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Adelman pays reeling Timberwolves a visit

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Adelman pays reeling Timberwolves a visit

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Eight days after first leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves to be with his hospitalized wife, Rick Adelman met with his team on Wednesday morning.

The coach wanted to offer some words of encouragement to a reeling team that has lost four in a row and appears to be succumbing to a litany of injuries that just keeps getting bigger.

Adelman also got some words of support as well before leaving again to be by his wife's side as she deals with an undisclosed illness.

``We miss him and we know he's going through some hard stuff,'' point guard Ricky Rubio said. ``But we are with him and we support him any time.''

Adelman has missed the last five games after his wife, Mary Kay, went to the hospital to seek treatment. The intensely private Adelman has not disclosed any specifics of his wife's ailment, and there remains no timetable for his return. Mary Kay was still in the hospital on Wednesday and assistant Terry Porter planned to coach the team for a sixth straight game on Thursday night against the Clippers.

While Adelman has been away from the team, the Wolves have crumbled. They lost all four of their games on their most recent road trip, each one by double digits. For a team that prided itself on overcoming so many injuries early in the season and never getting blown out in the losses they did incur, the recent run of decisive defeats has set an ominous tone for a team that doesn't seem to be getting any healthier.

All-Star Kevin Love will miss at least the next two months with a right hand that was broken for the second time this season. Swingman Chase Budinger won't be back for at least another six weeks after injuring a knee in November, and anything from Brandon Roy this season would appear to be a bonus at this point.

Rubio also hasn't been the same dynamic player he was before tearing the ACL in his left knee last March, and a different player seems to miss practice or a game every week with an illness. Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved and Lazar Hayward all were out on Wednesday, leaving the Wolves with eight players for practice.

``We're going through some tough times,'' guard J.J. Barea said. ``We've just got to stay together, keep fighting, keep fighting. Try to steal a couple games here and there and hopefully at some point everybody comes back and we can make a run.''

Some of the biggest problems of late have been on defense. The team started the season playing some of the best defense it has in years, putting them in the top five in points allowed for most of the first month. As injuries have piled up, and the schedule has gotten tougher, the Wolves have fallen apart on that end. Their opponents have topped 100 points in seven of the last eight games and the weary Wolves were outscored 63-21 in fast-break points in losses to San Antonio and Dallas.

``We've just got to come ready to play,'' forward Derrick Williams said. ``Even though we're down and we're hurt and a couple guys are playing hurt, we've just got to do what we have to do. Just get out there and play for each other, play for the fans and deal with what we have right now.''

Adelman has received a lot of the credit for helping the Timberwolves move from a perennial doormat in the Western Conference to one that started the season with playoff expectations. He's been watching the games while he's been away, calling his assistants to offer advice and encouragement. He finally got face-to-face with the players on Wednesday, and he told them he was proud of the fight they've shown while dealing with so much adversity.

``It was good for the guys to see him and for him to talk to the guys,'' Porter said. ``It felt good to have him here, have him talk to them and just give them an update on everything and kind of let them know.''

The team seemed to get a lift from Adelman's appearance, but the hard reality is they play the Clippers twice in the next two weeks and also have difficult games against the Rockets, Hawks and Nets coming up before the end of the month.

``He said we have to stay together,'' Rubio said. ``We've been through a lot of stuff this year and there's no excuses to stop now. We're just going to go forward with the players we (have) and get it all together.''

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

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USA TODAY

What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. What is his job during the game?

Friday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers was one of the rare games that featured four goalies. Braden Holtby and James Reimer started, but both were ultimately pulled in what was a high-scoring affair. In stepped Pheonix Copley and Michael Hutchinson.

And yet, despite being little more than an afterthought in the team’s preparation for the game, both Copley (one goal allowed on 19 shots, .947 save percentage) and Hutchinson (one goal allowed on 11 shots, .909 save percentage) stepped in and out-performed the starters giving both of their respective teams a chance to win the game.

“It's easier in some aspects,” Holtby said of coming into a game off the bench, something he has done at various points of his career despite being the primary starter for Washington. “I think that's why you see a lot of guys go in and have success right away and have good games because you don't have that day or two days to be getting rid of your thoughts and that kind of thing.”

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. Every team dresses two goalies on the roster for a game. One starts and one sits on the bench as the backup in case he is needed because of injury or because a coach chooses to make a goalie switch. That backup is tasked with being ready at all times to step into the game knowing full well that, if all goes according to plan, he will not get to play at all.

Holtby and Reimer had prepared for Friday’s game knowing they were going to start. Both players took warmups in order to prepare them to play a full game while Copley and Hutchinson had little reason to think they would see any action at all.

By the end of the second period, however, both Holtby and Reimer had been replaced. Copley at least had an intermission to prepare as he came on at the start of the second period while Hutchinson had to step in midway through the second period.

“I guess it can be a little challenging,” Copley said, “But I feel like as long as you’re kind of paying attention to the game and your mind's kind of in that hockey mindset then if something happens, I'll be ready to go.”

Professional athletes are creatures of habit. To have to step into a game unexpectedly with little to no warning or preparation and be expected to perform at the highest level is an incredibly tough mental challenge.

And yet, in many ways, it can be easier than starting.

“The whole thing about mental preparation is so that you go out there not thinking about anything, not worrying about any of that,” Holtby said. “When you're forced in with a matter of 30 seconds, there's no time to think about anything. You just go in and play.”

For goalies, not starting does not mean having the night off. Both coaches and teammates alike can lean upon a backup netminder as an extra set of eyes.

“Sometimes they'll ask a question like did it look like I had room there?” Copley said. “Was it a shot or missed? Did you see what happened on this play? So I just try to be there and watch.”

Some coaches even give goalies assignments in game, though that practice seems to be on the decline.

“I know [Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock] makes them look at faceoffs or something,” Holtby said. “It's pretty archaic. There's guys that do that now that are better than the backup goalie at looking at things.”

In truth, there is no defined in-game requirements for most goalies in the NHL when they sit as backups and that is true of the Caps’ tandem. That makes the job of a backup a very simple one.

“I just try and be ready if I have to go in,” Copley said. “Make sure I'm physically and mentally ready and be a good teammate.”

Holtby put it even more succinctly as he said, “Don't do anything stupid.”

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2 stats that point to a Redskins breakthrough win against Cowboys

2 stats that point to a Redskins breakthrough win against Cowboys

In their last four games, the Cowboys cannot lose to the Redskins. There have been blowouts and there have been nailbiters, but all with the same result, a Dallas win. 

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has never lost to the Redskins, and neither has running back Ezekiel Elliott. Embattled Dallas head coach Jason Garrett holds a 6-2 record against Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. 

Despite all that, two 2018 stats might matter the most when the two teams play on Sunday in D.C. 

At 0-3, the Cowboys are yet to win on the road this season, and Washington is 2-1 so far this year at FedEx field.

In three road games so far this season, Dallas is averaging just more than 12 points-per-game. 

Further, Dallas takes care of the ball when playing at home. They've committed zero turnovers at Jerry World, er, AT&T Stadium.

On the road, the Cowboys average two turnovers-per-game. 

The key to the Redskins victory last week over Carolina was generating three turnovers, and Washington will look to do the same this week. 

In fact, there are other similarities between the Redskins Week 6 matchup with the Panthers and the Week 7 game against the Cowboys. Going into the Carolina contest, Cam Newton had never lost to Washington and the Panthers held a long win streak against the ‘Skins dating back to 2006. 

With strong run defense and creating turnovers, the Redskins snapped that streak. Washington held the top-ranked run game in the NFL to almost half of their weekly total, and nearly eliminated RB Christian McCaffrey from the gameplan.

Maybe the same happens on Sunday against Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. 

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