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do to earn a spot, theres no
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks were sloppy on defence at times Sunday night. The struggling Edmonton Oilers struggled even more in their own zone and it cost them against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Marcus Kruger scored the tiebreaking goal with 8:16 left in the third period, Duncan Keith added a power-play goal 1:55 later and the Blackhawks beat Edmonton 5-4 for their third straight victory. "Were happy to get wins and get points, but we always want to keep getting better, take positives from every game," Keith said. Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell also scored for the Blackhawks (12-2-4), who are 6-0-1 in their last seven games. Kruger was alone at the edge of the crease when he took a pass from Ben Smith off the boards, turned and wrapped the puck past Devan Dubnyk to put Chicago ahead 4-3. Keith added his first of the season on a screened shot from the point. It turned out to be the game-winner because Jordan Eberle scored short-handed for the Oilers on a deflection of Nick Schultzs point shot with 1:28 remaining. "We make a few more mistakes against these guys than we should," Keith said. "Theyre able to capitalize." Edmonton also got an even-strength goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and power-play scores from Nail Yakupov and David Perron, but lost its third straight and fifth in six games. Sam Gagner missed on a second-period penalty shot. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford made 19 saves, while Dubnyk had 31. "Their power play ignited their offence tonight," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "But still, it was one of those games where we stuck with it, which was important, and found a way to win against a team that enjoys playing against us and has some success against us." The Oilers were 1-1-1 against the Blackhawks last season. "We tend to get out of our game playing against them," Saad said. "We started slow, but we bounced back and finished the game well." The Oilers entered with the NHLs worst goals-against average (3.83) after allowing 48 goals in their first 18 games. The Blackhawks came in averaging 3.47 goals, second only to San Jose, and had scored 27 in their last six games. Defensive zone breakdowns doomed the Oilers in this one. The Blackhawks scored four even-strength goals when one of their players was left wide open near the net. Keiths power-play goal through a screen was the only exception. "Thats missed coverage, and missed coverage by some of our veteran players, which is concerning to me," Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins said. "If you cant defend in this league, youre not going to win. "Tonight we had flashes of very good D-zone coverage and then we had some flashes of just total unawareness of what was going on behind us," he added. "Were losing individual responsibilities in our D-zone and its killing us." Chicago defenceman Michal Rozsival left with just more than 4 minutes left after being hit in the face with a puck, but Quenneville said he would be OK. Both teams and goalies played their second game in two days. The Blackhawks won 5-2 at Dallas on Saturday night, and the Oilers lost 4-2 at Philadelphia in an afternoon game. Saad scored the only goal of a sluggish first period with 1:37 left. Edmontons Philip Larsen got a stick on Brandon Pirris centring attempt from the left side of the net, but the puck popped into the air and landed in the slot. Saad drove to the net between two Oilers defenders and put a shot into the lower left corner. Nugent-Hopkins tied it 54 seconds into the second period on a quick shot that fooled Crawford high on the stick side. After taking Perrons feed, Nugent-Hopkins turned and in one motion whipped a shot into the upper left corner. Gagner was awarded a penalty shot at 4:13 after Brent Seabrook hooked him from behind on a breakaway. On his attempt, Gagner lost control of the puck and slid it wide right after several quick moves in close. Yakupovs power-play goal at 8:55 put Edmonton ahead 2-1. Set up by Larsen, Yakupov ripped a one-timer from the top of the right circle past Crawfords glove. The Blackhawks picked up the pace, tested Dubnyk and tied it at 2 with 2:42 left in the period when Shaw capitalized on another Oilers coverage breakdown. Saad powered into the Edmonton zone with the puck, but was steered aside by Anton Belov and Larsen. Shaw snuck in behind the play, took Saads pass and scored on a wrist shot from inside the hashmarks. Bickell gave Chicago a 3-2 lead at 5:33 of the third when he was left alone at the edge of the crease and stuffed in a rebound of Rozsivals drive from the blue line. Perrons power-play goal 2:25 later, on a deflection of Larsens shot from the point, tied it at 3. NOTES: Gagner is 0 for 2 on penalty shots in his career. ... The Oilers finished 1-3-0 on their road trip. ... Chicago C Michal Handzus missed his eighth game with an upper-body and is still "one or two weeks" from returning, according to Quenneville. ... Veteran G Ilya Bryzgalov, signed by Edmonton to a reported $2 million, one-year deal on Friday, is expected to join Oklahoma City of the AHL for a conditioning stint. He hasnt played an NHL game since April. ... Edmonton LW Luke Gazdic (shoulder) sat out. He was injured Saturday in Philadelphia. Ozzie Albies Jersey . Although Olivetti, a qualifier, had 13 aces, he failed to force a single break-point chance on Gasquets serve and lost his own three times. Gasquet next plays third-seeded Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, who won had 18 aces in a 6-2, 6-4 win against seventh-seeded Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. Tom Glavine Braves Jersey . It was the first game back in Columbus for Rangers star Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets franchise leader in goals, assists and games. He was given a standing ovation during a video tribute in the first period, but was booed loud and long after a second-period, two-handed shove up high on Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. http://www.baseballbravesproshop.com/ . -- Kyrie Irvings last-minute 3-pointer helped seal another victory for Cleveland -- and the Cavaliers longest winning streak since LeBron James left. Ender Inciarte Jersey . Behind the talents of rookie Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames will look to keep pace Thursday night when they face the Minnesota Wild in the second of a six-game homestand. Josh Donaldson Braves Jersey . Obasi chested the ball past one defender, prodded it past another and then rounded the keeper before scoring from a tight angle in the 16th minute. Seconds after the restart, Obasi set up Klaas Jan Huntelaar for the Dutchmans 11th goal from 13 games this season.DUNEDIN, Florida – On Wednesday, it was J.A. Happs turn to play in the ongoing game of hot potato, better known as the competition to determine who will comprise the back end of the Blue Jays starting rotation. When the figurative music stops on March 31, Opening Day, general manager Alex Anthopoulos, manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker will make whats becoming an increasingly difficult decision thanks to consistently mediocre to subpar performances by the candidates. Walker said before Wednesdays 11-6 win over the Phillies that the game was a "big start" for Happ. He needed to pitch in the strike zone. Happ needed to force Philadephias hitters to make contact. He was scheduled to pitch four or five innings with a pitch count of 70, give or take a few. Turns out Happ threw 71 pitches but did so in only 2 2/3 innings. Only 34 of those pitches were strikes. He laboured, to be generous, allowing three runs on three hits and four walks. Afterward, Happ saw his afternoon in a positive light. "It was good," he said. "I felt strong out there. Maybe a little too good but everything was good. Health was good." The health to which Happ refers is his back, an ailment which has kept him out of Grapefruit League action since he was pulled in the first inning of a March 3 start against the Twins. Happ intends to focus on developing his rhythm, interrupted due to injury, next time out. Hes looking to more consistently harness the new arm slot he employed in the final month of last season. Happ watched video of his start and noticed hed reverted to an over-the-top angle. Its all in the name of better efficiency. "Thats the same story for everybody," said Gibbons. "To be successful in the big leagues youve got to throw a lot of strikes. Youve got to throw that strike one. You fall behind guys, it turns everything in the hitters favour and just the opposite for the pitcher. Hes capable of doing that." Two weeks ago, the 31-year-old was bothered by Anthopoulos suggestion that his spot in the starting rotation was in question. Happ isnt dwelling on it now, saying he cant worry about what he cant control. Its apparent he will be on the team, as will Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond, his competitors for a final rotation job. The question is who will be the starter and which two will work out of a bullpen which is expected to feature eight relievers. Its believed Happ is in the drivers seat, partly because Rogers doesnt throw enough of his repertoire for strikes and Redmond tends to struggle once the oppositions lineup turns over. Remember, too, that Happ is owed $5.2 million this year on an extension signed the day Ricky Romero was cut from camp last spring. The idea of having $12.7 million on the books for Happ and Romero, with neither in the starting rotation, cant be a pleasant one. "I dont feel like Im far," said Happ. "You guys, youre going to take that outing for what it was and it doesnt look pretty. Pitch-wise, like I said, Im up to 70 and next time be 85-90 and still feel strong thatll be a good thing. Im close." "Im looking forward to his next start," said Gibbons. &qquot;Thats all Ive got to say.dddddddddddd" The game of hot potato continues on Thursday when the Blue Jays visit the Phillies. Another back end of the rotation candidate gets the start. Over to you, Esmil Rogers. ROMERO AND STROMAN REASSIGNED Ricky Romero and Marcus Stroman shipped out to minor league camp on Wednesday morning. Both were outsiders, at best, to crack the opening day roster but both impressed at times during Grapefruit League play. "We just feel they both need more work," said manager John Gibbons. "As far as Ricky, hes moving in the right direction. We really like what he did this camp. Just go down there and polish it up. Stro, hes kind of the odd man out. He had trouble throwing strikes (Tuesday). Hes got to do that. They both need more work." After two down years the bar wasnt set high for Romero. With that as a consideration, its fair to say he exceeded expectations. He had two positive outings before he cratered against the Tigers on Tuesday, reverting to his wild ways. "He showed us enough in the previous two outings before (Tuesday) that you know what, hey, its coming," said Gibbons. "Its a long road and you never really know whether a guy is going to make it back or not but he was starting to show the signs of it." Stroman showed flashes of the pitcher the Blue Jays believe he will become but he was inconsistent all spring, culminating with an ugly performance on Tuesday. The Tigers knocked him around for seven runs on five hits in one-third of an inning. "We brought Stroman in, he pitched in Double-A for us and he had a legitimate shot (at making the club,") said Gibbons. "We dont think hes quite ready. Hes not polished yet so hes got to go down there and work on some things." The Jays still need to add two to a rotation which features R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle. While the pitching coach offers praise to Drew Hutchison, Pete Walker wont yet guarantee him a spot. "Not ready to say that," said Walker. "Obviously, were extremely pleased with the way hes thrown the ball. Hes certainly shown hes capable of getting major league hitters out. His velocity, his strength, his bounce back, right now, after outings has been fantastic. Hes shown poise on the mound. Hes done everything you need to do to earn a spot, theres no question, but were just in a position right now, were sorting through some things to make sure we make the right decision." SANCHEZ AROUND FOR EXPERIENCE Aaron Sanchez is getting plenty of opportunity to pitch in Grapefruit League games, often the back end of a starters piggyback. Hes thrown as many as four innings in a game and is scheduled to work in relief of Todd Redmond against the Rays on Friday. "He wont make the team," said manager John Gibbons. "We want to keep him around, pitching in some of these games for the experience factor." Sanchez, 21, is considered the Jays top pitching prospect. He threw 109 2/3 innings combined with High-A Dunedin and in the Arizona Fall League last season. Its expected he will begin the year at Double-A New Hampshire. ' ' '
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