had two goals and five assists this season for Toronto.The Canadian Press A childhood friend of Toronto captain Michael Bradley, Johnson offered experience and some bite in midfield. The move to Orlando reunites Johnson with coach Jason Kreis, who was in charge of Real Salt Lake during Johnson’s time there. Orlando is also home to Canadian striker Cyle Larin.Williams, 28, appeared in 15 games this season with 11 starts, but found himself behind Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund when coach Greg Vanney switched to a three-man backline late in the season.The two players’ departure frees up money under the salary cap.

Oilers end 25-game skid against Coyotes with 3-2 win

Hendricks scored at the end of it, beating Smith after the puck bounced off the boards out front.The Coyotes finally showed a glimpse of life on a power play midway through the second, with Hanzal redirecting a shot by Radim Vrbata past Talbot.Ekman-Larsson scored on a power play in the closing seconds, but the Coyotes didn’t have enough time to score again.“It’s tough to get down two goals and tough to battle back, especially against a high-skilled team like that,” said Ekman-Larsson, who took a big hit in the third period, triggering several skirmishes. “We just try to play to each other’s strengths.”Cam Talbot stopped 28 shots in Edmonton’s fourth win in five games.Arizona started slow and finished strong. Arizona made a big push in a testy third period and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored with 6.1 seconds left, but it came too late.“We’ve had some good breaks against this team for a long time,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. Edmonton jumped on the Coyotes with two goals in the first period and pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second to beat Arizona for the first time since Jan. “Tonight, the breaks went against us.”The Oilers got off to a good start in their quest to end the streak against Arizona, scoring midway through the first period.Letestu had it, one-timing a feed from Kassian to beat Mike Smith to the stick side for his seventh of the season. “They did a lot of good things and we didn’t.” It still resulted in another one-goal loss.The Coyotes were flat against the flying Oilers in the first period but showed some life in the second when Hanzal scored on a power play. “We’ve won now, so we don’t have to answer all your questions,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. Edmonton’s fourth line, centred by feisty Mark Letestu, does not get the recognition it sometimes may deserve. The Coyotes challenged that Smith was interfered with, but the goal stood after a review.“I guess I didn’t sell it enough,” Smith said.Edmonton went up 2-0 late in the period on a power play when a shot by Letestu hit Coyotes defenceman Alex Goligoski’s skate, then Milan Lucic’s, and slipped inside the right post.The Oilers had the Coyotes on their heels to start the second, sending a flurry of shots at Smith. “Tonight’s game was not different probably than many during the streak, but we found a way to win.”Arizona had gone 21-0-4 its previous 25 games against the Oilers, including a pair of wins this season. Fourth lines rarely due, especially on teams with stars like Connor McDavid.Those fourth liners were the difference Wednesday night, helping the Oilers end one long, frustrating streak.Letestu had a goal, two assists and a fight, anchoring a fourth line that combined for seven points in a 3-2 win over Arizona, the Oilers’ first regulation win against the Coyotes in 26 games. 25, 2011.Arizona’s points streak had been tied for sixth-most against one opponent in NHL history.The fourth line made the victory happen.Letestu scored the first goal, had assists on the two others and went toe to toe with Martin Hanzal in the third period to complete the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick.”Linemate Matt Hendricks had a goal and an assist, and fellow fourth-liner Zack Kassian had two assists.“I’d like to say it’s all the saucer passes and toe drags, but no, it’s definitely simplicity with us,” Hendricks said.

Jannik Hansen scores twice as Canucks dominate Jets

Hellebuyck then nearly gifted Vancouver the lead with just over a minute to go when he gave the puck away to Horvat behind the Jets’ goal, but the netminder scrambled back into his crease to stop Baertschi.Winnipeg, now 5-11-2 on the road this season, opened the scoring with 5:52 left in the first when the league’s 25th-ranked power play connected off the rush. Canucks defenceman Christopher Tanev, who turned 27 years old on Tuesday, and brother Brandon Tanev, a forward for the Jets, played against each other in the NHL for the first time. “He’s done a great job since he’s been back.”Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat, into an empty net, also scored for Vancouver (14-16-3), which was thoroughly outplayed in the first period before turning things around.“We came out in the first and had a tough time skating, couldn’t keep up,” said Baertschi. “The biggest thing was our battle level wasn’t high in the first, but we were able to make up for it in the second and third.”Blake Wheeler replied for Winnipeg (15-17-3). It shouldn’t surprise anybody.”

Hansen scored twice on setups from the talented twins, and Jacob Markstrom made 31 saves Tuesday as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-1.Playing in his fifth game after missing the previous 16 with broken ribs, Hansen was elevated to the top line last week and now has three goals in his last two outings after also scoring in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus.“Jannik brings a lot of speed to our line and gives us a lot more room to work down low and off the rush,” said Henrik Sedin, who set up both Hansen goals. Jannik Hansen’s job is pretty simple once Henrik and Daniel Sedin start buzzing — find an opening and wait for something special.“Whenever they get the puck you let them do their thing,” said the veteran winger. Vancouver cycled the puck in the Winnipeg zone for nearly 40 seconds before Henrik Sedin’s weak pass in front found its way to Hansen, who beat Hellebuyck with a quick shot at 9:18.“Whenever you score your line looks good,” said Hansen. That was textbook.”Baertschi then stretched the lead to 3-1 just 3:21 later when he blocked Dustin Byfuglien’s point shot and moved in alone on Hellebuyck before finishing a slick backhand move for his seventh.The Canucks forward said the shot off his foot was still numb from the hulking defenceman’s blast when he went to the bench.“It hurt like hell,” he said. … “Somehow, some way the puck always tends to find you.“It’s what they do. “We were starting to control the puck a little bit more, having more extended shifts in the other team’s end.”The Canucks had two great chances to take the lead late in the period, but couldn’t quite find the range. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 21 shots in taking the loss for the Jets, who in a scheduling quirk will remain in Vancouver and play the Canucks again on Thursday.“A lot of the stuff we’d like to handle better,” said Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice. Wheeler took a pass from Byfuglien and blew past Canucks defenceman Alex Biega before cutting in on Markstrom to score his 10th.The Jets had a number of other chances in the opening 20 minutes, including great opportunities for both Andrew Copp and Drew Stafford right in front of Markstrom, while Byfuglien rang another shot off the crossbar.“We played 40 good minutes today,” said Hansen. Hellebuyck stopped Markus Granlund on a breakaway from the hash marks after a turnover with his pad. we were looking to create things when we didn’t need to.”Tied 1-1 after two periods, Hansen scored his second of the night and fifth of the season at 3:19 of the third. “That was probably how we got into the trouble … “That was enough, but obviously the start was not what we wanted.”Notes: Winnipeg forward Nic Petan returned to the lineup after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury. “I’ll do anything to get a breakaway in this league.”Markstrom made a great save on Jets rookie phenom Patrik Laine in the dying seconds of a Vancouver penalty with under five minutes to go as Winnipeg turned up the pressure, but Horvat killed any thoughts of a comeback when he scored his 10th into an empty net with 2:14 left in regulation.Trailing 1-0 after the first, the Canucks got even thanks to a great shift from Hansen and the Sedins. “It’s all about getting some traffic in front. The veteran winger took a pass from Daniel Sedin at the blue line and delayed for a moment before ripping a shot past Hellebuyck with Henrik Sedin stationed in front.“If there’s no screen it’s an easy save,” said Hansen, who has been bumped up to the first line at different times throughout his career.

CFL’s top defensive player Solomon Elimimian re-signs with B.C. Lions

“We have all the ingredients of a championship team and I can’t wait to get back on the field and get to work in 2017.”Elimimian, who played college ball at Hawaii, has spent his entire seven-year CFL career with B.C., registering 575 tackles, 27 sacks, eight interceptions and eight forced fumbles in 96 games.“Solomon’s achievements as a football player are significant and this is a very big signing for our club,” said Wally Buono, the Lions head coach and GM. He’s an important part of our defence, a leader in our dressing room and I know how important it is for our fans to have Solomon back with us as well.“ In 2014, Elimimian made CFL history by becoming the first pure defensive player to capture the league’s outstanding player award. He was also its top defensive performer that year.Elimimian’s return is good news for the Lions, who recently released linebacker Adam Bighill so he could pursue NFL offers.“B.C. Solomon Elimimian is staying put.The B.C. Lions announced Wednesday the veteran linebacker has agreed to a two-year contract extension. is the only place I wanted to play and I’m elated to be signing back with the Lions,” Elimimian said in a statement. Elimimian will speak to reporters at an afternoon news conference.Elimimian, 30, was scheduled to become a free agent in February.The six-foot, 227-pound Elimimian was the CFL’s outstanding defensive player this year after recording a league-high 129 tackles with eight sacks, one interception and one forced fumble after suffering a career-threatening Achilles injury in 2015.

Maple Leafs increasing level of Auston Matthews’ competition

1 line. Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Matthews was “fantastic” afterward, describing him as the team’s best player.Babcock wouldn’t say why he chose to match Matthews against Getzlaf, but regardless the Leafs appear to be increasing the competition level for their emerging American centre. Matthews is sitting at lowly 46.6 per cent (71st among 89 eligible NHL centres) after dropping eight of 13 draws against the Ducks.“He gets the puck way more than he used to because he knows how to play and I think he’s pretty comfortable understanding that now,” Babcock said.The Leafs want Matthews playing offence as much as possible, but with his size and strength, tremendous skill and ability to process the game he’s almost certain to become the type of centre Babcock confidently matches against any line or superstar. Auston Matthews was dealt one of the toughest matchups of his young NHL career, and he came out on top.The 19-year-old scored his team-leading 15th goal, fired a career-high eight shots and played a career-best 21:22 while squaring off primarily against three-time all-star Ryan Getzlaf and former MVP Corey Perry on Monday night. Matthews has gotten the Leafs’ majority of offensive zone start opportunities (still over 60 per cent), often against lesser lines and defensive pairings. The Maple Leafs also won the puck possession battle when their Calder trophy contender was on the ice against the Ducks’ No. Matthews has been compared to Los Angeles captain and Selke winner Anze Kopitar and is a noted admirer of Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who has also captured the NHL’s top defensive forward award.Babcock said he expected Matthews to become a “dominant” centre by Christmas, a realization the player seems to be meeting with nine goals and 11 points in his last 12 games.He leads all NHL rookies with 12 even-strength tallies, trailing only Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine in total goals and points among first-year players while playing four fewer games.Whether the Leafs will start handing Matthews those kind of duties this soon is the question, though recent tests suggest he’s ready. Toronto plays eight of the next 10 games on the road, where Babcock won’t get his choice of matchups, so an answer isn’t likely until after the New Year. He’s better positioned to score that way, and time in the defensive zone is limited.The Matthews-led line got the toughest minutes against the Ducks though, last on the team in offensive zone start percentage (29 per cent) with only two of 12 faceoffs coming in the “fun zone” as Babcock often calls it.“I thought our line really did well against them,” Matthews said. “Nobody seems to be able to pull the puck away from him.”“He’s very comfortable in a lot of situations at a very early age and that usually bodes well for a long career,” he added.It’s possible that Babcock was steering Matthews away from Ryan Kesler, a former Selke trophy winner and six-foot-two, 200-pound nuisance, by playing him against Getzlaf. “It’s not really up to me who I play against.”But it is up to Babcock and he’s typically sheltered Matthews through the first third of the season. The Leafs were short veteran centre Tyler Bozak (lower body injury), meaning Babcock ultimately had to choose between lining Matthews up against Kesler or Getzlaf, opting for the more offensively inclined Ducks centre.That doesn’t explain why Babcock chose to match Matthews against Malkin, though, and hints at growing trust in the young centre’s ability to handle tougher matchups.Babcock noted Matthews’ growth in the defensive zone while also pointing to a need for improvement in the faceoff circle. “I thought we really kind of controlled the play for the most part and generated a lot of scoring chances.”His goal was a remarkable effort, one which saw him redirect a point shot with one hand on the stick.Former Leafs coach Randy Carlyle came away impressed.“The thing that I noticed about him is the strength that he has around the puck,” Carlyle, now the Ducks coach, said. Two nights before the Ducks matchup, Babcock lined Matthews up against Penguins all-world pivot Evgeni Malkin, now the NHL’s third leading scorer.Matthews managed to win that battle, too, finishing at nearly 60 per cent puck possession in about nine even-strength minutes against Malkin and former Leaf Phil Kessel, also top-10 in the NHL scoring race.“I feel comfortable going up against anybody,” Matthews said this week.

The Maple Leafs have a youthful verve, but a nasty habit of losing

Then again, three of the four Leaf centres going against Ryan Kesler, Antoine Vermette and Ryan Getzlaf were rookies – Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Frédérik Gauthier, who was called up from the farm team for that game.Actually, Gauthier was the best of the Leafs, winning seven of 17 draws, although one of his losses was the one that mattered. The Denver Broncos won the 2016 Super Bowl with an average offence and a fearsome defence.This season, with the offence declining to poor and the defence battling fatigue, the Broncos are 8-6 and practically out of contention.The faceoff problem is a little more difficult to solve given the Leafs’ injury woes at centre. Plus, there was a thin margin between winning and losing in December as two of the Leafs’ three regulation-time losses were by one goal and there were three shootout losses.The biggest stride the Leafs can take in fixing their penalty killing is simply by taking fewer penalties. The unit, which was ranked as high as fourth in the NHL 12 days ago with an 85.7-per-cent success rate, tumbled to 13th (82 per cent) after giving up seven power-play goals during the Leafs’ five-game homestand. Their biggest problem areas are a lack of discipline and corresponding dip in their penalty killing, faceoffs (exacerbated by injuries to two centres) and consistency on defence.There is also the matter of their road record, as the Leafs have the second-fewest road wins in the league with a 3-6-5 mark. Thanks to the world junior hockey championship taking up residence at Air Canada Centre next week, the Leafs will play eight of their next 10 games on the road. And Nylander was playing his first game at centre in some time thanks to the injuries to Smith and Bozak.Given the overall excellence of Matthews’s game in his rookie season, and the fact he otherwise acquitted himself well in a matchup against Getzlaf on Monday, scoring his 15th goal of the season, there is no reason to think his faceoff skills will not improve with experience.The big concern on faceoffs is veteran Nazem Kadri. They attack every game with enthusiasm and offensive skills that can be dazzling at times, but there are still enough holes in their game that the Leafs are still finding ways to turn what should be wins into losses. Teams cannot hand out nearly five power plays a game and expect their penalty killers to be efficient.It is the same effect seen in football when a team with a poor offence can see its defence decline simply because it’s on the field too often. The travels start with back-to-back games Thursday and Friday against the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes.However, all of those problems are the hallmarks of a young team and all can be remedied with experience and hard work, the latter of which these Leafs seem to possess in abundance. This will be put to the test immediately. That ended Monday with a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.During that stretch, the Leafs took 23 penalties, which works out to 4.6 power plays a game for the opposition, a jump of almost two from their rate leading up to those games. The Leafs’ shortcomings in the faceoff circle were exposed by the Ducks, who are the best team in the league at the practice. It resulted in the winning goal for the Ducks. When it comes to their development, the Toronto Maple Leafs bring to mind a favourite old line around the NHL – they’re playing good enough to lose.In other words, the youthful Leafs are not losing in bunches like last season’s dispirited group. This is not good enough for a shutdown player and a marked improvement over the last 51 games is needed. He has a win percentage of just 46.5 per cent this season, 51st in the NHL before Thursday’s games.The trouble is, this is consistent with his mark over his first four full NHL seasons. While he made great strides this season as a two-way player, his skill at the dot did not keep up. Kadri’s high was 49.2 per cent last season, which was a small improvement over his first three. Ben Smith, their best faceoff man with a winning percentage of 53.1, was put on the injured-reserve list on Wednesday and Byron Froese was called up from the farm team for the road trip.Their most experienced centre, Tyler Bozak, is also hurt. So far this month, the Leafs have just two wins in eight games, with their habit of sagging in the third period proving costly.

Vancouver Canucks struggling to break bad team habits

“We’ve given ourselves a good start on this homestand, but we have to finish it off. Vancouver is 2-0-1 so far and, in a scheduling quirk, hosts Winnipeg for a second straight game at Rogers Arena on Thursday before visiting Calgary the following night.“We talked going into this [about how] we needed maybe four out of five [wins prior to the holiday break] to get back into the race,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. It has become a familiar and troubling trend for the Vancouver Canucks on many nights this season.They fall behind early – often looking half asleep from the opening faceoff, as if they’re surprised the game started on time – before steadying the ship and then frantically pressing late, desperately trying to erase a deficit. “If we knew the answer to that we’d play 60 good minutes every single night, but for some reason we’re having a hard time stringing full games together. ”Vancouver has allowed the first goal a stunning 25 times this season, including in each of the first three outings of the club’s current and crucial four-game homestand.The Canucks (14-16-3) battled back from a goal down on Friday to beat Tampa Bay 4-2 and salvaged a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus on Sunday before Tuesday’s come-from-behind win.“It’s obviously hard to play well every single game, but you have to find a way,” said Hansen, who scored twice against the Jets. “We are going to want the next one a little bit more.” [Thursday] is another big game against a team that’s right there battling with us.”The Jets (15-17-3), meanwhile, were left frustrated on Tuesday after grabbing an early lead and peppering Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in the first period.Winnipeg – which sits two points up on Vancouver in the standings, but has played two more games – could have easily led by two or three, but instead let the Canucks hang around before eventually falling to 5-11-2 on the road.Jets captain Blake Wheeler said the rematch shouldn’t present many surprises to either team.“We have a pretty good idea of what they are trying to do,” said Wheeler, who scored his team’s only goal Tuesday.Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said playing the same team in the same venue in consecutive games in a non-playoff setting is a bit different, but added he expects a better effort.“We kind of lit the fire,” he said. And then there have been other times, albeit not nearly as many, when the club plays well out of the gate only to suffer a third-period collapse.Thirty-three games into 2016-17, the Canucks are still looking for that elusive complete effort.“Sometimes we have good starts, sometimes we have bad endings,” veteran forward Jannik Hansen said following Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, a game Vancouver trailed 1-0 after getting thoroughly outplayed in the first period. “You have to find a way to dig through the stretches where breaks aren’t there, pucks are bouncing the other team’s way.”One of the games in which the Canucks played well for a time and then fell apart late came last week when they blew a 5-2 third-period lead in an ugly 8-6 loss on the road against Carolina.The team limped home after that one knowing that its final five games before Christmas could go a long way in determining how the rest of the season unfolds.

Tennis star Petra Kvitova’s outlook positive following knife attack

She reached a career-high ranking of No. Doctors decided to operate on her hand immediately.Shortly after the attack, Kvitova wrote on Twitter that she expected to recover and get back to playing tennis, saying “if you know anything about me I am strong and I will fight this.”Kvitova won the Wimbledon title in 2011 and 2014. 2 in 2011, but finished the 2016 season as No. The attacker is still at large and police have asked the public for help. Petra Kvitova could return to tennis in about six months, the surgeon who operated on the two-time Wimbledon champion’s left hand said Wednesday.Kvitova was injured Tuesday when a knife-wielding intruder attacked her at her home in the town of Prostejov, Czech Republic. Kvitova underwent nearly four hours of surgery on Tuesday at a specialized clinic in the northern town of Vysoke nad Jizerou.“When we talk about [playing tennis], it will take about six months,” said surgeon Radek Kebrle of the Hand and Plastic Surgery Institute. “It’s a serious injury and we have to deal with that accordingly.”Earlier Wednesday, Kvitova’s spokesman, Karel Tejkal, said the surgery was successful and the Czech player was feeling good.Kvitova sustained damage to the tendons in her left hand, along with injuries to all five fingers and two nerves.She was taken to the clinic in Vysoke nad Jizerou, an elite institution in the country, after initial treatment at a hospital in Prostejov. 11.

Toronto FC’s 2017 home opener will not be until March 31

They will play non-conference opponents once. “There’s going to be a connection that we’re always going to have with them because of the timing of our expansion into MLS.”In a battle of 2015 expansion teams, Orlando opens at home against New York City FC on March 5 in its new 25,500-capacity downtown stadium.The two New York teams meet March 12 at Yankee Stadium.Seattle will open the home half of its schedule March 19 against the Red Bulls at CenturyLink Field.Each team will play 34 games, 17 at home and 17 away. Expansion team Minnesota United FC will kick off the 2017 Major League Soccer Season in front of the Timbers Army on March 3 in Portland.Toronto FC and Montreal open on the road March 4 against Real Salt Lake and San Jose, respectively, while the Vancouver Whitecaps host the Philadelphia Union on March 5 at BC Place Stadium to wrap up the opening weekend. They will face each of their 10 conference opponents twice during the season with one game at home and one game away – meeting some conference opponents three times. Vancouver has a bye in Week 2.Toronto continues on the road in Week 2, playing in Philadelphia on March 11. There is no word yet whether Toronto will have an early bye to soften four weeks away from home but TFC is no stranger to opening on the road.Because of stadium renovations, Toronto played the first eight games of both the 2015 and 2016 seasons away from home. Paul during the 2018 season.“To host at home against the other expansion team is always going to be a good storyline,” Minnesota United sporting director Manny Lagos said in a statement. The new soccer team will play at the University of Minnesota before moving into its new $150-million (U.S.) venue in nearby St. He spent eight seasons as president of Real Salt Lake and Rio Tinto Stadium prior to joining Toronto in October, 2015.Minnesota and Atlanta won’t have to wait long to see how the two fledgling clubs measure up. They will face off March 12 at TCF Bank Stadium, currently home to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Home fans won’t see Toronto FC at BMO Field until March 31 – Week 5 – when Sporting Kansas City comes to BMO Field. The rest of the schedule will be released in early January.For Vancouver, the regular-season kickoff comes three days after the Whitecaps entertain the New York Red Bulls in the return leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final.Atlanta United, the second expansion team, makes its league debut at home March 5 against the New York Red Bulls at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium.“We’ve all been counting down the days and we finally have a date to circle on our calendars,” club president Darren Eales said in a statement.Atlanta will move into its new Mercedes-Benz Stadium home later in the season.Montreal opens at home March 11 against the champion Sounders at Olympic Stadium. The league announced the home openers for all 22 clubs on Wednesday. Its home opener was May 10 in 2015 and May 7 in 2016.For Toronto president Bill Manning, the 2017 season opener in Sandy, Utah, will mark a homecoming.

Petry’s stellar play lifts Canadiens over Ducks

Anaheim ends a six-game road trip Thursday night in Ottawa.Cogliano played his 738th consecutive game to pass Jay Bouwmeester for the fifth longest streak in NHL history. With Andrei Markov nursing an upper-body injury and Shea Weber in a scoring slump, the Montreal Canadiens needed a defenceman to step up.It turned out to be Jeff Petry, who scored a goal and added two assists to keep his hot streak alive as the Canadiens downed the sluggish-looking Anaheim Ducks 5-1 on Tuesday night. Cogliano’s ninth of the season tied his total over 82 games in 2015-16.Montreal got it back at the 19:00 mark on a two on one as Byron put Petry’s rebound in to an open side. (Daignault) and he just said ‘when you’re on top of your game you’re skating and playing physical,’ so my focus was to get back to doing that and it’s been paying off,” said Petry, whose seventh goal matched his season high set in 2013-14 with Edmonton.Petry led the team with five shots on goal as Montreal outshot the Ducks 34-13.“We used our speed really well and we knew it would be tough for them to keep up with us if we played a full 60 minutes like that,” the 29-year-old Petry added.Without Markov, Petry paired with Nathan Beaulieu and drew praise from coach Michel Therrien for their play at both ends of the rink. Byron equalled his career high of 11 goals set last season.Artturi Lehkonen got through traffic and fed Byron for a cross-ice pass that Plekanec converted into an open side on a power play for only his third of the season.Ducks goalie Jonathan Bernier, now 1-9-3 in his career against Montreal, cleared the puck around the boards from behind his own net to Petry at the right point for a shot that went in off a post.Montreal’s power play got another at 10:04 when Petry sent Pacioretty in on the right side for a shot that beat Bernier inside the near post. Markov, listed as day-to-day, is the latest of a run of injuries for Montreal, which is also without top centre Alex Galchenyuk, centre David Desharnais and defenceman Greg Pateryn.Paul Byron had a goal and a helper while Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Chris Terry also scored for Montreal (21-7-4). 9 as they play seven straight on the road starting Friday night in Columbus. It’s the longest since Steve Larmer played his 884th in a row in 1993. Terry got his first of the season with 47 seconds left in the third period.Markov sat out on his 38th birthday, ending a string of 116 games without missing one due to injury.The Canadiens’ game Thursday night against Minnesota is their last at the Bell Centre until Jan. That gave Petry a goal in three consecutive games for the first time in his career and seven points in his last five outings.“I went through a bit of a down spell for a few games there and I had a session with (assistant coach) J.J. Their struggling power play went 2 for 6 to give it three goals in the last 24 chances.“With a lot of our to guys injured and the power play struggling of late, to come out on top and have everyone pitch in, and get two power-play goals even if they weren’t perfect, will hopefully give everyone confidence,” said Pacioretty.Ironman Andrew Cogliano scored for the Ducks (17-12-5), who looked sluggish coming off a 3-2 win Monday night in Toronto. Cogliano has the second-longest all-time from the start of a career behind Doug Jarvis’s 964 games.“I’ve been very fortunate, obviously, but I take pride in how I approach the game in the off-season and surrounding myself with good people and that has helped,” said Cogliano.The Ducks struck first off a faceoff in the Montreal zone as Ryan Kesler kicked the puck to Cogliano for a quick shot that beat Carey Price high at 5:19.

Senators beat Blackhawks for third straight win

Scott Darling made 26 saves while dropping to 6-3-1 in 10 starts since Corey Crawford had an emergency appendectomy on Dec. It was Panarin’s fifth goal and 12th point in his last six games.It was still tied in the second when Brassard drove a pass from Chris Wideman past Darling for his seventh of the season just one second after a hooking penalty on Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews ran out.Moments after the ensuing faceoff, Ottawa drove right back down the ice and Pyatt showed off some nifty stickwork on the right side of the net for his fourth goal of the season at 7:41.Motte got one back for Chicago when Vinnie Hinostroza’s deflected shot went right to him, setting up his first goal since Nov. 1 against Calgary. The rookie forward punctuated the score with a big upper cut as he skated behind the Ottawa net.Clinging to a 3-2 lead, the Senators then made the most of their third power-play opportunity of the night. Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte and Richard Panik scored for the Blackhawks, who had won five in a row and six of seven. Hammond departed in the first period of that game with an ankle injury, but coach Guy Boucher said he doesn’t think it’s a long-term thing.“He should be fine in the next (few) days,” Boucher said.Panarin’s one-timer — a laser from just outside the faceoff dot in the left circle — tied it at 1 at 11:17 of the first. Derick Brassard and Tom Pyatt scored 10 seconds apart during Ottawa’s three-goal second period, and the Senators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on Tuesday night for their third consecutive victory.Bobby Ryan added a goal and an assist as Ottawa stopped a seven-game road losing streak against Chicago, earning its first win at the United Center since March 28, 2001. 3.Chicago played without centre Artem Anisimov for the second straight game due to an upper-body injury, and forward Marian Hossa left in the first period. Panik had a shot go off the left post and Condon stopped a penalty shot by Marcus Kruger with 4:52 left.Condon made 23 saves after getting the win in relief of Andrew Hammond in Sunday’s 6-2 victory against the New York Islanders. The Blackhawks did not provide a reason for Hossa’s departure.Panik’s ninth of the season on a delayed penalty made it 4-3 just 1:42 into the third, but the Blackhawks couldn’t come up with the tying score despite putting heavy pressure on Mike Condon in the final minutes. Dion Phaneuf scored a power-play goal, and Kyle Turris had two assists. With Brent Seabrook in the box for tripping, Turris’ big drive went off Phaneuf’s left knee and past Darling on glove side at 14:22.

Raptors trounce Nets to continue dominant streak

And Lowry is obviously playing at a super high level and shooting the ball great. 28, over a span of 11 games in which they went 9-2, Toronto counted five of those victories by margins of at least 20 points. DeMar DeRozan, the team’s leading light, has blazed the trail offensively, courting a Michael Jordanesque run of 30-plus points over four consecutive games into the Brooklyn battle. I think about what we can do better and there’s so much we can do better.The Raptors drained 11 of their 21 shots in the opening quarter (52.4 per cent) to open up a 29-23 advantage.Toronto began to flex its muscle in the second quarter, during which the Raptors closed out the final 4 1/2 minutes on a 17-3 run to take a 64-46 lead into the break. Jonas Valanciunas contributed 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Norman Powell came off the bench to record a season-high 21 points.DeRozan had a quiet night, settling for 15 points.It was the final home game of 2016 for the Raptors, who now head out for their annual Christmas holiday road excursion, a six-game journey that will keep them away from home until Jan. He’s figured out the league. But he went and figured it out and now he’s more and more comfortable. They’ve been through a lot.“I remember DeRozan when he was a young guy – he’s still young. “I think it’s a team that’s played together for a while. 3. He started off the season with five consecutive outings of at least 30 points and has reached that plateau in 15 of his first 27 outings.Kyle Lowry, DeRozan’s on-court running mate, has been draining threes with the ease of a golfer standing over a gimme putt – shooting an unconscionable 58.2 per cent (53 of 91) from long range over his previous 12 outings.Really, in the face of all that, what chance did a struggling Nets team have against a Raptors team who were in anything but a giving mood in the so-called festive season?Very little, it turned out, as Toronto once again ran roughshod over an opponent, storming to a 116-104 victory over the Nets before another satisfied capacity crowd at the ACC, who are becoming used to these kinds of routs.With the win, Toronto’s second in a row, the Raptors improved to 20-8.It marked just the second time in franchise history that the team has won that many times inside of 30 games to start a season. The dominance of the Toronto Raptors for much of this season has been downright extraordinary.Heading into Tuesday night’s game at the Air Canada Centre against the Brooklyn Nets, the Raptors had scored 100 or more points in 14 consecutive outings.Since Nov. “I think it’s continuity,” he said when asked for his take on the Raptors. “To be honest, I don’t look at the record. Toronto’s first game of the trip will come on Friday in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz.It has been a rough start to the NBA campaign for the Nets, who came to Toronto having lost two in a row and seven of their past nine. [Jonas] Valanciunas has been there for a while.“I think when you can keep a team together like that, for a long time, it pays dividends.”Ever pragmatic, Casey said he has been a bit surprised by his team’s strong showing so far considering some injury issues and a tendency to approach defensive play as one would a trip to the dentist. “I still feel there’s a lot of room for improvement for us,” he said. The Raptors needed 26 games to reach 20 wins during the 2014-15 campaign.That’s a far cry from Dwane Casey’s first season as the coach in 2011-12, when the Raptors needed 55 games before celebrating their 20th win.Tuesday’s game was a relentless burial of an opponent that began in the second quarter, when the Raptors’ sharpshooters outscored Brooklyn 35-23 to take a 64-46 stranglehold.The Raptors tossed more dirt on the open grave in the third quarter, when they would lead by as many as 23 points before settling for a 91-72 lead heading into the final frame.Lowry would lead the Raptors with 23 points and four rebounds, while DeMarre Carroll chipped in with 17 points. Their record is now 7-20.Kenny Atkinson, in his first season as the Nets coach, almost sounded wistful when discussing what he viewed as the merits of the Raptors pregame.

Anaheim Ducks are NHL’s faceoff masters thanks to Vermette, Kesler

“I thought they dominated the circle against us,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.Antoine Vermette, far and away the league’s best in the circle, emerged on 86 per cent of his 21 draws against the Leafs, including 10 of 11 in the defensive zone. “I think he’s recognized that. The Ducks defenceman whipped the perfect faceoff win past Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen. The 34 year old boasts a ridiculous 65.6 per cent success rate this season, well ahead of Jordan Staal in second place (61.1 per cent).The former Ottawa Senator second pick ranks first in the NHL in the home confines of the Honda Center in Anaheim (67.4 per cent) and first on the road too (64.2 per cent).“Every time he’s out there we think he’s winning every time,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said.Vermette has always been a face-off ace, but never quite to this level. Facing rookie Maple Leafs centre Frederik Gauthier on his backhand, Kesler shuffled the draw directly to his right where Cam Fowler was waiting. The former Vancouver Canuck ranks fifth with a 58.7 per cent mark on the draw, including a 68 per cent showing (17 of 25) against Toronto. Agapit, Que., native has won 67 per cent of his short-handed faceoffs and 69 per cent on those on the power play.“He can elongate his career by two or three years just doing that,” Getzlaf said of Vermette, who signed a two-year deal worth US$3.5 million last summer. No slouch himself at 52.5 per cent this year, Getzlaf said Vermette changes games with his ability on the draw.The St. Last season, playing for the Arizona Coyotes, he put up a 55.8 per cent mark that ranked 14th league-wide. “A couple of the faceoffs cost us so it’s a good lesson for us going where we need to be. “He’s going to work hard at it all the time and battle for those pucks.”Vermette and Kesler have combined to take 64 per cent of all Ducks draws this season.“We knew going in it was going to be a challenge,” Auston Matthews said of facing the Ducks in the face-off circle. That’s a really good team right there.” Not only did he win the draw that led to Fowler’s game-winner, but also the one that led to Getzlaf’s power-play goal in the middle period.Enjoying a big year at age 32 (28 points), Kesler has won 57.5 per cent of draws on an Anaheim power play which ranks second in the NHL this season.“The thing about (Kesler) is if you’re going into a faceoff with him if you’re going to win it you’re going to pay for it,” Getzlaf said. The Anaheim Ducks are masters of the draw this season.The NHL’s best faceoff team at 56 per cent, Anaheim put on a clinic Monday night in their 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning 67 per cent of the total faceoffs (42 of 61), including 20 of 24 in the second period.The game winner came on a perfectly executed faceoff by veteran Ryan Kesler. He’s worked at it.”Kesler, too, offers the Ducks another expert.

Wimbledon champ Kvitova injured by knife-wielding attacker at her home

She
underwent surgery “because of her condition and future career,” said Tejkal, who
described the incident as a burglary. It can happen to anyone of us. That’s really
terrible.”In April, 1993, Monica Seles was at the height of her success when she was
stabbed in the back during a changeover at a tournament in Hamburg. I am
shaken, but fortunate to be alive,” Kvitova wrote on Twitter. Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was injured by a knife-wielding
attacker at her home on Tuesday and had to undergo surgery on her left hand.An operation that took 3 hours 45 minutes revealed that the left-handed
player’s injuries were “serious,” but “there’s no reason to think she wouldn’t
be able to play tennis,” her spokesman Karel Tejkal said. Kvitova will, however, miss the Australian Open and a significant part of the
season as she won’t be able to fully train for at least three months, Tejkal
said.Kvitova sustained damaged to the tendons in her left hand, along with
injuries to all five fingers and two nerves, Tejkal added.The 2011 and 2014 champion at the All England Club said she considered
herself lucky to have survived the attack Tuesday morning in the eastern Czech
town of Prostejov.“In my attempt to defend myself, I was badly injured on my left hand. I have the best possible care and I’m in touch with my loved ones. “Things like that are
shocking to all of us. Prostejov police spokesman Frantisek
Korinek said the attacker, a man who is about 35 years old, escaped from the
scene and was at large. A man
reached over a courtside railing and knifed her, leaving an inch-deep slit
between her shoulder blades.Seles returned to the game 27 months later and reached the 1995 U.S. He said police have launched a manhunt.Kvitova was scheduled to participate in a charity event in the city of Brno
on Tuesday with another Czech player, Lucie Safarova.“It’s horrible,” Safarova told Czech public radio. Open
final.In an unrelated move earlier Tuesday, Kvitova withdrew from the Czech
Republic team at next month’s Hopman Cup mixed-team tennis tournament because of
an earlier foot injury. The worst is behind me.”It was not immediately clear how the injury could affect Kvitova’s play. “The injury is
severe and I will need to see specialists, but if you know anything about me I
am strong and I will fight this.”In an earlier statement on the Facebook page of the Czech Republic’s Fed Cup
team, Kvitova said: “What happened to me was certainly not pleasant, but it’s
behind me.