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Eagles' Reid names QB Foles starter rest of season

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Eagles' Reid names QB Foles starter rest of season

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Nick Foles is the quarterback of the present for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Coach Andy Reid said Foles will remain the starter for the rest of the season, even when Michael Vick returns from a concussion. The Eagles (3-9) have lost eight straight games, a strong factor in Reid's decision.

``No. 1, I just think he's playing well enough to where I think he can win football games for us,'' Reid said Monday. ``And No. 2, I think where we sit at this position in the season, I think it's the right thing to do.''

Reid made the announcement a day after Foles had his best performance in a 38-33 loss at Dallas on Sunday night. Foles, a third-round pick, has started the last three games since Vick was injured on Nov. 11.

Foles was 22 of 34 for 251 yards and one touchdown against the Cowboys. He has thrown for 793 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and has a passer rating of 73.3.

``You see the footwork is better when he's throwing the football,'' Reid said. ``It's allowing us to add more into his repertoire of throws and he's been working very hard on that.''

Vick has struggled this season, committing 14 turnovers in nine games. He has 2,165 yards passing, 11 TDs and nine interceptions for a passer rating of 79.2.

``With Michael, we need to make sure he gets healthy,'' Reid said. ``This thing has carried on a while here now and I want to make sure he is good to go.''

Vick remains in stage four of five in his recovery and has yet to pass the final test that would allow him to be cleared to practice. The team has a five-phase recovery protocol, which is separate from the NFL-mandated concussion program.

Reid didn't even commit to having Vick back up Foles. Trent Edwards currently is the No. 2 quarterback.

``I haven't got that far, but most likely, he'll be the second guy,'' Reid said. ``We'll see how that goes. The No. 1 thing I want him to do is get healthy. That's what I want. This obviously has taken a bit and he's working his tail off to try to get it right and I just want him to get that right so he can have a nice, long career here.''

Frustrated fans have been calling for Foles to replace Vick since he had an impressive preseason playing against backups and guys who didn't make NFL rosters. His first 2 1/2 games didn't suggest he could be the team's long-term answer, but Foles played well against the Cowboys.

The Eagles are facing a critical offseason that could shape the organization for years to come. First, owner Jeffrey Lurie must decide whether to bring Reid back for a 15th season.

Whoever coaches the team, however, has to start with finding a franchise QB. If Foles stays healthy the rest of the way, he'll have seven starts under his belt. That's a decent sample for an evaluation, though not a definite indication of his potential.

The last time the Eagles had such debate over their quarterback of the future was in 1997. Bobby Hoying, a third-round pick like Foles, had a strong start. He threw for 835 yards, six TDs, one interception and had a 60.4 completion percentage and 98.0 passer rating while going 2-0-1 in his first three starts.

It was all downhill from there.

Hoying went 1-9 in his next 10 starts and lasted just two more seasons, throwing just five passes, after leaving Philadelphia following the 1998 season. Donovan McNabb was selected with the No. 2 overall pick by Reid in his first year here in 1999. McNabb was the solution for a decade, leading the Eagles to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl loss.

Kevin Kolb was supposed to be McNabb's successor, but Vick stole the show with his sensational play in 2010.

Now, though, Vick appears on his way out.

Vick had a remarkable season two years ago, leading the Eagles to an NFC East title, earning a spot as the starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl and winning the AP Comeback Player of the Year award.

Vick then was rewarded with a $100 million contract in August 2011. Only $35.5 million of that deal is guaranteed money and Vick is due to make $15.5 million in 2013. He certainly won't get that as a backup.

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NOTES: Reid fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn and replaced him with Tommy Brasher, who served in that role with the Eagles in 1985 and from 1999-2005. ... RB LeSean McCoy is in stage three of his concussion rehab. McCoy has missed two straight games. ... Reid hinted that there could be changes in the secondary. The Eagles have allowed 16 TD passes and have no interceptions in the last six games.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

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Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Coach Barry Trotz indicated that Andre Burakovsky’s benching wouldn’t last long.

And it didn’t.

The 23-year-old winger will return to the lineup on Monday night as the Caps look to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

During the morning skate, Burakovsky skated on the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly—a trio that’s enjoyed some success in the past.

It’s been a difficult postseason for Burakovsky, who has not recorded a point in six games. He missed 10 contests after suffering a hand injury in Game 2 of the first round that required minor surgery.

What he found out upon returning was this: coming back from injury in the regular season is hard...and it’s exponentially tougher in the playoffs.

“It’s definitely tough to jump in in the semifinal,” he said. “When you’re out, you just want to get in and help the team and do what you’re good at—score goals and produce.”

“What I realized is that it’s not that easy,” he added. “I really thought I could jump in and just play like I did before I got injured. 

But obviously it didn’t work out as well I thought it would.”  

Burakovsky also said that he’s planning to work with a sports psychologist this summer in an effort to maintain an even keel when things aren’t going as well as he would like. It’s a problem that he said he’s struggled with since his childhood.

Asked what he hopes to see from Burakovsky in Game 6, Coach Barry Trotz kept it simple: offense.

The Caps have scored just two goals in each of the last three games, with Evgeny Kuznetsov contributing 50-percent of that total.

“He’s a guy that’s given us some good offense all through his time here,” Trotz said of Burakovsky. “We think that he can add some of that.”

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5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

The more you look at Monday's Game 6 between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the more you realize this game is the most important game of Alex Ovechkin's career.

This is the first time Ovechkin and Co. have made it to the conference finals and it is the first time this postseason in which the Caps face elimination.

Here are the keys for the Caps to staving off elimination and forcing a Game 7:

1. Get off to a better start

It took Tampa Bay just 19 seconds to score in Game 5 and the score was 3-0 nothing before the Capitals really began to show any signs of life. They cannot allow the Lightning to jump all over them in the same way and take the crowd out of the game early.

With the game being in Washington, the Caps will have the crowd on their side. Use it.

The Caps have been at their best this series playing the trap, holding their own blue line and countering against Tampa Bay's aggressive defensemen leading to odd-man breaks. That's a hard gameplan to run if you're playing from behind. Scoring first would go a long way for Washington.

2. Stay out of the penalty box

Washington has given up six power play goals to Tampa Bay on just 15 opportunities in this series. That means the Lightning's power play is producing at a blistering rate of 40-percent. That's an insanely good power play rate and that may be putting it mildly.

So far, the penalty kill has had no answer for how to shut down a Tampa Bay unit that features Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov setting up for one-timers and being quarterbacked by Victor Hedman. That's a formidable cast.

If you can't beat it, then there's only one solution: Stay out of the box.

Despite everything that went wrong in Game 5, the one thing the Caps did right was not give up many penalties. They took only one on the night and even that one was avoidable as Brett Connolly got caught holding Brayden Point trying to get around him to get the puck.

3. Win the top line matchup

The Lightning have found success matching their fourth line against Ovechkin. Of his six points this series, only two of them (one goal, one assist) have come at 5-on-5. That's not good enough.

It's gut check time. The Caps need their best players to be at their best and that means Ovechkin has to win the matchup against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan. In Game 5, Tampa Bay's fourth line actually outscored Ovechkin's line in 5-on-5 play 2-0.

Washington will not win this game if the fourth line outscores Ovechkin's line. It's just that simple.

4. Take advantage of the power play opportunities

The Caps scored at least one power play goal in Game 1 and Game 2, both wins. They have not scored any since and have lost all three games since. They scored on three of seven opportunities in the first two games and zero of seven opportunities in the last three.

Not a coincidence.

Granted, they did not draw any penalties in Game 5, but it seems unlikely the Lightning will stay out of the box for another sixty minutes. At some point, they will take a penalty and when they do, Washington must take advantage.

5. Win the goalie matchup

Not much attention has been paid to Braden Holtby in this series. The Caps are not facing elimination because they have been getting bad goaltending, but when the Lightning needed Andrei Vasilevskiy to steal them a win and up his game to get them back into the series, he responded.

Vasilevskiy has been brilliant the last three games as he has turned aside 100 of the 106 shots he has faced for a .943 save percentage. For the series, Holtby has a save percentage of only .883.

Again, Washington is not down 3-2 in the series because of goaltending. Holtby has faced far fewer shots than Vasilevskiy and has been just about the only thing that has worked against Tampa Bay's lethal power play.

But as one of the team's top players, the Caps need Holtby to step up the way Vasilevskiy has. Game 6 will be about winning by any means necessary. If that means they need a hat trick from Ovechkin so be it. If that means they need Holtby to steal it for them, so be it.

Holtby has to be just as good as Vasilevskiy in Game 6, if not better, for Washington to come out on top.

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