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Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo looks to throw the ball during the first half of their CFL football game against the Calgary Stampeders in Calgary, Alberta, August 27, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol (Todd Korol/Reuters)
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo looks to throw the ball during the first half of their CFL football game against the Calgary Stampeders in Calgary, Alberta, August 27, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Ticats, Als poised for critical home-and-home series Add to ...

It comes at the halfway point of the CFL regular season but still remains an important home-and-home stretch for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes.



Through eight games, Montreal (5-3) is second in the East Division, four points behind front-running Winnipeg (7-1) but just two points ahead of Hamilton (4-4). The Ticats are four points in front of fourth-place Toronto (2-6).

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On Monday, the Ticats host the Alouettes before the two teams return to Montreal on Sept. 11. They will conclude their regular-season series Oct. 16 at Molson Stadium.



Adding to the significance of the back-to-back games is the fact that both teams are coming off disappointing road losses.



The Alouettes dropped a 38-31 road decision to Calgary, with a late Anthony Calvillo interception setting up Henry Burris's game-winning six-yard TD run in the final minute of play. Hamilton, meanwhile, had an early interception returned for a TD in a 30-27 loss to Winnipeg.



But the game's turning point came early in the third quarter with the score tied 17-17. Receiver Chris Williams seemed poised to score but was caught from behind by linebacker Joe Lobendahn, who forced a fumble at the one-yard line that Winnipeg recovered to negate the scoring threat.



Hamilton won the first meeting with Montreal 34-26 at Ivor Wynne Stadium on July 29. A win Monday would move the Ticats into a tie with the Als for second in the East and give them a decided edge in momentum heading back to Molson Stadium.



This will mark the ninth time Hamilton has faced Montreal on Labour Day, with the Ticats an impressive 7-0-1. Continuing that trend would put the Ticats in a good position to win the season series, which would be the first determining factor if the clubs finished the year tied.



Conversely, sweeping the home-and-home series would move Montreal six points ahead of Hamilton and keep Winnipeg within striking distance. That's important because the Alouettes and Bombers still have two head-to-head meetings.



Montreal would remain ahead of Hamilton with a split but need to win the final regular-season contest in October to have any chance of claiming the second tie-breaker, which would be points differential head-to-head.



The points-for and points-against the two teams accumulated in those contests would be added up, and the one with the superior differential would finish ahead. And if that was to decide second place, it would be to determine who had home-field advantage for the East semifinal.







LABOUR DAY

The Edmonton Eskimos head into their Labour Day showdown with the Calgary Stampeders on a dubious streak.



After starting the season a stunning 5-0 under first-year head coach Kavis Reed, the Eskimos have dropped three straight and scored a combined four points in their last two games.



On Monday, the Eskimos will face the surging Stampeders at McMahon Stadium. Calgary (6-2) has won four straight — including a 38-31 decision Saturday over Montreal — to move atop the West Division standings. The two teams then square off at Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 9.



Edmonton has been plagued by injuries, with receivers Fred Stamps, Jason Barnes, Adarius Bowman and Marcus Henry, defensive end Greg Peach and offensive lineman Aaron Fiacconi all being sidelined.



On Sunday, Ken Miller returns to the sidelines when the struggling Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-7) host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (7-1). Miller stepped down as coach in December to concentrate full-time being the club's vice-president of football operations but assumed coaching duties earlier month when head coach Greg Marshall and offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry were fired.



The Labour Day festivities kick off with a much different twist Friday night with the Toronto Argonauts hosting the B.C. Lions.



Traditionally, Toronto has faced arch-rival Hamilton in Steeltown on Labour Day. Instead, the defending Grey Cup-champion Montreal Alouettes will visit Ivor Wynne Stadium on Monday due to scheduling issues at Rogers Centre.



Having Toronto play in Hamilton on Monday would've resulted in the Argos being on the road for six of the first nine weeks of the season. The two teams will resume their Labour Day rivalry next year.





WHYTE HOT

There's no hotter kicker in the CFL right now than Montreal's Sean Whyte.



Whyte made all three field goals he attempted in Montreal's 38-31 road loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, giving him 22 straight to break the Alouettes' club record of 21 held previously by Don Sweet. Dave Ridgway holds the CFL mark of 28 consecutive field goals, set in 1993.



Montreal obtained Whyte from the B.C. Lions in May after deciding not to re-sign veteran kicker Damon Duval. Whyte missed his first field-goal try with the Als but the native of Surrey, B.C., has been money ever since and boasts a league-best 95.7 per cent success rate.



The five-foot-nine, 175-pound Whyte leads the CFL in scoring with 95 points and has done well as the punter with a respectable 41.9-yard average.







RECORD CHASES

He's already broken Damon Allen's CFL records for career TD passes and completions. Anthony Calvillo remains on target to add Allen's all-time passing yards mark to his long list of accomplishments.



The Montreal Alouettes quarterback heads into the club's Labour Day contest in Hamilton with 70,625 career passing yards, just 1,756 short of Allen's record of 72,381. Calvillo, who turned 39 on Aug. 23, has thrown for a CFL-high 2,464 yards in eight games — an average of 308 yards per game.



If Calvillo can maintain that pace over the remaining 10 regular-season games, he'll easily surpass Allen this year as pro football's all-time passing leader.



B.C. Lions slotback Geroy Simon also has a shot at Milt Stegall's all-time CFL receiving yards record. Stegall holds the mark of 15,153 yards but Simon, who turned 36 on Aug. 20, is just 768 behind.



Through eight games, Simon has 648 yards — an average of 81 yards per game — on 38 catches. At that pace, Simon would finish with 1,458 receiving yards, which would give him 15,195 yards over his 13-year CFL career.



The six-foot, 198-pound Simon, a six-time CFL all-star, is also projected to register 76 receptions, which would be a ninth straight season of 70 or more catches.



Notes: The Calgary Stampeders are a perfect 4-0 on the road this season. ... Winnipeg added Canadian offensive lineman Justin Sorensen to its practice roster Tuesday. The towering six-foot-seven, 316-pound native of Parksville, B.C., was the Lions' 2008 first-round pick out of South Carolina but was released during training camp. ... Two reasons why the Bombers have the CFL's best record at 7-1 is their 4-0 mark versus East Division rivals as well as league-best plus-23 giveaway/takeaway ratio. Montreal is second at plus-3. Winnipeg's defence has registered a league-high 33 takeaways (12 interceptions, 12 fumbles, nine on downs) while the offence has had just 10 turnovers (six interceptions, four fumbles). ... Calgary's Keon Raymond has returned two of his four interceptions this season for touchdowns. ... The Montreal Alouettes' secondary received a huge blow Tuesday when veteran cornerback Mark Estelle was placed on the nine-game injury list. Estelle suffered a knee injury returning a fumble recovery in Saturday's loss to Calgary.



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