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Lions hope to salvage something from final 2 games

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Lions hope to salvage something from final 2 games

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions may have finally hit rock bottom for 2012.

Sunday's 38-10 loss to the woeful Arizona Cardinals was Detroit's sixth in a row, and at this point, the goal is simply to salvage some pride in a spoiler role against Atlanta and Chicago, and possibly set a better tone for the offseason.

The Lions host the Falcons on Saturday night.

``You have something to prove every week regardless of winning streak, losing streak, what happened the previous week,'' coach Jim Schwartz said. ``This is a week-to-week business. The people that keep their eyes on that, that are consistent from week to week, are the people that are successful in this league.''

Detroit made the playoffs last season, but at 4-10, there's no chance of a repeat visit.

In fact, the Lions may end up with premium position in the first round of the draft - a spot they occupied for several years but figured they'd left behind.

Detroit took Calvin Johnson with the second pick in 2007, Matthew Stafford at No. 1 two years later and Ndamukong Suh at No. 2 in 2010.

That looked like the nucleus of a rising power in the NFC, especially after the Lions won 10 games a year ago and made the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.

But now they've taken a step back, and it's fair to wonder what the offseason could look like. Detroit has certainly been unlucky, losing late leads against Green Bay, Houston and Indianapolis, but there were no real redeeming factors last weekend.

Arizona had dropped nine straight and was coming off a 58-0 loss to Seattle - and still, the Cardinals handled the Lions.

Now it's Detroit's turn to reflect after an embarrassing defeat.

``People are competitive, people have pride. People have confidence in themselves,'' Stafford said. ``I think that's what helps people bounce back from stuff like this.''

The only hint of a bright spot right now is Johnson's pursuit of Jerry Rice's single-season record for yards receiving. Johnson needs 182 yards to break Rice's mark of 1,848, set 17 years ago.

``I'm trying to win games, and he's a big part of our offense,'' Stafford said. ``Him getting yards and touchdowns is what we're trying to do.''

Johnson, however, is the only offensive player having a truly great season. Stafford has thrown for 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, after posting 41 and 16 a season ago.

The receiving group - besides Johnson - has been a bit of a mess because of injuries to Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles. Second-year receiver Titus Young was essentially put in exile a few weeks ago, with Schwartz citing behavioral problems.

``Obviously, actions are louder than words right now. It's part of being a professional - seeing how people prepare this week,'' Stafford said. ``Honestly, I have no qualms about it. I know our guys are going to be preparing has hard as they can.''

Suh has 6 1/2 sacks, but the defense has been far from dominant, especially late in games when the Lions have failed to hold on.

With Detroit bottoming out and facing the possibility of a 4-12 finish, about the only way to leave any kind of positive impression would be to pull off an upset in one or both of these final two games.

Atlanta (12-2) is on its way to the playoffs, while Chicago (8-6) still has a berth to play for. The Lions have played other teams of that caliber tough this season.

``You always want to have something positive going into the next season,'' Suh said. ``We're going to definitely see Chicago twice next year. We're going to see, possibly, Atlanta, hopefully next year in the playoffs or some situation like that. You want to play as best as possible and get used to these teams.''

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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”

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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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