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Amid worst start since 1941, Canadiens’ loss to Ducks highlights centre problem

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ANAHEIM — The Canadiens fell to 2-8-0 on the season with a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

This one, more so than any of the others, highlighted a glaring hole up the middle of this roster. And not being able to fill that hole is going to be one of the team’s biggest impediments to getting their season back on the rails.

Before the puck dropped at Honda Center, it was announced Canadiens forward Mathieu Perreault would miss two-to-three weeks with an eye injury.

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We reported during first intermission that Perreault would only be re-evaluated in 14 days and that he underwent laser surgery to fix a detached retina suffered due to lattice retinal degeneration — a condition he’s had since birth but was unaware of until the damage done caused him to experience blurred and double vision.

“He was lucky one of the best eye specialists in the world was in Los Angeles,” said a team source regarding the procedure Perreault was able to get following Saturday’s 5-2 loss for the Canadiens to the Kings.

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The Canadiens were unlucky not to have him against the Ducks, and that only reinforced how much things have changed at the centre position for this team since they went to the Stanley Cup Final last summer. Perreault may have started his career as a centre back in 2009, but he hadn’t played the position regularly in over four years before being forced into it by the Canadiens a handful of games into their season.

The centre position was a strength for this team before the departure of Phillip Danault in August created a hole that was widened by the Carolina Hurricanes poaching Jesperi Kotkaniemi via offer sheet. It’s undoubtedly a weakness now — even with the acquisition of Christian Dvorak made soon after Danault and Kotkaniemi left.

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On Sunday, without Perreault available, centre Jake Evans returned from injury to play a game he’d have been sitting out of had Brendan Gallagher not been sidelined by an undisclosed injury. The 25-year-old started on the wing of the fourth line so as not to stress his injury further, but he was quickly moved back to his natural position when pivot Cedric Paquette got himself ejected for a hit from behind that left Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras down and bleeding from his face.

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Evans scored his first goal of the season and had a positive impact on the game, but this was but a small step forward for him after a slow start and four games missed.

Adam Brooks, who took Perreault’s place on the third and appeared in just his second game since the Canadiens claimed him on waivers just prior to the start of the season, was barely trusted to help make any tangible difference against the Ducks. He played 10:13, won only one of six faceoffs and was roughly 170 feet away from his own net when Troy Terry scored the winning goal for Anaheim in the third.

Ryan Getzlaf, one of the best centres of his generation, set the play for Terry and, with the assist, passed Teemu Selanne to become the Ducks’ highest-scoring player of all time. He was a player the Canadiens hoped to acquire at last year’s trade deadline and one they’d have considered signing in free agency had he not solely been interested in returning to Anaheim.

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The 989-point man or Eric Staal, who was instrumental in Montreal’s playoff run, are the type of players the Canadiens would love to lean on to alleviate some of the pressure on Nick Suzuki right now.

Danault helped the young centre on the ice, and not having him around to do some of the heavy lifting is ratcheting it up.

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Suzuki, who’s only 22 years old and recently signed an eight-year, $63-million deal that will only kick in next fall, is feeling it. He has been since the start of the season, and it’s pressure that’s only risen with the Canadiens dropping games and missing key players.

“I always put a lot pressure on myself to contribute everywhere,” Suzuki said. “Throughout my whole career, I’ve always wanted to be a good go-to person. But today, I wasn’t really doing much, to be honest. Probably one of my worst games. Pretty disappointed in how I played — especially with some of the centres out. I’ve got to play better.”

He’s pushing hard to make a difference and admittedly cheating at times to generate offence after only producing five points in 10 games, and it’s not going to get easier for him.

It won’t be easy for Evans, or even for Dvorak, who may have over 300 games of experience but is still only 25.

“When you have younger players — especially like Jake and Suzy playing in the middle — you know there’s going to be ups and downs,” said Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme.

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He talked about the desire to insulate them from certain matchups at times, but that isn’t really an option on the table with the lack of depth the Canadiens have at the position.

It’s one of several problems this team is dealing with right now — they’ve got bottom numbers in nearly every category, an offence that’s underperforming, a defence that’s limited to generate much better results than what they’re currently offering (which isn’t very good) and substandard goaltending — but it’s the one that seems the hardest to solve.

It’s going to make reversing their worst 10-game start to a season since 1941 a near impossible task.





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Twins Insider Reveals Carlos Correa WBC Update

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(Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

 

Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa made all kinds of headlines during the MLB offseason.

He agreed to three different contracts with three teams, but the first two (a $350 million deal with the San Francisco Giants and a $315 million pact with the New York Mets) were nixed due to concerns over his surgically-repaired right ankle.

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The third time was the charm, as the Twins snagged him for $200 million and a chance to make it $270 million.

He has been a regular for Team Puerto Rico in international competitions such as the World Baseball Classic.

However, he has decided to step away and not represent his country in the 2023 edition that will start in a little over a month.

“Carlos Correa is withdrawing from the World Baseball Classic after making a joint decision with the #MNTwins. Correa’s wife is due with the couple’s second child the same week that Puerto Rico opens WBC play. Twins don’t want Correa juggling family/WBC. Story to follow,” Twins insider Dan Hayes tweeted.

It appears that the decision was a joint one between Correa and the team and doesn’t have anything to do with his ankle.

Correa has played, so far, in eight WBC games, in two editions.

He has performed admirably, with a .333/.500/.750 line (10-for-24), 10 runs scored, three homers, and nine RBI.

He has a cool 10/4 BB/K ratio, too.

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In other words, Puerto Rico just lost one of their best players for the tournament.

Will they be able to overcome that loss? It remains to be seen.

The player, meanwhile, will be focusing on his family before focusing on the Twins’ 2023 season and the challenges ahead.

The post Twins Insider Reveals Carlos Correa WBC Update appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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Seven-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green retires after 12 season

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PHOENIX — Seven-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green retired on Monday after 12 seasons in the NFL.

The 34-year-old spent a decade with the Cincinnati Bengals before signing with the Arizona Cardinals for the last two seasons of his career.

Selected by the Bengals with the No. 4 overall pick of the 2011 draft out of Georgia, Green was a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first seven seasons, topping 1,000 yards receiving six times.

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The 6-foot-4, 207-pounder had a rare blend of size and speed and his low-key personality made him a favorite among teammates. He teamed with quarterback Andy Dalton to lead the Bengals to the playoffs every year from 2011 to 2015, though they never won a game in the postseason.

“I’ve never been a man of many words, so I’ll keep this short,” Green wrote in an Instagram post. “Thank you. Thank you to all who have supported, encouraged, and inspired me throughout my career.

“Special thank you to the University of Georgia, Cincinnati Bengals, and Arizona Cardinals for the opportunity to pursue my dreams. I’ve stayed true to the game and it owes me nothing. Be blessed.. Love y’all! The next chapter begins?”

He missed the 2019 season with an ankle injury, but returned to the Bengals in 2020.

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Green was solid in his first season with the Cardinals in 2021, catching 54 passes for 848 yards and three TDs. His production dipped to 24 catches for 236 yards and two TDs this season, though he remained a popular presence in the Cardinals locker room.

He finishes his career with 10,514 yards receiving — which ranks 44th in NFL history — and had 70 touchdown catches.

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The Cardinals Were Wise To Avoid Trading For Frankie Montas

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(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

 

At the trade deadline in 2022, the St. Louis Cardinals made some key moves to strengthen their starting rotation, adding veterans Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana.

Both proved to be solid pickups, with Quintana ultimately drawing the start in Game 1 of the Wild Card series against the Philadelphia Phillies and Montgomery pitching a few solid innings out of the bullpen in Game 2.

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But there was another starter that the team had eyes on.

Frankie Montas was that starter.

He was ultimately acquired by the New York Yankees before the Cardinals added Montgomery.

However, Montas has struggled with his health recently, meaning the Cardinals were smart to not make a move for him.

The 29-year-old finished the 2022 season with a 5-12 record and an ERA of 4.05 in 27 starts.

Now, the veteran right-hander may miss the entire 2023 season due to a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Quintana went 3-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts with the Cardinals, while Montgomery went 6-3 with a 3.11 ERA in 11 starts with his new team.

Montgomery is also a potential candidate for a contract extension, which could help ease the burden on the Cardinals, who currently only have one starter under contract for 2024.

The Yankees, despite having signed Carlos Rodon to go along with Nestor Cortes and Gerrit Cole, find themselves in a difficult spot with Montas.

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They now have an open spot in their starting rotation that will need to be addressed at some point during the season, if it is not addressed soon.

Ultimately, the Cardinals dodged a bullet by not going after Montas, which made a key difference down the stretch in 2022.

The post The Cardinals Were Wise To Avoid Trading For Frankie Montas appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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