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Arkansas looks to carry confidence into Ole Miss

Arkansas looks to carry confidence into Ole Miss

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas coach John L. Smith has seen a change in the mood around the Razorbacks over the last few weeks.

A two-game winning streak will do that when it comes on the heels of a hope-crushing, four-game losing streak that sent the Razorbacks from the preseason Top 10 to a Southeastern Conference afterthought.

``I don't notice a sense of relief,'' Smith said. ``It's more like a sense of, `We're back (to) where we think we should have been.'''

Arkansas (3-4, 2-2) might have been forgotten by some following its early season collapse, but it's out to show that it's far from gone. The Razorbacks have put together back-to-back wins over Auburn and Kentucky, and they host Mississippi (4-3, 1-2) this weekend in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium - with a chance to climb back to .500.

The mark is a small step on the path that Arkansas hopes eventually leads to a fourth straight bowl game.

To reach a bowl, any bowl, Arkansas must win three of its final five games against teams that are combined 31-7. It's no easy task, but the Razorbacks are eager to show they are more like the team that was 21-5 the last two seasons than the one that lost to Louisiana-Monroe.

``We were very highly touted team coming into the season and we had a little slump in the beginning,'' Arkansas center Travis Swanson said. ``Hopefully, I think we've figured out what we need to figure out to fix that slump. I know we just want to show everyone that we are the team who we said we were going to be.''

The Razorbacks, who had a bye last weekend, looked every bit like their former selves their last time out. They jumped out to a 42-0 halftime lead over Kentucky before settling for a 49-7 win in a game that was called midway through the third quarter because of inclement weather.

Most important, Arkansas - which is tied for the SEC's worst turnover margin with a minus 10 - didn't commit a turnover.

Quarterback Tyler Wilson threw for 372 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in that win. Wilson's performance was another sign that last season's first-team All-SEC signal caller has recovered from an early season concussion that forced him to miss a game and a half - including the second half of the loss to Louisiana-Monroe and a 52-0 drubbing by No. 1 Alabama.

With a host of Razorbacks still out for the season with injuries, including the team's top two defensive players in Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright, Wilson will be counted on to match his Kentucky performance against Ole Miss. The Rebels, who also had a bye last week, defeated Auburn 41-20 their last time out and have shown improvement in their first season under coach Hugh Freeze.

Freeze, who coached last season at Arkansas State, is aware of Arkansas' preseason hype and he expects the Razorbacks' rejuvenated ways to continue this weekend.

``There's certainly no argument Tyler Wilson will be one of the two or three first quarterbacks taken (in the NFL draft),'' Freeze said. ``They've got great talent, and now they're taking care of the ball and their defense is playing quite a bit better.''

Smith said he's seen a renewed confidence throughout the Razorbacks since they snapped the losing streak. The interim coach said Arkansas is gaining confidence daily, a far cry from the disappointment earlier in the season.

``There's nothing like getting your juices flowing, knowing that you can be more confident now that you've got a few wins behind you,'' Arkansas defensive tackle Alfred Davis said. ``I think they guys understand that we're in a great position right now, coming off two big wins in the SEC, and I think it will carry over.''


AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Miss., contributed to this report.

John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen

One week ago, the hockey world was captivated by the matchup of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, two players battling for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars once again pitted two competitors locked in a point battle together in John Carlson and John Klingberg.

Carlson and Klingberg entered Tuesday's games with 59 points each, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. In a 4-3 win for Washington, both defensemen delivered phenomenal performances as each recorded two points, two assists for Klingberg and a goal and an assist for Carlson.

Tuesday's game was the latest example this season of Carlson rising to the occasion. He has been at his best when he has been needed the most such as when he was averaging 27:46 of ice time a night while Matt Niskanen was out injured.


Carlson's ability to deliver has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"John's having just a whale of a year, obviously," Niskanen said. "Monster year. Production, been carrying the load all year. He's been just a stalwart back there for us. He leads the way."

"The numbers don't lie, he's been having an unreal season," T.J. Oshie said. "Definitely on the points side of things, but maybe some parts that don't get talked about, the defensive side of things. He rarely loses a battle. It's very encouraging, it gets the bench going when he plays like that."

After the game, Carlson tried to downplay the notion that he elevated his game in response to playing against Klingberg.

"No," Carlson said when asked if he was motivated by the points race. "I think the guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room. I just want to go out there and win. I think we played a good game tonight so that's most important."

But while his words were subdued, his play was anything but.

Despite both players getting two points, Carlson got the better of his counterpart by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period, a one-timer slap shot to beat goalie Kari Lehtnonen, to lead Washington to the win.


Carlson may say he was not motivated by Klingberg, but his play certainly seemed to suggest otherwise.

"I think they both know, they know the stats," Barry Trotz said. "They know who they're lined up  [against]. They're proud athletes. You're in a business where there's a lot of alpha males. That's what it is."

Of course, Carlson may not need a matchup with Klingberg to motivate him.

In the final year of his contract, Carlson has picked a good time to set new career highs in goals, assist and points. With a cap hit of just under $4 million, the 28-year-old blueliner will be due a significant raise in the offseason. That price tag continues to climb with every good performance as Carlson continues to cement himself among the league's top defensemen.

"Obviously he's very motivated," Trotz said. "He's in the last year of his contract. He'll be motivated. He's putting out points. He's gotten better and better. He's more poised every year. When he's intense and detailed in his game, he's a top defenseman in the league and he shows it."

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.