Shattenkirk likely to draw the most buzz ahead of NHL trade deadline

Louis is still a viable threat to compete for the Stanley Cup after reaching the Western Conference final last year.Shattenkirk garners only the fourth-most minutes on their defence (about 20 minutes a game), but the club has no comparable threat for the offence he provides.Stay tuned.TrendsPerhaps to some alarm for the Montreal Canadiens, Carey Price continues to trend downward this season.Save percentage by month for the 29-year-old:October: .954November: .944December: .899January: .906February: .879Price is tied for ninth among NHL goaltenders with a .917save percentage (min. His 31 power-play goals in that same stretch trail only Shea Weber and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.Prior to Monday, he was tied for first at the position with 18 power-play points this season and second with seven power-play goals.“It’s something I wish I could do, but there’s only a few guys in the league that have that kind of ability,” Gunnarsson said of Shattenkirk’s power-play prowess.However appealing he may be as a trade chip before the deadline – just over two weeks away – the Blues might be better served keeping Shattenkirk themselves. Louis is in question. 30 starts) and third with a .934 clip at even strength. The 28-year-old from New Rochelle, N.Y., is likely to draw the most buzz ahead of the March 1 trade deadline, a right-shooting defenceman on an expiring contract who offers almost unrivalled production from the back end. He’s struggled most with his team short-handed, yielding a league-leading 32 power-play goals against.The Sullivan bumpPittsburgh went 33-16-5 with a plus-41 goal differential after replacing head coach Mike Johnston with Mike Sullivan in mid-December last season, eventually capturing their fourth Stanley Cup the following spring. Louis BluesChange: Replaced Ken Hitchcock with Mike YeoRecord at firing (goal differential): 24-21-5 (minus-16)Since: 5-1-0 (plus-12) Boston BruinsChange: Replaced Claude Julien with Bruce CassidyRecord at firing (goal differential): 26-23-6 (minus-6)Since: 3-0-0 (plus-8) Dallas goaltendingThe much-maligned Stars goalie tandem of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen has been shockingly effective at five-on-five, Dallas sitting seventh over all with a .929 save percentage. It’s dreadful netminding on the league’s worst penalty kill that’s really doomed the Stars, the club sitting last by a wide margin with an ugly .819 save percentage.Down year?Corey Perry finally had his first multigoal game of the season last week, scoring his 10th and 11th goals of the year in a win over Buffalo. “He’s got a good shot, he’s a good passer, he’s got vision – pretty much everything you look for in an offensive defenceman.”In fact, heading into Monday’s play, Shattenkirk was tied for 10th among all NHL defencemen with 238 points since the start of the 2011-12 season, 10th with 181 assists and 11th with 57 goals.It’s on the power play where he’s most potent though, making him especially attractive to potential suitors ahead of the deadline. The 31-year-old, who trails only Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos with 311 goals since the 2007-08 season, is headed for his slimmest goal output since becoming a full-time NHL player.Perry is on pace for a mere 16 goals or less than half of last year’s total (34).The Peterborough, Ont., native appears to be suffering from some undue misfortune, currently shooting just 7.1 per cent – which would be a career low – on about the same number of shots a game (2.7) as last year.Prior to Monday’s games, Perry’s 11 goals were tied with Arizona’s Radim Vrbata and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the fewest among forwards with at least 150 shots this season.10 with 10Prior to Monday, only two teams had at least 10 players with 10 goals or more already this season: the Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild. For all their struggles this season (though not of late), St. Results have been positive for clubs making a move so far this season:Florida PanthersChange: Replaced Gerrard Gallant with Tom RoweRecord at firing (goal differential): 11-10-1 (minus-2)Since: 13-10-9 (minus-15) New York IslandersChange: Replaced Jack Capuano with Doug WeightRecord at firing (goal differential): 17-17-8 (minus-6)Since: 8-2-2 (plus-11) St. Teams opting to dismiss a coach mid-season can only hope for such a bump. Shattenkirk boasts 122 power-play points over the past five-plus seasons, second only to Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson among NHL defenders. “His offensive skills are top-notch,” teammate and frequent defensive partner Carl Gunnarsson said of Shattenkirk, who’s on pace for a career-best 16 goals and 57 points.“He always seems like he’s finding the open guy and he’s always getting to the open spots,” added Colton Parayko, another member of the Blues defence. Louis Blues acquired Kevin Shattenkirk from the Colorado Avalanche.Now, Shattenkirk’s future in St. It was six years ago this month that the St.

For Blue Jays’ Travis, early spring gives chance to put past injuries behind him

And any time you can say Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson in the same sentence, that’s a pretty special club.” While Gose is still struggling to launch his MLB career, Travis made an immediate hit with the Blue Jays, leaving camp in 2015 as the starting second baseman.His rookie season got off to a rousing start as he showed good life with the bat and soon worked his way into the batting leadoff position. “Either way, I’m good for it.”Although pitchers and catchers are not required to be here until Tuesday, when physicals will be conducted, many of the cast and a good number of position players – who don’t have to be here until Friday – have already shown up.Twenty-game winner J.A. “To have him and Steve Pearce, who can freakin’ hit, man. He tried to play through the pain but couldn’t and eventually had season-ending surgery that kept him out of the lineup until late May last season.He reclaimed his spot at second base and helped Toronto make its successful run into the playoffs, where a recurring knee injury once again curtailed his season.He is convinced his bad luck is behind him and is excited to see a Blue Jays roster he believes will be bolstered by a couple of free-agent additions in designated hitter Kendrys Morales and utility infielder Steve Pearce.Morales hit 12 of his 30 home runs last season at spacious Kauffman Stadium while playing for the Kansas City Royals, which yielded the second-fewest home runs in the A.L. A hazy Florida sun was just starting to bake off the early-morning dew, and Travis grunted as he was instructed to get into push-up position, with his weight on his forearms, and perform a series of planks designed to strengthen his core.After that, he went for a little walk, clasping a big, black, heavy kettlebell in each hand. rookie of the month.But things quickly turned sour after he took a batted ball off his left shoulder blade in late April. Devon Travis was one of the early risers here Monday, two days before the official opening of spring training camp for the pitchers and catchers of the Toronto Blue Jays – and he was paying for the privilege.It was a little bit before 9 a.m., and Travis had already broken a sweat.Under the stern control of a trainer, the second baseman was being twisted this way and that on the artificial turf of an area outside the players’ weight room at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Toronto’s Grapefruit League home for the next seven weeks or so. It’s been definitely a lot of work this off-season. We still got the same core guys. Happ was here and threw a bullpen, as did Aaron Sanchez, who appears beefed up, ready to head into a season without an innings-pitched count hanging over his head.Even Gibbons was on hand Monday, casual and content in his blue jeans and scuffed cowboy boots, looking as if he had just parked his Harley in the back lot.The regular season doesn’t start until April 3 for Toronto. He can flat-out hit.“We’ve got a real good team. in 2016.To Travis, that is impressive.“Now playing in A.L. It’s seriously gotten better every day, every week. Just going to see what the plan is going forward with the team.”But is the knee at 100 per cent?“It’s getting there,” he said. East ballparks, that could be really friendly for him,” Travis said. By that time, Travis hopes his surgically repaired right knee, which he injured in the first game of the American League Championship Series against the Indians in mid-October, will be good as new.“My knee feels better every single day,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s 100 per cent yet, for sure. “I’m feeling great. I’ve been down here since the first week of January getting after it.”Travis came over to the Blue Jays in a trade two years ago with the Detroit Tigers, with centrefielder Anthony Gose going the other way. I’m swinging, I’m throwing – basically doing everything. “The trick is to try to keep your face looking like you’re not working hard,” he said, obviously failing in this regard.One of the most congenial baseball players – quick with a smile and a good-to-see-you greeting to a member of the media that actually feels genuine – Travis has been at this routine since the start of the year.This season marks a huge step for Travis, who is eager to show the Blue Jays that his brittle nature of the past two years, when injuries robbed him of significant playing time, is behind him.And if he can manage to avoid the trainer’s table, one of Toronto’s concerns – the lack of a bona fide leadoff hitter – may also be a thing of the past.“That would be ideal,” Travis said about the prospect of hitting first in the order for a club that still packs plenty of offensive punch – even in the absence of Edwin Encarnacion, their home run leader last season, who left for the Cleveland Indians as a free agent.Travis said he could also see himself batting ninth as a setup man for whomever manager John Gibbons deems worthy of leading things off.“Or I could be hitting first in front of the best hitter in baseball,” Travis enthused, a reference to Josh Donaldson, who has made hitting out of the two-hole his home since his arrival in Toronto in 2015. Over the first month of the season, Travis batted a hefty .325 with six home runs and 19 runs batted in, and was selected as the A.L.

Man City beats Bournemouth, jumps to second place in Premier League table

City still has to play Chelsea away in early April.“It’s so, so difficult to win all the games,” Guardiola said. “The gap is too big.”Bournemouth hasn’t won in 2017 and is in free fall, just six points from the relegation zone. Aguero – City’s chief striker since 2011 – has lost his starting place to Gabriel Jesus but played most of the match after coming on for the Brazil striker, who hobbled off in the 15th minute with an apparent twisted right ankle. We go into a break in the Premier League calendar and have to come back refreshed and ready to fight for our league survival.” The Associated Press “Except for 10 minutes in the second half, we controlled.”City leapfrogged Liverpool,Arsenal and Tottenham to be the latest, nearest challenger to Chelsea, which is the favourite for the league title. The England international has scored five goals against Bournemouth, more than any other opponent.Sterling and Sane also struck the goal frame as Pep Guardiola’s team dominated on the south coast.“We play a good game in one of the toughest games away,” Guardiola said. The hosts weren’t helped by captain Simon Francis (hamstring) and midfielder Jack Wilshere (ankle) going off injured in the first half.“We reorganized and had a go,” Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said, “but ultimately they were too good.“We have to be positive. “I will pray tonight.”Aguero thought he scored when he slid in to glance a cross from Sterling toward the goal. Manchester City overcame Gabriel Jesus’ early departure because of injury to beat Bournemouth 2-0 and climb to second place in the English Premier League, eight points behind Chelsea on Monday.Raheem Sterling’s 29th-minute strike and an own-goal in the 69th from Tyrone Mings, who deflected the ball in on an effort from substitute Sergio Aguero, earned City a third straight league win. Gabriel Jesus initially tried to play on after injuring himself when landing awkwardly stretching for a cross, but slumped to the ground within minutes and signalled to the bench.“Tomorrow morning, we’ll know [the nature of the injury] exactly,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. The ball struck the foot of Mings and deflected in, with the officials awarding it as an own goal.Sterling opened the scoring by tapping home at the far post after Leroy Sane’s cross from the left ricocheted into his fellow winger’s path.

Mike Babcock looks to get the lagging Leafs back up to speed

So for Monday’s practice to get ready for Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders, the old slogan was painted over in favour of “Play fast. The Leafs wrap up a four-game homestand Tuesday against the Islanders, and that game is the start of a string of six games in eight nights that includes two sets of back-to-back, home-and-away games.So far in February, with a 2-2-2 record, the Leafs only took six of a possible 12 points. Back in hockey’s Paleozoic era of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Pat Quinn was a lonely holdout against the rule of the neutral-zone trap, he used to say it wasn’t sheer foot speed that made teams fast, it was puck movement: Move the puck efficiently and quickly and you become a fast team.That movement starts with the defencemen in their own end. Mike Babcock is so concerned about his team’s play of late that he changed the slogan on the wall of the dressing room.The old one at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ official practice facility, read, “Heart and drive live here.” Nice enough, but the head coach obviously doesn’t think the drive part was happening fast enough – not with two wins in the Leafs’ past eight games. When we don’t play right, we look like snails out there.”The coach emphasized his new message in Monday’s practice with a lot of drills that involved getting the puck out of the Leafs’ end and moving through the neutral zone at top speed.Babcock’s other concern is the number of slow starts the Leafs have made recently. It’s the same message another Leafs head coach used to deliver all the time. The games in hand that the Leafs enjoyed on a few others in the playoff race have dwindled to four on the Boston Bruins, who hold third place in the Atlantic.“We’re not hitting the panic button by any means,” Rielly said.But Leafs historians can trace that favourite quote back from Rielly through Dion Phaneuf to Mats Sundin and beyond with varying degrees of success.So we’ll see. In two of their past three games – a win over the Dallas Stars and Saturday’s awful 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres – the Leafs dawdled out of the gate.Babcock delivered his message forcefully enough that the players were all singing from the same hymn book, even if it wasn’t Cole’s.“We know we have to play quick to get out of our zone. “You kind of pick a few topics you have to work on and we work on them, whether that’s breakouts, five-on-five neutral zone [play] or defensive play. And Jake Gardiner is playing his worst hockey of the season. The Gardiner fix is trickier because his mistakes are mostly mental ones. The trouble with Gardiner is that when he is bad, he can be spectacularly bad, as in what-was-he-thinking bad, when it comes to gifts for opposing forwards.Fixing Rielly is mostly a matter of time. You want to keep the legs moving, keep the brain turned on and work on what’s needed.”Funny thing, though. Play right.”Well, Babcock could have waxed a little more lyrical and delivered the same message by borrowing from the late, great Nat King Cole: Straighten up and fly right. Better to get up ahead and put the pressure on them first,” goaltender Frederik Andersen said.“We have to focus on our starts, make sure we’re giving ourselves a chance,” defenceman Morgan Rielly said. That saw them slide from third place in the Atlantic Division to the second and last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, with a long list of teams within striking distance. The problem for Babcock and the Leafs right now is that two of his three best defencemen at getting the puck moving are having problems.Rielly is trying to play through a high ankle sprain – a lingering injury that turns high-fliers into plough horses. “I think when we play right, we can play real fast. But this is the same coaching staff that stopped Gardiner’s slide from prospect to suspect, so there is hope there as well.But the fixes have to come quick. Then again, given the average age of Babcock’s youthful charges, it would be a miracle if any of them have even heard of Cole, let alone have him on a playlist.“I’m always waiting each year for us to come up with a way of playing you can hang your hat on,” Babcock said of his inspiration for the new slogan. That way we start faster and get to their zone.

Knicks lift Charles Oakley’s ban from Madison Square Garden: source

They’ve been supportive. Sprewell hadn’t been back at MSG since 2004 following his falling out with the owner. I want them to apologize to the fans. He shoved a couple of security officials before he was pulled away and handcuffed.Dolan announced the ban during an interview with ESPN Radio on Friday, though he said he hoped to see Oakley return someday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were to remain private. One of the things I told the commissioner, I want to have a press conference and I want him to apologize to me and the fans. “I love the fans in New York. It’s about the fans. Dolan said he believed Oakley had anger or alcohol issues he first needed to address.The Knicks are on the road this week for their only game before the All-Star break. ESPN.com first reported the decision.Oakley later told ESPN: “It’s not about being at the Garden. They’ve had my back and they’ve felt the pain. But the sides reconciled, helped by a meeting Monday at NBA headquarters with Commissioner Adam Silver, with Hall of Famer Michael Jordan participating in by phone. “I told him yesterday.”“I have never asked for nothing,” Oakley added. I really appreciate the people all around who’ve had my back.”The Knicks said they had nothing to add beyond a statement issued Monday by Silver, who said both sides were apologetic about the rift and thanked them for working toward a resolution.Oakley was a popular player in New York but his relationship with Dolan became strained after his criticisms of the team and its management. 25.Dolan welcomed back another estranged former Knick, Latrell Sprewell, on Sunday for the team’s most recent game. They don’t play at home again until Feb. Jordan and Oakley were teammates in Chicago before Oakley was traded to New York, where he became a fan favourite with the Knicks from 1988-98.Dolan then decided Oakley is welcome back at the arena, a person briefed on the discussions told The Associated Press on Tuesday. I told the commissioner I want them to apologize to the fans.”Oakley was asked on “The Dan Le Batard Show” if he would attend Madison Square Garden as Dolan’s quest.“Right now, no,” he said. The Knicks stopped providing him with complimentary tickets and inviting him to team functions.Oakley still attended a few games a year on his own, including last Wednesday’s, when he was seated a few rows behind Dolan and was surrounded by security in the first quarter. Charles Oakley is allowed back in Madison Square Garden, though the former New York Knicks star says he wants an apology before he would return.MSG chairman James Dolan banned Oakley last week, two days after the former power forward had an altercation with security guards while attending a game and was arrested.

Raptors reportedly acquire Serge Ibaka from Magic for Ross, draft pick

#toughbusiness,” Lowry said. All luv,” Ross said on Twitter.Lowry posted a photo of the two players on Instagram shortly after the trade news broke.“Watched you grow from a young ROOK, to a young vet!! The Raptors tried to fill that void with rookies Jacob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, who are both long-term projects.Ibaka will be a free agent this summer, while Ross is in the first year of a three-year, US$31 million contract.The deal comes ahead of the Feb. A 102-101 loss to Detroit on Sunday prompted all-star guard Kyle Lowry to say “something has to change.”Ibaka, selected 24th overall by Seattle in the 2008 draft, is averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds a game this season. The Toronto Raptors have finally got the defensive big man they’ve been coveting.A source tells The Canadian Press that the Raptors have acquired Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic for Terrence Ross and a first-round pick in the 2017 NBA draft.The move comes with the Raptors mired in a slump and plummeting down the Eastern Conference standings. Couldn’t of been drafted to a better city. He had inconsistent stretches during his time in Toronto and struggled in the playoffs.“Toronto thank you for all the memories, thanks to the amazing fans. Thanks to to my team. It is the Raptors’ first trade in nearly 20 months.Ross, who was drafted eighth overall in 2012, averaged 10.4 points per game this season. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but representing Spain in international basketball, Ibaka is the third youngest of 18 kids.The athletic Ibaka should be a big boost to Toronto’s front court after the Raptors lost Bismack Biyombo to Orlando in free agency last summer. Keep growing T! Love you man!! The Raptors, who were in Chicago on Tuesday to play the Bulls, have lost 10 of their last 14 games and dropped from second to fifth in the East. 23 NBA trade deadline.

Injured Davis Cup umpire undergoes surgery on fractured eye socket

tie between Canada and Britain on 5 February.”Read more: Canada’s young tennis star talks about Davis Cup outburst Gabas, who was initially sent to Ottawa General Hospital as a precaution, is recovering at home.“I am now concentrating on rest and rehabilitation so I can be back on court in the near future,” he said.Shapovalov, 17, was defaulted from his match with Kyle Edmund after unintentionally firing the ball at the umpire. French umpire Arnaud Gabas has had surgery to repair a fractured eye socket after being hit by a ball from Canada’s Denis Shapovalov during a Davis Cup tie with Britain, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said on Sunday.“Chair umpire Arnaud Gabas has undergone successful surgery in France to repair a fracture of the orbital bone under his left eye,” the ITF said in a statement. “The fracture was detected when doctors performed X-rays upon Mr Gabas’s return from Ottawa, where he was unintentionally hit by a ball during the Davis Cup… He later apologized but was fined $7000.The tie was awarded to Britain.

Toronto FC kicks off Florida training camp in final stage of preseason

Captain Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore have missed most of camp so far because of U.S. The MLS Cup runners-up have done little other than sign French-born Congolese defender Chris Mavinga and reward goalkeeper Clint Irwin, midfielder Benoit Cheyrou and forward Tosaint Ricketts with new contracts. national duties and have been less than 100 per cent since their return – Bradley with a virus and Altidore with a knee inflammation.Star striker Sebastian Giovinco, meanwhile, has seen limited action in Toronto as the team looked to reduce his time on artificial turf.It has been a quiet preseason to date. Florida is also a time to rekindle relationships. That includes all 11 starters from the MLS Cup final, which ended in a penalty-shootout loss to Seattle.Toronto currently has 23 players signed with four more on trial: defenders Clement Simonin (whose previous time with TFC was disrupted by injury), Jordan McCrary and Johan Bruneel, and forward Aikim Andrews. Alex Bono is Irwin’s backup in goal.Toronto has three international spots to spare, leaving room for Simonin (France) and/or Bruneel (Finland) if so desired. The regular season opens on March 4 at Real Salt Lake. Bradley, Armando Cooper and Jonathan Osorio are joined by Cheyrou, Jay Chapman, Marky Delgado and Sergio Camargo.Vanney needs depth in defence after losing Josh Williams to Columbus and Mark Bloom to Atlanta in the off-season. He has Drew Moor, Nick Hagglund, Eriq Zavaleta, Mavinga and Aubrey at centre back with Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour as the returning wingbacks.Support is needed at wingback, where Ashtone Morgan is the only specialized reserve. Midfielder Liam Fraser has also impressed.Toronto is slated to return from Florida on Feb. Defender Brandon Aubrey and four others were taken in the January draft.Vanney is taking 30 players to Orlando with matches against Miami FC (NASL), Orlando City, Minnesota United and the Chicago Fire. The team is likely to keep one international spot open in case it gets the midfielder it is looking for.Among younger players vying for senior roster spots are speedy winger Raheem Edwards. 26. Winger Tsubasa Endoh, nursing a calf contusion, is currently pencilled in as the reserve right wingback but would seem a temporary solution at best.Giovinco, Altidore, Ricketts, Jordan Hamilton and Mo Babouli form the strike force. The team will likely go with 27 or 28 players during the season, with one on loan to Toronto FC 2 for the USL season.While general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has talked of adding an attacking midfielder, he seems in no hurry. A wish list of three dropped to two recently and Bezbatchenko seems content to wait until he gets the right man.Part of the reason is that midfield opportunities are limited in the 3-5-2 formation, something that no doubt factored into the team allowing veteran Will Johnson to leave for Orlando. Toronto FC leaves the snow for the warmth of Florida on Monday, kicking off the most important part of its training camp.While the first part of preseason – in California and Toronto – was about fitness and strategy, the Orlando portion is about putting it all in practice against quality opposition.

Blue Jays GM Atkins sees team succeeding if season works to perfection

“We also have some volatility in our players that things could go very, very well and we could be an exceptional team. Toronto then won the wildcard in dramatic fashion in a one-game shootout over the Baltimore Orioles.After beating the Texas Rangers in a divisional playoff, Toronto returned to the A.L. Championship Series for a second consecutive season, only to lose to the Cleveland Indians in five games.“Boston’s going to be a very good team,” Atkins said. Brett Cecil and his valuable left arm would still be a key component of the Blue Jays relief core.But during an off-season where the Blue Jays absorbed more of their fair share of curveballs, Encarnacion flew the coop to the Cleveland Indians as a free agent in a rather sloppy divorce from his old team.And Fowler, a free agent whom the Blue Jays coveted as their leadoff hitter for the coming season, opted to sign instead with the St. We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to manage the setbacks that we do have.”Encarnacion’s loss will be tough to overcome.Leading Toronto in 2016 with 42 home runs and 127 runs batted in, the club’s designated hitter and first baseman remains one of the best power hitters in the game.Since 2010, Encarnacion (231) and Bautista (249) formed the most fearsome power tandem in the game, combining for 480 home runs. Happ, who compiled a surprising 20-4 record last season.The Blue Jays’s starting five in 2016 were remarkably healthy, amassing 995.1 innings pitched to lead the majors. The staff earned run average of 3.64 was tops in the A.L., and fourth overall.And Toronto is especially hyped about Aaron Sanchez, who appears poised for a monster year after posting a 15-2 mark last season with an A.L.-low (for qualified pitchers) 3.00 earned-run average.And that was with the team carefully monitoring his workload, which held his innings-pitched total to 192.Sanchez, along with Happ, Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman and Francisco Liriano provides the Blue Jays with a formidable starting five, provided it can stay healthy.After that, Toronto’s starting pitching depth is a bit sketchy.One option the club will look at during the spring is stretching out Joe Biagini to see if he might be able to provide some starting pitching ballast.Although he excelled as Toronto’s setup man to closer Roberto Osuna last season, along with Jason Grilli, Biagini still yearns to be a starter – even if it means learning his trade with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo in order to get that opportunity.Atkins said it will all come down to where Biagini can provide the team the most value.“Based on how spring training is going, we’ll see where the need is,” Atkins said. “And we’ll need to consider whether or not it would be wise for him to go to Triple-A or to just keep him in our pen.“The beautiful thing about him having an option and the mindset of wanting to start potentially is he’s open to that – he’s open to going to Triple-A for us.”As for the bullpen, there is still Osuna, their 22-year-old wunderkind who has the closer’s spot all locked down.With the departure of Cecil, Atkins went out and added veteran free agent J.P Howell to the mix, a lefty who is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.After that, the makeup is anybody’s guess, with Grilli and Biagini, provided he is not being utilized as a starter somewhere, shouldering the bulk of the work, along with perhaps Joe Smith, another newcomer added by Atkins.Lefty Aaron Loup, Daniel Barnes, Ryan Tepera, Mike Bolsinger, Bo Schultz, Glenn Sparkman and Matt Dermody are just some of the other bullpen candidates.Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Anthony Alford’s last name. That accounts for 31 per cent of Toronto’s home run total over that span.Atkins is hoping the signing of Morales, a free agent who agreed to a three-year deal worth $33-millon (U.S.), will help ease some of the sting caused by Encarnacion’s departure.Morales is a switch hitter, which will help alleviate the dependency on right-handed hitters that manager John Gibbons had to contend with last season.Last season, playing for the Kansas City Royals, Morales stroked 30 home runs, and he will primarily be utilized in a DH role with the Blue Jays, with a little bit of first base sprinkled in.If Bautista can return to form following an injury-plagued 2016 campaign, the addition of Morales, along with hitting stalwarts Josh Donaldson at third base and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, should make generating offence little concern for the Blue Jays.“Every year they’re just a little bit more motivated by one thing, and that’s winning,” Atkins said. There’s also some exposure, hence the word volatility. Louis Cardinals, as did Cecil.Spring training in preparation for the 2017 MLB season begins here this week, with the first official workout for pitchers and catchers slated for Wednesday. They’re driven by one thing, they’re driven by championships right now, and that’s a hard thing to find for organizations, so it’s a great starting point. But we’re going to have to have some things go right for us, and that’s clear. “Tulo [Tulowitzki] spent a lot of time in Dunedin during the off-season, and so did Josh Donaldson.“We’ve stayed in touch with them during the off-season, talked about team building, talked about some things we could do to improve our environment and push things to another level. Add Russell Martin to that, and we feel like we’re at a good starting point for 2017.”And it would only be a bonus if the oft-injured second baseman Devon Travis, who is coming off knee surgery, can remain healthy and provide the Blue Jays with the viable lead-off hitter they have lacked since Jose Reyes.“He’s strong as an ox right now,” Atkins remarked.The Blue Jays strengthened themselves behind the plate with the addition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia to backup Martin.The Blue Jays also signed free-agent utility infielder Pearce out of free agency, and he will likely log a lot of his playing time at first base in a platoon role with Justin Smoak.Pearce will also be an option in left field, another sore spot for the Blue Jays, where Upton and Carrera are viewed as interchangeable parts.The Blue Jays will audition Canadian Dalton Pompey in left field, with Darrell Ceciliani, Harold Ramirez and Anthony Alford also getting a close look.As with most baseball teams, Toronto’s ultimate success will hinge largely on the continued prosperity of its starting pitching, which morphed into one of the best – if not the best – units in MLB in 2016.It returns basically intact, anchored by lefty J.A. The first full team workout is on Saturday.Ross Atkins, beginning his second season as the Blue Jays general manager, had to move quickly to Plan B to try and plug some of the holes.And while the GM expresses confidence in the team he has patch-worked together, he candidly admits that unless everything works to near perfection, the Blue Jays will be in tough to get to the postseason for a third consecutive season.That means no catastrophic injuries, no regression in player performance, and a continued leading role from a starting rotation that was among baseball’s best this past season.“We have a team that we expect to be contending,” said Atkins, ever the optimist, during a recent interview. “And like I said, we’ve built a roster I feel strongly will contend with them for the division. If we get a similar performance out of our starting pitching and feel great about the additions we’ve made to our bullpen, then we’ll be a very, very good team.”That’s the optimist’s view.On the other hand, competing in an always-rugged American League East, where the division champion Boston Red Sox only got tougher with the addition of left-handed ace Chris Sale, Toronto will have its hands full to match last season’s 89-73 mark.That was good enough to earn an A.L. We’re going to have to have some of things that occurred last year occur again.“At the same time, we’re not expecting to be perfect and we know we’re going to have setbacks. wildcard berth. So that’s our exposure.“But if we get a complete year out of Devon Travis, a complete year out of Jose Bautista, a complete year out of Steve Pearce, a healthy Kendrys Morales. In a perfect world, the Toronto Blue Jays would still be showcasing Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, Major League Baseball’s most prolific power hitting duo the past seven years, in their lineup.Dexter Fowler, who helped the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years in November, would be playing left field instead of Ezequiel Carrera or Melvin Upton Jr. And that comes down to things like health and depth.

Olympic hockey teams will look to amateurs, Europe if the NHL backs out

If Hockey Canada can’t take Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Drew Doughty or Carey Price, it will try to defend the gold medal with a mix of European-based professionals, North American minor leaguers and players from the Canadian junior leagues and NCAA.“It’s a big world, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to go,” Hockey Canada president Tom Renney said. If the NHL doesn’t send its players to the 2018 Winter Olympics, the hockey tournament in Pyeongchang, South Korea will look familiar.It will look a lot like the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway in 1994, Albertville, France in 1992 and Calgary in 1988.Maybe even a little like 1980 in Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the “Miracle On Ice.”

With a year before the opening ceremony, the league, players union, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee still don’t have an agreement to send NHL players to their sixth consecutive Olympics. A guy like Mike Eruzione, Jimmy Craig – they’re phenomenal stories.”True, but 1998 and 2002 U.S. Former NHL goaltender Ben Scrivens in Russia’s KHL is an option, for example, as is journeyman Michael Leighton, who is in the Carolina Hurricanes’ system.Though Leighton firmly believes NHL players will go, the 35-year-old said he would “train as hard as I possibly can to get that job” if they don’t. Mix them with top college players such as Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork and Wisconsin’s Trent Frederic and ex-NHLers Keith Aucoin and Nathan Gerbe who are playing in Europe, and the Americans will have plenty of youth and experience.Dave Starman, a former coach in the minors and now an analyst for CBS Sports, said USA Hockey’s priority should be scoring, scoring and more scoring.“You can’t win unless you can score,” Starman said. 1 player outside the NHL club,” Andrews said. The IIHF might set roster parameters to prevent NHL players from participating, too.“We want to have that opportunity,” two-time U.S. Canada’s team for the December Spengler Cup in Switzerland could serve as a blueprint: minor leaguers Cory Conacher and Zach Fucale and European-based recent NHL players Daniel Paille and Nick Spaling.While IIHF president René Fasel would like a final decision sooner rather than later to plan for South Korea, Renney said Hockey Canada could put a team together quickly. After winning a silver medal playing for the United States in 1972, he supports amateurs because he feels the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” victory over the Soviet Union had a greater impact on the sport than professionals playing in the Olympics.“Probably the greatest victory I think I’ve ever seen in hockey was when the 1980 team beat the Russians,” Howe said. You want everybody on an even [playing] field.” That was their two weeks of fame. Olympian John LeClair is worried about a talent disparity next winter if Russia put Ovechkin and dominant KHL players Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk against American college kids.“You get different variations of who’s playing and who’s not,” LeClair said. You need a little bit of dog on bone in your lineup, but I don’t think you can sacrifice skill guys for toughness.”No problem there for Canada, which has plenty of big, tough skill players and hasn’t waited for the IIHF to set any 2018 parameters as it prepares its contingency plan. There is still time – an agreement last time around came in July before the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia – but everyone is forming a Plan B just in case.Russia might have Alex Ovechkin if he makes good on his intention to go no matter what. 1 call-up to be in South Korea for two or three weeks?’” Some NHL owners might even give their elite players permission to go, and Ted Leonsis of the Washington Capitals has said repeatedly he’d let Ovechkin, Swede Nicklas Backstrom and Canadian Braden Holtby represent their countries, though Holtby said he would never leave the Capitals midseason. But the United States, Canada and other countries are preparing for life without the best players in the world.If the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Quick, Jack Eichel and Ryan Suter aren’t available, USA Hockey will look mostly to the college ranks. “Should the NHL choose not to go, we’ll make sure we’re ready, willing and able a year from now.”The United States has a fresh set of heroes after shootout star Troy Terry, defenceman Charlie McAvoy and goaltender Tyler Parsons won world-junior gold last month. “It’s got to have a ton of speed, it’s got to have a really high skill level, it’s got to have defencemen who can get in the play. Like USA Hockey, Canada can pull from its national junior team but has more veteran talent in Europe and the American Hockey League to choose from. AHL president and chief executive officer David Andrews expects his league to be open to allowing players to go to the Olympics as long as NHL teams give individual minor-league players permission.“I think it’ll be an interesting question, though, for a lot of general managers because the player that is going to be asked for is going to be probably their No. Olympian Justin Faulk said. “There was some guys on that team that never had a chance to play in the NHL or impact the NHL. “You’re getting back to what it used to be where Russia had all their pros. “They kind of face that question of, ‘Do we want our No. “If that’s taken from us and we don’t have that right anymore, at least it gives other guys an opportunity.”Hall of Fame defenceman Mark Howe would be fine with that.

Another rough fourth quarter costs Raptors, this time against Detroit

“It’s not going the way we’re supposed to be going and things aren’t changing, so yeah, I’m starting to get worried.”Patrick Patterson did not rejoin the lineup for Sunday’s game. “Some of the shots we take when we have a lead or we’re behind trying to get a lead may not be good shots. Yet they let commanding leads slip away all night, and finally the Pistons hit a go-ahead bucket with 13 seconds left on the clock and stole the game and energy out of the ACC with a 102-101 win. The team dropped to 32-23 and hover around the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.They head to Chicago to play the Bulls Tuesday before returning to host the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday – a Toronto Huskies night and the team’s last game before the all-star break. “We put ourselves in position to win, but we’ve got to learn to play with a lead – that’s our biggest issue right now,” Casey said. We’ve been concentrating so much on [fixing the] defence, but still offensively, we’ve got to execute and make sure we take the shot we want to take.”DeMar DeRozan had a 26-point night, Jonas Valanciunas had 17, while Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll rolled for 15. Drummond dominated the boards while Smith, Tobias Harris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope piled in points, and Toronto’s lead dwindled to just three points in the final three minutes.With points from Valanciunas, DeRozan and Lowry, the Raptors were going basket for basket with Detroit in the final moments. Head Coach Dwane Casey will be the first to say it – his Toronto Raptors simply can’t figure out how to play with a lead these days.It looked as if the Raptors were about to come out of their recent tailspin on Sunday. I’ll take the blame on that. Toronto juggled the lineup, starting seven-foot rookie Jakob Poeltl at power forward, which scrambled the rotation.The Raptors, who are facing a congested schedule during this stretch, have won just two of their six games so far in February. Ish Smith got loose for a few buckets to narrow Detroit’s deficit, and Toronto took just a 51-45 lead into the locker room.DeRozan had a 10-point third, hitting jump shots and getting to the free-throw line. DeRozan jumped out to a 10-point first quarter as the Raptors played to a 27-25 lead.The Pistons punched back by seizing the lead in the second, but they didn’t hold it long. They led the Detroit Pistons for most of the night in front of a warm home crowd at Air Canada Centre – at one point by a whopping 16 points. Those are things we’ve got to continue to get better at. Detroit squeezed the door open a little as the half was closing. But their bench was outscored badly, and they couldn’t reclaim the lead when it mattered most.The Raptors were coming off a rare three-day break between games after a very disappointing loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Led by an eight-point quarter from Valanciunas as he tangled with Detroit’s Andre Drummond in the post, the Raptors built up a 12-point lead. The Raptors are 7-7 during this stretch without him. DeRozan’s fadeaway shot didn’t fall and Toronto walked off with the loss.“I’m starting to get worried, yeah,” Lowry said after the game. Then Caldwell-Pope hit a three-point dagger with 13 seconds remaining to put the Pistons ahead by one.The Raptors got DeRozan the ball in the final seconds as the Air Canada Centre crowd stood, sure they would regain the lead in a game they had dominated for so much of the night. It was the 14th game in Toronto’s last 23 that he has missed because of a strained or sore left knee. Cory Joseph hit his first buckets of the night for six timely points, and Toronto had built a commanding 82-66 lead as the quarter closed.Once again, the Raptors allowed an opponent to creep back into a game in the late-going.

Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury takes World Cup freestyle skiing gold

“Dmitriy skied amazing. It was Kingsbury’s first time on the hill, and he thinks his performance may lead to his first-ever Olympic gold when he competes on the same course at the 2018 Games. Australian Britteny Cox captured gold with 81.66 points.“I feel amazing, I feel so privileged to have seen that course one year before the Olympic Games,” said Dufour-Lapointe. Justine Dufour-Lapointe is the women’s defending Olympic champion.Canada’s Marielle Thompson is the top Canadian in the women’s overall World Cup standings, sitting in third place. Canadian moguls star Mikaël Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que., won a gold medal at a World Cup freestyle skiing event on the Olympic course in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Saturday. “What I love about it is that I gained the amazing feeling that Ican carry through the next year.“I know that I can rip that course now.”Chloé Dufour-Lapointe of Montreal was eighth, Audrey Robichaud of Quebec City was ninth, Alex-Anne Gagnon of Terrebonne, Que., was 15th and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe of Montreal was 24th.Kingsbury, who leads the overall World Cup moguls standings, will be gunning for his first Olympic gold on the Pyeongchang course next winter. “It’s nice to take all this information and moving forward to the Olympics it’s great to be on the podium and try to repeat that next year,” said Kingsbury with a laugh. He finished first with 86.71 points, just ahead of Dmitriy Reiherd of Kazakhstan, who scored 86.70. I haven’t seen his run yet, but I know what he’s capable of.”Laurent Dumais of Quebec City was ninth, Marc-Antoine Gagnon of Terrebonne, Que., was 14th, Simon Pouliot-Cavanagh of Quebec City was 18th and Luke Ulsifer of Calgary finished 34th.On the women’s side, Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Montreal was second with 78.35 while Andi Naude of Penticton, B.C., was third at 78.16. He won silver three years ago at the Sochi Games. Quebec City’s Philippe Marquis was third with 85.94.“People were very close to me tonight, by 0.01,” said Kingsbury.

Tuukka Rask shuts out Canadiens, leads Bruins to big win

It was Cehlarik’s first NHL point.The Bruins made it 2-0 on Chara’s goal early into the second. Julien was in his 10th season with the team and led them to the 2011 Stanley Cup.Carey Price had 32 saves for the Canadiens, who lost for the sixth time in seven games.The 51-year-old Cassidy was with the team’s AHL club in Providence for nine seasons before becoming an assistant with Boston this season. He also coached the Washington Capitals from 2002-04.For the second time in the last three games in the Boston area, fans had to travel through a major snowstorm to get to the Garden. Tuukka Rask posted his first career regular-season home win over Montreal by making 25 saves for his sixth shutout, 39-year-old Zdeno Chara had an impressive move on his short-handed goal and the Boston Bruins improved to 3-0 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy with a 4-0 victory over the Canadiens on Sunday night. Rask entered 0-9-3 at TD Garden during the regular season against Montreal.Cassidy replaced fired coach Claude Julien earlier in the week. Adam McQuaid, David Krejci and Frank Vatrano also scored for Boston, which won for the sixth time in eight games. The building was surprisingly about three-quarters full and they were treated to another entertaining effort with Cassidy at the helm.It was a spirited contest early when Boston defenceman Torey Krug and Montreal centre Andrew Shaw dropped the gloves and got into a fight 55 seconds in.The Bruins jumped ahead 1-0 midway into the first when rookie Peter Cehlarik set up McQuaid for a one-timer from the left circle that beat Price on the stick side. The 6-foot-9 captain made a nifty shift around Alexander Radulov in the slot before firing a wrister into the net.Krejci had power-play score came with just under five minutes to play in the second for Boston’s season-high eighth straight game with a power-play goal.

Argos assistant GM says he has authority to make deals in CFL free agency

Head coach Scott Milanovich resigned shortly afterward Barker’s departure to become the quarterbacks coach with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.Argos president Michael Copeland is spearheading the organization’s search for a new GM, who will hire a new coach.Toronto finished last in the East Division standings last year with a 5-13 record. Spencer Zimmerman says he has the authority to pull the trigger on deals for the Toronto Argonauts in CFL free agency.Toronto heads into the start of free agency — which opens at noon ET on Tuesday — without a general manager or head coach.Zimmerman, the club’s assistant GM, has handled the day-to-day duties in the football operations department since Jim Barker was fired as general manager late last month.

Germans outraged after U.S. plays Nazi version of national anthem at tennis tournament

German tennis has responded with outrage after the United States Tennis Association (USTA) made the embarrassing error of playing the Nazi-era version of Germany’s national anthem during a Fed Cup tie in Hawaii.The version played included the first stanza, beginning “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles, uber alles in der Welt” which was used as Nazi propaganda. Bad weather prevented any further play on the opening day of the tie. It translates as “Germany, Germany, above all, above all in the world” and was dropped after World War Two because of its association with Adolf Hitler.But Deutschlandlied, written in 1841, is still listed as the official national anthem, with only the third verse now being sung.Unfortunately, the male soloist on the Hawaiian island of Maui somehow sung the wrong version.“I thought it was the epitome of ignorance, and I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life, let alone in Fed Cup,” Germany’s Andrea Petkovic said, adding that she considered walking off court before the singles match against Alison Riske.Petkovic later said her first comments had been somewhat emotional but that was because the incident happened before her match and she was left stunned.“We were left shocked and did not know how to react,” Petkovic said.German team coach Barbara Ritter said the mistake was “an absolute scandal, a disrespectful incident and inexcusable”.German tennis federation chief Ulrich Klaus said his American counterpart had apologized for the mistake.“Our American hosts at the Fed Cup opening in Hawaii made a mistake that should not happen,” Klaus said in a statement.“The fact that in the year 2017 a wrong anthem can be played that is associated with the horror of the past was for players and staff and the officials present both shocking and disturbing.”“The USTA through its president Katrina Adams has apologised officially in writing and in person and deeply regrets the blunder.”Riske won the opening rubber to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.