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Lynch's past, present meet as Seattle faces Bills

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Lynch's past, present meet as Seattle faces Bills

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Marshawn Lynch has every reason to talk.

The Seattle Seahawks running back is currently the No. 2 rusher in the NFL, trailing only Adrian Peterson. He's already set a new career high with 1,266 yards rushing through 13 games and needs just three more rushing touchdowns to match his career best of 12 from last season.

And his past and present collide this week when the Seahawks travel to Toronto to face Lynch's former team, the Buffalo Bills.

Yet with all those reasons for Lynch to chat about his season or playing his old team, his response Wednesday when asked if had a few minutes was a simple, ``Nah, I'm good.''

``Marshawn is a football player. He's just like, `Who are we playing? All right, let's go play,''' Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said. ``That's the type of guy he is and you need guys like that on your team. You don't want guys thinking too much.''

Lynch is coming off a performance last week against Arizona that in some ways was a career-best. His three touchdowns rushing tied the top mark in his career. Lynch played just two quarters plus the first series of the second half and finished with a season-high 128 yards on just 11 carries, averaging a career-best 11.6 yards per attempt.

He's now topped 100 yards seven times this season and could be looking at a second straight trip to the Pro Bowl.

And perhaps more than ever, with the Seahawks on the cusp of a playoff berth and possibly still in contention for the NFC West title, it's apparent that the decision to acquire Lynch from Buffalo via trade early in the 2010 season is probably the most important player transaction coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have made in rebuilding the Seahawks' roster.

``When you build your philosophy about running the football and with an attitude and toughness and all of that, he's a key addition. That's why we stayed with it so long. As we've watched the three years that he has been the factor that we needed,'' Carroll said. ``Fortunately, with the quarterback situation coming around with both of our guys, that's in good shape and that's the most crucial spot, but I don't know if anything is more symbolic than what we've done with Marshawn and him playing the way he plays and the guy that he is.''

When Lynch was traded from Buffalo early in the 2010 season, he needed the change. Lynch had been seeking a fresh start after his reputation in Buffalo took a hit following his off-field troubles that included a June 2008 traffic violation where he struck a female pedestrian with his car and a guilty plea on a March 2009 misdemeanor gun charge in Los Angeles. Police discovered a semiautomatic handgun in a backpack in the trunk of a parked car Lynch was sitting in. The gun charge resulted in a three-game league suspension.

Until this past summer, Lynch had been a model citizen off the field in Seattle. But he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence near his hometown of Oakland, Calif., in July. His case is still pending in California.

But on the field, the Seahawks have no complaints with what their workhorse has done. The quest to get Lynch via trade was something Carroll started during the 2010 offseason in the hopes a deal could get done. He joked Wednesday that Schneider repeatedly called the Bills on Carroll's behalf eventually led to the deal getting done.

Seattle's running game stumbled initially with Lynch - minus his memorable tremor-causing run in the 2010 playoffs against New Orleans - but finally clicked midway through last season. Lynch was the most productive back in the NFL over the final half of the 2011 season.

That success carried over into this year from the start. And finding that success was significant with Seattle breaking in rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

``I think offensively we knew our identity coming into the season as opposed to last year trying to gather that identity as the season went on,'' Robinson said.

Lynch is on pace to finish with more than 1,550 yards for the season. He would become just the third different running back in Seahawks history to top the 1,500-yard mark. Shaun Alexander did it twice, including his franchise record 1,880 yards in 2005, and Chris Warren did it once.

``This is what we had hoped,'' Carroll said. ``We hoped that he would be a big-timer and we could make him fit in and feel comfortable and like his surroundings and really contribute in a big way. He has done everything. He's done everything we have asked of him.''

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

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Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Stephen Strasburg will start for Nationals Sunday against Orioles

Stephen Strasburg will start for Nationals Sunday against Orioles

Davey Martinez said Friday that Stephen Strasburg will start Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Strasburg has yet to pitch this season because of a right wrist impingement which led to a nerve problem in his right hand. He missed his first start, slated for the second game of the season on July 25, then what would have been his second start five days later. Strasburg said his hand was falling asleep in the middle of the night. The Nationals medical staff needed to give Strasburg multiple injections in his hand in order to help the pain subside.

RELATED: IS NATIONALS VS. ORIOLES A TRUE RIVALRY?

He threw a heavy bullpen session Wednesday before throwing 32 pitches in a simulated game. Martinez said Strasburg felt well during the simulated game, so instead of continuing, they had him stop in order to throw 70-plus pitches Sunday against Baltimore.

"The tingling in his thumb is gone," Martinez said Friday. "That's a good sign. We watched him, like I said, he's thrown some really good [bullpen sessions]. That was the big thing for me. Nothing in his mechanics has changed. Everything's good. Based on conversations with him, he feels good. He wants to pitch. He's ready to pitch on Sunday."

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Max Scherzer left his Wednesday start after just an inning because of a hamstring "tweak" from the day before when he was running sprints. He was expected to play catch Friday. Martinez labeled him "day-to-day."

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