Car­rick wants back in

Leafs’ young D-man wants back into the lineup for cru­cial games

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY POST­MEDIA NET­WORK ROB LON­G­LEY POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Con­nor Car­rick would love to get back into the Maple Leafs’ lineup at this most cru­cial junc­ture of the sea­son.

Af­ter a month away with an up­per body in­jury, Car­rick is await­ing clear­ance for Mon­day’s home game against the Bos­ton Bru­ins, merely the most im­por­tant game with play­off im­pli­ca­tions in­volv­ing the two teams since the Cause­way St. Col­lapse of 2013.

While the Leafs have held foes to one reg­u­la­tion goal the past two games, coach Mike Bab­cock wants to get Car­rick’s brand of barbed wire de­fence back in the lineup, pair­ing him with Mor­gan Rielly at Sun­day’s prac­tice.

“Car­rick gets the puck mov­ing, he doesn’t play a lot in his own zone, he’s mean, he likes to cross check peo­ple,” Bab­cock said. “I like that. He can get (the puck) through from the blue line, too.”

A fi­nal de­ci­sion will be made af­ter Car­rick works out Mon­day morn­ing. Bos­ton comes to town three points up on Toronto in the At­lantic Divi­sion and much im­proved un­der new coach Bruce Cas­sidy. But the Bru­ins have also lost three times to the Leafs this year and a reg­u­la­tion win for Toronto sud­denly puts it back in the pic­ture for a di­vi­sional play­off spot ver­sus their cur­rent wild­card sta­tus. Twelve games re­main for the Leafs.

“We wanted to be here,” Car­rick said of their un­ex­pected ap­pear­ance in the race a year af­ter fin­ish­ing 30th. “You come down to the heavy part of the sched­ule in the dy­ing days of the sea­son and you want to be fight­ing for a spot. I don’t think we ever thought we were go­ing to run away with the league, but at the same time we can put a streak to­gether and earn (a spot.) You get in the play­offs (on a

USA Hockey and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the women’s na­tional team will meet Mon­day to dis­cuss a wage dis­pute that could lead to play­ers boy­cotting the up­com­ing world cham­pi­onships.

John Lan­gel, a lawyer for the play­ers, tells The As­so­ci­ated Press that they’ll meet with USA Hockey of­fi­cials in Philadel­phia two days be­fore the sched­uled start of train­ing camp. Play­ers an­nounced Wed­nes­day they’d boy­cott camp and the tour­na­ment un­less sig­nif­i­cant progress is made in ne­go­ti­a­tions on what they hope is a fouryear con­tract.

The In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion Women’s World Cham­pi­onship be­gins March 31 in Ply­mouth, Michi­gan. The U.S. is the de­fend­ing cham­pion and has won six of the past eight world cham­pi­onships.

USA Hockey and play­ers traded barbs Fri­day over de­mands but agreed to meet to fur­ther dis­cus­sions.

Play­ers are seek­ing a deal that pays them out­side the six-month Olympic pe­riod. USA Hockey has said it is not in the busi­ness of high) in­stead of coast­ing and that serves a lot of teams well.”

Car­rick said there was a sil­ver lin­ing to his long ab­sence.

“When you get out of your em­ploy­ing play­ers but is still hop­ing the play­ers picked for the world cham­pi­onships are on the ice when it be­gins.

Stand­out for­ward Hi­lary Knight, who is ex­pected to at­tend the meet­ing af­ter play­ing in the Na­tional Women’s Hockey League fi­nal Sun­day, said Fri­day that it was her hope that USA Hockey would “reach out to our lawyers and present some­thing that’s worth sit­ting down to the table for.”

Af­ter play­ers called num­bers re­leased by USA Hockey “patently false,” fel­low star Jo­ce­lyne Lamoureux-David­son said, “I just think they need to come to the table and let’s talk about it.”

Play­ers have said USA Hockey pays them noth­ing out­side the Olympic pe­riod and $1,000 a month for the six months lead­ing up to the Games.

Knight, Lamoureux-David­son and twin sis­ter Monique Lamoureux-Mo­rando, cap­tain Meghan Dug­gan, Kacey Bel­lamy and Ken­dal Coyne are sched­uled to take part in the meet­ing on the play­ers’ side. A USA Hockey spokesman did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for who will rep­re­sent the or­ga­ni­za­tion at the meet­ing Mon­day. rhythm, you’re forced to take a step back. But you can watch some hockey, re-fresh your mind on things, think about how your year is go­ing. I was able to re-set.”

TAMPA, Fla. — The op­po­si­tion on Sun­day af­ter­noon was the Scran­ton Railriders, the Triple-A af­fil­i­ate of the New York Yan­kees.

The venue was the sprawl­ing mi­nor league af­fil­i­ate of the Jays AL East ri­vals and the game was played be­fore a crowd of maybe 100 peo­ple.

But, un­der those un­der­stated spring train­ing co­or­di­nates on Sun­day af­ter­noon, Blue Jays sec­ond base­man Devon Travis may have taken his big­gest step yet to get back to big-league form.

A quick mov­ing and en­cour­ag­ing week of pain-free im­prove­ment for the player likely to bat lead­off in John Gib­bons bat­ting lineup has Travis be­liev­ing he’ll be good to go for open­ing day.

Nor­mally hus­tling to first base and be­ing called safe on an er­ror would be barely no­table in a mi­nor league game. But when Travis did so by un­flinch­ingly run­ning hard in the sec­ond in­ning, it was ar­guably the big­gest news of the day for the Jays, given that the April 3 sea­son opener is now just two weeks away.

“(Open­ing day) has been my goal fro the get-go,” Travis said af­ter go­ing 0-for-4 in five plate ap­pear­ances, the most no­table be­ing that sprint to first base which he reached safety (thanks to a Rail­rider er­ror.) “It’s why I got down here so early to get my knee right. It’s still my goal and I see it hap­pen­ing.

“The big­gest thing is my knee is go­ing to tell me when I’m ready to go and it’s start­ing to tell me I’m ready to go for sure.”

There’s still work to be done as Travis con­tin­ues his long and te­dious re­cov­ery from a bone bruise on his knee, the af­ter ef­fect of off­sea­son surgery.

Travis has to hone his eye to get up to speed to game-speed pitch­ing and beyond field­ing drills at the Jays’ Dunedin fa­cil­ity, needs to take the next step de­fen­sively.

That will ten­ta­tively come ei­ther Tues­day or Thurs­day when he hopes to start at his cus­tom­ary sec­ond base in a mi­nor league game.

“I’ve got to get out there (in the field) in a big league game,” Travis said of his to-do list. “I’ve got to

The Leafs will face some of the usual hur­dles to get by Bos­ton on Mon­day; Zdeno Chara’s size on the back line, Tuukka Rask’s goal­tend­ing, Pa­trice Berg­eron’s face-off play the field. I’m not go­ing to be a DH in the big leagues so I’ve got to prove to them I can play both sides of the ball and wake up the next day feel­ing good and ready to go ahead.”

Gib­bons and a lineup light on ma­jor lea­guers trav­elled south on Sun­day to Braden­ton for a game against the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates. That con­test marked the first de­fen­sive ap­pear­ance for util­ity fielder Steve Pearce, who started at first base in an 11-11 Jays tie with the Pi­rates and drove in a pair of runs with a fifth-in­ning sin­gle.

Mean­while, third base­man Josh Don­ald­son took a pass on hit­ting mi­nor-league pitch­ing af­ter an ag­gres­sive morn­ing in the bat­ting cage and run­ning back in Dunedin. Don­ald­son has been work­ing on field­ing drills at well, charg­ing to­wards a game ap­pear­ance — ei­ther mi­nor league or ma­jor league — at some point this week.

“He’s an­swered the bell on ev­ery­thing,” Jays ath­letic trainer Ge­orge Poulis said of Don­ald­son. “Hope­fully there are no set­backs. He is in un­be­liev­able shape. He just looks fit and he’s do­ing great.

“He just chose not to play to­day and to work harder in the bat­ting prow­ess — but per­haps most dif­fi­cult is Brad Marc­hand’s ca­reer year. Bab­cock joked that if he knew Marc­hand was go­ing to put it all to­gether, con­tend­ing for the Art Ross Tro­phy and po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing Toronto’s play­off hopes, he wouldn’t have given him such a high pro­file at the World Cup for Team Canada.

“I was think­ing the other day — we shouldn’t have done that,” Bab­cock said with a grin. “Should’ve played him on the fifth line and sucked a lit­tle life out of him. I can’t be­lieve (what he’s done).

“He’s one of the best play­ers in the league right now and no one is driv­ing his team harder, so it will be fun to play against him. He’s been a good player for a long time. He didn’t ar­rive in the league with the ac­co­lades of some other guys. He’s earned his way, he was a good (bleep) dis­turber, en­ergy guy, penalty killer and then his of­fence (79 points) has come. But it’s amaz­ing when you have a re­ally good drive train, a lot of will and you love the game. Be­ing around a good coach (Cas­sidy’s pre­de­ces­sor and Bab­cock buddy Claude Julien), be­ing around Berg­eron and guys like that didn’t hurt him, ei­ther. They’re scor­ing right now, their power play is on fire and Marchy’s re­ally go­ing.”

As for the chance of a four game sweep for the first time since Toronto and Bos­ton were re­aligned in the same divi­sion in 1998, Bab­cock ob­served: “some­times you catch teams on the right night. Some­times I look at our sched­ule and say ‘wow, we haven’t beat th­ese guys in while’ and won­der why when there’s no real rea­son. It doesn’t mat­ter now, to­mor­row’s a big game. We had a big game last night (a 2-1 over­time loss to Chicago), we have a big game ev­ery night. But it’s about the (next) one.”

For­wards James van Riems­dyk and Brian Boyle had main­te­nance days Sun­day, while Zach Hy­man de­parted prac­tice early in the com­pany of a trainer with an undis­closed is­sue. cage and take the time to re­cover.”

Though it wasn’t Don­ald­son, Travis did have com­pany for the trip across the bay on Sun­day. Join­ing him was Jays cen­tre fielder Kevin Pil­lar, who came to work on his bunting and to check out Travis’s progress.

“I came out to of­fer some sup­port for a good friend of mine, a guy who has been grind­ing for a long time to get back and try to get ready for open­ing day,” Pil­lar said. “If you would have asked him and maybe our staff a cou­ple of weeks ago if that was re­al­is­tic (the an­swer might have been dif­fer­ent.)

“Now it’s def­i­nitely some­thing pos­si­ble. To see him get out here and get down the line is pretty op­ti­mistic, not only for my­self and for him but for our team. We’re def­i­nitely count­ing on him be­ing on our open­ing day ros­ter.”

Pil­lar watched his team­mate’s at bats closely, tak­ing a video of his last trip to the plate.

“Tim­ing is the is­sue right now but I told him ‘your swing looks like your swing.’ To me, that’s the big­gest sign. His body is fir­ing the way I’ve got ac­cus­tomed to see­ing.”

BRUCE BEN­NETT/GETTY IM­AGES

Toronto Maple Leafs’ de­fence­man Con­nor Car­rick scores on the pow­er­play at against Hen­rik Lundqvist, of the New York Rangers, at Madi­son Square Gar­den on Jan­uary 13, in New York City.

CHRIS O’MEARA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Toronto Blue Jays’ Devon Travis takes prac­tice in the bat­ting cage be­fore a spring train­ing base­ball game against the Bos­ton Red Sox Mon­day, March 13, in Dunedin, Fla.

RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

In this March 2016 file photo Hi­lary Knight, of Team USA, cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing against Fin­land goal­tender Meeri Raisa­nen dur­ing a women’s world hockey cham­pi­onships game in Kam­loops, B.C. USA Hockey and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the women’s na­tional team will meet Mon­day, March 20, to dis­cuss a wage dis­pute that could lead to play­ers boy­cotting the up­com­ing world cham­pi­onships. Knight said Fri­day that it was her hope that USA Hockey would “reach out to our lawyers and present some­thing that’s worth sit­ting down to the table for.”

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