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Alberta

More questions than answers on NHL scheduling

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MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

Rumours are the lifeblood of sports. Few will argue the accuracy of such a statement. Perhaps the reason they draw so much attention on talk shows and in face-to-face conversation is the inevitable growth of broad and open discussions over a period of time.

Often, in sport and in every attention-getting issue, these debates take the simplest possible form: one group of gripers against another group of gripers. In the best of circumstances logic takes the place of emotion and the reasonable point of view is accepted.

Not always, of course.

Edmonton has much to offer in its bid, obviously starting with the region’s success in its war with coronavirus.

NHL scheduling — do they play or not? should they play or not? – has dominated these arguments almost since the first wide knowledge that COVID-19 had brought its crippling threat to North America. At times, the noise of fans desperate for the game and those who find desperate reason to keep everything, including sports events, locked down for the longest possible period has threatened to overshadow all but the most vital question of personal health and survival.

Self-distancing is at the root of all debates. Stay home as much as possible. Wear masks. Stay at least three metres away from other humans, except those who live in the same residence. Obviously, this has been good advice and continues to be.

But calls for a looser application of these valid regulations have apparently become the majority opinion. Larger social groups have been approved. More customers are allowed in many businesses than was the case only a few days ago. Haircuts are allowed, at long last.

Most important in the context of sports, golf courses and other athletic and fitness facilities have been opened. Beaches, too, but indoor swimming pools – in Edmonton anyway are still off-limits.

As I’m sure you know, the two-metre (roughly six feet) between unrelated individuals is still recommended.

Nowhere is the debate more heated than in talk of the NHL playoffs. Edmonton’s anxiety to become a so-called “hub” city for half of the games has been covered to the point of mental exhaustion for me, but still there are more questions than answers.

The biggest complaint seems to be articulated by those who think the NHL should live by the same rules as the rest of us. Many have complained in public at any suggestion that the 14-day isolation requirement for newcomers to the province should stay in place, even if it means the NHL and communication outlets in both North American nations would have to take their attractions to a city more welcoming.

Government officials insist that all possible precautions will be kept in place as newcomers arrive for the necessary training. The testing and recovery ratios are among the best in the world, but still concerns are expressed in strident tones. Edmonton has much to offer in its bid, obviously starting with the region’s success in its war with coronavirus.

From the standpoint of supporters, the status of Rexall Place among the very best facilities in the world should count as a major plus in the argument. Vancouver and Toronto have placed what they consider strong competitive bids. Vancouver’s COVID-19 numbers are in the same positive category as Edmonton’s. The same cannot be said for Toronto.

In only a short while, we’ll all learn whether Toronto’s financial opportunities overshadow the clear health advantages in smaller, western cities.

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS.

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Alberta

Markstrom’s 32-save shutout lifts Calgary Flames to 3-0 win over Vancouver Canucks

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CALGARY — Jacob Markstrom’s 32-save shutout against his former club spurred the Calgary Flames to a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Sean Monahan, Dillon Dube and Matthew Tkachuk scored power-play goals in Calgary’s home-opener, which was the first NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome since March 8, 2020 for a span of 10 months and eight days.

Canada’s NHL clubs are playing in empty arenas to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Vancouver goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 32 of 35 shots in the loss.

Flames off-season acquisitions Markstrom, defenceman Chris Tanev and forward Josh Leivo faced their former Canucks teammates Saturday.

Markstrom played a combined 243 regular-season and playoff games for Vancouver, while Tanev played 10 seasons and Leivo his last two for the Canuck.

Both Markstrom and Tanev made life difficult for their former club. Tanev led the Flames in blocked shots with seven including three when Calgary was short-handed. 

Former Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic returned to the Saddledome wearing Canuck colours.

Tkachuk had time to go backhand to forehand on a Johnny Gaudreau rebound at beat Holtby’s outstretched right pad at 15:16 of the third period.

Andrew Mangiapane sent a behind-the-back backhanded feed across the high slot for Dube to rifle over Holtby’s shoulder at 16:22 of the second.

The hosts killed off a Canucks two-man advantage for 81 seconds in the opening period. Markstrom turned away three shots and Tanev blocked two attempts during it.

Tkachuk on Holtby’s left fed Monahan in the slot for a power-play goal at 8:31.

The Canucks (1-2-0) played their third road game in four nights to start the regular season. They play again Monday in Calgary before returning to Vancouver. 

Calgary (1-0-1) has a more gentle start to its regular season with a five-day break following Monday’s rematch.

The Flames paid tribute to team president Ken King, who died March 11, and Calgary Police Service Sgt. Andrew Harnett who was killed while working New Year’s Eve.

Notes: Flames goaltender David Rittich dressed Saturday after sitting out the season-opener because of family issues . . . Off-season acquisition Dominik Simon made his Flames debut Saturday . . . Calgary is 9-8-3 in home openers since turn of the century.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Petry, Tatar each score a pair as Canadiens dominate Oilers 5-1

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EDMONTON — Jeff Petry and Tomas Tatar each scored twice Saturday to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 5-1 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton.

Jake Evans also scored for the Canadiens (1-0-1), while Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher both tallied a pair of assists.

Carey Price was nearly perfect on the night making 34 saves to give Montreal its first win of the season. 

Slater Koekkoek was the lone Oiler to sneak a shot past the Canadiens goalie midway through the third period. 

Mikko Koskinen stopped 30-of-35 shots for Edmonton (1-1-1). 

Montreal got on the board early and never relinquished the lead, though the Oilers attempted to claw their way back, outshooting the visitors 26-20 over the final two periods. 

Petry’s first of the night came on a power play 6:50 into the game after Edmonton’s Caleb Jones was called for interference. 

Koskinen stopped Petry’s initial shot but the rebound popped out to the other side of the net, where Petry fired the puck into the open goalmouth. 

Nick Suzuki and Shea Weber were each credited with an assist. 

Tatar widened Montreal’s lead just over two minutes into the second frame, ripping a shot slap shot from below the face off dot over Koskinen’s glove. 

Petry added another tally midway through the second period with a long shot from below the blue line that hit Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear in the rear end and bounced into Edmonton net. 

The Oilers nearly responded on a power play just minutes later thanks to a pristine shot by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but Price made the stop. 

The Canadiens came up with the puck, leading to a short-handed two-on-one at the other end. 

Evans waltzed in and took a shot that ricocheted off Koskinen’s pads and back to the centreman’s stick. His second attempt was a success, sailing in just below the crossbar to put Montreal up 4-0. 

Gallagher sprang Tatar on a breakaway 9:47 into the third period and the Slovak winger slipped a shot through Koskinen’s legs to give the Canadiens their fifth goal of the night. 

The Oilers finally got a puck past Price 12:59 into the third thanks to a sharp-angle shot by Koekkoek that hit the Montreal netminder’s mask and deflected in. 

Despite the final score, Edmonton was first to put a puck in the net Saturday. 

Three minutes into the first period, a collision between Leon Draisaitl and Montreal defenceman Ben Chiarot sent Price sprawling out of his crease. 

Edmonton’s Dominik Kahun took advantage of the situation and shovelled the puck into the open net. 

The goal was quickly called off, with officials on the ice ruling it was incidental contact on the Montreal netminder.

Oilers sensation Connor McDavid had an opportune chance near the end of the first frame, stealing the puck deep in Edmonton territory and using his infamous speed to streak down the ice on a breakaway. He unleashed a wrist shot but Price was ready and made the save. 

Edmonton will have an chance for revenge Monday when they once again host the Canadiens in the second half of the back-to-back series. 

NOTES: The Oilers claimed goalie Troy Grosenick off waivers from the L.A. Kings Saturday. Edmonton has also placed netminder Mike Smith on the long-term injury list. … Koskinen played in his 100th regular-season NHL game. … Edmonton right-winger Zack Kassian was out for the game following the birth of his second child, a daughter named Olivia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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