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Jones, Robiskie form tight bond with Falcons

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Jones, Robiskie form tight bond with Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Nearly every time Julio Jones reports to work, the second-year Atlanta receiver seeks out position coach Terry Robiskie.

Their ongoing dialogue started at training camp two years ago and hasn't let up.

Jones wouldn't have it any other way.

``Terry isn't going to sugarcoat anything,'' Jones said on Friday. ``If you mess up, you mess up, but he's going to show you how to correct it and what you need to look for.''

It's not hard to see why Jones credits Robiskie with helping him make the NFC Pro Bowl squad last month. On the sideline during games and at practice, Jones is likely standing next to his coach constantly to ask questions and get advice.

Their conversations are give-and-take, but both men say that it's never to the extent that Jones complains about being misunderstood.

Rather, Robiskie wants to know exactly what Jones sees before the snap and what his reason is for the technique he uses to create separation from a cornerback.

It's a formula that's worked well for the Falcons (13-3) heading into their divisional playoff game against Seattle (12-5) on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

Jones, 23, has become the deep-ball threat that Atlanta needed before general manager Thomas Dimitroff traded up 21 spots to draft him sixth overall two years ago.

The numbers are impressive considering that only Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson have more catches of 25 yards or more than Jones' 27 since the start of last season.

This year, Jones leads the Falcons with 10 touchdown catches, and he and Roddy White comprised one of four two-man tandems to each have at least 1,000 yards receiving.

But the lessons keep on coming.

``Being as young as he is, he's still got to focus on the game plan - what's the call, where do I go coming out of the huddle, what direction do I go, what route do I have, do I go inside, do I go outside?'' Robiskie said.

``During the course of the ballgame with him, I've got to focus on the guy across from him and let him, `Here's what they're doing to defend you.' "

With 30-plus years of NFL coaching experience, Robiskie is rarely surprised by any move or decision Jones might attempt.

Their work on the field begins each day before practice starts as Robiskie puts the receivers through sideline and end-zone line drills. The purpose is for each receiver to keep his feet in bounds while trying to catch balls that Robiskie purposely throws slightly out of reach.

It's a drill Robiskie learned from his playing and assistant coaching days with Raiders owner Al Davis and one that he's used over the last 30-plus years of working in the NFL.

``I throw the ball near the line where they literally have to dive or reach out across the white (line),'' Robiskie said. ``They have to drag their feet while focusing on the ball. On the end line, I try to throw it high and in the back of the end zone. Their minds have to be on, `I've got to catch the ball and drag my feet.' "

Jones showed how the work has paid off three weeks ago at Detroit as he reached out to catch quarterback Matt Ryan's pass in the right corner of the end zone and dragged his right foot while clutching the ball against the left side of his chest.

The 16-yard catch against Lions cornerback Chris Houston gave the Falcons a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter, but Jones' athleticism was only part of play's success. It took long hours on the field for the technique to seem like second nature.

``Practice makes perfect, man,'' Jones said. ``You've got to continue to keep doing the little things so that it becomes easy to you when you're in the game. When you're in that situation, you don't even think twice about it.''

For Robiskie, it's fun to work with a ``coachable player like Julio.'' He says the three seasons that Jones spent at Alabama, helping coach Nick Saban win his first national title with the Crimson Tide four years ago, gave him the kind of humility that Robiskie values.

``By the same token, Roddy's been with me for five years now and even when I got here (in 2008), he felt that he had all the answers anyway,'' Robiskie said with a laugh. ``He already feels he's got it all unless someone jacks him up and chokes him a little bit. But I don't have to talk to him as much. With Julio, I have to talk to him all the time because I've still got to focus on what I need to do from this to this to this.''

Notes: DE John Abraham (ankle) was limited in practice on Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday. ... Reserve S Charles Mitchell (calf) is also questionable. ... SS William Moore (hamstring) fully participated in practice for the first time in five weeks. He and CB Dunta Robinson (head) are both listed as probable. ... After losing David Caldwell to become the general manager with Jacksonville, Dimitroff promoted Lionel Vital to replace him as director of player personnel. Vital is in his fifth season with Atlanta, 22nd overall in the NFL.

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Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.

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Three reasons the Capitals lost to the Panthers

Three reasons the Capitals lost to the Panthers

Friday’s game had a little bit of everything. After spotting the Florida Panthers a 4-1 lead, the Capitals furiously battled back to tie the game at 4, then tied the game at 5 with just 1:25 remaining in regulation to earn an improbable point. The comeback ultimately fell short, however, as the Panthers earned the 6-5 shootout win.

Here are three reasons the Caps lost.

Bad puck management

A disastrous first period saw the Panthers score four goals and the biggest reason for that was the Caps’ puck management. They were sloppy with the puck leading to a number of costly turnovers, and Florida took advantage.

A good illustration of this game with Washington already trailing 2-1: Jakub Vrana made a lazy pass in the defensive zone that was easily intercepted by Jonathan Huberdeau, who forced a really nice save from Braden Holtby.

Whew, bullet dodged. Actually, not so fast.

Brett Connolly won the resulting faceoff, but Michal Kempny attempted a backhanded pass behind the net that was easily stolen away by Vincent Trocheck. Florida went tic-tac-toe with Trocheck to Huberdeau to Colton Sceviour who finished off the play for the goal.

No control in front of the net

Trocheck scored a rebound goal from the slot that bounced off of Lars Eller and into the net. Evgenii Dadonov scored from the slot on the power play. Sceviour scored from the high-slot after what was a generous pass from Huberdeau who looked like he could have scored from closer in…from the slot. Jared McCann pounced on a loose puck in the slot to beat a sprawling Holtby and Huberdeau scored off a rebound right in front of Holtby.

See a pattern?

The Panthers had complete control in front of the Caps’ net and all five of their goals came from in close.

Penalties

The Caps had a pretty good start to the game, but that was derailed by a Jakub Vrana penalty just 6:10 into the game. Evgeny Kuznetsov was called for hooking about 10 minutes later and Dadonov scored to put Florida up 2-1.

Despite the penalties and going down 4-1 in the first, the Caps battled back to a 4-4 tie in the second. Then the penalties popped up again.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad late in the period. It was a tough call as the puck as was at Ekblad’s feet, but Ovechkin made no attempt to play the loose puck at all and simply hit Ekblad, drawing an interference call. Less than a minute later, the Caps were called for too many men giving Florida 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with and Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal.

After three-straight goals, the Caps’ penalties completely derailed them and swept momentum back in the Panthers’ favor.

But wait, there’s more.

With the time ticking away on the too many men penalty, Kuznetsov was tossed out of the faceoff dot. He argued with the linesman and apparently argued a bit too hard because the linesman went to the referee and Kuznetsov was booked for unsportsmanlike conduct giving Florida another 10 seconds of 5-on-3.

Despite all of that, the Caps still managed to tie the game with just 1:25 remaining in the game. Matt Niskanen, however, took a penalty with just 23 seconds left. With a 4-on-3 power play to start overtime, 

Overall, Washington gave the Panthers seven power play opportunities including two 5-on-3s, gave up two goals on the man advantage and completely killed their own momentum.

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