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Joely Rodriguez a ‘key to the game’ in extended Mets outing

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The trade deadline came and went last Tuesday without the Mets addressing what many pegged as their biggest need: a left-handed reliever. 

But Sunday, when the Mets needed a quality — and extended — relief outing, left-hander Joely Rodriguez delivered. 

On another day when the Mets’ bullpen was shorthanded, Rodriguez relieved Jacob deGrom and provided 2 ¹/₃ scoreless innings in a 5-2 win over the Braves at Citi Field. 

“Joely was as key to the game today as Jake was,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Was that a stretch? I don’t think it’s a stretch.” 

Showalter did need to stretch Rodriguez, though, for his longest outing of the season. 

When the game started, Showalter knew he had five relievers who he wasn’t going to use after the first four games of the series had taxed the bullpen. That left just Rodriguez, closer Edwin Diaz and the recently called up Adonis Medina to carry the load once deGrom had exited the game. 

Joely Rodriguez pitches on Sunday during the Mets’ win over the Braves.
AP

A spectacular outing from deGrom accounted for 5 ²/₃ innings before Rodriguez entered to protect the three-run lead against the heart of the Braves’ lineup. 

After getting lefty Matt Olson to ground out to end the sixth inning, Rodriguez gave up a leadoff single to Austin Riley in the seventh. But he buckled down and got Ronald Acuña Jr. to fly out to the warning track before striking out William Contreras and Robbie Grossman. 

Rodriguez then punched out two more batters in a perfect eighth inning, then handed the game over to Diaz. 

All four of Rodriguez’s strikeouts came on his changeup. 

“To be honest, yeah, the changeup today was the best I’ve thrown it all year,” Rodriguez said through an interpreter. “It was excellent for me.” 

Rodriguez, who lowered his ERA to 5.12 on the season, has thrown three straight scoreless appearances, offering hope he can give the Mets a reliable lefty out of the bullpen down the stretch. 

“I’m just focused to do the best I can,” Rodriguez said. “The same way that I’m expected to do my job, everybody else is expected to do their job. What we want to do is perform, go out there and continue to win games and provide the best of our ability.”

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Revered Borje Salming leaves behind lasting Maple Leafs, NHL legacy as icon

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The beautiful part of it is that Borje Salming knew how the world perceived him before his passing as a victim of ALS on Thursday at age 71. The word “iconic” doesn’t quite do justice to the Hall of Fame defenseman. Salming was more that. He was revered. 

He was revered not only as a player, but also as an individual. Love and adoration flowed to Salming as a groundbreaker who became a pioneering role model in opening the door for an influx of his fellow Swedes into the NHL after he conquered an unwelcoming, antagonistic environment that confronted him and any who might threaten the Canadian hegemony of the league. 

Salming knew that. He knew that when he received a thunderous ovation at Maple Leaf Gardens during pregame introductions while representing Team Sweden prior to playing Team Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup. He knew that two weekends ago in Toronto on consecutive, emotional nights featuring one impromptu tribute and a second formal one that evoked tears. 

Similarly, he knew that at the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation Centennial Gala celebrating the country’s all-time greatest players at Avicii Arena in Stockholm just over one week ago, when his introduction evoked an emotional response. Salming was not only a beloved hockey player, but also a beloved individual in the way of Rod Gilbert, Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe, and a beloved cultural icon in the way of Maurice Richard. 

Borje Salming
Borje Salming passed away at 71.
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Mika Zibanejad was born in 1993, three years after Salming retired from the NHL and the same year No. 21 stepped away from the Swedish League to which he had returned for his final three seasons. Zibanejad is of a different generation. But he’s not ignorant. 

“From my personal experience, the guys I grew up watching were Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson,” Zibanejad told Slap Shots on Friday. “I was too young to see Salming play, and I’m sorry I never got the chance to interact with him, but I know what he did for our game. 

“He opened doors for players from Sweden and Europe and changed everything for us, and that is because of his courage.” 

Before Salming and countryman Inge Hammarstrom joined the Maple Leafs for the 1973-74 season, just three Swedes had played in the NHL. Ulf Sterner was the first, playing four games for the Rangers in 1964-65, but the slick center could not make the leap in an era in which European leagues did not permit bodychecking in the offensive zone. 

Juha Widing, another center who played for the Rangers in 1969-70 before he was traded to the Kings for Ted Irvine, was next. Detroit defenseman Thommie Bergman joined the league in 1972-73. Salming and Hammarstrom came over a year later in a time during which those of his origin were painted as, “Chicken Swedes.” By the way? In 2011, NBC analyst Mike Milbury called Daniel and Henrik Sedin, “Thelma and Louise,” so there was that. 

Salming joined the Leafs in an era during which Bobby Orr was just going out; Denis Potvin, Brad Park, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson dominated on the blue line; and Raymond Bourque was just coming into the NHL. 

Borje Salming is honored in a ceremony on Nov. 11.
Borje Salming is honored in a ceremony on Nov. 11.
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From 1974-75 — Salming’s sophomore season — through 1979-80, the Swede was the only defenseman to be named either first-team or second-team All-Star in each of those six seasons. He was dominant at both ends of the ice, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. 

Salming was one of a kind. He kicked the door down for people like Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson to join the Rangers in 1978-79 as the 12th and 13th Swedes to play in the NHL. They faced constant physical abuse. They endured the slings and arrows so others could follow. 

Seventy-nine Swedes have played in the NHL this season. 

A statue of Borje Salming resides outside Scotiabank Arena.
A statue of Borje Salming resides outside Scotiabank Arena.
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“I know it was not easy for any of those players. Of all of us who are in the NHL now owe them a debt of gratitude,” Zibanejad said. “They paved the way for us. 

“It’s not something I think about on a day-to-day basis, but I do try to keep that in mind. I’m very thankful for what they did. I want to be able to have the same positive influence and make things better for the next generation. 

“That’s a way I can repay Borje.” 


The NHL gets younger and faster all the time, while Brian Boyle gets neither. But the 37-year-old center, currently unemployed as a free agent, should be a person of interest for Stanley Cup contenders looking to shore up their bottom sixes. 

“I’m not retired,” the one-time Ranger and Devil said in a text exchange this week. “I’d love to be playing but so far the offers haven’t been there 

Boyle, the 2018 Masterton winner, rehabbed from knee surgery after sustaining an injury in Game 6 of the Penguins’ first-round series against the Rangers. 

“I was good in four weeks,” said Boyle, an inspirational figure after having conquered chronic myeloid leukemia. “I’m training hard and am staying ready. We’ll see. 

“But all is great.”

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Artemi Panarin’s scoreless streak grows to 12 games in Rangers’ loss

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Artemi Panarin has gone 12 straight games without a goal after failing to score in the Rangers’ stunning 4-3 loss to the reeling Oilers on Saturday afternoon at the Garden. The 12 games tied the longest scoring drought of the Russian wing’s NHL career.

Game 12 likely stung more than the previous 11, however, considering Panarin thought he had scored twice.

Panarin had one of his more active games of the season, in two of the three periods at least. In addition to assisting on Chris Kreider’s second-period tally, Panarin posted two shots on goal and one takeaway. Both of his shots came in the first period.

The first came on a power play. Panarin wired one home from the right faceoff circle and had a look of relief rush upon his face. But Edmonton challenged for offside and the goal was rescinded after the replay revealed that Panarin never fully crossed the puck into the offensive zone before Vincent Trocheck entered.

Artemi Panarin reacts during the Rangers’ loss to the Oilers.
Jason Szenes

“Yeah, especially when I can’t score the last [11] games,” Panarin said when asked if he was frustrated. “Posts or something, always something. Just keep doing what I usually do. Try not to lose confidence. That’s the most important thing.”

Braden Schneider also had a goal negated after the Oilers challenged for goalie interference, which proved to be the case when replays showed Ryan Carpenter had made contact with Oilers goalie Jack Campbell in the blue crease.

Panarin later smacked a one-timer from the other faceoff circle and Campbell slid over to get in front of it just in time. It was unclear if the puck went in or not, so the refs got on the headsets with the situation room to give it a second look before it was officially deemed not a goal.

Panarin skated on the right wing of the top line next to Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider , similar to how the Rangers lined up at the end of their 3-2 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim on Wednesday and again in practice on Friday. That left Trocheck to center Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow. The Kid Line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko remained intact, while the fourth line featured Sammy Blais, Ryan Carpenter and Julien Gauthier.


Vitali Kravtsov was scratched for a seventh straight game despite taking part in warmups Saturday afternoon. Additionally, Libor Hajek replaced Zac Jones on the left side of the bottom defensive pair alongside Braden Schneider. Jones had played in the previous three games and seemed primed to get a run in the lineup, as Hajek already had, but  head coach Gerard Gallant opted to switch it up.


The Rangers dropped to 8-2-1 when scoring first this season after giving up four unanswered tallies in the third period.

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Rob Gronkowski plays baseball with marshmallows in supermarket: ‘Holy smokes’

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Former superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski showed off his prowess in a different sport: baseball.

While in a Sprouts Farmers Markert, the five-time Pro Bowler was recorded hitting a marshmallow into a sea of gawking people. Gronkowski even earned enough respect to be posted by MLB’s Twitter account, who captioned the video: “POV: You go to the store to get milk and Gronk is in produce crushing dingers.”

The gimmick took multiple attempts to successfully complete, with Gronk using a loaf of bread as a bat. During one trial, the bread slid out of its sleeve and flew to a customer – who later got it signed.

Gronkowski tried again and finally made contact by sending the marshmallow deep. Among a crowd of oohs and ahs, the former Patriots and Buccaneers tight end proudly saluted his hit.

Gronk hit dingers with marshmallows in a supermarket.
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“Holy smokes,” one person in the video said.



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