Group Field Tuesday and noting

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(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of Atlantic Division combatants return from the NHLs Christmas break, as the Florida Panthers welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs for Sundays clash at BB&T Center. The Panthers havent played since Monday when they salvaged the finale of a home-and-home series with Pittsburgh. Florida began a four-game homestand with the shootout triumph over the Penguins and improved to 8-4-2 as the home club this season. Toronto also was able to head into the brief break on a positive note, as it posted a 4-0 victory Tuesday night in Dallas. The shutout win halted an 0-3 slide for Randy Carlyles club and was the Maple Leafs seventh victory in 10 outings. This evenings test marks the first of four scheduled encounters between the Leafs and Panthers in 2014-15. Florida, which is five points in back of fourth-place Toronto in the division standings, won three of four meetings with Toronto last season and has claimed eight of the past 12 encounters in this series. The Panthers also have won two straight, seven of nine and nine of the past 12 meetings in the Sunshine State. Florida won its third consecutive home game with Mondays 4-3 decision over the Penguins, who had posted a 3-1 victory over the Panthers in the Steel City on Dec. 20. Aleksander Barkov provided the lone goal of a seven-round shootout as the Cats claimed the extra point in the finale. After Simon Despres had his chance deflected away by Roberto Luongo to open the final round, Barkov faked a move from forehand-to-backhand up the middle and casually flipped a shot past Marc- Andre Fleury which ended the game. Florida has been no stranger to lengthy shootout battles recently, as the club has endured four shootouts lasting a total of 35 rounds in its last six contests. Jimmy Hayes scored twice in regulation and Jussi Jokinen once for the Panthers, while Luongo came up with 24 saves. Weve been beating some good teams here, Hayes said. We have to continue to put pucks in the net. Florida will continue its homestand Tuesday against Montreal before completing the stay in Sunrise the following night against the New York Rangers. The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are making the third stop on a seven-game road trip tonight. Toronto began the epic trek with last Sundays 4-0 setback in Chicago, but the Leafs rebounded two days later when they downed the Stars by the same score. James van Riemsdyk led Torontos offense with a goal and two assists, but Jonathan Bernier played an even bigger role in the victory, stopping all 43 shots to post his second shutout of the season. Berniers 43 saves included 19 in the third period. He picked up his ninth career shutout. The win allowed Toronto to avoid its first four-game losing streak of the season. You dont want losing streaks to linger and that one was lingering long enough for us, said Carlyle. Hopefully well use this as a little bit of a breather. It was the best Christmas present we could have given ourselves. Nazem Kadri added a goal and an assist for the Leafs, who also received goal from Tyler Bozak and Mike Santorelli. Phil Kessel contributed two helpers to the winning effort. Toronto, which is three points behind Montreal for the third and final automatic playoff bid in the Atlantic, improved its road record this season to 6-4-3. The Leafs will continue the swing with Mondays tilt in Tampa and that means both Bernier and backup James Reimer could draw starts over the next two games. Bernier is 1-1-0 with a 2.58 goals against average in his career against Florida, while Reimer has a lifetime 1-3-0 record and a 3.47 GAA in this matchup. Luongo boasts a 15-7-0 record and a 2.29 GAA against Toronto and is expected to start tonight. Cheap Air Max Outlet . Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, Fiorentina levelled on aggregate in the 14th minute when Joaquin Sanchez Rodriguez headed back a long ball from David Pizarro and Pasqual smashed home an angled volley. 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Air Max Outlet Online .J. -- Patrick Sharp is on one of those streaks.WINNIPEG - Its one thing when your teammates think youre the glue that binds Canadas womens soccer team, but its something else entirely when one of your rivals thinks youre literally the best in the world.Ive said for a long time that I believe, in my humble opinion, that Christine Sinclair is the best player in the world, said Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the U.S. team Canada will play Thursday in a friendly.You dont always get to see how brilliant she is because she doesnt always have the support players but I think now shes starting to get the support players she needs to really highlight her own play.That means Solo ranks Sinclair above Brazils Marta — a five-time FIFA World Player of the Year — and even her own teammate Abby Wambach, who has scored more goals than Sinclair or anyone else in womens soccer.She plays both sides of the ball, Solo said. Marta, she gets the ball with her feet, she can score goals. But Christine Sinclair, she reads the game, she passes, she gets assists and shes dangerous every time she gets the ball. . . Ive looked up to her and Ive admired her as a player for a really long time.Sinclairs teammates are still in awe of her talent.Shes sort of that pivotal girl for us, said midfielder Desiree Scott, the Winnipeg native playing for the first time live in front of her parents this week.She makes everything tick and shes the one we rely on.Sinclair and Canada will need every bit of talent and skill they can muster to beat the No. 1-ranked Americans. Theyve already lost their first meeting this year and Canada, ranked seventh in the world, hasnt beat the U.S. since 2001.The rivalry between the teams has taken on more of an edge since the U.S. beat Canada in the semifinals at the 2012 Olympics, but Sinclair says the real goal remains peaking when the World Cup is held here in 2015.As for stepping to the spotlight Solo and others woould like to shine on her, Sinclair remains reticent as ever.ddddddddddddIts not always something Ive embraced because its a team sport and Ive always said that, you know, you cant be the best if you havent won anything, she said after practice Tuesday.I think finally at the Olympics, as a team we were able to show and as a team I think weve started to get the respect we deserve around the world.She is an 11-time winner of the Canada Soccer Player of the Year Award and has been on the national team for 14 years. Despite all that experience, at 30, Sinclair also says her game has improved, and like her team she feels that peak is coming at just the right time for a World Cup in Canada.But defeating the Americans, who have perfected so many aspects of their game, means finding new ways to break free from a defence that did a good job of shutting her down the last time they met.It seemed that every time I got the ball I had two people on me. It was a little frustrating. As a player, in terms of developing . . . I need to learn how to cope with that, she said.Meanwhile, U.S. forward Wambach wasnt too thrilled at the idea of playing on artificial turf like the surface in Winnipeg come 2015, when Canada hosts the World Cup.It will run from June 6 to July 5 and games will be played in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton. Of those, only Monctons tiny 10,000-seat stadium has real grass.The reality is the World Cup would never be played on turf if it were the men, Wambach said after practising on Investors Group Field Tuesday and noting that there were pebbles and even nails as workers renovate parts of the press box and other areas in the stadium that only opened last year.She said she assumes that will be cleaned up, but it isnt her point.Im going to stand by what Ive been saying. We deserve to be treated just like the men do. ' ' '

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