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Lindley, Cards struggle again in 7-6 loss to Jets

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Lindley, Cards struggle again in 7-6 loss to Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt considered a quarterback change before sticking with the struggling Ryan Lindley.

The argument for a switch - as the New York Jets did with Mark Sanchez - was compelling during the Cardinals 7-6 loss on Sunday, their eighth straight defeat.

Lindley had a miserable game: 10 for 31 for only 72 yards, one interception and a dismal 28.0 quarterback rating.

``We talked about it,'' said Whisenhunt. ``As the head coach, you have to make those decisions. You always do what you think gives you the best chance. That's what we did.''

Whisenhunt deflected some of the blame from the quarterback to receivers running incorrect routes. In the final analysis, Lindley needed to make some plays for the Cardinals (4-8) to finally get a win.

``He's got to throw the ball better in situations than he did,'' Whisenhunt said.

Lindley agreed.

``I missed some throws,'' he said. ``You can't have that. They did a good job of covering some stuff, but there was stuff that was open. I didn't hit it.''

In contrast, a quarterback change sparked the Jets.

It was an ugly performance by New York, until third-stringer Greg McElroy came in - not Tim Tebow -and made his case for taking over as the starting quarterback.

McElroy stepped in for a struggling Sanchez and energized the Jets. With Tebow inactive as he heals from two broken ribs, coach Rex Ryan pulled Sanchez for McElroy - as the crowd at MetLife Stadium cheered wildly - late in the third quarter.

``It's just something that I sensed, that I felt,'' Ryan said. ``When you're around this game long enough, you get that feeling that, `You know what? I've seen enough, and it's time to make that change.'''

McElroy then led the Jets (5-7) to their only points of the day with an impressive 10-play drive, rolling out to his right on a bootleg and tossing a 1-yard pass to a wide-open Jeff Cumberland in the back of the end zone 5 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Fans chanted ``Mc-El-Roy!'' throughout the first three quarters as Sanchez went 10 of 21 for 97 yards and three interceptions, including two by former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes.

McElroy, reading the plays off his left wristband after getting few snaps in practice all week, was cheered with each completion, including a 13-yard toss on third down to Jeremy Kerley with 3 minutes left that helped seal the victory. McElroy finished 5 of 7 for 29 yards.

Sanchez left with 4:48 left in the third quarter and the Jets trailing 3-0 after having a pass batted down by Ronald Talley. Sanchez was met on the sideline by Ryan, who said something to his quarterback as McElroy began to warm up.

``From the get-go, from the first play, it just wasn't my day,'' Sanchez said.

It should make for an interesting week around Jets camp. If Tebow is healthy enough to play, he could be in line to start next week - at Jacksonville against his hometown Jaguars.

If not, Ryan will have to take a hard look at McElroy, a seventh-round pick out of Alabama last year who missed all last season with a thumb injury.

While the Jets' quarterback situation is unclear for the rest of this season, the sagging Cardinals have their own troubles at the position. Lindley was ineffective in his second NFL start. Arizona finished 0 for 15 in third-down situations.

Lindley was harassed by a Jets defense that was terrific in keeping the Cardinals out of the end zone, taking advantage of a rookie quarterback making his second NFL start, playing for Kevin Kolb who missed his sixth straight game with a rib injury.

On McElroy's second drive of the game, he completed a swing pass to Kahlil Bell, who fumbled the ball and Daryl Washington recovered deep in Jets territory.

Lindley connected with Michael Floyd on a 16-yard gain, but things stalled again for the Cardinals and they settled for Jay Feely's 35-yard field goal that made it 7-6 with 10:39 left.

The only scoring in the opening half came on Feely's 48-yarder as time expired. The 10-play drive was helped by a fake punt on fourth-and-7 from the Cardinals 25 when Rashad Johnson took the direct snap and zipped downfield 40 yards for the biggest play of the game to that point.

After two incompletions and a 5-yard toss to Rob Housler, Feely - an ex-Jet - came out and broke the scoreless ``slugfest.''

Things got started on an ominous note for the Jets as Sanchez was intercepted by Rhodes on New York's first offensive play of the game. Ryan criticized Rhodes in his book ``Play Like You Mean It'' last year for being a ``selfish'' player, and New York traded him after the 2009 season.

``There was no edge,'' said Rhodes, playing down a feud with Ryan. ``It was my first opportunity to come back and play well in front of friends and family.''

Arizona couldn't take advantage as the Cardinals went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 17 and Beanie Wells lost a yard.

NOTES: New York's Nick Folk hit the left upright on a 46-yard field-goal attempt and dinged a 52-yarder off the right upright. ... The Jets, ranked 30th against the run, held the Cardinals to 67 yards rushing, 40 coming on Johnson's fake punt. ... Shonn Greene quietly had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, 104 on 24 carries. ... Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald was held to one catch for 23 yards.

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4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

It all starts Monday!

The Vegas Golden Knights will host the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as both teams look to take early control of the series.

Can the Caps steal one on the road to start? Here are four keys to winning Game 1.

Win the first period

The Golden Knights have not played a game since May 20. While rest can benefit a team at this time of the year, there is such a thing as too much rest and over a week would certainly qualify. If there is absolutely any rust in Vegas’ game to start, the Caps need to take advantage.

T-Mobile Arena and the Vegas crowd have already built a reputation in year one. The atmosphere is going to be electric, but the Caps can combat that with a good start to the game and by scoring first.

Vegas is 10-1 when scoring first this postseason. If they are able to come in and get on the board right off the bat in the first period after seven full days between games, that does not bode well for the Caps’ chances.

Don’t allow Marc-Andre Fleury to pick up where he left off

Fleury is having a postseason for the ages, but it’s hard to believe momentum is simply going to carry over to a new series after such a lengthy break. Players are not simply going to pick up where they left off and play as if there’s no rust to shake off. The need to get to Fleury as early as possible.

What that means is getting traffic in front of the net, making him move, contesting rebounds, making him feel uncomfortable as much as possible and generating quality offensive chances.

The Caps can do is starting flinging pucks at the net and giving him easy saves. Getting 12 shots in the first period would be great, but not if they are all perimeter shots for easy saves that help bring Fleury's confidence back to where it was in the Western Conference Final.

Limit the turnovers

Turnovers are blood in the water for Vegas. The high-effort, high-speed style of play of the Golden Knights has caught several players off guard at points this postseason. No one can afford to be casual with the puck at any point in this game because Vegas has a knack for turning those turnovers into goals.

Winning Game 1 on the road will be hard enough without giving the Golden Knights at any help.

Shut down the top line

Only three players have reached double digits in points for the Golden Knights in the playoffs: Jonathan Marchessault (18), Reilly Smith (16) and William Karlsson (13). What do these three have in common? They all play on Vegas’ top line. To compare, the Caps have seven players in double digits.

Much has been made of Vegas’ offensive depth and their ability to roll four lines, but the play of Fleury in net has really masked how much this team relies on its top line for offense. The Caps need to get Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against them and focus on shutting them down. Force the Golden Knights to win with their other three lines and see if they can.

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MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

LAS VEGAS—One of the more intriguing storylines of this year’s Stanley Cup Final centers on a couple of men who make their living behind the scenes: Brian MacLellan of the Caps and his counterpart with the Golden Knights, George McPhee.

They’ve known each other for 40-plus years, dating back to their time as bantam teammates in Canada. And, starting Monday, they’ll be on opposing sides, with hockey’s Holy Grail at stake.  

Caps fans, of course, are familiar with McPhee’s work. He served as GM in Washington from 1997-2014 and drafted 13 players who are currently on the Caps’ roster. McPhee was also the Caps’ rookie GM the last time the franchise appeared in the Final 20 years ago.

But here’s what Caps fans might not know about the connection that MacLellan and McPhee share:

  • They were born in a few months apart in 1958 in Ontario.
  • They captured the Canadian Jr. A championship as members of the 1977-78 Guelph Platers.
  • Both were on scholarship at Bowling Green from 1978-1982.
  • They played together with the New York Rangers in 1985-86.
  • And, finally, they worked side-by-side in Washington from 2000-2014. After working his way up from the scouting ranks, MacLellan replaced his managerial mentor, who had been let go following a disappointing season.

 

“It's kind of a weird experience,” MacLellan said. “We kind of have been texting back and forth how strange it feels to have this line up the way it has. It's a little awkward, but it's going to be a fun experience, I hope.”

At one point, MacLellan got choked up when talking about his relationship with McPhee, who’ll become the first GM in the expansion era to face a former team of which he served as GM.

“We played junior together and then we both went to Bowling Green on scholarships, so we lived together,” he said, fighting back tears. “It was fun.”

MacLellan also acknowledged that the two weren’t as tight—for a time, at least—after he replaced McPhee four years ago. McPhee also hinted at some strain, though he said the two men had dinner at the most recent GM’s meetings.

“Not as close, I don't think,” MacLellan said of his relationship with McPhee following McPhee’s dismissal. “A little bit of communication here and there. But I think it just took a little time for things to evolve. I think he needed a break from the game, needed a break from how it went down for him here and it just took time.”

When the two negotiated during last year’s expansion draft, which saw McPhee pluck promising you blueliner Nate Schmidt from Washington’s roster, MacLellan said the two old friends keep things “businesslike.”

“He was all business,” MacLellan said. “He wasn’t giving in on anything.”

Although McPhee drafted most of the core players who delivered the Caps to this year’s Final, MacLellan also deserves credit for getting this team over the second round hump. Among his first acquisitions were defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, a pair of vets that helped shore up a shaky defense. MacLellan also added forwards T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller via trade in recent seasons and, this year, added defenseman Michal Kempny, a particularly shrewd move that bolstered a blue line that needed a little tightening.

As weird as the next few days will be for MacLellan as he faces his old friend, it figures to even more strange for McPhee, who will look down from the GM’s suite on Monday and see not one, but two teams that he built on the ice. McPhee also pilfered a handful of current and former front office employees from Caps, including Goalie Coach Dave Prior, while building the Golden Knights.

Indeed, the history between MacLellan and McPhee runs deep. But for the next couple of weeks, they’ll put aside their decades-old friendship as their clubs battle for the NHL’s ultimate prize.
 

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