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Jaguars name QB Henne starter against Titans

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Jaguars name QB Henne starter against Titans

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Chad Henne is getting another shot at starting in the NFL.

How well he performs could determine whether Blaine Gabbert gets one, too.

The Jacksonville Jaguars named Henne their starting quarterback for Sunday's game against Tennessee, the latest change for a team desperate to snap a seven-game losing streak.

Coach Mike Mularkey made the announcement Monday, a day after Henne threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-37 overtime loss at Houston.

Mularkey pinned the decision on Henne's performance - not Gabbert's injury.

``We're trying to find a way to produce and win,'' said Mularkey, who has made other lineup changes at running back, receiver, left guard and nose tackle in recent weeks. ``We're just trying to find ways to see if we can be more productive that's all. It's no different.''

Gabbert hurt his right forearm early in the game and had trouble gripping the ball.

Henne replaced him in the first quarter and completed 16 of 33 passes. He connected with Cecil Shorts III on a 67-yard touchdown and later hooked up with Justin Blackmon for an 81-yard score. He also found tight end Marcedes Lewis for two TDs in the red zone.

``He's been a starter in the league. He's had some success at that position,'' Mularkey said. ``He was brought in here in case something happened to Blaine, to step in there and produce, which he did. He prepares like he's a starter every week.

``That's the one thing about him. He has been as much of a help for Blaine's progress as anybody. He prepares every week just like he's going to play every down. He doesn't get all the reps, but he watches a lot of film. He's taught our young guys how to watch film and actually understand what they're watching and what they're looking for. It just showed up on the tape yesterday.''

Mularkey said Gabbert is questionable against the Titans (4-6).

If Gabbert can't play, the Jaguars (1-9) will promote John Parker Wilson from the practice squad to serve as Henne's backup.

``Blaine's injury is still up in the air,'' Mularkey said. ``It's still questionable about the strength in that hand. I'd be cautious to say that he has a chance to play this week.''

Henne also replaced an injured Gabbert against Indianapolis on Nov. 8 and completed 10 of 16 passes for 121 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. The Jaguars signed Henne to a two-year, $6.75 million contract in March, bringing the former Miami Dolphins starter in to be Gabbert's backup.

Jacksonville traded up to draft Gabbert with the 10th overall pick last year. The former Missouri standout struggled as a rookie and showed signs of progress earlier this year. But he clearly took a step back against the Colts, lacking pocket presence, rushing throws and missing open receivers.

Given that Jacksonville likely will have a high pick in the 2012 draft, it's imperative that the team figure out whether Gabbert is its franchise quarterback.

Gabbert has completed 53.8 percent of his passes in two seasons - 24 starts - for 3,876 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He has been sacked 62 times.

Henne's play against the Texans surely didn't help Gabbert's case.

With Henne in the huddle, first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon had seven receptions for 236 yards after being relatively quiet in the first nine games. Shorts caught three passes for 81 yards. And the 6-foot-6 Lewis, who had been relegated to blocking duties in recent weeks, became a top target near the goal line.

Mularkey expects Gabbert to handle the change well.

``I still think he's progressed,'' Mularkey said. ``Blaine will handle it just like he has. I don't know if you saw it, but on the sidelines the No. 1 guy out on the field every time there was something positive happening was Blaine. He is totally into this thing, and this is no different.''

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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