Capitals

Kelly, Sark play down Oregon-Washington rivalry

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Kelly, Sark play down Oregon-Washington rivalry

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Oregon coach Chip Kelly seized on SpongeBob SquarePants when describing how the No. 2 Ducks feel about the past rivalry with the Washington Huskies.

He says most of the acrimony between the two teams occurred more than a decade ago.

``We've got kids that are 17, 18, 19 years old. You talk 10 years ago, they were 7 and 8. At 7 and 8 they were SpongeBob SquarePants. They weren't worried about Joey Harrington,'' Kelly quipped.

``I think a lot of time people can bring up the past,'' he added. ``But we're always trying to meet fast, practice fast, those things. We don't have a whole heck of a lot of time to give them a history of games played against a certain opponent.''

While the Ducks (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) themselves may not buy into the hype over the rivalry, there's still a lot of back-and-forth razzing between fans in the neighboring Pacific Northwest states. The No. 23 Huskies (3-1, 1-1) visit Autzen Stadium on Saturday night.

The rivalry's rancor goes back a while, but Huskies' fans remember ``The Pick'' in 1994 when freshman cornerback Kenny Wheaton saved the day for the Ducks when he picked off a pass by Damon Huard and ran it back 97 yards for a score. The victory would send Oregon to the Rose Bowl - and a clip is still played on the video scoreboard for fans before every home game.

The Huskies raised the ire of Ducks' fans in 2002 when, after beating Oregon 42-10, the team danced for nearly an hour on the ``O'' on the 50-yard line at Autzen.

At times the battles between Washington and Oregon seemed to rival those with their in-state foes.

But the Ducks have won the last eight games between the two teams, diminishing the rivalry's intensity. In the meantime, USC has taken on a greater adversarial role for Duck fans.

Oregon's eight-game winning streak is the longest for either side in the history of the series, which dates back to 1900. The Ducks also have won eight straight overall, going back to last season.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said the motivation isn't in the rivalry, it's in the No. 23 Huskies themselves.

``It's not about that we're playing Oregon or that it's at Autzen or what uniforms they're wearing or what uniforms we're wearing. It's about getting to 2-0 in conference play. That's what all these guys think,'' Sarkisian said. ``When you have to start looking for external motivators it can get dicey for you because you don't know if you pushed the exact right buttons to get them excited to play. They'll be ready to play because they want be ready to play.''

The game likely will come down to Washington's defense against Oregon's speedy offense.

Last week the Huskies held off then-No. 8 Stanford 17-13. The Cardinal managed only 68 yards rushing while passing for 170 yards, scoring on two field goals and an interception return.

The Huskies are ranked second in the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing opponents an average of about 315 yards and 19.8 points.

Oregon, meanwhile, averages more than 52 points and 550 yards in total offense.

But what stymies most of the Ducks' opponents is the speed. With running backs who moonlight during the spring on the track team, Oregon's no-huddle spread is hard to stop. Twenty of Oregon's 33 touchdown drives this season took less than two minutes, and 11 took less than one.

The offense is guided by redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, who has thrown for 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and ranked second in the league in passing efficiency (152.7). Senior running back Kenjon Barner is averaging 121 rushing yards and 12 points.

``You just have to stay calm. You can't get too hyped up, can't come into the game too hyped because they're running so many plays over and over and over again,'' Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant said. `` You miss you key and it's an 80-yard touchdown play. You have to stay disciplined in what you're doing.''

Washington has been hardened by facing two other teams in the top 10. The Huskies fell 41-3 to No. 3 LSU before the victory over the Cardinal.

Sophomore running back Bishop Sankey, a first-year starter, is an emerging threat on the offense. He ran for 144 yards on 20 carries in the Huskies' victory over Stanford, including a 61-yard touchdown run. The week before the sophomore rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries, with two touchdowns against Portland State.

Last season the Ducks defeated Washington 34-17 in the final game played at the old Husky Stadium before an extensive renovation that is set to be completed for the 2013 season.

Much as Kelly and Sarkisian downplay the rivalry, some of the taunting among the fans has obviously been heard by the players.

``You've just got to go out there and represent your school,'' Mariota said. ``You can't really put more on the game, but you know deep down it's a big game.''

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Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

The top line for the Capitals on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks is Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, but the starting lineup is Ovechkin, Backstrom and Devante Smith-Pelly. Why the change?

It all has to do with the last time the Caps visited Chicago nearly a year ago.

On Feb. 17, 2018, Washington went into the United Center and were obliterated by the Blackhawks 7-1. But that wasn’t the ugliest thing to happen that night.

While sitting in the penalty box, Devante Smith-Pelly faced racial taunts from some Chicago fans who began chanting “basketball, basketball” at him.

In the wake of the incident, Smith-Pelly handled himself about as gracefully as one could. So, in the team’s return to Chicago Sunday, head coach Todd Reirden felt he should be on the ice for the national anthem.

According to Pierre McGuire during the game broadcast, the idea came from Oshie himself, who advocated that Smith-Pelly start in his place.

The starters traditionally stand on the ice for the anthem while the rest of the players stand at the bench.

Smith-Pelly has remained active against racism in the sport. He and teammate John Carlson invited a youth hockey team whose lone African-American player had faced racial taunts during a game to the Caps’ game on Monday.

Sunday’s move by Reirden is a classy tribute to Smith-Pelly who handled an ugly situation about as well as one could. 

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

Apparently Wizards owner Ted Leonsis could have been even more clear when he delivered the edict last week that his team will "never, ever tank."

Despite publicly stating the Wizards would not go through a rebuild, the trade rumors surrounding All-Star guard Bradley Beal have persisted. Bleacher Report created some buzz on Saturday with an extensive look at Beal's trade value and there will likely be many more stories written in the next several weeks leading up to the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 7.

What Leonsis said, however, should change how any rumors are viewed. He expressed firmly what team officials have been indicating for weeks, that if they are active at the trade deadline, it won't be with deals involving their main guys.

That means Beal is highly unlikely to be dealt. Otto Porter Jr. can be considered similarly and John Wall should go without saying given his current injury status and hefty trade kicker.

All of that doesn't mean the Wizards won't get calls. There are reasons why people are connecting the dots on Beal and Porter. The Wizards have underperformed this season and they are good, veteran players. That is generally the most basic formula for trade speculation.

Leonsis, though, made it clear that he doesn't want to go through a rebuild anytime soon and trading Beal would signify a reset. If the Wizards want to make the playoffs this season, as Leonsis said, they have a much better shot with Beal in the mix than without him.

So, for the Wizards to trade Beal, that would require a serious change of face and in a short period of time. Or, it would require someone in the organization with a differing opinion to overrule the owner. Neither scenario sounds realistic.

If the goal is to build on what they have rather than tear it down and start over, you could argue they would be crazy to trade Beal. He is 25, an All-Star who is still improving and he's under contract two more years. The roughly $56 million he's owed through 2020-21 is a relative bargain in this era of supermax contracts.

The Wizards can't 100 percent rule out a trade of any player, of course. No front office really can, with rare exceptions like MVPs or all-time greats in their prime. Generally, everyone has a price.

Nothing can be taken as a guarantee in these situations. But Leonsis' comments have made it about as clear as possible that Beal isn't going anywhere. Just keep that in mind when the rumors inevitably crop up in the next few weeks.

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