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USMNT roster: Miles Robinson Achilles tear could be a critical blow to USA and Atlanta United

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It’s reaching a point where head coach Gonzalo Pineda could build a whole starting lineup of players who aren’t available following Miles Robinson’s injury during Atlanta United’s 4-1 victory over the Chicago Fire Saturday night. Robinson went down in the 18th minute with a non-contact injury and was replaced by Alex DeJohn. After the match Pineda said that Robinson would be undergoing a scan on his Achilles tendon, and CBS Sports Roger Gonzalez reports that Robinson is set for surgery on Monday to repair a tear.

That means that Robinson will join Brad Guzan in being out for the season thanks to Achilles injuries and it would also likely remove Robinson from World Cup contention for the United States men’s national team as the recovery time for the injury is generally six to nine months and that’s not including rehab to get back to playing shape. It would be a brutal blow to one of the most important defenders for the United States and Atlanta United.

Pineda is already working on how to replace the injured Josef Martinez and while Ronaldo Cisneros’ hat trick against the Fire helps, the club has also been linked with a move for Matthew Hoppe to bolster their attacking options. When it comes to replacing Robinson though, things are a lot tougher. 

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Robinson has been a key player both defending in the air and on the ground, and while DeJohn would be a fine short term replacement, the loss could be too much to cope with for the five stripes’ defense alongside Guzan. With the transfer window for MLS now closed, new additions can’t be made until July. By then, Atlanta will know the scope of their situation and will likely press for defensive reinforcements. 

What does this mean for the USMNT?

Gregg Berhalter’s job just got a lot harder as center back was one position where the starters were close to locked in for the World Cup. Robinson’s injury means that the left sided spot next to Walker Zimmerman is now up for grabs during this summer. There are no perfect options, but a number of players are viable candidates.

The likely replacement would be Chris Richards. Richards is a natural right footed defender but he has deputized on the left side of defense or at left back in the past so he can play there in a pinch. If Berhalter prefers a natural left footer, Aaron Long would be a natural fit, and a somewhat poetic one, as he has returned to form with the New York Red Bulls after his own Achilles injury. Mark McKenzie is a long shot as he has struggled for playing time since his move to Genk but with plenty of time between now and November, these situations can change quickly. 

It’s unfortunate both for Robinson who was on track for a European move sooner than later and the national team as the left side of the defense is one of the most shallow positions in the team. At this point, any defender with a good run could make the World Cup so hopefully players can see this as an opportunity to step up.

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Kadri maintains composure to will Avalanche past Blues amid intolerable situation

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Nazem Kadri didn’t appreciate what Craig Berube had to say about his reputation, so he did something to enhance it.

And for good reason, Kadri didn’t appreciate some of the repulsive, hateful and unacceptable racist remarks that came his way in the hours after his collision with Jordan Binnington.

But instead of coming unglued or being distracted by something no person should ever have to go through, the Colorado Avalanche centre came up with a game for the ages and essentially willed his team to victory in a pivotal game in this Central Division final with the St. Louis Blues.

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Not only did Kadri notch his first career Stanley Cup playoff hat trick, but he chipped in an assist for good measure and was the best player on the ice as the Avalanche secured a 6-3 victory and took a commanding 3-1 in this best-of-seven series, which shifts back to Denver on Wednesday night.

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As much as he impacted the game, that Kadri was able to keep his composure on the ice and afterward when he stepped to the podium to speak with reporters about the incident speaks volumes about his ability to deal with what could have easily been an intolerable situation.

Not many people could be expected to stay calm under these conditions, yet there was Kadri, speaking openly about trying to use the negative energy as fuel.

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“I wanted to come out and really put a mark on this game, especially after what happened. I tried to do that as best as possible,” said Kadri. “Sometimes you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to wait. I was able to strike early in the second period and was able to get the mojo going, in terms of individually and as a team, so it felt amazing. Especially to do it on the road, it was pure.

“I guess I needed some fuel. I was pretty upset for the last couple of days, but it is what it is. We got the win and that’s what we wanted.”

Kadri let it be known how much he appreciated the support of his teammates and others who have reached out, even if they couldn’t possibly have a clue about what it’s like to receive hateful messages and then simply brush them off, play in this pressure cooker and not merely survive but thrive.

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He made a point of saying he knew these messages – as extreme as they were – didn’t represent the entire Blues fan base.

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“I know that they’re booing me and what-not, but that’s what being a fan is. As a home team and a home player, you want the fans on your side and heckling the other team, as long as it’s within the guidelines,” said Kadri. “I’ve got no issues with that and I know what was said isn’t a reflection on every single fan in St. Louis. I understand that and I want to make that clear. But for those that wasted their time sending messages like that, I feel sorry for them.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Avalanche let it be known that the St. Louis police department got involved after Kadri received threats.

“I guess someone had contacted them about some hateful messages and I was able to read those messages and they were very extreme,” said Kadri. “So, you know, I just tried to shake it off. They did a good job of assuring me and making me feel safe. I just had to worry about coming (to the rink) and showing up.”

What about the contents of those messages?

“Racial. Threatening,” said Kadri. “All of that good stuff.”

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Kadri also knew that there were probably going to be a few members of the Blues who took a run or a swing at him, perhaps be on the receiving end of a cross-check or two.

All of those things came to fruition, but Kadri didn’t shy away and retreat to the shadows.

He absorbed each and every one of those blows, including a cross-check from Pavel Bucnevich and another cross-check and several punches to the face from David Perron as they fell to the ice together during one heated post-whistle exchange.

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Instead of retaliating, Kadri picked himself up off the ice and skated to the bench. When his turn came to jump back over the boards, he delivered his second goal of the game.

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While the one-timer came seven seconds after those minor penalties expired, it proved to be the eventual game-winner.

“I mean, I figured someone was going to have something to say, but that’s just stupid penalties that we cashed in on and it hurt them,” said Kadri. “If you lose your cool, we’ll make you pay.”

Amid the celebration, Kadri also had the awareness to avoid a potential elbow from Perron, who appeared to be on the lookout for some revenge.

When Kadri beat Blues goalie Ville Husso with a shot just before the midway point of the third period, he conceded that it felt “amazing” and you could understand why.

For all of the compartmentalizing he had to do, Berube’s comment about his reputation being a factor in the collision with Blues defenceman Calle Rosen and Binnington, who is lost for at least the remainder of the series with a knee injury, bothered and also motivated Kadri.

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“I don’t know. You know, starting with their head coach probably. He made some comments that I wasn’t a fan of,” said Kadri. “I guess he’s never heard of bulletin-board material. I don’t know what that was about. But like I said, there were a lot of people saying a lot of things. I’ve got to tune it out. I’ll step up when I have to.”

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After the Blues said all of the right things about turning the page and not seeking retribution leading up to Game 4, their actions suggest otherwise and it’s one of the reasons they find themselves on the brink of elimination.

Kadri wasn’t about to be bullied on or off the ice and thanks to his courageous performance, the Avalanche are one win away from advancing to the Western Conference final.

“For humanity, is this a perfect example of good defeating evil in a way,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar told reporters. “With what happened, Naz has a job to do and to be able to stay focused and to be able to perform like that under the circumstances, I thought, showed a lot of character and a lot of resolve and he’s an awesome guy and tough kid and he elevated his game at the best time to kind of show everyone what he’s made of.

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“It’s not about ego. It’s not about settling scores, as tough as that would have been for him. It’s about winning. you have to make sacrifices and you have to … in order to win hockey games, you have to do it. And it’s no different than any other situation where a guy gets a lick on you. We’re not settling scores. It’s about winning the hockey game. And I think that’s what makes the biggest statement, you go out and you win the game and you suck it up and do what you got to do to help everyone else in the room get what they want, which is a win. And no one wants it more than Naz.”

Kadri is up to five goals and 10 points in eight games and has been a dominant force so far in the series, picking up some of the offensive slack at a time several of his teammates still have another level to each.

But that’s what good teams do, they pull together and pick each other up, especially when times are tough, either for an individual or the team as a whole.

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“I think we always have each other’s backs, but when stuff like that happens Naz knew that, you know, we are with him and the organization was with him,” said Avalanche defenceman Erik Johnson, who scored the equalizer after the Blues got on the board first for the fourth time in this series. “It was awesome. I felt so good for him. Imagine being in his situation, it can’t be a fun thing. No, no human being should actually receive that type of treatment, especially with a hockey game. It’s just insane. And that being said, I think he liked being the villain and he certainly stepped up for us.

“You’re not going to be fueled more to try and win a game just because of that, we have enough fuel. But that being said, I think it definitely helped motivate Naz a little bit and I mean, how could you script it any better for him?”

The only way the script could have been better is if Kadri didn’t have to deal with any of the messages and threats at all.

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But being a beacon of light under difficult circumstances is part of the example Kadri set by handling the situation with such grace.

“It’s a good message, I think. People need to be aware that this still happens and it’s hurtful. It’s hurtful,” said Kadri. “I know a lot of people don’t have to deal with that and they might not understand what it feels like, but people are trying (to understand). Which I appreciate.

“At the end of the day, I’m a good hockey player and I just try to provide for my team and try to put all of that aside. I just worry about some people – and maybe some kids – that aren’t as mentally tough as I am and have to kind of go through that scrutiny and that criticism. So I want to do the best that I can to help.”

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Led by Andrei Vasilevskiy’s brilliance, Lightning hand Panthers a nightmare ending

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Even their best game couldn’t prevent the Florida Panthers’ worst nightmare, which speaks to how truly special are the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Nobody was more special Monday than Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made 49 saves in a 2-0 shutout that swept the Panthers from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in four games and propelled the Lightning to their third straight Eastern Conference final.

The two-time, defending Stanley Cup champions have won 10 consecutive playoff series, behind only the 40-year-old dynasties of the New York Islanders (19 straight series wins) and Montreal Canadiens (13).

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“It’s remarkable, it’s mind-boggling, but as Pat Maroon says to me: ‘Well, Coop, I’ve won 14,’” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Monday, referring to the Tampa forward who scored the series-winning goal. “But to think in the history of this game and the wonderful, glorious teams that have played in years past, that have made the tradition of this sport so wonderful, to sit here and think we’re in the breath of the greatest teams that have played this game.

“Hopefully we’re not done with that streak, but it’s pretty cool tonight to sit back and marvel at it.”

Monday was the sixth time that Vasilevskiy has closed out a series with a shutout.

“When we look back, when we’re older, that’s going to be something that stays there for a long time,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said of his goalie. “It’s pretty cool to play with a player that I think will go down as one of the best goalies that’s ever played the game. You know, that’s how you kind of gauge players — how they perform in big-time games — and he’s been nothing but tremendous in these games.”

For the first time in the series, the Panthers were tremendous, outshooting the Lightning 18-3 in the first period and 49-26 in the game. But their only victories were a pair of video reviews that overturned Lightning goals in the second period, and the highest-scoring NHL team in 26 years managed only three goals in the series.

The Panthers high-octane offence, which drove Florida to a 115-point regular season and the Presidents’ Trophy, was ineffective when their power play failed and the experienced, battle-hardened Lightning stopped feeding the Panthers’ transition game and built a fortress in front of Vasilevskiy.

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The Lightning blocked 77 shots in the four games and yielded few second chances in front of their goalie, frustrating all of the Panthers’ regular-season scoring heroes: Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart, Claude Giroux and Aaron Ekblad.

It seemed fitting that the speedy and skilled Panthers were sent home on a greasy, bat-in goal by Maroon, one of the slowest players on the ice — and also the winningest.

The 230-pound fourth-liner has won 14 straight playoff series because he won a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019 before joining the Lightning.

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Maroon broke the scoreless tie at 6:16 of the third period when he reached over Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to bat down a puck that had tumbled into the air from a point shot by Zach Bogosian, another Lightning throwback who before winning a Cup with Tampa two years ago was regarded by many as too slow and outdated. Ondrej Palat scored an empty-net goal with 23 seconds remaining.

The Lightning in 2019 were a lot like the Panthers, and then transformed themselves.

“They were once a high-flying kind of offensive team,” Florida coach Andrew Brunette said Monday, “and they found (another) recipe how to win and they stick with it. And obviously we aspire to be them. This was another learning experience for us. We need to be better.

“I think the learning is all the little things they do that win hockey games, how they block shots. I mean, they’ve got a guy like their captain (Steven Stamkos), who has scored 60 goals in this league, and he’s playing defence, blocking shots, he’s willing his team to win. And they’re all like that, and that’s the reason why they win.”

The Lightning can still score goals – they had 13 in the series, including the empty-netters – but are no longer a high-flying offensive team. They are loaded with guile and experience, a proudly blue-collar team led by some high-end skill. They defend relentlessly.

“They kept it tight on the penalty kill, they kept it tight when they’re up, when they were down,” Ekblad said. “They’re a strong, strong team. They don’t give up much.

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“Getting swept is tough. It hurts, it stings.”

It took the Lightning six second-round games to eliminate the Panthers from last year’s playoffs. After all those wins and goals, Florida was an easier out this time. Until Monday, they hadn’t been shut out since Vasilevskiy and the Lightning eliminated them last season.

“The whole series we were always behind,” Barkov lamented. “We were always trying to tie the game. Credit to them, obviously. But there’s a lot of things that we could have done better.

“We can say we didn’t get bounces or we didn’t get lucky, hit the post a couple of times. But they played well and they didn’t give us much.”

Challenged by Brunette to display more “will” and “resilience” after losing Game 3 5-1 on Sunday, the Panther players didn’t do enough to create Grade-A scoring chances in the series. They need to evolve like the Lightning have, but not every team can do it. Not every organization has that will, will take that risk, when things are great in the regular season.

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Yes, the Lightning are special.

“And the beauty of the group is that we’re not satisfied,” Stamkos, the captain, said. “We want 12 straight (series wins). When you kind of take a step back and put things into perspective, especially in the salary cap world that we’re in and the parity in our league, it’s a very, very special group.”

Without arguably their best player in injured forward Brayden Point, the team that has played more hockey than anyone over the last three years will get some vital time this week to rest and heal.

The Lightning will meet the winner of the Carolina Hurricanes-New York Rangers series as they try to become the first team since the 1983 Islanders to win three straight Stanley Cups.

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Kadri’s hat trick leads Avalanche past Blues in Game 4, take 3-1 series lead

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nazem Kadri scored three goals, including two during a four-goal second period barrage, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 6-3 on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference series.

Kadri’s outburst came after he received racist death threats on social media following a first-period collision with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington in Game 3 on Saturday night.

Kadri, who was booed heavily every time he touched the puck, skated towards the glass and appeared to salute the Blues fans after each of his first two goals, inciting even more jeers. It was his first career playoff hat trick.

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Erik Johnson and Devon Toews also scored and Mikko Rantanen added an empty netter for the Avalanche, while Darcy Kuemper made 17 saves.

David Perron scored twice and Pavel Buchnevich had a goal and an assist for the Blues. Ville Husso, making his first start since Game 3 of the first round against Minnesota, made 31 saves.

The Avalanche took control of the game — and the series — with three goals in less than a two-minute span early in the second period.

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Johnson got it going with his first of the playoffs at the 2:44 mark. Kadri gave the Avalanche the lead with his first at 4:07 and Toews scored 19 seconds later to make it 3-1.

Kadri gave Perron a late shove a minute later, causing retaliation by Perron and Buchnevich that landed them both in the box with minor penalties. Colorado did not score on the two-man advantage, but Kadri buried his second goal moments after it ended to make it 4-1.

Perron and Buchnevich each scored power play goals late in the second to bring the Blues back within one, but Kadri’s goal midway through the third scuttled the comeback attempt.

Perron gave the Blues a 1-0 lead five minutes into the game. Buchnevich set up the goal by intercepting Toews’ pass behind the Avalanche net and quickly passed it to an open Perron in front.

The Blues escaped the first period with the lead despite getting outshot 15-3. Husso made several tough saves drawing chants of “HUSS!” from the crowd.

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EXTRA SECURITY

St. Louis police are investigating the threats made towards Kadri. The NHL told the AP on Monday that it is working with the St. Louis Police Department to employ enhanced security procedures both at the arena and in the hotel.

ROAD WARRIORS

Colorado is 4-0 on the road this postseason and is the only team without a loss away from home. The streak ties the second-longest postseason-opening road winning streak in franchise history with the 2001 team. The longest streak is a 7-0 start by the 1999 team.

FACE IN THE CROWD

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Rapper and St. Louis native Nelly participated in the pregame hype by beating on a large drum and leading the crowd in a “Let’s Go Blues” chant.

NOTES: Blues D Torey Krug skated with the team during the morning skate for the first time since sustaining a lower body injury in Game 3 against Minnesota. There is no update on his return. … Avalanche C Alex Newhook played in his first playoff game this year and got an assist on Johnson’s goal. … Blues F Vladimir Tarasenko played in his 88th career playoff game, moving him into a tie with Jaden Schwartz for fifth-most in franchise history. … The Blues recalled G Charlie Lindgren from Springfield, its AHL affiliate, under emergency circumstances on Sunday to back up Husso.



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