pegged him as a backup this season
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ntract with the club after passing his medical on
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ief. "The most demoralizing loss in baseball is a
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2 runs on 15 hits against the White
TORONTO - Jonathan Bernier came back to try and help end a losing streak.
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. By the time the goaltender and the Toronto Maple Leafs left Air Canada Centre, they were out of a playoff spot. Bernier returned from a five-game absence and did his best to keep the Leafs in it against the St. Louis Blues. But a plethora of other mistakes against one of the NHLs top teams Tuesday night ultimately resulted in a 5-3 defeat, their sixth in a row. "Its a hard league," Blues goaltender Ryan Miller said of the Leafs struggles. "Youve got to keep it all together." Things have seemingly fallen apart in just under two weeks time. The loss, coupled with the Blue Jackets beating the Red Wings and the Capitals picking up a point against the Los Angeles Kings, dropped the Leafs out of a wild-card position. Though all four teams have 80 points, Columbus and Detroit held the wild-card spots at the end of the night, ahead of the Capitals and then the Leafs because of games played. Not long ago Toronto was second in the Atlantic Division, and now it looks like the season is slipping away. "Certainly were afraid of letting it slip away," said winger Joffrey Lupul, whose early goal was the first time Toronto opened the scoring in eight games. "The whole year weve thought we were a playoff team, and we still believe that now. ... Theres reason for concern, but its not completely time to panic. Were still right there." Winger James van Riemsdyk, whose goal at 15:54 of the third period cut the Leafs deficit to a goal, said that the team has "100 per cent" faith that things can turn around with just eight games remaining. "We have a lot of confidence in our abilities and a belief in ourselves and believe in the guys in the room," van Riemsdyk said. "This thing is obviously far from over." At some point the Leafs (36-30-8) must show that instead of just talking about it. They were unable to do that against the Blues, who passed the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the league thanks to a hat trick from David Backes and one goal apiece from T.J. Oshie and former Leafs forward Alex Steen. Though Bernier allowed four goals, his return from a groin injury was more memorable for some of the big saves he made among his 44. The 25-year-old No. 1 goalie gave his team a chance, but too much continued to go wrong in front of and around the net. Lupul said a good team is supposed to bail its goalie out and vice-versa. That didnt happen for James Reimer in the first five games of this slide, and that continued with Bernier. "When you get in a slide like this its easy to start pin-pointing individuals, which is fair, but as a group we look at it like, if theres a mistake made by someone, someone else steps up and makes a play for them," Lupul said. "And we just havent been doing quite enough of that right now." Captain Dion Phaneuf hesitated twice to clear the puck on a late-first-period penalty kill before the Blues forced a turnover and scored, then was beaten by Steen in front of the net on the fourth goal St. Louis scored. Phaneuf was not made available to speak to reporters, leaving coach Randy Carlyle to answer for some of the defencemans poor play. "He and (Cody) Franson have been the top pairing on our blue line, as far as the offensive side of it, all year," Carlyle said. "In tonights situation, he had a rough night." Phaneuf could be blamed for at least two goals against, but he wasnt alone in having a rough night against the Blues (49-16-7), who showed early and often why theyre a Stanley Cup contender. "It was a 5-3 game where I think we couldve scored 10 goals tonight," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said in a nod to Bernier. "We had so many scoring opportunities, and I thought for the most part until we got careless and started to get fancy around the net instead of burying it that we were really playing one of our top games." During the first period, St. Louis hemmed the Leafs in their own end, putting 23 shots on net, a season high for Toronto. "I dont know," Lupul said. "We couldnt break their cycle, we couldnt get the puck." Had the Leafs managed to go into the first intermission tied 1-1, as Carlyle pointed out, they would have been fortunate. But Phaneufs mistake led to a power-play goal by Backes with 32.3 seconds left. Backes had to beat Bernier, too, but he did that twice and added an empty netter for his second career hat trick. "Theres something about this barn and this stage," Backes said. "Theres obviously a special thing about being in Toronto. The buzz in the air and everyones talking about the Leafs. Every establishments got a neon Leafs sign of some sort. This is kind of the Mecca for hockey here in Toronto." Hockey Mecca includes many more people panicking even after the Leafs lost to a much better team in the Blues. Van Riemsdyk repeatedly pointed out that the Blues are "a heck of a hockey team." Theres no disputing that, only that the Leafs couldnt find a way to end their skid. Bernier knows nothing should have to be said after this one. "If were missing motivation, at this time of the year everyone should have some," he said. "Obviously we knew it was not going to be easy. Thats a good team out there — theyre first and they showed it tonight." The Leafs showed something in trimming a three-goal deficit to one in the third period. And while thats the biggest thing theyll take from Tuesday night, its not nearly enough with the frustration building up. "Youve got to try and manage that," van Riemsdyk said. "If you play in a frustrated type of way youre no good out there. Weve got to continue to learn from things and look at the positives and kind of go from there." One positive Lupul sees is two games ahead at the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night and then back home against the Red Wings on Saturday night. "You win those two games, all of a sudden things look a lot different," he said. Until the Leafs manage to do that, things look bleak. NOTES: With Bernier back, the Leafs sent goaltender Drew MacIntyre back to the AHLs Toronto Marlies. ... Defenceman Paul Ranger was scratched for the third straight game with a neck injury.
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. -- The Minnesota Vikings have signed Jerome Simpson, the former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver recently convicted on a felony drug charge.
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.The seventh-seeded Raonic was scheduled to play U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori of Japan, but was replaced in the Group B pool by Spanish substitute David Ferrer.Raonic, who was 0-2 at the year-end event, said he suffered the injury late in the first set of Tuesdays 6-3, 7-6 loss to Murray.ST. LOUIS -- Travis Wood made a beeline for fellow pitcher Jeff Samardzijas locker. He wanted to apologize for all of that run support. "I instantly came in here and gave him a hug and said sorry," the lefty said after the Chicago Cubs got six RBIs from Junior Lake in a 17-5 rout over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night. "The offence played great, they brought their A game." Samardzija has a 1.45 ERA, but is 0-3. The Cubs have totalled 15 runs in his eight starts. Lake homered and doubled twice for Chicago, which had lost seven of eight overall. The Cubs totalled just four runs while getting swept in a three-game series at Atlanta over the weekend -- Emilio Bonifacio scored five times himself in this romp. "Thats what we needed," Lake said. "Just play hard and something happened good." Chicago has the worst record in the league at 13-24, but is 4-3 against the defending NL champions. The Cardinals were forced to finish with infielder Daniel Descalso as a relief pitcher getting the final out in the ninth. Its the first time St. Louis used a position player to pitch since Rob Johnson against the Dodgers in a 13-4 loss at home Aug. 7. "Its embarrassing to have to put him into that spot," manager Mike Matheny said. "Hes a team guy and understands, but should have never been in that spot to begin with." "Its tough for all of us to watch." The Cubs hit for the cycle in the first five batters -- Bonifacio doubled, Anthony Rizzo singled, Starlin Castro tripled and Mike Olts two-run homer capped a four-run first inning. Bonifacio had four of Chicagos 20 hits and scored a career-best five times -- the most in the majors this season -- once on a play overturned by video review. Rizzo and Castro each drove in three as the Cubs set season highs for runs and hits. Cardinals reliever Randy Choate gave up a career-worst six runs in the ninth and left with two outs. Descalso made his first pro pitching appearance and retired the only batter he faced, getting Oltt on a fly ball.
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. "I just went out there and did what they asked me to do," Descalso said. "I really dont want to talk about this." Wood (3-4) beat St. Louis for the second time in three starts despite giving up five runs in six innings. He hit two batters in the fifth and both scored. Tyler Lyons (0-3) surrendered nine runs in four innings in his fourth start in place of injured Joe Kelly. "I felt a lot better the first two innings than I did in the third and fourth," Lyons said. "Its just one of those things. Sometimes you just get hit, I guess." Allen Craig drove in two runs for the Cardinals. Yadier Molina had two hits, an RBI and a steal when he caught Wood napping in the fifth and took third without a throw. Lake hit a three-run homer in the second for a 7-0 lead. He had an RBI double in the fourth and a two-run double in the ninth. Lake began the game with eight RBIs in 92 at-bats this season. Three of his four homers have come against the Cardinals. "Hes electric, for sure," Wood said. "When hes on, hes on. Hes got tremendous pop and nice to see it come out." Olt leads NL with eight homers, including four in the last six games, all on the road. In the fourth, Bonifacio was called out at the plate when he tried to score on Rizzos grounder to short with the infield in. The Cubs challenged the call, and the ruled was reversed. NOTES: The Cubs previous bests for runs and hits came at Comiskey Park on Thursday when they scored 12 runs on 15 hits against the White Sox. ... Bonifacio is the first Cubs player to score five runs since Jody Davis in 1987. ... Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (6-2, 4.75) opposes Jake Arrieta (0-0, 2.89) in the second game of a four-game set. Wainwright is 9-7 for his career against Chicago but just 3-6 with a 4.83 ERA at home, and is coming off his first career loss at Wrigley Field on May 2. ... Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia, rehabbing from shoulder surgery, allowed two runs on three hits in five innings for Triple-A Memphis.
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on December 13 at 02:02 AM
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