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Athletes, stars lend hands in Super Bowl host city

Athletes, stars lend hands in Super Bowl host city

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Some athletes and celebrities headed to New Orleans for Super Bowl weekend are picking up hammers and packaging food for the homeless in the big game's host city.

The downtown area where most Super Bowl festivities will take place has arguably never looked better, with a renovated Superdome and resurfaced streets and sidewalks. But a closer look reveals homelessness, crime and outer-lying neighborhoods that still bear the scars of 2005, when levees collapsed during Hurricane Katrina and inundated more than 80 percent of the city with floodwater.

One of the city's biggest areas of need is housing. In some areas, flood-damaged houses remain untouched, gutted homes have been abandoned, and many lots are overgrown with weeds where houses once stood.

While in town, some athletes and celebrities are working with Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together to help the city's rebuilding effort. Others are working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Second Harvest, a New Orleans-based nonprofit community food bank.

``Every ounce of support helps,'' said Jon Luther, vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans, which has been working with the NFL Players Association for months to build homes in the city's Lower 9th Ward neighborhood, which saw some of the worst flooding after Katrina.

``For them to show such interest and generosity of their time to our city, we are so grateful,'' Luther said.

Through the NFL's Touchdown for Homes program, three homes have been built not far from actor Brad Pitt's Make It Right houses. A ribbon-cutting will be held Friday.

This week, more NFL players are getting to work on homes in other parts of the city. Some are working Thursday with Habitat for Humanity to build a new home for a New Orleans resident in the Central City area. On Friday, they'll work on another home in the same area for a local family.

But not all the goodwill is labor intensive.

On Friday, country music star Garth Brooks will join Saints players Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Curtis Lofton and Deuce McAllister to help the Starkey Hearing Foundation fit more than two dozen local children with hearing aids.

On Saturday, NFL players Larry Fitzgerald, Tommie Harris, Chris Doleman, Craig Stevens, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Brian de la Puente will help the Starkey foundation provide about 100 hearing aids to residents, including 12 local musicians.

``Because music is the heart of New Orleans' vibrant culture, and hearing is so vital to music, I can't think of a more perfect setting,'' said Brady Forseth, the foundation's executive director.

This is the fourth year in a row Starkey has conducted a mission in the Super Bowl host city. The group will fit residents at the Musicians Village, a rebuilding effort in the city's Upper 9th Ward headed by New Orleans native jazz musicians Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis.

Portions of proceeds from some of the big Super Bowl weekend concerts also will benefit locals.

The NFL's Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, headlined Friday night by Grammy-winning rhythm and blues singer Fantasia, was launched in 1999 and each year donates a portion of proceeds and hundreds of tickets to local and national charities.

This year's benefactors will include the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, founded by the New Orleans Saints player, and The Sharper Kids Foundation, founded by Darren Sharper - a former Saints player and brother to former Seattle Seahawks player Jamie Sharper.

Proceeds from the DIRECTV Super Saturday Night concert with Justin Timberlake and Ahmir ``Questlove'' Thompson of The Roots as DJ will benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children. It is co-hosted by Mark Cuban's AXS-TV.

``Giving back should be natural,'' said Questlove, who lives in New York but has played in New Orleans with The Roots for decades. ``It shouldn't be like a big event or a special thing. It should be natural.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.