The Montreal Canadiens are looking to Jonathan Drouin to provide a spark they hope will lead to more timely offense. The cost of acquiring the 22-year-old forward in a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 15 was Montreal’s top prospect, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who was the No. 9 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. But the opportunity to add one of the most talented young Quebec-born players in the NHL proved irresistible to general manager Marc Bergevin. The Canadiens have won one Stanley Cup Playoff series since 2014, when they reached the Eastern Conference Final. Drouin has moved to center and will play on the top line with left wing Max Pacioretty, who had one assist in a six-game loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round, when Montreal scored 11 goals. Their offensive contributions will be crucial after right wing Alexander Radulov left to sign with the Dallas Stars. The Canadiens signed 34-year-old right wing Ales Hemsky to replace a bit of the offense they lost with Radulov’s departure, and defensemen Karl Alzner, David Schlemko and Mark Streit also were added with the entire left side of the defense needing to be replaced with Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Nathan Beaulieu leaving. “You’ve got to find your identity and our team’s identity has always been speed, working hard and being a good forechecking team, and trying to play teams that way,” right wing Brendan Gallagher said. “And regardless of the new bodies that come in, you know, they’re going to play different ways, but I think it’s still going to be our identity as a hockey team and what the Montreal Canadiens are all about.” Here is a look at the five keys for the Canadiens, the inside scoop on their roster questions and projected lineup for the 2017-18 season: 5 KEYS 1. Healthy Price The importance of goalie Carey Price to the Canadiens’ success was obvious in 2015-16 when a right-knee injury limited him to 12 games. They slid down the standings and missed the playoffs without their All-Star goalie, but they bounced back to win the Atlantic Division last season with Price healthy. Their success this season, and in the future, will be tied to Price, who on July 2 signed an eight-year, $84 million contract extension ($10.5 million average annual value) that begins after this season. Top 10 Goalies: Carey Price 02:36 • August 7th, 2017 2. Centered on Drouin Drouin’s arrival gives coach Claude Julien an opportunity to address the Canadiens’ search for a legitimate No. 1 center. Drouin played primarily on the wing for Tampa Bay, but he was successful as a center with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2011-14 and has embraced the move. That takes pressure off Alex Galchenyuk, who has not been able to establish himself at center through his first five NHL seasons and may not get another opportunity, at least in Montreal, where Julien and Bergevin agree he will remain on the wing for the time being. Drouin nets PPG on amazing effort 00:52 • January 20th, 2017 3. Left side of defense remade Defenseman Shea Weber will have a new partner. Alzner has been paired with Jeff Petry, but who will play with Weber remains a mystery as the Canadiens embark on a season without Markov in the lineup for the first time since 1999. Jordie Benn, David Schlemko and even 19-year-old Victor Mete are all potential candidates. Bergevin said the defense will have to replace Markov by committee, and Streit may be an option to fill that role on the power play. Schlemko’s top-shelf tally 01:03 • April 21st, 2017 4. Power play on rise Drouin gives the Canadiens the kind of offensive threat they haven’t had on the power play since the prime of forward Alex Kovalev from 2005-09. “There’s a lot of things that I think Jonathan can see and do, and we’ll continue to work with that,” Julien said. 5. Tweaks to system Julien began his second stint as Canadiens coach after Michel Therrien was fired Feb. 14. After adjusting the way Montreal played rather than implementing a new system, Julien has a fresh canvas to work with. “There are tweaks, there are little things, but it’s nothing major,” Gallagher said. “It’s kind of something that you wouldn’t notice just sitting watching a game, you’ve got to really pay attention, and I won’t give everything away. I’ll let other teams figure that out.” ROSTER RUNDOWN Biggest lock Pacioretty led the Canadiens in points (67) and goals (35) last season. It was the sixth straight season he led them in points and the fifth straight he was first or tied for first in goals. His average of 19:11 of ice time per game led Canadiens forwards. The 28-year-old has scored at least 30 goals in four straight seasons and remains the clearest option for the top line. He is a key component on the power play and one of their top penalty-killers. Pacioretty rifles home PPG 00:52 • February 26th, 2017 Biggest battle Left wing Charles Hudon has impressed in his bid to stick with the Canadiens after three full seasons in the American Hockey League. Forward Michael McCarron worked on his speed and conditioning during the offseason in his push to avoid being sent to Laval, the new home of Montreal’s AHL affiliate. “You want to try and get under the other team’s skin and be that power guy that gets to the net and gets under guys’ skin and gets them angry at you and maybe gets them off their game,” McCarron said. “So that’s in my game, it’s always going to be in my game, and that’s definitely a part that I try to play with.” Hudon buries Plekanec’s feed 00:54 • September 24th, 2017 Most intriguing addition Hemsky left the Stars as a free agent to sign a one-year, $1 million contract with the Canadiens on July 3, the same day Radulov left Montreal to sign with Dallas. Hemsky is hardly a straight replacement for what the Canadiens lost in Radulov, but the 34-year-old right wing embraced a more responsible style of play during three seasons with the Stars under coach Lindy Ruff. His offensive skills remain strong, and the Canadiens hope he remains healthy. Hemsky’s nifty goal 00:43 • March 25th, 2016 Biggest potential surprise Mete is a long shot to make the Canadiens. Nonetheless, he has been making the most of his opportunity to learn from Weber, who he has been paired with since the beginning of training camp. “He seems like a sleeper right now,” Pacioretty said. “He’s a really good player, he’s got great poise with the puck, he’s a great skater, and I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen.” PROJECTED LINES Max Pacioretty — Jonathan Drouin — Brendan Gallagher Alex Galchenyuk — Phillip Danault — Ales Hemsky Charles Hudon — Tomas Plekanec — Artturi Lehkonen Paul Byron — Torrey Mitchell — Andrew Shaw Jordie Benn — Shea Weber Karl Alzner — Jeff Petry David Schlemko — Mark Streit Carey Price Al Montoya
CHICAGO — An eight-year prison sentence has been handed to a former Boston Celtics player found guilty of receiving guns stolen off a freight train in Chicago.
Nate Driggers was found guilty in April of being a convicted felon in possession of stolen guns.
Evidence presented at trial showed the 44-year-old Driggers bought 30 of 111 Rugers stolen by gang members in 2015 from a rail car parked in a rail yard and quickly resold 29 of them. Only 19 guns have been recovered.
In asking for the maximum sentence of 10 years, prosecutors said Driggers’ actions have contributed to the “very dark place” Chicago finds itself in when it comes to gun violence.
Driggers on Thursday again denied ever selling guns.
Drafted by the Celtics in 1996, Driggers appeared in 15 games that season.
Free-agent guard Shabazz Muhammad has agreed in principle to a deal to return to the Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources told ESPN.
Muhammad, 24, has played his four NBA seasons with the Timberwolves, and keeping him promises to be a major boost for the Wolves bench.
Muhammad will sign for the veteran’s minimum of $1.6 million, a league source said. The deal could include a player option for a second year, but that was still an ongoing conversation on Tuesday, league sources said.
Shabazz Muhammad will be returning to the Timberwolves. Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images
Muhammad turned down better paying offers that included the bi-annual and room exception to return to a potentially playoff-bound Minnesota team and return to free agency in 2018 with the option of Minnesota re-signing him to a longer team deal, sources said. The Timberwolves could be more limited next summer in the players they can acquire in free agency, and owning Muhammad’s Bird Rights could make him the team’s most viable long-term option.
Minnesota renounced Muhammad’s cap hold, making him an unrestricted free agent in July. It was move that allowed the Timberwolves to clear salary cap space to sign free agents Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson.
Muhammad’s free agency was a circuitous one. He left the Landmark Sports agency at the start, took on the process elsewhere without success and returned recently to Landmark to do the veteran’s minimum deal with Minnesota that can be a prelude to next summer.
Muhammad averaged 9.9 points in 19.4 minutes as one of Minnesota’s key reserves last season. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
Muhammad returns to a team that has transformed its roster, including the acquisitions of All-Star guard Jimmy Butler and veteran free agents Teague and Gibson. Muhammad will anchor a deeper bench that includes the addition of veteran guard Jamal Crawford.
HOUSTON — The Houston Astros got another win on Sunday thanks to a new face and the return of a familiar one after a long absence.
Cameron Maybin hit a three-run homer, Carlos Correa drove in a run in his return from the disabled list and the Astros swept the New York Mets with an 8-6 victory.
George Springer homered for second straight day for Houston, and Josh Reddick added two hits and three RBI. The Astros began the series with a doubleheader sweep Saturday in their first home games since flooding from Hurricane Harvey devastated the city.
Manager A.J. Hinch said the team got a boost with Correa back in the lineup after the All-Star shortstop had been out since July 18 after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.
“It’s a big lift for us; we just added one of the best players in baseball,” Hinch said. “That’s an exciting guy to get back in the middle of the order. There’s a presence about having a guy in the middle of the field.”
Houston trailed 4-1 before pushing across five runs in the third. Correa hit an RBI single and Reddick also singled in a run before Maybin connected for his first homer since he was claimed on waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday.
“These guys have been doing this all year so just to be able to come in and help … I’m looking forward to keeping this thing going,” he said. “It’s already been a fun two or three days.”
Springer led off the fourth with his career-best 31st homer, making it 7-4 Houston.
Will Harris (3-2) pitches a scoreless sixth for the win and Chris Devenski allowed one hit in two scoreless innings for his fourth save.
The Mets pulled within one with two runs in the fifth inning. Former Astros outfielder Nori Aoki, who signed with the Mets on Saturday, hit an RBI single and Tyler Clippard walked Brandon Nimmo with the bases loaded with two outs.
But Kevin Plawecki struck out to end the inning, and Houston added an insurance run when Jose Altuve scored on Reddick’s sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Mets starter Chris Flexen (3-4) allowed a career-high nine hits and matched a career high from his last start with seven runs in just four innings. Manager Terry Collins said they have been stressing to him the importance of getting ahead in counts.
“They’re too good of a hitting lineup to get into hitters’ counts,” Collins said. “You’ve got to be able to make a quality pitch with something other than the fastball.”
Houston right-hander Mike Fiers allowed seven hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings in his second tough start after allowing eight runs in his last outing.
Mets: INF Wilmer Flores broke his nose on Saturday night when he fouled a ball off his face. Collins said they’ll know more about his injury after he visits a doctor in New York on Monday, but added that he doesn’t expect the injury to end his season. … Assistant general manager John Ricco told reporters this weekend that OF Michael Conforto will have surgery to repair a torn posterior capsule in his left shoulder sometime next week. Conforto was injured when he dislocated his shoulder on a swing on Aug. 24. … INF Amed Rosario is day to day with a bruised right index finger.
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers (back discomfort) will come off the disabled list to make his first start since July 30 on Wednesday at Seattle.
Houston first baseman Tyler White had two doubles on Sunday. Six of his 12 hits this season have gone for extra bases with three homers and three doubles.
THEY SAID IT
Correa on how he felt to be back: “I felt like a child, it was so much fun. This is the game I love to play and to be out for … almost two months it was super boring.”
Mets: Rafael Montero (3-9, 5.12 ERA) will pitch for New York on Monday in the opener of a three-game series against the Phillies. Montero pitched 8 1/3 innings of three-hit ball in a 2-0 win over the Reds in his last start.
Astros: Ace Dallas Keuchel (11-3, 2.91 ERA) is scheduled to pitch in the opener of a series against the Mariners on Monday. He allowed six runs in six innings in an 8-1 loss to the Rangers in his last outing.