Capitals

Abraham, Babineaux questionable for Falcons

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Abraham, Babineaux questionable for Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Atlanta Falcons plan on having defensive end John Abraham ready to lead their pass rush on Sunday in the NFC title game.

Abraham was limited in practice Friday for the third straight day, but he expects to start when the Falcons (14-3) host San Francisco (12-4-1).

``I feel good,'' Abraham said. ``My workload was ramped up every day as the week progressed. Everyone is hurt at this time of year, but this is the NFC championship, so we all have to go.''

The Falcons' injury report includes defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder), strong safety William Moore (right hand), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (foot) and reserve cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring).

Babineaux and Abraham are listed as questionable. Moore, Nicholas and Owens are probable, and all three participated fully in practice Friday.

Even though Abraham might not be at full strength, coach Mike Smith believes he can still push off his left foot well enough to help close the pocket on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Smith said the medical staff recommended keeping Abraham on the sideline after he reinjured the ankle in the second quarter of last week's divisional playoff win over Seattle.

Abraham, the NFL's active career sacks leader with 122, didn't return to the game. He played just 15 snaps.

``I think he can be very effective,'' Smith said. ``With the way the score was at that point and time, we felt like it was not in our best interest to put him back out there. He's done a nice job this week. He's participated in practice all week, so we're anticipating he'll be ready to go.''

Abraham led the Falcons with 10 sacks and finished the regular season with a career-high seven pass breakups.

Babineaux had 3.5 sacks, five pass breakups, and one interception.

Moore, who picked off a career-high four passes and had eight pass breakups in 12 games, returned against Seattle after missing four games because of a strained hamstring. He declined to say this week how he hurt his right hand.

Owens practiced on Thursday for the first time since getting hurt Dec. 22 at Detroit.

Nicholas has started 16 of his 17 games this season

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.