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Saturday, April 19, 2014

REGINA TOUGH

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Ryan Getzlaf wore the strain all over his exhausted face. In the past 51 hours or so, he had taken a slap shot to the jaw, attended the birth of his third child and propelled the Anaheim Ducks to two gritty playoff victories.

Getzlaf figures he has all summer to rest. He's too busy polishing his reputation as a dominant scorer and an equally formidable leader in another narrow win over the Dallas Stars.

The Regina, SK product had a goal and an assist while wearing a facemask over his injured jaw, Corey Perry scored his first playoff goal in three years, and the Ducks beat Dallas 3-2 Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

"It's been absolutely incredible couple of days,'' Getzlaf said. "They were a little hectic, but these are the things you want to do in life. At least tonight I didn't get hit in the face.''

Rookie Frederik Andersen made 34 saves in his second post-season start, and Andrew Cogliano scored a short-handed goal in the third period before the Ducks survived Dallas' late flurry to move halfway to their first series victory since 2009.

Game 3 is Monday in Dallas.

Anaheim has won just one post-season round since its only Stanley Cup title in 2007, back when Getzlaf and Perry were supporting players. The Ducks are their team now, and the dynamic duo led Anaheim to another victory despite committing a couple of late penalties.

"Every once in a while, you need your best players to step it up when the rest of the guys lose their composure,'' Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Getzy, with what happened to him in the last three days, to come in and get two points and a plus-3 rating, is a sure reason why he (should be) hopefully nominated for the MVP.''

Getzlaf was clobbered by Tyler Seguin's shot in the final minute of Game 1, leaving him with alarming bruises and a ragged cut. His wife then gave birth to a daughter named Willa early Friday morning before sending him home to rest for Game 2.

None of it could stop Anaheim's captain from getting back in the lineup with a clear facemask around his jaw and mouth in a prudent concession by a player who doesn't like even wearing a visor. After a raucous pregame ovation from an Orange County crowd that recognized his toughness, Getzlaf then scored a first-period goal and set up Cogliano's electric short-handed goal.

"He's an unbelievable player, and he's a great captain,'' Cogliano said. "He's pretty easy to follow.''

TELUS CUP READY TO GO

MOOSE JAW, Sask. – For the 41st time, Canada's top Midget teams have gathered, this year in Moose Jaw, to do battle for Canada's National Midget Championship, beginning Monday, April 21. The 2014 tournament marks just the third time Saskatchewan has played host since the inaugural Wrigley Cup in Oshawa, Ont., in 1974.
 
The host Moose Jaw Generals are joined by five regional champions: the Grenadiers de Ch√Ęteauguay (Quebec), Halifax McDonald's (Atlantic), Okanagan Rockets (Pacific), Prince Albert Mintos (West) and Toronto Young Nationals (Central). The six competing teams will take to the ice at Mosaic Place hoping to earn one of the two berths in Sunday's nationally-televised gold medal game.
 
This year's field includes one team that has previously won Canada's National Midget Championship; the Mintos won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007, and currently have the second-longest winning streak in tournament history at 14 games. While Moose Jaw and Okanagan are making their first TELUS Cup appearances, the other four teams all have national championship experience – Halifax is making its fifth appearance, Prince Albert is in for the fourth time, and Ch√Ęteauguay and Toronto are each making trip No. 2.
 
The gold medal game will be held Sunday, April 27 at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT and will be shown on TSN/RDS, Hockey Canada's official broadcasters (check your local listings). All preliminary round games, semifinals and the bronze medal game can be seen live via FASTHockey webcast through the game summary page at www.hockeycanada.ca/teluscup.

FRIDAY'S DUB ROUND-UP

KELOWNA, B.C. (CP) - Justin Kirkland and Jesse Lees scored 1:42 apart in the third period as the Kelowna Rockets came from behind to defeat the visiting Portland Winterhawks 5-4 on Friday in Western Hockey League playoff action.

Madison Bowey, Rourke Chartier and Tyson Baillie also scored for the Rockets, who erased a three-goal deficit and a 4-2 score after 40 minutes of play to comeback and take Game 1 of the Western Conference final.

Kirkland and Baillie added two assists apiece for three-point outings.

Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice for the Winterhawks and Keoni Texeira and Chase De Leo had the others.

Jordon Cooke made 22 saves for Kelowna while Portland's Brendan Burke kicked out 31-of-36 shots in a losing cause.

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OIL KINGS 8 TIGERS 3

EDMONTON - Cody Corbett had a pair of goals and Curtis Lazar added a goal and an assist as the Oil Kings pumped Medicine Hat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.

Griffin Reinhart, Luke Bertolucci, Brandon Baddock, Dysin Mayo and Brett Pollock also scored for Edmonton, which used a five-goal second period to pull away.

Curtis Valk extended his point streak to nine games for the Tigers by scoring twice and Alex Mowbray had the other.

Tristan Jarry made 28 saves for the Oil Kings. Marek Langhamer allowed five goals on 22 shots for Medicine Hat while Nick Schneider let in three goals on eight shots in 6:22 of relief.

Friday, April 18, 2014

JIM LANG ON SPORTS

By: Jim Lang

THE NHL PLAYOFFS

Like all Canadians this is the time of the year I look forward to; the start of the NHL playoffs. With that in mind here is how I see each series playing out:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

• Bruins and the Red Wings

This has the makings of a very good series. Despite their numerous injuries this year the Red Wings still went 3-1 in the season series head-to-head with the Bruins. The Red Wings' secret weapon this year has been Gustav Nyquist. With 12 goals in March, Nyquist ended up scoring 28 goals in only 57 games this season. The great equalizer in this series is Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. One of the top tenders in the Eastern Conference, Rask ended the year with a .930 save percentage and 2.04 goals against average.

Who wins: Make no mistake; Mike Babcock has done a marvelous job with the Red Wings this year. The problem for Detroit is their first round opponent went 17-2-4 to end the season. The Bruins also have Patrice Bergeron. Not only does Bergeron get my vote as the smartest player in the league, he also scored 30 goals. If Babcock is really lucky, Henrik Zetterberg might be ready to return to the line-up late in the series. But by then, it will likely be too late. The Bruins are deeper, tougher and have an edge in goal with Rask; that is why they will win this series in six games.

• Canadiens and the Lightning

Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien deserve to be applauded for the work they have done with the Canadiens this year. Bergevin has brought in the right kind of players and Therrien has kept them focused all year and the end result is the only Canadian based team to make the post-season.

Who wins: Much like Therrien, Jon Cooper has done a solid job coaching the Lightning this season. Especially in a year where Steven Stamkos missed a huge chunk of games due to injury and Martin St. Louis was dealt at the deadline. They were able to overcome all of that but they won't overcome the injury to goalie Ben Bishop. Meanwhile in Montreal Carey Price has enjoyed a fabulous season. With their edge in goal, PK Subban and balance throughout the line-up the Habs win this series in five games

• Penguins and the Blue Jackets

The big X-factor in this series is Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. In 2012 Fleury was shelled by the Flyers and ended up with a save percentage of .834%. That was followed up by an equally hideous effort last year against the Islanders and the Bruins where he posted a save percentage of .883%. In his last three full games against the Islanders Fleury gave up 16 goals. The Penguins have no hope of beating the Blue Jackets or anybody else if they keep getting shoddy goaltending like that. Sidney Crosby had another fabulous season but with-out solid goaltending, the Pens are doomed.

Who wins: I just can't shake the feeling that MAF will let the Penguins down. The Blue Jackets also boast one of the best kept secrets in the NHL, forward Ryan Johansen. Johansen quietly put together a 33 goal, 63 point season. I realize that I am going out on a mighty big limb here, but I am calling the Blue Jackets to pull off the huge upset and take the series in seven games. #Lumbus

• Rangers and the Flyers

Craig Berube likely won't receive many votes for coach of the year, but he should. After taking over as the Head Coach of the Flyers Berube steered the team to a 42-27-10 record and a berth in the playoffs. It also didn't hurt the Flyers that Claude Giroux took his game to another level for the last four months of the season. Alain Vigneault had a slow start to his Rangers coaching career then by the time November rolled around the team really hit their stride and never looked back.

Who wins: While the Rangers have an edge in goaltending, the Flyers have a distinct advantage up front. The Flyers also have the best player on either team in this series, Claude Giroux. After a slow start Giroux re-emerged as one of the elite forwards in the NHL and is the reason the Flyers will win this series in six games.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Avalanche and the Wild

Nobody is questioning the decision of the Avs to hire Patrick Roy now. The mercurial Roy turned out to be a good fit for the Avs. Under Roy the Avs went from being the worst team in the West to a 52 win, 112 point season.

Who wins: The Avs are mediocre at defending (ranked 24th in goals against) but geez, they are exciting to watch. Loaded up front with young studs who can really dangle the Avs go into the post-season ranked fourth in the NHL in goals per game. Rookie Nathan MacKinnon won't turn 19 until September and ended up with an impressive 24 goals and 63 points. While I like the Wild's addition of Matt Moulson, they simply don't have the horses up front the Avs can throw at you. The Avs end up winning the series in six games.

Blues and Blackhawks

Of all the teams the Blues had to face in the first round, they had to run into the Blackhawks. The Blues have to have a little doubt in the back of their mind. They lost six straight games to end the season and they lost their last two regular season meetings against the Hawks.

Who wins: The Blues are everyone's sexy pick to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final. Too bad they have to play the Blackhawks in the opening round. Too bad for the Blues that both Kane Toews are on the verge of being declared healthy and return to return to Chicago's line-up. That is why the Blackhawks will win this series in seven games.

Ducks and Stars

I can't lie; I loved seeing the love-in for Teemu Selanne as he did his farewell victory lap the other night in Anaheim. But Selanne isn't done playing quite yet because the Ducks are a team built to do some damage in the post-season. The key to the Ducks is their wonderful duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The Ducks also boast more balance through their line-up than the Stars. After Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn the Stars don't have anyone else that can hurt you offensively.

Who wins: The Stars are a nice story this year. I like what Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff are building in Dallas. I definitely like the year that Tyler Seguin just had. But the Ducks offence will be too much for the Stars to handle. The Ducks win this series in five games.

Sharks and the Kings

The Kings allowed the fewest goals of any team in the NHL. They are also ranked 26th in goals for. The Sharks on the other hand are a great balance of both offence and defence. The Sharks are ranked in the top 10 in both goals for and goals against. The Kings have the amazing Drew Doughty patrolling their blue-line. The Sharks have fellow Team Canada Gold medalist Marc-Edouard Vlasic manning their blue-line. There is just so little to choose between these two teams.
Who wins: This is going to be a JR (Jim Ross) Slobberknocker of a series. Both are big, physical teams that don't really like each other very much. Even with Anze Kopitar, the Kings don't score a ton of goals. They rely on timely goals and stellar goaltending from Jonathan Quick to beat teams.

Meanwhile the Sharks have three players, Marleau, Thornton and Pavelski who had 70 or more points. The Sharks are a tough team to shut-down offensively and because of this, will win a gruelling seven game series.

In the end I like the Sharks and the Bruins to meet in the Cup Finals.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

(Follow Jim on Twitter at @JimLangSports)

GOOD FRIDAY SPORTSBREAK

The San Jose Sharks coughed up a big lead, but still held off the L.A. Kings for a 6-3 victory in Game 1 of their playoff series Thursday evening. Marc-Edouard Vlasic's power-play goal late in the second period gave San Jose a 5-nothing lead by the second intermission. But Los Angeles reeled off three goals in the third to make it 5-3. Brett Burns scored into an open nets for the Sharks to make it 6-3.

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The St. Louis Blues won a marathon series opener against Chicago. Alex Steen scored 26 seconds into the third overtime as the Blues beat the Blackhawks 4-3 to take Game 1. It was the longest overtime in Blues' franchise history. They meet again Saturday afternoon.

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Paul Stastny saved the Colorado Avalanche all on his own in Game 1. Stastny tied the game against Minnesota with 14 seconds left in regulation then scored again in overtime as the Avs stunned the Wild 5-4. Minnesota led 4-2 going into the third before Colorado rallied.

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The power play paid off in the third period for New York. The Rangers went ahead with goals by Brad Richards and Derek Stepan en route to a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1. Henrik Lundqvist stopped only 14 shots for the Rangers while Flyers backup Ray Emery was far busier with 32 saves.

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Giving the ball to the bullpen backfired against the Blue Jays. The Twins trailed 5-1 before Toronto issued eight walks off three relievers in the eighth inning. Minnesota also scored three straight runs on wild pitches to shock the Jays 9-5. The win came after the Twins shut out the Jays 7-0 in the first game of the doubleheader.

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Still with baseball, the New York Yankees turned a triple play against Tampa Bay en route to a 10-2 win. Boston's Jon Lester outduelled Chris Sale in the Red Sox 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox. St. Louis shutout Washington 8-0, Pittsburgh slammed Milwaukee 11-2 and Colorado beat San Diego 3-1.

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Former NFL star Chad Johnson will make his return to the gridiron in the Canadian Football League.

The veteran receiver signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday after impressing team brass at a minicamp in Vero Beach, Fla.

"Chad Johnson did an outstanding job the last three days,'' Alouettes general manager Jim Popp said in a release. "As we added him into the mix, it was to see how he communicated with the players, how he held himself, the way he physically held up, his true interest in coming to the CFL.

"It was a total evaluation so that it's a good fit. He was very happy and very excited to be on the field again and we are happy to welcome him to the Alouettes.''

Johnson, who once changed his last name to Ochocinco, spent most of his 11 NFL seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. In 166 career games, the six-time Pro Bowler caught 766 passes for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns.

The six-foot-one 188-pounder last appeared in an NFL game during the 2011 season with New England. He was in training camp with the Miami Dolphins _ his hometown team _ the following summer, but his contract was terminated one day after he was charged with misdemeanour domestic battery.

A plea deal was eventually worked out, but after a probation violation Johnson wound up going to jail for a few days anyway after a judge objected to the way he slapped his lawyer on the backside in celebration.

Montreal already has a solid core of receivers in Duron Carter, S.J. Green and Jamel Richardson. However, the team did release receiver Arland Bruce in the off-season.

The Alouettes will hold a training camp in June and then open their regular season at Calgary on June 28.

(Canadian Press)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DURANT SIGNS MULTI-YEAR EXTENSION

REGINA - Corey Chamblin knows who his starting quarterback will be for the next little while.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed veteran Darian Durant to a multi-year extension Wednesday after leading the club to just its fourth Grey Cup title last year.

Knowing he has the 31-year-old Durant for the long-term - reportedly through the 2016 season - is a big relief for Chamblin, named the CFL's coach of the year following Saskatchewan's Grey Cup championship.

"In order to win championships you need to have a quarterback and to win multiple championships you have to have a quarterback who believes in the head coach and I think that's what we have,'' Chamblin said during a news conference announcing Durant's extension. "It's huge to have that security.

"That's the biggest security blanket knowing who's going to be under centre for the next few years.''

The five-foot-11, 214-pound Durant, a native of Florence, S.C., had one year left on his previous deal. He's entering his ninth CFL season, all with Saskatchewan.

"A lot of guys don't get the opportunity to stay with one franchise their whole career,'' Durant said. "It was basically a no-brainer for me to stay a part of this organization.

"It's the best in the league.''

And there's certainly continuity at the top as this off-season the Riders have re-signed Durant, Chamblin and general manager Brendan Taman to new extensions. Taman also added the title of vice-president of football operations to his job description

Taman called Durant's deal "win-win'' in that the player receives a fair-market contract that the Riders can afford while the team maintains the nucleus of its roster.

"It wasn't about taking as much money as he can get, it was about keeping our team together and that tells you all about Darian,'' Taman said. "There was a market that was out there that was laid out by other quarterbacks that had signed.

"We worked through it and both parties are happy. I think the key in all this is Darian Durant should be recognized as an elite quarterback in this league, which we are prepared to do from our end and were able to get to an agreement with him on a multi-year extension.''

Exact contract and financial details weren't divulged but Durant said his new deal doesn't make him the CFL's highest-paid player in 2014. It's generally regarded B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay enjoys that distinction with a reported salary of about $450,000 this year.

Veteran Henry Burris of the expansion Ottawa Renegades is said to have a similar deal if he can stay healthy this season.

While Durant's deal appears to offer the Riders salary-cap savings in 2014, the burning question remains what the quarterback's average salary might be over the term of the contract.

But Chamblin believes Durant can be even better moving forward.

"Brendan mentioned him being an elite quarterback, I think Darian has been a very good quarterback,'' Chamblin said. "I'm excited to see him become a great quarterback and one that we can talk about for years.''

It's not the first time Durant has made a commitment to Saskatchewan. In January 2009 he re-signed with the Riders rather than test the free-agent waters.

Durant enjoyed a solid 2013 campaign, passing for 4,154 yards and a league-high 31 TD passes with 12 interceptions. He threw for 550 yards and five TDs with no interceptions in leading Saskatchewan to victory in the West semifinal and final.

And then Durant threw for 245 yards and three TDs against Hamilton in the Grey Cup game at Mosaic Stadium, leading Saskatchewan to a 45-23 victory.

Durant has completed 1,745 of 2,842 passes (61.4 per cent) for 22,711 yards and 125 touchdowns against 87 interceptions over his career. He's also a two-time Grey Cup champion, having earned his first championship ring in '07 as a backup with the Riders.

But Durant's goal is to become the first starting quarterback in Riders history to lead the club to two Grey Cup titles.

"If you look at the history of this organization the quarterbacks that have won Grey Cups only have one,'' he said. "In order for me to separate myself ... you have to get that second ring and get multiple Grey Cups.

"That's definitely a motivating factor.''

However, the Riders will definitely sport a different look in 2014. Among the players to leave this off-season are running back Kory Sheets (Oakland, NFL), slotback Weston Dressler (Kansas City, NFL), backup quarterback Drew Willy (Winnipeg, CFL) and defensive tackle Keith Shologan (Ottawa, CFL).

"Any time you win there's going to be change, whether it's in the coaching staff, the front office or guys looking for raises on other teams,'' Durant said. "I've been in this league long enough and played football long enough to know that change is going to come.

"I love Dress, I love Sheets, I love those guys to death but the challenge is turning another guy into one of those stars. I look forward to that.''

TERRIERS REPEAT

For a second straight season, and fourth in the last ten years, the Yorkton Terriers are SJHL Canalta Cup Champions.

The Terriers finished off a series sweep of the Melville Millionaires with a 4-0 decision on Wednesday night to take the crown.

It was a scoreless tie late in the second period until Kailum Gervais was sprung on a breakaway for the Terriers, and Melville goalie Isaiah Plett stumbled, Gervais opened the scoring, and Plett left the game.  Dylan Baer scored shortly after to make it 2-0 Terriers through two periods.  Tyler Giebel and Brett Boehm put it out of reach in the third.

Terrier Defenseman Chase Norrish was named SJHL Playoffs MVP, finishing with 15 points (7g-8a) in 14 post season games.

Kale Thomson made 22 saves for the shutout, and gave up just three goals in four games during the final, finishing the series with a 4-0 record, 0.68 GAA, and a saver percentage of .972%, to go along with the shutout in Game 4.

The Terriers advance to the Western Canada Cup in Dauphin, MB, starting April 26th.  They'll face the MJHL Champion Winnipeg Blues that afternoon to kick off the event.  The top two finishers in Dauphin move on to the RBC Cup in Vernon, BC.

(Courtesy SJHL.ca)

TIGERS ADVANCE

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. (CP) - Trevor Cox scored two goals and Marek Langhamer made 43 saves to lift the Medicine Hat Tigers over the Kootenay Ice 4-1 in Game 7 of their second round Western Hockey League playoff series Wednesday.

Cole Sanford had a goal and two assists, and Steve Owre also scored for the Tigers, who will play the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference final starting Friday.

Landon Peel scored the lone goal for the Ice, just 51 seconds into the game.

Kootenay's Mackenzie Skapski stopped 24 shots in the losing effort.