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Browns' Haden a game-time decision vs. Cowboys

Browns' Haden a game-time decision vs. Cowboys

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns starting cornerback Joe Haden will be a game-time decision on Sunday against Dallas with an oblique injury.

Haden, arguably the team's best defensive player, missed his second straight day of practice Friday. Afterward, coach Pat Shurmur expressed hope Haden will be able to play against the Cowboys.

``We'll just have to see,'' Shurmur said. ``We'll get him ready to go and if he can play, he will. If not, then we'll adjust.''

Shurmur said Haden felt better and the injury is ``something that can happen with a very harmless movement.''

Haden was not in the locker room during the period it was open to the media for player interviews.

Haden, who was suspended four games earlier this season, got hurt during a drill in Wednesday's practice and sat out Thursday. The Browns (2-7) went 0-4 while Haden served his suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Haden's injury comes just as the Browns defense was getting as healthy as it has been all season. Tackle Ahtyba Rubin practiced all week after missing three games with a calf injury and should be able to play alongside Phil Taylor for the first time this season. Taylor missed Cleveland's first seven games after undergoing surgery on a chest muscle he tore while lifting weights in May.

Rubin was encouraged by a strong week of practice and is excited about getting back on the field.

``I feel great,'' he said. ``I can't wait to get back out there.''

If Haden is ruled out against the Cowboys, Buster Skrine would likely start in his place opposite Sheldon Brown with rookie Trevin Wade moving into the nickel back position. Special teams star Johnson Bademosi could also get time at cornerback.

Shurmur is confident the Browns will be able to compete - with or without Haden.

``Then the next guy will do a terrific job, that's what's going to happen,'' he said. ``Let's not everybody get worried now. We're going to load up the plane with our guys, go down there and play a football game. I'm excited about the work we put in. I'm excited about the team we're going to take down there, and we're going to make every effort to do what it takes to win the game.''

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4.19.18 Rick Horrow The Sports Professor talks with Joe Leccese, Chairman ProSkauer

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USA TODAY Sports

4.19.18 Rick Horrow The Sports Professor talks with Joe Leccese, Chairman ProSkauer

Rick Horrow The Sports Professor sits down for an exclusive interview with Joe Leccese -- and more from the $1 trillion-dollar business of sports in this week's 'Beyond The Scoreboard with Rick Horrow'

About the Guest: Joe Leccese is the Chairman of Proskauer. He is responsible for leading the Firm’s global operations across its 13 offices and co-heads of Proskauer’s renowned Sports Law Group.

By Rick Horrow

Podcast producer: Tanner Simkins

LISTEN HERE

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The Caps' penalty kill has been a major factor in the series turnaround

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USA TODAY Sports

The Caps' penalty kill has been a major factor in the series turnaround

For the Capitals to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the keys to the series was going to be the penalty kill. 

For the season, Columbus ranked only 25th in the league on the power play at 17.2-percent, but that number did not reflect the massive improvement the Blue Jackets made with their trade deadline acquisitions.

Since the trade deadline on Feb. 26, Columbus ranked seventh on the power play. The Caps were sixth with both teams converting 25.0-percent of the time.

Where Washington did have an edge, seemingly, was on the penalty kill. Unlike the power play, Columbus' penalty kill was consistently poor all season, finishing 27th in the NHL with a kill rate of only 76.2-percent. While not a strength by any means, the Caps were certainly better on the PK with a kill rate of 80.3-percent, good for 15th in the league.

With two power plays converting at the same rate, Washington had to be able to kill off more of the Blue Jackets' opportunities. They struggled to do that in Game 1 and Game 2.

The Caps were called for four penalties and gave up two power play goals in each of the first two games. Washington scored five power play goals in those games, but their advantage on special teams was mitigated by their inability to keep Columbus from converting. 

There are many reasons why the Caps were able to overcome the 0-2 series deficit and now sit just one win away from advancing to the second round. Chief among those reasons is the improved penalty kill. Since Game 2, Washington has not allowed a single power play goal. The PK has successfully killed off 13 straight penalties including five in Game 5.

"I think as a group, they've all stepped up," Barry Trotz said on a conference call with the media on Sunday. "I don't think I can single out anybody. They've all stepped up. The penalty kill is as good as the five guys that you have, your four and your goaltender. They've been very committed there."

In a series that has seen four out of five games go to overtime, it's not hard to recognize the impact even one goal can have on a game and, by extension, the series. Should the Caps go on to win the series, their ability to adjust their penalty kill to stop the Blue Jackets' suddenly potent power play will be one of the main reasons why.

Trotz would not go into specifics as to the adjustments the team made after Game 2, but did acknowledge the penalty kill has been a "major factor" in the Caps' turnaround this series.

But to finish the job, the penalty kill will have to continue adjusting.

"This is the time when we're still trying to tweak things," Trotz said. "They changed some things on their power play a little bit yesterday, so we'll look to maybe tweak a little bit with our PK."