Capitals

Vogel eager to keep Pacers momentum with new deal

Vogel eager to keep Pacers momentum with new deal

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indiana Pacers like where they're heading and they want Frank Vogel to finish the job.

One day after the team announced it had given Vogel a new contract extension, he walked out of Tuesday morning's shootaround and told reporters he appreciated the message being sent by management.

``It shows what we're building here, something special,'' Vogel said. ``We've turned the corner and we're going to make some noise the next couple of years.''

The Pacers (20-14) have declined to provide details about the new deal, and Vogel stuck with the company line though he did acknowledge it was a multi-year extension that would keep him in Indianapolis beyond next season.

For the affable 39-year-old Vogel, that was enough of a reward for his accomplishments.

He took over as head coach in January 2011 following the midseason firing of Jim O'Brien, inheriting a struggling team and leading it to the playoffs. The Pacers lost to Chicago in the first round.

That summer, Vogel had to deal with the NBA lockout and weeks of speculation about whether he'd stay in Indy or land someplace else. But team executive Larry Bird decided to make Vogel the permanent coach, and Vogel rewarded the Pacers brass by leading the team to a second straight playoff appearance and their first playoff series win since 2005. In the Eastern Conference semifinals, Indiana took a 2-1 lead on Miami but wound up losing the last three games to the eventual NBA champions.

This year has been rough for another reason: the loss of All-Star forward Danny Granger, who has not played yet because of patellar tendinosis in his left knee. While the veteran has stayed mostly quiet on the injury, Vogel said Tuesday that Granger's recovery was on schedule. On Nov. 7, the Pacers said he could miss up to three months, meaning he could be back by mid-February.

Despite losing Granger, and a tough start, the Pacers have won 10 of their last 13 games. Nothing about Vogel's tenure has been easy, yet he's still managed to go 82-56 and his team has a share of the Central Division lead despite losing its top scorer.

``We had to be patient with our personnel, our young personnel and we had to adjust the offensive philosophy for what we were missing with Danny,'' Vogel said. ``I wouldn't say we're even there yet. It's been a work in progress.''

One thing that has helped make things easier, though, is the development of forward Paul George.

``He's continued to grow and with growth also comes confidence,'' said LeBron James, who worked out with George during the summer. ``The good thing, what's been bad for them but good for him, is that they haven't had Danny Granger so it's allowed him to grow and show more of what he can do.''

The decision to extend Vogel's deal came just as Indiana was preparing to host Miami, the Southeast Division champ, for the first time this season. Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat know the Pacers are a physical team.

That's just Vogel's style, and he's not about to change things now.

``I don't know if I've changed a whole lot to be honest with you,'' Vogel said. ``I know I have to be firm with the guys and that I need to have a strong coach-player relationship. This is not a dictatorship that I've been running.''

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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.