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After a long summer and NBA offseason, we can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. NBA training camp is less than two weeks away!

The Washington Wizards announced on Tuesday that training camp will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 1 through Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Medstar Wizards Performance Center in Congress Heights.

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The Wizards’ Annual Media Day will be on Monday, Sept, 30. At that time, we will get to ask the players questions about their offseason routines and where they went on vacation during the summer. But most importantly, we will ask them about their goals for the 2019-20 season. The Wizards aren’t expected to win many games, but that doesn’t mean that this season will be dreadful.

That wasn’t all the news surrounding the Wizards however.

On Tuesday, Fred Katz of The Athletic also reported that Justin Anderson signed a non-guaranteed contract. The deal is presumed to be for training camp.

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Fred Katz

@FredKatz
Justin Anderson has finalized a non-guaranteed contract with the Wizards, sources tell The Athletic.

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Anderson has played four NBA seasons, most recently with the Atlanta Hawks where he averaged 3.7 points per game in the 2018-19 season. He is from the Mid-Atlantic region, where he went to Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md. and played college basketball at Virginia from 2012-15. Anderson was the 21st pick to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2015 NBA Draft.

UPDATE on Sept. 18 — The Wizards have also signed Chris Chiozza, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.
Chase Hughes

@ChaseHughesNBCS
The Wizards have added PG Chris Chiozza as a camp invite, I’m told. He played for Wiz & Rockets last yr.

But aside from him, no plans to bring in reinforcements, per source. They’ll roll w/ Smith, Robinson, McRae & Brown. Beal will also see time on-ball. More soon @NBCSWizards

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Chiozza was on last season’s training camp squad and played for the Capital City Go-Go where he averaged 13.2 points and 7.7 assists per game as one of their key players. He returned to the NBA after the G-League season playing seven games for the Houston Rockets.

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Washington Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery on his thumb, the team announced Wednesday.

“This was an unfortunate setback for Isaiah, but with his resolve and the top care he will receive from our medical team, we expect him to make a full recovery,” general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “In the meantime, he will continue to mentor our young guards and have a positive impact on the team as we start training camp.”

The Athletic’s Fred Katz reported Thomas injured the thumb Monday while playing a pickup game. He added the timing of the guard’s recovery could allow him to enjoy a reunion with the Boston Celtics on Nov. 13.

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Fred Katz

@FredKatz
Six-to-eight weeks, literally interpreted, means expect a return to the court some time between Oct. 30 and Nov. 13, which would push right up against the Wizards’ trip to Boston. They play the Celtics on Nov. 13. https://twitter.com/FredKatz/status/1174362658268729345 …

Fred Katz

@FredKatz
Isaiah Thomas underwent surgery to repair a rupture of a ligament in his thumb today, the Wizards announce. He’s expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.

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Any physical setback for Thomas is worrisome considering the hip injury he suffered while playing for the Celtics. Boston shut him down in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, and he required surgery and struggled to replicate past numbers during the 2017-18 campaign as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.

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The two-time All-Star averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 37.3 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from deep that season after posting 28.9 points and 5.9 assists a night while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three-point range the prior campaign in Boston.

He wasn’t much of a factor on the Denver Nuggets last season either and posted 8.1 points and 1.9 assists per game in just 12 contests after sitting out into February as he recovered from hip surgery.

Washington added Thomas for point guard depth considering John Wall has injury concerns of his own. Now, the team will be without him when it opens the regular season Oct. 23 against the Dallas Mavericks.

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Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

With the current situation going on with Altitude TV (with the Nuggets and Avalanche) and reports that AT&T is looking to sell its regional sports networks, do you believe the Rockies are monitoring it and looking at other potential options for its next TV deal and whether they go into the streaming side? And what other option could they have if AT&T SportsNet and Altitude are not viable TV station options?

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Brandon, those are excellent questions, to which I don’t have a concrete answer for you. Here’s what I do know:

AT&T SportsNet has the Rockies contract through next season (2020).
Bids for the new contract began mid-summer.
There have been national reports that AT&T is open to selling its four regional sports networks, so that could make a huge difference in Rockies television.
I was told that Altitude was interested in bidding for the Rockies, but I have not heard the status of that.
But you’re correct in that the TV landscape is changing rapidly with streaming services and so many ways to watch live sports. Stay tuned.

Please provide any updates you can on Riley Pint and Mike Nikorak.

— Bill Beard, Highlands Ranch

Bill, I wrote about Riley Pint in my last mailbag but I’ll repeat it here.
The right-hander, the fourth overall draft pick in 2016 out of Overland Park High School (Kansas), missed almost all of the 2018 season with forearm stiffness and a strained oblique. He was injured for most of this season, too, and pitched just 17 2/3 innings a Class-A Asheville (mostly out of the bullepen). He’s 6-foot-4 and can throw 100 mph, but his lack of control has become a major issue. Over those 17 2/3 innings, he walked 31 batters and hit six. He’s averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but that’s overshadowed by his control issues. Right now he’s a long, long way from his big-league debut.

Nikorak, a hard-throwing right-hander out of Stroudsburg (Pa.) High School, was selected by the Rockies in first round (27th overall) of 2015 draft. He missed all of the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and pitched only a few innings for short-season Boise at the end of 2018.

He began this season pitching for Asheville, but the season was cut short in May due to injury. In 15 appearances (no starts) he posted an 8.03 ERA over 12 1/3 innings with a walk rate of 11.69 per nine innings. Obviously, he’s years away from joining the Rockies.

We hear a lot about the physical toll playing at altitude exerts on Rockies players. Yet I don’t seem to hear or read the same story when it comes to the Broncos, Avalanche or Nuggets. Am I just not paying attention or is the difference the far greater number of games baseball plays compared to the other major sports?

— Dave, Fort Collins

Dave, let me first say that the effect of playing at 5,280 feet are real. Every Rockies player I have talked to about the subject -– from Todd Helton to Jeff Francis to Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon -– has told me that aches, pains and lack of quality sleep are part of playing at altitude. So yes, a 162-game season (81 home games), plus spring training, takes its toll. Second baseman Ryan McMahon, for instance began the season weighing 210 pounds and he’s down to 192.

The Nuggets (82 games) and Avalanche (82 games) play a lot of games, too. And it can certainly be argued that they play a more physically demanding sport. The Broncos, of course, play 16 games.

I imagine athletes from the NBA, NHL and NFL have stories about altitude over a long season, but I think the Rockies get a lot of attention about the subject because altitude affects the outcome of the games so much. Plus, the length of games at Coors Field (sometimes approaching four hours) makes for a lot of time on the players’ feet. It wears on them.

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Why is (general manager) Jeff Bridich not being held accountable by owner Dick Monfort? Between his numerous, poor free agent signings and the overall lack of pitching prospects within the organization, how can he still be worthy of upper-management confidence? I love baseball and am a true Rockies fan, but I simply don’t see winning as a priority within this franchise. The Coors Field “experience” with The Rooftop and McGregor Square all seem to be more important than winning. I simply don’t get it! Can you explain? Thanks.

— Mark, Centennial

Mark, the media rarely gets to talk to Monfort, so it’s difficult for me to judge his feelings about Bridich. I would assume Monfort is unhappy with what’s gone on this season, and also with the idea that the pitching cupboard is pretty bare in the minors right now.

But I do know that Monfort is intensely loyal (maybe to a fault as he admitted to me in the past), and I would imagine that the Rockies’ playoff appearances in 2017-18 has bought Bridich some time. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I think it’s the truth.

I have no problem with The Rooftop or McGregor Square. I think both help enhance the ballpark and LoDo experience. I think Monfort and his office have done an excellent job in regard to the ballpark experience.

Having said all of that, I understand hardcore Rockies fans’ frustration. The product on the field this season has been poor. Hopefully Bridich will address the media soon and we can ask him questions about what’s going on with the team.

Hey Patrick, you can tell Arenado seems frustrated right now with the state of the team. Also noticed how jacked up he gets playing at Dodgers Stadium and what he considers the best teams. Do you see him opting out of his deal?

If the answer is yes, the Rockies might have to consider trading him in 2021 to get something for him. Does he have a no-trade clause in his contract? Thanks.

— Mick, Byers

Mick, I have heard some fans say that Arenado regrets signing the contract, but I don’t think that’s true. Arenado and his agent had a certain contract number in mind and Rockies came through. And don’t forget that he’ll make $35 million next season.

And yes, Arenado has a full no-trade clause, so he controls his destiny.

Will he opt out after 2021? I honestly don’t know. If the Rockies continue to lose, then I do think he’s gone. But remember, injuries, money, the overall landscape of baseball and a new CBA will all factor into his decision.

Is Arenado frustrated with the Rockies’ record and overall play this season? Absolutely, but he told me recently that he’s come to realize that he can’t lift the team all by himself. I think his bad performance in July was due, in part, because he was stressing over the team’s awful play.

Lately, I think we’ve seen him freed up a bit. He realizes that the best thing he can do is play well and lead by example. Fretting over the direction of the team was not productive for him, so he cut loose some of that baggage.

Why in God’s name would we put Wade Davis to pitch in the ninth inning against the Cardinals on Thursday while we still had a chance to win? Honestly sometimes it looks like we’re throwing the game.

— Carole, Boulder

Carole, you know that manager Bud Black is not trying to throw the game, right? But this is a weird time of year. The Rockies have been out of playoff contention for more than a month now, so there is a lot of experimenting going on. That’s why we’re seeing Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez getting some much action at the end of games. The Rockies want to see how they react.

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The same goes for Davis. The Rockies owe him a lot of money ($17 million next year) and they need to know what they have in the right-hander. It’s frustrating, I know, but it’s the reality of September for a losing team.

Patrick, I was looking at some memorabilia I have in my office and got me thinking if you have anything cool, or special that you have on display. Keep up the good work.

— Tom, Highlands Ranch

Tom, thanks for the compliment. I’m sitting in my home office right now and here’s what I see:

My wife, Nancy, put together an amazing, framed display of a story I did on the Rockies’ Rocktober Streak in 2007. It’s got all sorts of World Series memorabilia within the display.
A bunch of bobbleheads, including the new one of German Marquez, which is maybe the best one yet.
A framed photo of Nancy and Tulo posing together during spring training in Tucson back in 2008.
A framed photo of me speaking at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017 when I was president of the BBWAA.
A number of baseballs that I picked up in the press box after I was nearly hit while covering games at Coors Field. I date those and put the name of the player on them. Included is one from Tulo, who nearly hit me with a ball of his bat. After the game, I said, “Tulo, did you see that your foul ball nearly hit me?” He quipped: “Yeah, but I was aiming for (Mark) Kiszla.” True story.
More baseball books than I will ever read.
A binder with most of the baseball cards printed in Todd Helton’s career.

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A framed photo of Helton being colorful during a photo session near the end of his career.
Patrick, I read your columns and articles regularly, because you are fairly direct about management’s and players’ shortcomings and you don’t shy away too much from making criticisms of Bridich. Could you please write a column on how your relations with your sources affect your writing? I think that would interest many of us who follow the Rockies.

As any moviegoer knows, coming attractions can be misleading. The same goes for September baseball for losing teams such as the Rockies.

In their 7-4 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday, Colorado flashed some enticing potential, but ultimately, the same old bugaboo reared its ugly head. Namely, the bullpen’s inability to put a game away. In other words, it was a bad sequel.

Colorado led 4-3 entering the ninth inning, but New York scored four runs on three walks and three hits off relievers Jairo Diaz and Joe Harvey. The key hits were delivered by pinch-hitter J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo and Todd Frazier. Pete Alonso earned an RBI by drawing a bases-loaded walk from Harvey. Diaz was charged with a blown save and a loss.

“(Jairo) just couldn’t seem to get his fastball and slider in good spots in the ninth inning,” Colorado manager Bud Black said.

As for his decision to go with Harvey, Black said: “We tried to bring a guy in who had some power to him and had some velocity against Alonso.”

In the waning days of the season, Black is mixing and matching relievers to see how they respond to late-game situations.

“These are growing pains for some of our younger-service-time players,” he said.

Colorado finished its penultimate homestand with a 6-3 record, though it ended on a sour note. The Rockies are 40-38 at home this season.

Some snippets from Wednesday’s matinee at Coors Field:

— Right-hander Jeff Hoffman, perhaps the biggest enigma in the rotation mix, limited the Mets to two runs on five hits over 5⅓ innings.

— Versatile rookie Garrett Hampson, starting at second base, flashed his speed and stole two bases. He has 11 thefts this season. He hit 1-for-4 on Wednesday and finished the homestand 12-for-27 (.444) with eight runs, one triple and one home run.

— Rookie outfielder Sam Hilliard slugged two solo home runs for his first multi-homer game and now has four blasts in 18 major-league games.

If Hoffman can harness his talent, he could be a huge asset to Colorado’s rotation next season. The right-hander relied heavily on his 92-94 mph fastball, mixing it in with some changeups to keep the Mets off-balance on a day when his curveball was not sharp.

“My curveball was probably the worst it’s been this year, and I couldn’t really find a release point,” Hoffman said.

His ability to make in-game adjustments and rely on his fastball and changeup was a step forward.

“That means that hopefully I’m growing a little bit,” he said. “I don’t know if that would have happened a year ago or maybe even a few months ago. To me, that means that the work we are putting in is in the right place.”

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Hoffman’s two big mistakes ended up in the seats. Jeff McNeil hit a curveball to right field for a solo homer in the first inning. Alonso slugged his 49th homer, a solo blast to left in the sixth, on Hoffman’s hanging curveball.

In his previous start, Hoffman issued a career-high six walks (one intentional). Wednesday, he walked only one, given up a free pass to Todd Frazier in the sixth inning, the final batter he faced.

Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard, pitching for the first time at Coors Field, gave up four runs 10 hits over 5⅔ innings. Hilliard showed some patience vs. Syndergaard.

“It’s coming with repetition and I’m starting to feel more comfortable,” Hilliard said. “I’m trying to be stubborn up there and look for my pitch.”

Tom, “sources” can be tricky, but they are necessary to my reporting. There have been many times through the years that players want to send a message to the front office or the fans, yet they don’t want to be quoted.

Of course it works the other way, too. Jeff Bridich or even media-friendly manager Bud Black won’t speak the whole truth, at least not on the record. As a reporter, I have to ask “background” questions to find out what’s really gone on.

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Sam Haggerty, a Mullen High School product, capitalizing on versatility in big-league chance with Mets
Rockies vs. Mets live blog: Real-time updates from the Sept. 18 MLB game
For example, if a player is on a terrific run statistically but has not really proven himself, I can go to Black and ask him, off the record, to critique that player. On camera and in stories, Black will almost always try to put a positive spin on things — it’s his way of publicly protecting his players -– but I can get a more truthful evaluation behind the scenes. Black is very good about that.

Let me add one more thing. I know fans criticize writers when we don’t “blast” players. Truth is, when you cover a big-league team, you can’t do that. I can be critical and tell the truth and voice my views from time to time, but if I start ripping the players constantly, I soon won’t have anyone to talk to in the clubhouse.

You have to remember that the clubhouse is their sanctuary and teammates treat each other like brothers. If players start believing all I do is write negative stories or if I betray the trust of one player, that news spreads quickly. Pretty soon, I wouldn’t have any sources left. Plus, there are already plenty of players who would prefer that reporters go away entirely. I think that feeling is becoming more and more prevalent.

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According to video released by Joe Smith of The Athletic, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois spoke to fans Sunday and noted he is “very optimistic” about getting Brayden Point re-signed.

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Tampa Bay Lightning, forward, Brayden Point
Lightning forward Brayden Point (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
He said he didn’t believe there was a reason to panic, that things have been cordial, there is an ongoing dialogue and both sides really want to make it work in Tampa.

According to Luke Fox of Sportsnet, Point’s agent, Gerry Johannson has said that Point is open to a variety of contract terms, anything from a two-year bridge deal to a five-year Matthews-type deal to an eight-year lockup.

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Related: Ranking NHL Teams By Forwards

The Latest on Mikko Rantanen
Finding ways to save money when it comes to Mikko Rantanen is not something GM Joe Sakic is concerned with thanks to a ton of cap space in Colorado. “It’s not something we’re worried about. He’s going to be here a long time,” Sakic said.

Colorado Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic
Colorado Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic (Photo by RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

What appears to be more the concern is if Rantanen signs for a high-priced deal that is well beyond what Nathan McKinnon is making. While McKinnon is a steal of a deal in the NHL, if you sign Rantanen for $10.5 million, the concern out of Colorado is, are you really ok with indirectly asserting that Rantanen is 40 percent more valuable?

The players on the Avalanche know this is a tough spot for Rantanen because he wants to be in Colorado but has to get fair value for the production he’s been providing the team. Captain Gabriel Landeskog told the Denver Post Sunday. “As much as he’d like to be here, he can’t go out and sign an eight-year deal at $1 million a year just to be nice.”

Rantanen’s absence doesn’t seem to be a distraction though. Mike Chambers of the Denver Post writes:

Rantanen, 22, has missed the first three days of Avalanche training camp, including Friday and Saturday’s on-ice sessions, because he doesn’t have a contract as a restricted free agent coming out of the three-year, entry-level deal. But he’s the last guy who would ever disrupt the Avs’ locker room over a salary dispute.

source – ‘Chambers: Mikko Rantanen’s agents might have him locked up and gagged during contract negotiations’ – Mike Chambers – Denver Post – 09/15/2019
Related: 7 Biggest NHL Players in Today’s Game

Matthew Tkachuk Wants a Five-Year Deal
If what Tkachuk said in February still holds true today. Fox reports that Tkachuk is looking for a five-year deal out of the Calgary Flames similar to the one Auston Matthews signed.

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Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk
Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
GM Brad Treliving has confidence that he will get his player signed but it will likely end with Tkachuk becoming the Flames’ highest-paid player. That means, because of limited cap space, Treliving has reportedly entertaining trade offers for roster players like Michael Frolik and T.J. Brodie.
Treliving noted that the Marner contract would not impact the Tkachuk talks.

Related: Oilers News and Rumors: Bouchard, Neal, Cuts, More

Patrick Laine Goes to Switzerland
Laine is currently training in Switzerland with SC Bern as his agent and Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff try to find a contract solution. The Jets are rumored to have offered a bridge deal of three years at around $5 million per season. Laine said of his decision, “Obviously a great organization and great city, so it was an easy choice to come here.”

Patrik Laine Winnipeg Jets
Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Speculation is that Laine is not opposed to a shorter-term deal banking on the fact that two or three strong years will set him up to hit a home run on the next deal.

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It was the shot heard ’round the hockey world, a Patrik Laine howitzer that rattled off the bar in Finland and clanged down Portage Avenue past the Perimeter, all the way to the Iceplex.

The Finnish forward may still be without a contract, but he made his presence felt at Jets training camp on Tuesday.

That’s what happens when you throw some shade on your teammates and coaches, as Laine did in an interview with a Finnish reporter.

The high-scoring winger, a restricted free agent embroiled in a contract stalemate with the Jets, suggested he’d be used differently and likely be more productive if he were with another team and had better linemates.

“When you’re having contract negotiations, one thing always is who are you playing with,” Laine told the newspaper Iltalehti. “With the merits I have, somewhere else I’d have an opportunity to play with the best players. Everybody who understands hockey knows that.

“There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I’m told to play.”

Laine’s comments indicate he’s not thrilled with how head coach Paul Maurice employs him on the Jets second line with Bryan Little as his centre.

It doesn’t reflect well on Little, either.

Maurice did his best to shrug it all off to just a young, talented player wanting more ice time and a bigger role.

“Here, over the last two years, we’ve had three really, really young players,” Maurice said, referring to Laine, Kyle Connor and Nik Ehlers. “We can all do the math on that. That means two of them are going to be on one line and one’s going to be on the other. And he would be 100 percent right… there’s nine other forwards that wouldn’t mind playing a little left wing on that line. I get that. Everybody wants it.

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“I’ll use my driver’s license analogy: nobody gets the keys at 14.”

Laine is coming off a season that saw his goal total dip from 44 to 30. He scored 18 of them in 12 games in November, and had long slumps after that.

Maurice tried to give him a boost with a brief stint on the top line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, beginning in late February. He also dropped Laine down to a fourth line for a time.

So this topic isn’t new.

Neither is the notion of Little and Laine being a less-than-ideal match. The Jets have spent the last two trade deadlines paying steep prices for second-line centres.

The one thing that is new: Laine usually just blames himself.

“I can handle the shade,” Maurice said. “That part’s not going to bother me a whole hell of a lot. The individual experience is secondary to the team experience.”

The captain of that team found himself fielding difficult questions about a teammate he’d rather be passing pucks to on the power play, if not as a regular linemate.

“He spends a good deal of time with that top unit on the power play,” Wheeler said of the 21-year-old Laine. “He’s a young kid that’s had a lot of success in three years. He’s definitely not doing it by himself, I can guarantee you that. It’s a great trait to have to want more ice time, more playing time. Those are all good things.”

Wheeler read mostly from his coach’s play book, and suggested Laine’s comments might have been borne out of frustration of being on the sidelines.

At one point he said Laine is still “growing up, on and off the ice.”

Wheeler acknowledged his job as captain includes helping players accept their roles and buy in to the team concept.

But he brushed aside the notion this could make his job harder, or that he had to reach out to Laine.

“It’s a non-issue today,” Wheeler said. “None whatsoever. I’m sure there’s parts of that that are not exactly how he meant it and blown out of proportion. Just knowing Patty it’s not something where he’s trying to get his name in the newspaper. It’s not a big deal. We’ll wake up tomorrow with new headlines.

“This is just something I’ve become accustomed to doing around here.”

Through five days, there’s been no shortage of headlines.

The stir caused by Laine, amid his and Connor’s ongoing contract impasses, is just the latest in a training camp news cycle that’s included Wheeler’s own acknowledgement of the personal toll last season took on him, a car crash sidelining up-and-comers Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen for three days and the unexpected personal leave of absence for Dustin Byfuglien.

“What’s that quote about rough seas making a good sailor?” Maurice said. “Something like that. But I haven’t felt it in the room. It’s been good, guys are working their asses off. Players got a little bit of turbulence, maybe, outside the jet. But inside the jet it’s good.”

That may be. We’re not allowed in, after all.

But eventually the team’s got to step out and play. And then we’ll find out if everything’s good, like they say.

Just like we found out last spring.

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With tight end Hunter Henry out because of a knee injury, the Los Angeles Chargers announced Tuesday they have signed veteran tight end Lance Kendricks.

To make room on the roster, the Chargers officially placed safety Adrian Phillips on injured reserve with a broken right forearm.

The Chargers also waived wide receiver Andre Patton and re-signed defensive end Chris Peace.

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Week 3 NFL Power Rankings – 1-32 poll, plus the most pleasant surprise for each team
Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee during the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, and he likely will miss four to six weeks. He has not been put on injured reserve.

With Henry out and the team moving on from Antonio Gates, the Chargers needed to add a receiving tight end to the fold. Kendricks should serve in that role, joining tight ends Virgil Green and Sean Culkin on the active roster.

Kendricks, 31, was signed by the New England Patriots before the 2019 season, but he was suspended for the first game of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He then was released after being reinstated.

Kendricks spent 2017 and 2018 with the Green Bay Packers, after six seasons with the Rams. In eight seasons, he has 2,505 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.

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In July, Kendricks was sentenced to six months of probation following a 2017 incident in which he was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession at a traffic stop. He pleaded no contest, and the charge will be dropped if he completes eight hours of community service. His one-game suspension this season was a result of the 2017 incident.

First off, I want to thank everyone for their comments on this piece from last week. The format was really well received so I’m definitely going to keep these rolling each week.

Well that was an ugly game. It’s only week 2 so I won’t be chicken little-ing yet, but there was definitely plenty to “learn from” in this game.

Three Sustains
Running backs
Well, through 2 weeks the team has to be feeling pretty good about their decision on how they’ve handled the Melvin Gordon situation. Yes, Austin Ekeler had the regrettable fumble on the goal line (which also happened in the preseason), but that situation would never have happened if the officials didn’t negate 2 TDs on that drive that were questionable calls at best. Against a very good run defense, one that includes Damon “Snacks” Harrison who is one of the best run defenders in the league, the combo of Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler carried 24 times for 125 yards, 5.21 ypc, and a touchdown. It would have been closer to 160 and 2 TD’s if Justin Jackson’s fantastic run wasn’t called as I mentioned above. Jackson was especially explosive with his 7 carries going for 59 yards (8.4 ypc) even with the penalty ruining his best run of the day, taking 30 yards and a TD off his totals. On top of that, the pair combined for 7 catches for another 72 yards, again that number could have been higher with Ekeler’s 22 yard TD reception being wiped out by a crappy penalty. That means on 31 touches the 2 headed monster in the Chargers’ backfield combined for 196 yards from scrimmage and a TD.

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I’d honestly like to start seeing more of Justin Jackson, and that doesn’t need to mean less Ekeler. They can find packages to get them both on the field at the same time as they’ve done for Gordon and Ekeler in the past. Especially when the offensive linemen we are constantly criticizing in pass protection are showing to be better in run/screen blocking.

Run Defense
What an improvement. After giving up 203 yards and a TD on the ground in week 1, the Chargers run defense only gave up 94 yards on the ground and no TDs, while keeping Kerryon Johnson limited to 41 yards on 12 carries (3.4 ypc). Joey Bosa was extremely active in the run game doing an excellent job of stacking and shedding his guy to make actual defensive stops at the line of scrimmage, rather than clean up tackles 6+ yards downfield. I still need to re-watch the game to be sure, but I think this also has to do with the fact that Uchenna Nwosu saw double the snaps (14 in week 1 vs 27 in week 2) and took advantage of it racking up 5 tackles.
The team also went heavy up front on defense more in week 2. In week 1 the team had 63 plays on defense and the combined snaps for Brandon Mebane, Damion Square, Jerry Tillery, Isaac Rochell, and Justin Jones was 134. With 2 less defensive plays in week 2 (61), those 5 players had 140 combined snaps. That change seemed to help in the run game without being a detriment in the pass game.

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Pass protection improvements
I’m going to re-watch the game and focus here to see what the changes were that they made here to see if it was more scheme or if the actual play of the OL improved, but whatever it was, it is definitely a sustain. When I looked at the snap counts the Chargers definitely spread it out more. With only 4 more offensive plays, the WR group as a whole saw an increase of 36 snaps. Part of that was necessity with Hunter Henry being out, but I assume part of that was also to keep more DBs on the field to help reduce the number of big bodies in the box rushing.

Whatever the change turns out to be, it worked. In week 1 Philip Rivers dropped back 34 times and took 8 QB hits and 4 sacks. This week Rivers dropped back 36 times and took only 4 QB hits and 1 sack. That’s a huge improvement. Sure, the Lions front 7 are built more for run stuffing rather than rushing the passer, but in week 1 that Lions defense had 5 sacks and 6 QB hits against an infinitely more mobile QB in Kyler Murray.

When the staff, and eventually the team, goes over the film from this week, the pass protection wins this week need to be highlighted and a focus needs to be put on making it repeatable, especially with JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus coming to town this week.

Improves
Drops
Chargers WRs had 7 drops in the game yesterday, including 2 for first downs and 2 for touchdowns. They were game killing mistakes. And these are only counting the catchable passes, as Rivers was off target a few times yesterday. The Chargers wound up 6-13 (46%) on 3rd down yesterday and definitely could have used an extra touchdown or 2. Between officials wiping out 2 TDs (which I’ll just count as 1 since if the 1st one wasn’t wiped out the 2nd one wouldn’t have happened anyway), and the 2 dropped TDs, the Chargers left at least 3 TDs on the field yesterday. Keenan Allen was working over one of the best CBs in the league in Darius Slay for basically the whole game yesterday, while playing 91% of the offensive snaps. He can’t be asked to do it all. With Tyrell Williams gone, someone needs to step up. Mike Williams has shown flashes of it but needs to be more consistent. Travis Benjamin is frustrating because he’ll have games like he did at the end of last season where he’s reliable and clutch, then he’ll have games like yesterday where he’s on the field for 66% of the offensive snaps and have 0 catches on 2 targets including an awful drop on 3rd down that would have been a 1st down. This can’t happen anymore.

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Coaching
The coaching yesterday (and over the last week) left a lot to be desired. First, despite the fact that the Chargers were playing with the lead for most of the game they still didn’t try to let the run game roll. Jackson was averaging 9 ypc and Ekeler racked up a respectable 4 ypc, all while WRs were dropping balls left and right. Even if you take half of the 15 incompletions and turned them into runs for no gain, that is multiple minutes of time off the clock, and a lot more time that the Lions defense is stuck on the field.

Speaking of clock management, I still cannot wrap my head around that final drive of the first half. The team gets the ball back on their own 3 yard line, 1:20 left on the clock, and 2 Time Outs. The Chargers are winning, but barely at 7-6, and the Lions are getting the ball after halftime. The first play is a handoff up the middle, which I can’t be too mad about since that’s what every offense in the league dials up as their first play backed up on their own goal line probably 90% of the time. But when the run got stuffed, the coaches had Rivers let 40 seconds run off the clock before he called the time out! I get that you don’t want to “score too quickly” and give the Lions another shot before the half, especially when they had 3 TOs. But you kill the clock at the END of the drive, once you’re in scoring range already. With 1:20 and 2 TOs only up by 1 point the plan should have been going for a TD first and maybe settling for a FG. They had 1:20 before the 1st play, and :34 on the clock after it. After they squandered all that time Rivers basically willed the team 74 yards down the field to the Detroit 21 yardline where they had to settle for a 39 yard FG since there was only :04 left. Sure the play calling and execution during that 30 seconds was great, but realistically, if they had called their first TO after the Ekeler run, there is AT LEAST 1:10 on the clock and 1 more TO. It was bad coaching and bad clock management.
Finally, I didn’t like how Anthony Lynn handled the post game press conference. From a leadership standpoint, especially coming from someone like Lynn, it was a bad look. Lynn is by all accounts a great leader and holds people accountable, but he had a lapse yesterday. During the post game press conference he was peppered with questions about the things that went wrong, and he laid everything at the player’s feet. He even went so far as to say “we teach certain things and we expect the players to execute and do it.” I know this isn’t a huge deal but it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way after something that was a complete team failure.

Personnel
The 53 players the Chargers currently have on the roster are not “the best 53” that it could be.

We were all pleasantly surprised when Ty Long was so solid in week 1, but continuing to rely on that for more than 1 week was always going to be a mistake. His versatility is perfect for situations like week 1 when your kicker gets hurt 2 or 3 days before the game and you don’t really have time to do anything else. But rolling with one guy to handle both kicking and punting leaves no redundancy for 3 jobs (kickoffs, place kicks, punting), AND means that 1 guy has to split his practice time and mental focus much more broadly than he is used too. With how important repetition and mental focus are in the kicking game, asking a guy to do all of this for an extended period of time is a recipe for disaster. There are guys on this roster *cough Nick Dzubnar *cough, that could be released (and likely brought back without an issue honestly) to bring in a kicker rental for 1 week.

Travis Benjamin shouldn’t be on the roster anymore either. When you consider his salary, the fact that he has completely lost his return duties, in fact he’s played 0 special teams snaps through 2 games this season, the fact that he’s played 74 snaps and has 2 catches on 5 targets for 12 yards, and the performances that Artavis Scott and Andre Patton turned in during the preseason, he’s literally wasting a roster spot that the team desperately needs to be utilizing.

I’m also going to start complaining about it now, and hope they make me look like an asshole, but I have 0 faith that they’ll do the right thing now that Adrian Phillips is out indefinitely with a forearm fracture. There are a number of options that make a ton of sense and make the team better: Trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick (even if the cost is a 1st, you’re counting on having a low 1st round pick anyway and you’re getting an excellent, versatile player, at a position of need, who’s only going to cost the team $5.9M total over the next 2 seasons). Throw Nassir Adderley in as the starter. He showed in preseason that he’s more than just a ball hawk. He is aggressive and a good tackler and should be seeing staring snaps. Give Drue Tranquill some of Phillips’ role. He’s hyper athletic, hyper intelligent, played both safety and LB, get the kid on the field. Even giving Eric Berry a call could be a good option, but he’d have to be willing to play for a discount and I’d rather give Adderley/Tranquill snaps first. But they’ll likely just settle for giving Jaylen Watkins all those snaps and Adderley will likely get a small sprinkle of snaps, maybe 10 or so a game.

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The NBA has changed a lot this past summer, and so have the Utah Jazz. It’s now time to predict how things will unfold during the regular season in a new-look league.
The dog days of summer come every year around August and September for basketball fans. Once the dust settles after free agents signing in July, and once summer league ball is over, all we can do is sit tight until training camp starts. Fortunately this year, we’ve had the FIBA World Cup to hold us over, and watching three Jazzmen participate for their respective countries has been a delight.

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Joe Ingles has been rock solid for the Australian team, and hasn’t missed a beat this summer. He has his fingerprints all over the game with points, rebounds and assists. Meanwhile Rudy Gobert has had a great FIBA showing, leading France to a historic win over Team USA, and a bronze medal.

Donovan Mitchell struggled at time in FIBA action, having several games and exhibitions where his shot just wouldn’t fall. He also had some good games, though, like his 29-point performance in the quarterfinals against France, his seven-assist performance against Brazil, and his 16-point,10-assist performance in the last game.

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Overall, I would say this has been a great opportunity for him to critique his individual game with great basketball minds like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr.
The J-Notes
@TheJNotes
Mitchell had by far his best game of FIBA play, just the kind of game Jazz fans have been waiting for, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get past Rudy Gobert and France. Mitchell went off for 29 points on 12-of-23 shooting.

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Mitchell looks ready to add more dimensions to his game like improved defense, better playmaking and cutting down his turnovers. Considering he’s already a 20-plus point per game scorer, Spida looks ready to impress in year three.

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At any rate, with the World Cup on the books, we turn our attention to the upcoming campaign and a league that looks dramatically different after all the player movement this summer. How will things shake out in a new-look league?

I’ve already given my prediction for the Jazz’s start of the season, going 28-13. Here are my win-loss predictions for every team in the league.

With FIBA basketball now behind us, we take a look back at the tournament and how it helped the Utah Jazz and Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles.

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Will things from the tournament carry over? What can the players take from the tournament and take with them into this upcoming season?

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NBA training camp is only a few weeks away and we look at the team and one of the missing components, the power forward. We’ve mentioned a lot of names in multiple articles so who do we think will fill that role? Or is it even a problem? Perhaps the power forward position doesn’t exist any more?

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Untested Kyle Allen is the backup plan.

If Cam Newton is sidelined beginning this weekend against Arizona, there’s no veteran passer on his way to Charlotte to try and salvage this season; coach Ron Rivera said as much Tuesday. The NFC South is as open as it has been in years — it’s the only NFC division without a 2-0 team, not to mention Saints quarterback Drew Brees will miss time nursing an injured thumb — yet, Carolina’s best bet for making it back to the playoffs after a two-year absence may be an undrafted second-year QB.

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“I think the guys that we have here, we brought them here for a specific purpose, and that’s to develop them, train them, have them ready to go for a situation like this,” Rivera said. “That’s why they’re here.”

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Panthers QB Cam Newton re-aggravates foot injury;
team has ‘no idea’ when he’ll return

There is no guarantee that Newton will miss time for the Panthers, but after re-aggravating a left foot sprain from three weeks ago, it seems apparent that this is where Carolina is heading.

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Newton was absent from practice Tuesday, and coach Ron Rivera said later he had “no idea” when Newton might return to action. General manager Marty Hurney, who first confirmed that Newton had re-injured his foot, called the situation “day-by-day.”

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Newton told the Panthers after Thursday night’s loss to Tampa Bay, which dropped the team to 0-2, that his foot was sore. Rivera said he spoke to Newton in-depth Friday and then again Tuesday morning, when he learned “all the information” about his franchise quarterback. In the meanwhile, Rivera said it was his understanding that Newton was doing physical therapy in hopes of returning to the field as quickly as possible.

But will he return?
As the Panthers prepare to travel to Arizona this weekend to face the winless Cardinals (0-1-1), they can’t sit around and hope Newton’s foot magically heals. If Newton is out Sunday — or for the foreseeable future — then the Panthers are fully prepared to roll with Allen as their starting quarterback.

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Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday the team would start quarterback Kyle Allen on Sunday against the Cardinals if Cam Newton is unable to play. Jeff Siner [email protected]
“I think Kyle’s more than ready,” Rivera said. “Kyle did some really good things last year, showed us what he’s capable of. He had a good preseason. Had a whole bunch of ups, had a few downs … He knows the offense. He knows it very well, so we feel confident about him.

“… I just think at times as you watch him, he needs to speed himself up a little bit. Because one thing he will have to get used to obviously is the speed of the game. I mean, he’s only played in limited situations, so things are a lot faster. I think he’s got the ability, so it’ll be fun to watch him.”

Allen, who Carolina signed as a rookie free agent after the 2018 draft, won the No. 2 job behind Newton throughout training camp and the preseason. The Panthers drafted Charlotte native Will Grier in the third round of April’s NFL Draft, but Allen’s experience in the offense made him the clear choice to backup Newton.

It helped that in limited action as a rookie, Allen excelled.

“Again, we do go back to what he did briefly in the Atlanta game and then what he did in the New Orleans game,” Rivera said. “We feel very comfortable.”

After the team opted to shut Newton down for the final two games of 2018 due to lingering shoulder soreness and tightness, then-backup Taylor Heinicke was named the team’s starter for Week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons. But Heinicke was injured mid-game, and Allen briefly supplanted him. He completed all four of his attempts against Atlanta for 38 yards.

Allen then started Week 17 against a New Orleans team that had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even though the Saints only played a handful of starters having already locked up playoff seeding, Allen’s success caught his coaches’ attention. He finished that game 16-for-27 with 228 yards passing and two touchdowns, plus five carries for 19 yards and another score.

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“He balled. There’s no other way to say it,” receiver Jarius Wright said of Allen’s Week 17 showing. “He had an opportunity. He was ready. He came in fully committed to being the starting quarterback, and he did his job. He also gave us a chance to do our jobs.

“Anytime that happens, you can live with that.”

Allen was not available to reporters Tuesday.

The Panthers won’t publish an injury report until Wednesday, which will shed more light on Newton’s status. If he sits, it would follow a trend that has thrust many backups into the spotlight after only two weeks. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season with an elbow injury, and the Saints’ Brees is expected to miss six weeks with a thumb injury. Longtime Giants starter Eli Manning was benched Tuesday in favor of rookie, and Charlotte native, Daniel Jones, and Jaguars starter Nick Foles already missed Week 2 with a broken collarbone. Jets QB Sam Darnold is out indefinitely with a case of mono.

But Newton’s situation is different from the others. His inability to stay healthy has eroded his effectiveness as a starter. In addition to the foot sprain suffered against the Patriots in the third week of the preseason, Newton is still working out the kinks after arthroscopic shoulder surgery in January. Through two games, Newton has thrown the highest percentage of uncatchable balls (34.2 percent) of any eligible passer in the NFL, and he is yet to account for a rushing or passing touchdown this season.

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Allen would take over a team on the brink, although one with fortuitous circumstances around the division. A loss this week, and the Panthers would drop to 0-3, seemingly destroying their odds of making the playoffs. Since 1980, 176 teams have started with three straight losses.

Six made the postseason.

Which means this team needs to figure out what it looks like with Allen at the helm, and fast.

“That’s part of why you go to training camp, to find out what kind of team you are and where you’re headed. Does it change things? Yes, this changes things dramatically,” Rivera said. “If we’re going to end up going with Kyle for a while, yes. I mean, we have to find out who we are with him as the quarterback. And going on the road, it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge.

“It’s an opportunity. It’s a challenge. We’ll see how we handle that challenge, but I feel good about us.”

Panthers.com reporter Max Henson was the first report that Cam Newton did not join the rest of the team for practice this morning. He did not offer a theory as to why, only that Rivera has his regularly scheduled press conference this afternoon.
Tom Pelissero

@TomPelissero
#Panthers QB Cam Newton’s status for Sunday is up in the air after he aggravated a foot injury, per @RapSheet and me. He’s rehabbing while teammates practice. Ron Rivera talks later.

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Enter NFL.com reporter Tom Pelissero who is now suggesting that Newton “aggravated a foot injury.” This is likely the same left foot sprain that held Newton out of practice for the last ten days of the preseason and obviously limited, regardless of what has been told to the media, Newton’s mobility and effectiveness in the first two games of this season.

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This might secretly be good news for both Newton and the Panthers

Newton’s accuracy in the Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be reasonably described as atrocious. I argued last week that he could still be recovering from one or both of his previous injuries and still knocking off rust from the preseason. Rust that he would have knocked off by now if he hadn’t missed so much practice time due to this foot sprain.

We now have stronger evidence that his performance last Thursday was colored by this foot injury. If he can rehab this appropriately without missing much, if any, more time then Newton has a greater chance of returning to the form that we, as Panthers fans, know and love.

This is probably actually bad news

For one, aggravating this injury only proves how hard it is to heal while practicing and playing football. Given how short an NFL season is, any time missed by Newton will only further aggravate the Panthers other injury: their 0-2 record.

At best, Newton only needs a few days and he is off to the races. At worst, he misses a few weeks and the Panthers are clawing for their very survival by the time he returns. At least, that should be the worst case scenario. Last season showed how the Panthers balance the health of a mildly to severely injured Newton against the chance, however slight, to win football games.

That leaves us with nothing but crossing our fingers

A best case scenario of Newton getting his feet back under him and proving that he still has at least a few years left on his career and a worst case of the Panthers over-using him at an ill-advised time leaves a lot of room in between for this situation to unfold. Stay with us as we keep a close watch on this story. We will do our best to relay to you both the information that the team releases and what our eyes tell us whenever we get the chance to see Newton on a field.

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The wait for hockey is over! The Senators start their six game preseason schedule against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5:30pm Eastern puck drop from the Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Yesterday, the Senators announced the roster that is making the trip to The Rock.

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Roster update: The #Sens have released a 25-man roster ahead of Tuesday’s pre-season game against Toronto in St. John’s, N.L.

Mise à jour alignement : Les #Sens ont publié leur alignement de 25 joueurs en vue du match préparatoire de mardi contre Toronto à St. John’s (T.-N.-L.)

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Here’s what the lineups were this morning before they got on the plane, courtesy TSN1200.

Duclair – Pageau – Batherson
Balcers – Tierney – Rodewald
Abramov – Norris – Formenton
Kelly – Beaudin – Scherwey

Brannstron – DeMelo
Englund – Goloubef
Lajoie – Ebert
No word on the goaltenders.

Game Notes
Typical for the first preseason game, there’s not much NHL experience on that roster. Nine of the 25 participated in rookie camp
None of the former Leafs players are on tonight’s roster either
Erik Brannstrom probably will draw the most attention from Sens fans out of today’s lineup, and probably has a better chance to stick around given Wolanin’s injury
Expect a bit more star power in tomorrow’s “rematch” in Ottawa (is it still a rematch when there probably won’t be any overlap in the rosters between the two games?)
The Maple Leafs also announced their roster for today. Marner and Tavares are in the lineup, but no Matthews or Nylander
Jason Spezza is the only former Senator in the Leafs lineup tonight, but it sounds like Babcock might not be too high on him. I like Spezza too much to take joy from this disconnect between Leafs management and coaching
No stats summary because it’s the first game of preseason

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L.— Connor Brown will have to play the waiting game to face his old teammates.

Fortunately, he won’t have to wait long.

While the newly-acquired winger won’t face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the pre-season opener at the Mile One Arena here Tuesday night, he should be in the lineup Wednesday in the second game of this back-to-back series at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Brown has a chance to make his mark with his new teammates and the belief is he’ll make an impact.
Connor Brown, as a Toronto Maple Leaf Claus Andersen / Getty Images

With general manager Pierre Dorion, coach D.J. Smith and the staff trying to figure out where everybody fits, the answers to those questions will begin Tuesday night when the Senators open the exhibition schedule against the Leafs.

Among those with a chance to play a big role for the Senators this season is the 25-year-old Brown. Acquired from the Leafs in the deal that brought defenceman Nikita Zaitsev here July 1 and sent Cody Ceci to Toronto, Brown has the chance to be in an offensive role with the Senators and he’s shown in the past he’s got plenty of skill.

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While he finished with eight goals and 29 points in 82 games with Toronto last season, Brown is only two years removed from a 20-goal campaign with the Leafs in 2016-17. He has been on the top line with Colin White and Brady Tkachuk during camp and there’s belief this is a group that’s going to be given every opportunity to find chemistry.

Brown feels he can play a big role in helping the Senators get where they want to be.

“Anywhere you play you want to cement yourself as a core guy,” Brown said in an interview during camp. “That’s what I’m going to try to do here and I’m going to do my best to fit in.”

Brown’s role had changed under Toronto coach Mike Babcock and it was a big reason why he was part of the deal to the Senators. Smith, who spent the last four years in the Leafs’ organization, feels if Brown is given the right role then he can be an offensive player for this team and also be responsible at both ends of the ice.

He could read the situation and felt his days with the Leafs may be numbered because he’s making $2.1 million this season with Toronto trying to make room to sign restricted free agent Mitch Marner.

“I was at a wedding so it was a bit of a shock but I did think that something might be coming and I didn’t think my future in Toronto was cemented or certain,” he said. “I knew with the salary cap going on there, and just with the kind of role I was being used in, I knew that I was the kind of guy that would have been easier to move.

“I was honest with myself and honest about the situation so I wasn’t too shocked.”

Given the fact the Senators are going young — and Brown isn’t old by any stretch of the imagination — his three years of experience are certainly going to help.

“It’s a little bit (of a fresh start),” Brown said. “I just think I was playing a different role in Toronto with the type of players they have up the middle and with all the offence they have. I was on the penalty kill and trying to be as defensive-minded as possible playing against some of the better guys on offensive teams.

“Hopefully this year I expand the offensive side of my game.”

Brown feels there could be a fit long-term with White and Tkachuk.

“Those guys are really easy to play with,” Brown said. “Both are really good players. We’ll continue to build. I think we’re all pretty keen and we enjoy playing with each other. That’s the first step.”

Of course, Brown is well aware the position the Senators are in with young players learning on a nightly basis. There was no shortage of expectations with the Leafs, but those don’t exist here. People want the Senators to be competitive and take a step in the right direction this season.

“In Toronto, we felt we were a Cup contender and it’s a little different here being in a bit of a rebuild,” Brown said. “I’ve gotten accustomed to the team and the kind of guys we have in the system and the way we want to play. I think we’ll be a lot better than people think.”

The adjustment has been easy for Brown.

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“You always think when you see everybody around you getting traded it’s going to be you and now it comes,” said Brown. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for me here. I fit in well with the guys, everybody seems to get along and there’s a good group in there. I’m just excited to get it going.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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The Senators will bring 25 players to St. John’s to face the Maple Leafs in the pre-season opener.

Here’s the roster:

Goalies

31 Anders Nilsson

34 Joey Daccord

35 Marcus Hogbeg

Defence

2 Dylan DeMelo

23 Nick Ebert

26 Erik Brannstrom

29 Cody Goloubef

39 Andreas Englund

46 Hubert Labrie

50 Maxence Gunette

58 Max Lajoie

Forwards

10 Anthony Duclair

19 Drake Batherson

37 Josh Norris

38 Rudolfs Balcers

44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau

45 Parker Kelly

47 Mark Kastelic

53 Jack Rodewald

55 Morgan Klimchuk

59 Alex Formenton

64 J.C. Beaudin

71 Chris Tierney

85 Vitaly Abramov

93 Tristan Scherway

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Michael Raffl would start the scoring early, potting a really smooth deflection off a nice Chris Bigras pass to put the Flyers up 1-0 less than four minutes in. Nate Prosser would also get an assist, but this one was about the superb placement from Bigras and the technical stick work of Raffl in front on the opening tally as Thomas Greiss was left with no chance on the play.
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A nifty redirect by Raffl puts the Flyers up early.

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Scary moment for later on in the first as Scott Laughton got crunched along the boards, getting up very gingerly. As you can see below, Laughton was kind of angled towards the boards and sliding towards a rather vulnerable position when he was rammed into the glass by Steve Bernier. Laughton, who would return to the game later, should either anchor the Flyers’ fourth line or play up in the lineup again and on the penalty kill as a Swiss Army knife for coach Alain Vigneault.
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Laughton was slow to get up after this hit.

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Raffl’s would be the only goal of the first 20 as Carter Hart kept the Islanders off the scoreboard in his first action of the preseason, turning aside all six shots he faced in the frame.

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Second period
Hart would keep holding things down early in the second with a couple of saves to keep the Flyers’ 1-0 lead intact.
Things would heat up fast with Mikhail Vorobyev and Mathew Barzal getting into a scrum resulting in a bloodied Vorobyev and a four-minute major to Barzal. The Flyers player, not the one who spells his first name with just one T, needs a strong camp to try and earn his way back onto the NHL roster to start the season as he did a year ago. A push from German Rubstov, Joel Farabee, and Morgan Frost has complicated things for Vorobyev, as have the less appealing veteran options like Andy Andreoff among others.

On the ensuing power play the Flyers couldn’t muster anything into the Islanders net, but did manage to rip one off Connor Bunnaman as he crowded the net front courtesy of Nicolas Aube-Kubel. That’s gonna leave a mark, Ken.
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Off of Bunnaman and off the post. Close!

And ouch.

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A stupid penalty to the stupidly in camp Chris Stewart tacked on a few more stops for Hart before he gave way to J.F. Berube in net. Hart keep the Islanders off the board, and looked pretty sharp in turning aside all 14 Islanders shots in his 30 minutes or so of work.
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That’ll do it for Carter. A perfect 14/14 in his preseason debut. Nbd.

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Speaking of players competing for the open roster spot in the bottom six, German Rubstov rang one off the crossbar behind the Islanders’ new goaltender after a quick rush up ice following a forced turnover. Rubstov dominated the rookie game between these two teams last week, and nearly picked up where he left off.

No more scoring in this barn burner of a preseason tilt, Raffl’s goal still the only one on the board after 40 minutes of riveting action.

Third period
A strong push from the Islanders started the period and a power play helped build momentum before they got an equalizer from a pair of NHLers with Barzal finding Derick Brassard for the one-timer to make it 1-1 with 13 minutes and change remaining.
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Tie game as Barzal finds Brassard on the power play.

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Flyers had a response quick, though, with Maksim Sushko breaking the tie with after a seeing-eye point shot hit him in the traffic to make it 2-1 good guys. Bigras continued his strong game to go along with another assist as he sent the puck towards the net.
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Bigras throws the puck at the net and we have a goal! Off of Sushko and in.

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But just when you though the proceedings were over, Barzal would find Jordan Eberle to tie the game at 2-2 with just 1:34 remaining. Given the superior NHL-level talent on the ice for the Islanders, not a shock to see them at least earn some free hockey for the folks.

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Overtime
In the 3-on-3 session the Flyers would be doomed by goaltending not named Carter Hart as Berube left a rebound out front and Mason Jobst put it home to give the Isles at 3-2 win.

The preseason schedule has kicked off. There is more to come tonight. What to make of games that are kind of meaningless but also kind of not? Barry Trotz:

“The best advice I can give any player is look around, assess the competition, know your competition, outcompete them, outwork them and obviously, outproduce them if eventually the opportunity becomes available,” Trotz said. “If you do that on a daily basis in practice or in games it’s up to us as coaches and organizationally to recognize that and reward that.”

Islanders News
The Islanders’ half(ish)-squad won the preseason opener in Philadelphia. [Isles | LHH | Boxscore | BSH]
Thomas Hickey, who scored last night, is angling to earn back a regular spot in the lineup. [Newsday]
Training camp quick hits: Of brothers, mentors and such. [Athletic]
A few days into camp, it was all about the systems. [Isles]
Barry Trotz expects a similar split to last year from Thomas Greiss and new tandem partner Semyon Varlamov. [Isles]
Elsewhere

Rick Ralph
@RickRalphTSN
#NHLJets Laine adds to @PekkaJalonen “There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I’m told to play.” Pekka’s story https://www.iltalehti.fi/nhl/a/ef2c162d-e23e-4b60-b8b3-986d2da28043 … Thanks to Pekka for translation.
Patrik Laine lataa suorat sanat Jetsin peluutuksesta poikkeuksellisessa haastattelussa Iltalehdel…
Yhä ilman sopimusta oleva maalitykki on turhautunut rooliinsa Winnipeg Jetsissä.

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76 people are talking about this
The still-unsigned Patrik Laine is dropping bombs, you might say. It was an “easy choice” for him to begin this preseason training in Europe. [NHL]
But the big and happy news of the day was that the NHLPA declined to trigger its option to re-open the CBA, thus assuring a little bit of labor peace and some time to work on revisions for a new extension. [NHL]
The Blue Jackets are kind of ticked about being dismissed after some big free agent departures. (Sounds familiar.) Nick Foligno is maybe too honest about it all. [NHL]
There are some subtle rule changes this year. Jim Montgomery discusses how to use them. [Dallas News]
Robin Lehner continues to use his platform to raise awareness for mental health. [ESPN]
Another RFA holdout ends as Brock Boeser signs a three-year extension with the Canucks. [NHL]
Meanwhile, his teammate Sven Baertschi has found solace in daily meditation. [Sportsnet]
The Bruins, who lost the Stanley Cup final, are banking on a mix of vets and youth. [NHL]
Speaking of which, the Stanley Cup engraving for the victors is complete. [Blues]
A women’s hockey strike in Sweden over some very self-evident needs leads to cancelation of the Four Nations’ Cup. [Ice Garden]

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Alright, I know what you’re thinking after you read the title. “I don’t remember Joni Pitkanen playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning.”

You would be correct. Pitkanen was selected fourth overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Pitkanen played in the NHL for 535 games with 282 points for the Flyers, Edmonton Oilers, and Carolina Hurricanes. He won an AHL Championship during the 2004-05 lockout and won a Bronze Medal at the Olympics for Team Finland in 2010.

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So… why are we talking about the Joni Pitkanen trade tree? Well, the Lightning traded that fourth overall pick to the Flyers! Pitkaknen ended up having a pretty decent career, but it wasn’t as good, or as long, as the three players selected before him: Rick Nash, Kari Lehtonen, and Jay Bouwmeester. The players that followed don’t exactly have super star written on them either, though many had 500+ game careers. But the trade was still a bit controversial at the time for the Lightning.

Let’s go through though and figure out how the Lightning actually came out in the deal.

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Lightning trade 2002 first round pick, 4th overall, to the Philadelphia Flyers for Ruslan Fedotenko and two 2002 second round picks, 34th and 52nd overall.
This trade happened at the draft and, as I said, was a bit controversial. The Lightning were giving up a top pick for a player coming off a 26 point season after a 36 point rookie season. They did get back the two second round picks, though, to partly make up for it. Fedotenko’s value in this trade is roughly that of a mid-first round pick.

Fedotenko Branch
The Fedotenko Branch doesn’t go very far. He played four seasons for the Lightning and then left as an unrestricted free agent to the New York Islanders. The Lightning got 313 games, 74 goals, and 144 points out of Fedotenko. Oh, and the Stanley Cup winning goals in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. So, that’s definitely a plus.

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34th Overall Pick Branch
The next day, general manage Jay Feaster went back to work, trading the 34th overall pick for Brad Lukowich and a 2003 seventh Round pick.
Lukowich eventually left as an unrestricted free agent after just two years, 149 games, and 34 points. Lukowich did come back to the Lightning in 2007-08 and was traded away with Dan Boyle.

The 2003 seventh round pick turned into forward Jay Rosehill. He never made it to the NHL with the Lightning, but played 117 career games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers. He was traded to the Maple Leafs for the most traded asset in league history: Future Considerations.

Yeah. We got nothing for him.

52nd Overall Pick Branch
Feaster didn’t waste any more time with the 52nd overall pick than he did with the 34th overall pick. Feaster traded it to the San Jose Sharks for the 60th overall pick in the second round and the 162nd overall pick in the fifth round.

With the 60th overall pick, Feaster selected Adam Henrich. Henrich never made it to the NHL and played three seasons for the Lightning’s AHL affiliate Springfield Falcons, but spent almost as much time in the ECHL with the Johnstown Chiefs.

With the 162nd overall pick, the Lightning selected Gerard Dicaire. Dicaire was a redraft after having been drafted in the 2nd round in 2002 but not signed by the Buffalo Sabres. He spent an overaged season in the WHL and then a few years in the AHL before leaving professional hockey.

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313 games, 144 points, and 1 Stanley Cup from Ruslan Fedotenko.
149 games, 34 points, and 1 Stanley Cup from Brad Lukowich.
A little bit of minor league hockey from three players
Future Considerations
Considering what Fedotenko and Lukowich did for the Lightning in earning a Stanley Cup, and how Pitkanen’s career went, I’d say the Lightning did alright. Would have been nice to see Feaster do a little bit more with those other draft picks, but what can be done about that? Nothing. At least he has a Stanley Cup ring and his name on the trophy.

Mitch Marner has re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The deal stands at six years for $10.893M per year. That’s good news for the Leafs and bad news for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Brayden Point.
For Toronto Maple Leafs fans, the Mitch Marner deal is a relief. The superstar winger has returned with a new contract before the start of training camp. It goes even deeper, however, and I give credit to Steve Dangle for shedding light on this fact – the Leafs’ top seven forwards and number one defenseman Morgan Reilly are all locked up for at least the next three years. The deal, might, however, not be good for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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For the Leafs, though, their main core of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Marner are locked-up for the next five seasons. If you dive deeper into the Marner contract, it’s slightly more appealing than it might appear at first glance.

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The base salary is $700,000 for the first two seasons and $750,000 for the last four seasons. The contract is primarily made up of signing bonuses, with the last three seasons of his deal having $7.25 million in bonuses.

It’s a front-loaded deal, giving the Leafs the option to pay Marner’s bonuses quickly and, if it comes down to it, making Marner a more appealing player to trade for in other teams’ eyes. Ultimately, they’re paying him elite-level money to play alongside an elite center in either Tavares or Matthews, to put up 90+ points every year.

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If he does not meet those expectations, they front-loaded his contract and made it mostly signing bonus-laden, making the contract movable and not too expensive for another team to take. The Marner signing stretches further out than just Toronto, though. It affects the entire market of unsigned RFAs.

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That means that it affects Tampa’s negotiations with Brayden Point, Vancouver’s negotiations with Brock Boeser, Winnipeg’s negotiations with Kyle Connor and Patrick Laine, Calgary’s negotiations with Matthew Tkachuk, and Philadelphia’s negotiations with Travis Konecny.

However, I will focus only on the Lightning today. Then for the next few days, I’ll look at all the other teams with holdouts.

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MONTREAL — Canadiens goaltender Cayden Primeau is making a solid first impression on his teammates after one pre-season game.

The 20-year-old Primeau stopped 16-of-17 shots, including a pair of highlight-reel saves, to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night in the exhibition opener for both teams.

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Primeau, Montreal’s seventh-round draft pick in 2017, came into the game at the halfway mark in relief of Carey Price.

“Some of those saves were ridiculous,” said forward Max Domi. “It’s great to see. He’s going to be one hell of a goalie for a long, long time. Obviously to learn from Pricey, I’m sure he’s licking his chops to watch him. He had a great night tonight.”

Primeau spent the last two seasons at Northeastern University (NCAA) where he put up impressive numbers. The New Jersey native is primed to become the top goaltender for the AHL’s Laval Rocket this season.

The Canadiens prospect did his best Price impression on Monday night.

Besides a goal on an unlucky bounce, Primeau was solid in net for Montreal. His biggest save was on Blake Coleman with the glove on a 2-on-1 in the second period.

“I knew I had to respect the shooter, especially at this level,” said Primeau. “It looked like he was going to pass it all the way. So I got ready, kind of just blacked out and pushed over as hard as I could.”

Fans at the Bell Centre chanted his name in appreciation.

“I couldn’t help it but crack a smile,” said Primeau of the fan reaction. “There were so many emotions. It was unbelievable. This was my first time experiencing something like this. First pre-season game was something special.”

With the score tied 2-2 in the third, Primeau shut the door on Kyle Palmieri who came crashing hard to the net with the Devils on a power play.

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“He brought life back into the crowd,” said coach Claude Julien. “He had a great game. He handled himself well.”

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Jake Evans scored the short-handed winner with 2:28 remaining in the game when he stole the puck from a Devils player at his own blue-line and beat Evan Cormier top shelf on a breakaway. Cormier made 11 saves in relief in the third.

Nick Cousins sealed it with an empty-net goal in the final minute of play.

A handful of regular NHL players suited up for both teams, which is not always the case in early exhibition matches.

Domi, Shea Weber and Jonathan Drouin dressed for the Canadiens. Top prospect Ryan Poehling did not play.

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Nico Hischier and Palmieri were on the ice for the split-squad Devils while P.K. Subban and Jack Hughes remained in New Jersey to face the Boston Bruins in another exhibition game at Prudential Center.

The Canadiens scored twice on four shots in the game’s opening eight minutes.

Artturi Lehkonen got the first at 2:29 when he redirected Weber’s slap shot from the point past Mackenzie Blackwood, who stopped 11-of-13 shots after two periods.

Montreal went up 2-0 through Nate Thompson’s rebound goal following a bad angle shot from Cousins at 8:14.

Will Butcher cut the deficit for the Devils at 18:25 of the first with a precise top-corner shot on Price’s stick side. Price conceded one goal on nine shots

After a scoreless second, a wicked bounce off the side boards gave Michael McLeod a wide open net at 1:55 of the third while Primeau waited for the puck behind the net.

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“We want to have a good pre-season and a good winning record,” said Drouin, who had an assist. “Usually you feel good coming into the season when you have some good wins in pre-season. It’s nice to see the young guys come in and have fun and work hard.”

It was the first of seven pre-season games for the Canadiens, who travel to Bathurst, N.B., to play the Florida Panthers in exhibition play on Wednesday.
A day after their scrimmage at the Bell Centre, the Montreal Canadiens are right back to action tonight as they host the New Jersey Devils.

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The Devils will have a split squad lineup, with P.K. Subban and Jack Hughes playing in Newark while Nico Hischier is among those making the trip to Montreal.

For the Canadiens, Cayden Primeau and Carey Price will be the goaltenders. Jake Evans will make his NHL pre-season debut after missing all of last year’s camp. Among the regulars for tonight’s game are Shea Weber and Victor Mete on defence and the line of Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, and Artturi Lehkonen.

Voici les formations pour le match de ce soir entre les Canadiens et les Devils.

Here are the lineups for tonight’s game between the Canadiens and the Devils at the Bell Centre.#GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/ijDC11iMvG

— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) September 16, 2019
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. as most weeknight home games have been moved up 30 minutes compared to a year ago. The preseason will allow people to get used to this change.

This is the first of seven pre-season games for the Canadiens this season. Game thread to come later today.

Another piece of news is that Liam Hawel, the lone tryout at camp, was released from training camp. It remains to be seen if he will sign an AHL contract or be an invite to Laval Rocket training camp.