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Williams eager for chance to shut down Johnson

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Williams eager for chance to shut down Johnson

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The temptation when playing a receiver as big, strong and scary good as Calvin Johnson is to get aggressive, try to outmuscle him and hope it throws him off his game.

Do that, and you may as well ask the Screen Actors Guild for membership because the highlights of Megatron's mega-day will be all over TV for the rest of the week. Maybe the rest of the season.

``The guy's just too strong,'' Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said Thursday. ``He just kind of throws you here and there and gets you out of position, and you don't want that. So you can't play him that way.''

Williams ought to know. He's seen Johnson twice a year for the last four seasons now, and it will be his responsibility to make sure the NFL's leading receiver (in yardage) doesn't have a record-setting day Sunday like he did the last time the Packers (6-3) and Detroit (4-5) played. After managing just 49 yards and four catches in Detroit's first game against Green Bay last year, Johnson torched Williams and the Packers in the rematch for 244 yards on 11 catches, both career highs.

The 244 yards receiving were the most ever given up by the Packers, and also was tops in the NFL last year.

``Some games you may come in and you may slow him down. Some games you may come in and you may not,'' Williams said. ``You've just got to go in and have that mindset that you will go out and get your job done.''

To be fair, Williams was barely hanging on by that game, the regular-season finale. He'd bruised a nerve in his right shoulder in the season opener, and never really recovered. After a team-high nine interceptions in 2010, he had just four last year, none after Nov. 20.

Though Williams didn't talk much about the injury, he admits now it affected both his play and his preparation.

``It's hard enough by itself to come out and just play these guys. Now you have the mental burden of an injury that's nagging you throughout the year, you can't quite focus like you're used to,'' he said. ``I put all I had into my studies and coming into work every day; I did everything I was supposed to do. But mentally, the mental challenge, that's what wears you down the most. I'm over that hump now.''

That was clear in the second game of the season. Despite giving up 5 inches and 40 pounds to Brandon Marshall, Williams made the NFC North's other monster receiver all but disappear. Marshall didn't catch a single pass in the first three quarters, and finished with two catches for 24 yards, both season lows.

By bottling up his favorite weapon, Williams made life miserable for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, too. He picked off Cutler twice - the second coming on a deep pass intended for Marshall - and helped harass Cutler into what was his worst performance of the season until Sunday night's game against Houston.

Williams hasn't had a pick since that Chicago game, but he leads Green Bay with 15 passes defended and was a big reason Larry Fitzgerald was so quiet in Green Bay's 31-17 victory over Arizona two weeks ago.

``I'm feeling good right now,'' Williams said. ``Obviously it may be the bye speaking, but ... I'm feeling real good. I feel that I've got a lot more to go. I feel that I'm just kind of kicking off the season and hoping for the best in the future. ``

And first up is another meeting with Johnson.

The two-time Pro Bowler leads the NFL with 974 yards receiving, and is tied for seventh with 60 catches. He only has two touchdowns, but that doesn't make Williams and the Packers any less wary.

``He demands attention,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ``Rightfully so.''

While Williams spends hours watching film before every game, studying receivers and looking for clues to their tendencies, his preparation is a little more intense in weeks like this. He hasn't dug up film of Johnson from junior high, but pretty much everything else is fair game as he tries to find even the slightest edge. He came up with a game plan days ago, and has been working relentlessly on it with the scout team.

The Packers have won 20 of their last 23 games with the Lions, including an 11-1 mark under McCarthy. They've won eight straight against the NFC North. For Williams, though, the number that matters most is 81.

``Everyone around the league knows Calvin is one of the best in the game,'' Williams said. ``If that don't get you up to want to play against a guy like that, then I don't know what will.''

Notes: WR Jordy Nelson expects to play Sunday after spending last week's bye in Green Bay to get treatment on his sore hamstring and ankle. ``Treated it like another week. I knew I wanted to get better and get back on the field, so I stayed here and did treatment.'' Asked how he's feeling, Nelson said, ``Great.'' ... McCarthy said he is not concerned about Mason Crosby, who has missed five field goals this year, including two from inside the 45. ``I have a lot of confidence in his ability to put the ball through the uprights and that will definitely be the case Sunday,'' McCarthy said. ... FB John Kuhn, inactive the last two days with a bad hamstring, ``looked like his old self'' in practice Thursday, McCarthy said.

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: U.S. Women back in the gold medal match

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: U.S. Women back in the gold medal match

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- The Americans played their way back into the only women's hockey game that matters: a showdown with Canada for the Olympic gold medal.

The Americans are back in the title game for a third straight Olympics after shutting out Finland 5-0 on Monday in the semifinals. They will face their arch-rival, which beat the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" 5-0 a few hours later, on Thursday. They Americans will be trying to win their first gold since 1998 when women's hockey made its debut in the Olympics.

And yes, the Americans understand the United States-Canada playing for gold is what everyone expects to see.

READ ALSO: SEE HOW THE DMV OLYMPIANS ARE FARING AFTER WEEK 1

"Definitely the rivalry has been there since I think I was born, so everyone's looking forward to that," said 22-year-old Dani Cameranesi.

This will be the third opportunity at gold for six Americans: captain Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin, Kacey Bellamy and twin sisters Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.

"It's honestly a dream come true," Knight said. "This is the world's biggest stage. This is the game that you want. This is the game we've been dreaming of and to have another opportunity to get back here, it's huge."

Olympic newcomer Cameranesi scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Americans over Finland. Marvin started the scoring, and Lamoureux-Davidson and Knight both scored during a 5-on-3 34 seconds apart in the second period. Maddie Rooney made 14 saves for the shutout.

Finland remains winless in eight games against the Americans at the Olympics. The Finns, ranked third in the world last year, will try to take home the bronze medal for the first time since 2010.

"We're got one thing on our mind, and that's to get a medal," said goaltender Noora Raty, who made 33 saves. "They're the best in the world (U.S. and Canada). We just need to get more girls involved so we have more to choose from."

The Americans opened these games a 2-1 loss to Canada wrapping up pool play.

"This was really a gold-medal preparation for us because they're a darn good team, and we had to be ready to play," U.S. coach Robb Stauber said of Finland.

The Americans wasted no time getting on the board. Captain Meghan Duggan found Marvin alone in the slot, and she beat Raty stick-side for the easy goal just 2:25 into the game.

Finland lost defenseman when she had to be helped off the ice and to the locker room after a knee-on-knee collision with Duggan. She was knocked off balance before crashing face-first into the boards, snapping her head back. When play resumed without a penalty, some fans booed. Savolainen returned in the second period.

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Stauber said the referee immediately came over and said it was a collision. Duggan said she was really happy Savolainen got up and that any decision about a potential suspension was out of her control.

"There's been some other plays that haven't been put into question, and so I can't imagine that there would be any disciplinary action just based on other things that have been let go," Duggan said.

Cameranesi put the United States up 2-0 with 1:22 left in the period, taking the puck away from Susanna Tapani and skating into the left circle before beating Raty's blocker with a wrist shot top shelf.

Lamoureux-Davidson's slap shot from the left circle came with 2 seconds left on the 5-on-3 at 13:21 of the second period, and Knight got her first goal of this tournament by redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin with 5 seconds left on the man advantage for the 4-0 lead. Cameranesi padded the lead as she scored from the slot over Raty's glove off a pass from Hannah Brandt.

"We're super excited to be in this position again," Lamoureux-Davidson said. "We worked four years to put ourselves in position to compete for a gold medal and we'll enjoy this for a little bit, but we know that this isn't what we came here for. We're ready to go to battle in a couple days."

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm