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Indy hoping to make most of 2nd chance at playoffs

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Indy hoping to make most of 2nd chance at playoffs

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis allowed one postseason-clinching chance to slip away at Houston.

It doesn't intend to let the same thing happen again at Kansas City.

``It's the playoffs. This is the playoffs,'' interim coach Bruce Arians said before Wednesday's practice began.

For the Colts (9-5), this is a rare second chance in a league where players and teams risk being left behind any time they miss an opportunity.

Just ask the Chicago Bears, 7-1 at midseason and now fighting just to make the playoffs. Or the Baltimore Ravens, who were in contention to earn the AFC's top seed three weeks ago. Or quarterback Alex Smith, who led San Francisco to last year's NFC championship game and a 6-2-1 record this season before losing his starting job to Colin Kaepernick.

The Colts are not looking back after making a historic turnaround.

They didn't complain when team owner Jim Irsay and new general manager Ryan Grigson started over in March by cutting team captains Peyton Manning and Gary Brackett, letting Jeff Saturday and Pierre Garcon walk away in free agency and opting to rebuild through the draft and with a handful of players who needed another chance to prove they belonged in the NFL.

They ignored the critics who pegged them as the league's worst team in training camp and projected three wins at best. They didn't despair after returning from a bye week and were told coach Chuck Pagano was taking an indefinite leave after being diagnosed with leukemia.

So they're sure not going to let the 29-17 loss at Houston linger.

Instead, they're focused on their next task - beating the reeling Chiefs (2-12), who have barely averaged 10 points per game and were shut out in Oakland last weekend.

``There's a playoff spot at stake, so it's win or go home,'' outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. ``We can't go out and lay an egg like we did last week.''

It's a simple scenario for the Colts.

Indy makes it in with a win over the Chiefs or in the season-finale against Houston (12-2) or if the Steelers (7-7) lose one of their two remaining games - Sunday at Cincinnati (8-6) or the final week against Cleveland (5-9).

But the Colts are chasing more than just a playoff spot.

A win would help them regain some momentum heading into January, allow Arians to tie the NFL record for victories after a midseason coaching change, make the Colts one of only four teams in league history to go from two or fewer wins one season to 10 or more the next, and, of course, take the pressure off Pagano if he returns to the locker room Monday as players, coaches and team officials are hoping.

Almost from the moment Pagano began chemotherapy treatments in late September, Arians and Indy's upper management targeted the Dec. 30 game as Pagano's return. With that game fast approaching, Arians has said twice this week that nothing is certain yet.

Arians said he is eager to go back to working just one job, offensive coordinator.

``Hopefully we can get this victory and secure our playoff spot and turn it back over to Chuck,'' he said.

Players can't wait, either.

``It would be great, I'm sure it would be emotional for a lot of people if it comes (next week),'' rookie quarterback Andrew Luck said. ``Hopefully, it will be soon. It will be great to have him back.''

Pagano may not be the only one making a return in the next few days.

Starting safety Tom Zbikowski has missed the last three games with a knee injury. On Monday, Arians ruled him out for the Chiefs game. On Wednesday, Arians acknowledged the prognosis had improved and said Zbikowski was questionable. He did dress for practice Wednesday.

``He's moving around really well, so he is not out as I reported earlier this week,'' Arians said.

Yet there are plenty of other concerns, especially along the offensive line where starting center Samson Satele is out with an ankle injury and right tackle Winston Justice (biceps) and backup center A.Q. Shipley (right knee) are both questionable.

If Satele and Shipley don't play, Arians will move right guard Mike McGlynn to center and the rest of the Colts will adapt again - just as they have all season.

``I think guys understand what's at stake,'' Luck said. ``There's a little more of a sense of urgency in terms of what to expect, but it is kind of like the playoffs.''

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Wizards' second pre-draft workout to feature possible first-round picks

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Wizards' second pre-draft workout to feature possible first-round picks

The Wizards will have some recognizable names at their second pre-draft workout on Wednesday including potential first round pick Aaron Holiday of UCLA, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Here is the list with some notes on each player...

Aaron Holiday, guard, UCLA (6-1, 185)

The brother of two NBA players (Jrue and Justin), Holiday played three years at UCLA and averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 1.3 steals as a junior. He also shot 42.9 percent from three on 6.2 attempts per game. He registered a 6-8 wingspan at the NBA Combine.

Potential fit with Wizards: possible first round pick, likely won't be there in second round; would solidify backup point guard position

Devonte' Graham, guard, Kansas (6-2, 175)

The Big 12 player of the year, Graham averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 assists as a senior. He posted a 6-6 wingspan at the combine. His uncle played for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1990s.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; would provide backup point guard depth

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, forward, Kansas (6-8, 195)

A big-time three-point shooter, Mykhailiuk shot 44.4 percent from three on 6.6 attempts per game as a senior. He averaged 14.6 points and 3.9 rebounds.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; could be a three-point threat off the bench

Moritz Wagner, center, Michigan (6-11, 241)

Originally from Germany, Wagner was a standout in the NCAA Tournament as the Wolverines went all the way to the final. He averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals as a junior. He also shot 39.4 percent from three and measured at nearly 7-feet in shoes at the NBA Combine.

Potential fit with Wizards: second round pick; could develop into a capable stretch-five

Jonathan Williams, guard, VCU (6-0, 175)

Williams grew up in Richmond before playing college ball at VCU. He averaged 9.3 points and 5.7 assists as a senior.

Potential fit with Wizards: undrafted free agent; possible G-League guard

Zach Thomas, SF, Bucknell (6-7, 228)

Thomas was the Patriot League player of the year with averages of 20.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as a senior. He shot 40 percent from three for his college career.

Potential fit with Wizards: undrafted free agent; possible G-League forward

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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