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Injuries test No. 1 Ducks' defense

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Injuries test No. 1 Ducks' defense

The Oregon Ducks rarely, if ever, talk about injuries - even season-ending ones.

So it's hard to say how depleted the AP's No. 1 team is going into Saturday's game against No. 14 Stanford. But it's clear the Ducks have taken a hit, especially on defense.

The latest casualty is free safety Avery Patterson, who seriously injured his left knee in the second quarter of Oregon's 59-17 victory at California last Saturday night.

Patterson was seen on the sidelines on crutches and in sweats following the game. Although there was no official word from the program, The Oregonian newspaper cited an unnamed source as saying Patterson was out for the season.

Patterson had taken over as starter for senior John Boyett, who was hurt early this season. Boyett played in the opener against Arkansas State, but was in street clothes the next week. Later he revealed to his hometown newspaper that he needed surgery to repair the patellar tendons in both knees. While the Ducks never formally announced Boyett's injury, it ended his career at Oregon.

Sophomore James Scales replaced Patterson against Cal. Senior defensive linemen Dion Jordan (right shoulder) Isaac Remington (foot) and Ricky Heimuli (right knee) were dressed on the sidelines in Berkeley but did not play. As a result, the Ducks relied at times on three true freshmen - Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci - on the defensive line.

Starting nose guard Wade Keliikipi never made the trip to Strawberry Canyon because of an undisclosed injury and was seen using crutches on Monday. Defensive end Taylor Hart also hurt an ankle or foot against Cal and wore a boot.

The injuries tested coach Chip Kelly's ``next man in'' philosophy.

``It's part of college football,'' Kelly said. ``Can you handle it, or can you not handle it?''

The Ducks were already hurting in the secondary with sophomore backup cornerbacks Dior Mathis and Troy Hill absent against Cal for unclear reasons. The situation has become so serious that there was speculation this week that the Ducks might use wide receiver Keanon Lowe or even multi-purpose back De'Anthony Thomas on defense.

The move comes after USC used dynamic wide receiver Marqise Lee on defense for a few snaps against Arizona State last weekend, and Washington played receiver Austin Seferian-Jenkins on defense against Utah.

Lowe played at safety at Jesuit High School in Portland, and came to Oregon, in part, because he wanted to play offense. Thomas played on both sides of the ball at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles.

``We're getting thinner, but we'll find a way to make it work,'' defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said without naming names.

The Ducks already moved redshirt freshman Koa Ka'ai, who had played at tight end this season, back to defensive end, which he played in high school.

The bright side in all of this for the Ducks is that even though they've had injuries, their backups - and even third stringers - have had plenty of work this season. In addition to Oregon's practice of heavy player rotation on defense to wear down opponents, the Ducks often sat their starters after building up big leads against opponents this season.

``(That's) kind of the byproduct of winning some of those games early, getting a lot of those guys reps,'' Kelly said. ``It wasn't like you turned around and said, `Hey, you guys gotta play.' They'd been in games before and they had an understanding, and we had an opportunity to correct mistakes.''

Against the Golden Bears, the injuries were not limited to the defense. There were two major scares on offense.

Senior running back Kenjon Barner left the game briefly during the first quarter after an apparent injury to his right thumb. Barner, the nation's fourth-leading rusher with an average of 136 yards a game, finished with 65 yards rushing at Cal.

And quarterback Marcus Mariota also left the game after a hard fall injured his left shoulder late in the first half, but returned and finished with 377 yards passing and six touchdowns.

Barner and Mariota say they're fine for Saturday's game against Stanford.

Cardinal coach David Shaw said Oregon is going to be tough no matter who they have on the field.

``Those guys are good football players. Everybody that they put in knows their scheme. They still play fast, they still play physical and they get after you.

``As a college football fan, I was saddened to see when the quarterback got hurt against Cal. I was hoping that he'd take about 10 days to nurse that injury,'' Shaw added with a laugh. ``But he popped back in there and only threw four touchdown passes after he got hurt.''

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3 stars of the game: Burakovsky's big night propels Caps to the Stanley Cup Final

3 stars of the game: Burakovsky's big night propels Caps to the Stanley Cup Final

For just the second time in franchise history, the Capitals are Eastern Conference Champions. They will play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup FInal after a dominant 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Alex Ovechkin gave the Capitals the lead just 62 seconds into the game. It was a lead they would never relinquish as Braden Holtby recorded his second consecutive shutout.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final will be Monday in Las Vegas.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Andre Burakovsky: It's been a rough year for Burakovsky, but all that was erased on Wednesday with his brilliant two-goal performance to lead the Caps.

The Caps were clinging to a 1-0 lead in the second period, but the Lightning were buzzing, outshooting the Caps 8-1. They had all the momentum until Burakovsky stole a bouncing puck from Dan Girardi and fired a quick shot far-side for the beautiful goal.

Burakovsky added a second goal later in the second as John Carlson banked a pass off the boards to launch him on a breakaway. Burakovsky coolly shot it through the open five-hole of Vasilevskiy to make it 3-0.

It's incredible to think that Burakovsky had not recorded a point yet this postseason prior to Game 7, was a healthy scratch for Game 5 and was talking about seeing a sports psychologist over the summer after the morning skate for Game 6.

2. Braden Holtby: The goaltending for much of the series was Andrei Vasilevskiy who led Tampa Bay's comeback in the series with his phenomenal netminding. He was outplayed in the most important games by Holtby, however, who recorded shutouts in both Game 6 and Game 7. The last goal the Lightning scored in the series came 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5. That's 139:27 of continuous play and 60 straight saves for Holtby.

Holtby was phenomenal in Game 7 with big save after big save as the Lightning pushed to tie. His biggest save came in the second period when he denied Alex Killorn on the breakaway. The score was just 2-0 at that point.

This marks just the fifth time a goalie has recorded a shutout in Game 6 and Game 7 in a playoff series.

3. Alex Ovechkin: It took Ovechkin just 62 seconds to put the Capitals ahead and it turned out to be the goal that sent Washington to the Stanley Cup Final. How fitting for it to be Ovechkin to score the game-winner?

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Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

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USA TODAY Sports

Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

A rough hit to the back of Brooks Orpik left him down on the ice and slow to get up. Cedric Paquette skated back to his bench and waited for the trainer to attend to Orpik and (probably) for the referees to call his number and send him to the box.

The penalty, however, never came.

You always hear in hockey that if you can see a player's numbers, you should pull up on the hit.

What that refers to is the numbers on the back of a player's jersey. You are not allowed to hit a player directly in the back into the boards.

The official definition of boarding according to the NHL rule book is, "any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously." Hitting a player "in the numbers" is a defenseless position.

Apparently Cedric Paquette didn't know that and, unfortunately for the Capitals, neither did the referees.

Someone explain to me how this is not a boarding penalty:

Sometimes referees are put in a tough position because a player turns his back right before they take the hit, thus putting themselves in a vulnerable position to draw a penalty. That was not the case here. Orpik never turned.

When Tom Wilson hit Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in the second period, the hockey world spent the next day debating whether it was an illegal hit. There is no debate here, no grey area. Just a clear board.

And no call.

You can understand referees wanting to put away the whistles for a Game 7, but you have to call the blatant dangerous plays like this. This was a bad miss by the referees, plain and simple.

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