Capitals

Browns WR Greg Little returns inspired after bye

Browns WR Greg Little returns inspired after bye

BEREA, Ohio (AP) During the Browns' much-needed bye last week, wide receiver Greg Little spent two hours having lunch in Miami with former NBA star Alonzo Mourning.

The meal was fine.

The message was far more satisfying.

Little came away inspired from his first meeting with Mourning, who explained to him that if he wanted to develop as a player, and that if he wanted to help his team win, the only way to reach any goals was through personal sacrifice.

The talk stirred Little, who didn't waste a moment after returning to Cleveland and shared Mourning's wisdom with his teammates before practice Monday.

``The same message he gave to me is just find something that you can sacrifice,'' Little said. ``That's kind of the message I kind of relayed to our team, `What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to sacrifice to finish this season out like we really want to.'''

The Browns (2-7) returned from their week off refreshed and recharged for the final seven games, a daunting stretch that begins Sunday at Dallas and includes two games against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The playoffs are essentially out of reach, but the Browns believe they can still make something of the season.

``We want to establish ourselves as a team that can win games,'' said cornerback Joe Haden. ``We just need to start winning. We feel like it's the same thing every week. We lose and it's like, `Oh, we're going to focus on this week and we really have to start winning.' There's nothing else that can be said but to win games.''

Little is hoping to channel some of the motivation he got form Mourning into helping the Browns win.

The second-year receiver was a lightning rod of controversy earlier this season as his dropped passes led to a war of words with some fans on Twitter. Little exacerbated his situation by posing after making first downs and dancing in the end zone after a touchdown.

He has since toned down his antics, sworn off social media and become a more polished player. His speech to the team was another sign of his maturity, though some of his teammates wondered what he was up to when he asked to talk.

``Usually I'm more the joker on the team, so anytime I get up and say something it's a serious message,'' he said. ``I think the guys were really shocked at the beginning and I think they took it well.''

Little and Mourning were introduced by a mutual friend. Little had never met the seven-time All-Star center before and was unaware of Mourning's solid pro career because ``when he was playing, I was in the yard playing in the neighborhood.''

However, when the two began talking Little said that Mourning, who played 16 seasons in the NBA despite enduring a kidney transplant, was able to connect with him because of their shared experiences.

``It was like he could relate right to me because of the same situation he's seen or been in,'' Little said.

As Mourning spoke, Little said the conversation became very one-sided.

``Usually I'm a talkative person,'' Little said. ``But when he was speaking to me, I was just lost in what he was saying and really trying to soak in 100 percent what he was saying. I was lost with really how powerful the message was and I was just thinking to myself for an hour.

``I didn't even say anything and I was riding with my friend home and I was just lost. I was still thinking about what he was saying.''

Mourning gave Little two prime examples of athletes who gained by surrendering.

He relayed how Heat superstar LeBron James abstained from social media during his run to his first NBA title last season and how golfer Tiger Woods forced himself to make 500 straight putts from five feet to reinforce muscle memory.

Mourning explained to Little that it's the little things that make the biggest difference. So before the Browns took the field for practice, Little passed along his new knowledge.

``We needed that,'' wide receiver Josh Cribbs said. ``It was refreshing to hear that from a younger player and I feel like he's on the path to getting better and being a top receiver in this league.''

Maybe the Browns will get on a roll, finish strong and save coach Pat Shurmur's job.

And if they do, maybe they'll look back at Little's unexpected lunch with Mourning as a turning point.

NOTES: DT Ahtyba Rubin returned to practice after missing three games with a calf injury and expects to play against the Cowboys. With DT Phil Taylor back for his second game, the Browns are as healthy as they've been all season. ``I was out there for the walk-through and I saw my boys in front of me,'' Haden said, ``Just having that week to get everyone healthy, get that energy back going and when I saw them I was crazy excited.'' ... K Phil Dawson, who grew up in the Dallas area, has already bought 27 tickets for family and friends for Sunday's game. ... The Browns practiced indoors because of rain.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.