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Auburn's Chizik coping with death of mother

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Auburn's Chizik coping with death of mother

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Auburn coach Gene Chizik is dealing with another blow during a miserable season. This time, it's deeply personal.

His mother, Rita, passed away Monday morning.

``It's been a tough 24 hours for me personally and my family with the passing of my mother,'' Chizik said on Tuesday. ``That's never easy, no matter how old you get. It's been quite challenging, but I do want to say on an encouraging note it was really good to hear from so many great Auburn people that were very supportive, and people outside the Auburn family as well. It was very encouraging to hear the different thoughts and prayers that went out for me personally and my personal family.''

Chizik said the family will have a private ceremony at some point, but not necessarily this week.

It has been a trying four-plus months for Chizik and the Tigers since two former players - Ed Christian and LaDarious Phillips - were killed at a pool party near campus in June.

On the field, Auburn is 1-6 for its worst start in 60 years and has dropped its first five Southeastern Conference games. The Tigers host No. 22 Texas A&M Saturday night in a game that will present a huge test on both sides of the ball for beleaguered Auburn.

Chizik deflects questions about the personal toll all that has taken.

``I'm the leader of the program,'' he said. ``I'm the leader of Auburn football. That's my job. Your jobs aren't easy sometimes. My job's not easy sometimes, what I do, but I love my job and I love being a part of Auburn. And it's all my responsibility. Have there been difficult times? Of course there have. Have there been some great times? Absolutely, too.

``We don't look at the past and the woe is me. You've got to take it one day at a time and you've got to keep moving forward. That's the name of the game for me, and I've got a lot of faith in these young guys and I've got a lot of faith in Auburn and I've got a lot of faith in our coaches. We've got to keep plugging along.''

Now, one of the most experienced offensive players, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, is set for surgery this week on a season-ending hip injury. Lutzenkirchen is the team's No. 2 receiver.

Auburn is facing the prospect of going winless in SEC games this season with the Aggies, No. 12 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama left on the schedule. This comes after losses to Vanderbilt, Mississippi and Arkansas - a collective 5-6 in SEC games, compared to 10-3 for the remaining league opponents

Quarterback Clint Moseley, who has started the past two games, said the team has to show its maturity.

``We're just at a point where the leaders really have to emerge right now and make sure that nobody gets down,'' said Moseley, who will likely start again on Saturday. ``It's just natural for you to want to take the easy way out. It's a real test of our leadership and how many men, grown men we have on our team.''

Moseley said it makes it harder given that the Tigers were 14-0 two years ago and have fallen further, faster than any national champion since the AP poll started in 1936.

``There's really nothing positive from this situation but that can be a positive in revealing your true character,'' he said. ``This is a time when true leaders lead so this is a time we need everybody on the team and myself to step up.''

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

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