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Panthers-Jets Preview

Panthers-Jets Preview

The Florida Panthers snapped out of a prolonged slump last week with a flurry of late goals against the Winnipeg Jets.

That earned them some payback for their most recent visit to Winnipeg, which was one to forget.

The Panthers will try for a better showing there and a third straight win in Tuesday night's rematch with the Jets, losers of three in a row.

Florida (3-5-0) was outscored 23-5 during a five-game losing streak but matched that output in the third period of a 6-3 victory over the Jets (3-4-1) on Thursday. The Panthers registered four goals in the final 8:40.

Florida then rallied for a 4-3 win over Buffalo on Sunday, ending an 0-3-0 start on the road.

As in the victory over Winnipeg, each goal was scored by a different player. Brian Campbell and Peter Mueller were the only two to score in both games, while Tomas Kopecky had a team-best four points with one goal and three assists.

"We're starting to come as a team a bit more now and have faith in coming back," said Campbell, who had the go-ahead goal in the third Sunday. "Earlier in the season, we didn't have a whole lot of faith and confidence. But now we're starting to see our team develop."

The Panthers will try to keep building their confidence in the second game of a four-game trip as they look to avoid another miserable effort in Winnipeg. Florida lost 7-0 there March 1, giving up five goals in the third period.

With the Jets having been outscored 18-9 in the last three games, though, the Panthers would appear to have a good chance to extend their roll.

Winnipeg lost 8-3 to Tampa Bay on Friday, trailing 6-0 after the first 26 minutes. Ondrej Pavelec gave up five goals on 14 shots and Al Montoya allowed three on 11.

"Sometimes you've got to hit rock bottom or whatever to figure out that you've had enough of this stuff," coach Claude Noel said. "Our job is to find solutions to these things, and for me, I know how our team can play and that's what we have to get back to doing."

The Jets gave up three power-play goals in the first period Friday and have allowed opponents to convert nine of 18 opportunities in the last four games.

Florida was 3 of 6 with the man advantage Thursday and Alex Kovalev scored the go-ahead goal on one of those opportunities.

"We've got two choices," Winnipeg forward Alexei Ponikarovsky said. "Choice 1 is to pout and complain and moan about taking too many penalties. The second choice is go home, improve collectively and individually. That's going to have to be our focus."

The Jets have won their past two home games.

Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who had two goals and two assists in his last three games, has missed the past two contests with a lower-body injury.

Evander Kane powered the March 1 rout with two goals and two assists.

The Jets haven't lost four straight since an 0-2-3 skid Nov. 5-12, 2011.

Week 3: Ugly games lead to ugly wins and losses

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Week 3: Ugly games lead to ugly wins and losses

There's no way to sugarcoat it, Week 3 was an ugly one with a lot of ugly football games being played. Penn State defeated rival Pitt thanks to questionable playcalling, Maryland lost one of the most bizarre games ever played, Virginia Tech rallied from a double-digit deficit against FCS Furman and Virginia squeaked out a win in a penalty-filled slugfest with Florida State.

Here's a recap of the week's action.

Penn State 17, Pitt 10

The good: Journey Brown

The Nittany Lions finished with 167 rushing and 389 total yards. Brown accounted for 109 of those rushing yards alone.

The bad: The offensive line

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford completed only 14 of his 30 passes as he faced relentless pressure from the Pitt defense that the offensive line struggled to keep contained. The Panthers sacked Clifford three times and hurried him on several other plays 

The ugly: Pitt not going for the touchdown in the fourth quarter

This is the story of the game.

Pitt trailed 17-10  with the ball at Penn State's 1-yard line and less than five minutes on the clock. Instead of going for the game-tying touchdown, the Panthers lined up to kick a chip-shot field goal which kicker Alex Kessman ultimately missed. Afterward head coach Patt Narduzzi tried to justify the call saying the team needed two scores to win the game "unless you guys are playing for overtime."

Yes, somehow Narduzzi tried to claim going for the field goal instead of the touchdown was actually the bolder move.

If Narduzzi is scoffing at the notion of playing for overtime, then score the touchdown and go for two instead of the extra point. The fact is, the Panthers started that drive needing a touchdown. Even if they had made the field goal, the next time they got the ball, if at all, they would still need a touchdown. The problem was not that Pitt missed the field goal, it's that they should not have been trying to kick it at all. The Panthers were on the road playing a fierce and highly ranked Penn State team in the last game between these two rivals for the foreseeable future and Narduzzi went as conservative as possible. This game deserved bolder action from Narduzzi.

Temple 20, Maryland 17

The good: Anthony McFarland

The Terps are loaded with a strong running back core and McFarland has established himself as the dominant force through which this offense runs. He had 26 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown against Temple, as he tried to carry a sputtering offense to the win.

The bad: The playcalling

Going for it on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line in the first quarter? I get it. The Terps' strength is their rushing game, you want to be aggressive and push the Owls around up the middle, fine. But when you do that and then attempt a fake field goal on the very next drive, it came off as desperate. The score was 7-2 in the second quarter. There was no need for the Terps to chose points at that moment in the game and it cost them. Three extra points for Maryland certainly would have been significant in this game.

The ugly: Everything

Unless you watched, I am not sure it is possible to describe this game in a way that can adequately capture how unbelievably ugly and crazy it truly was.

This game featured a muffed punt, a goal-line stand, a safety off a bad snap on a punt, a fake field goal, a missed field goal, an interception negated by a penalty, seven Maryland players failing to pick up a fumble, a defensive holding call on third down which ultimately led to the go-ahead touchdown, a punt return to the 4-yard line that led to a second goal-line stand and seven-yard punt that gave Maryland one final opportunity to win the game .

Virginia Tech 24, Furman 17

The good: Tre Turner's second half

Down 14-3 at halftime to an FCS opponent, the Hokies needed someone to step up and take back control of the game. Turner scored a pair of touchdowns in the second half which took a 14-10 deficit and put the Hokies up 24-14.

The wide receiver proved a versatile weapon on Saturday with five carries for 68 yards on the ground and four catches for 29 yards.

The bad: Turnovers

Virginia Tech simply cannot hold onto the football. The Hokies entered Saturday's game tied for last among all FBS programs in turnover margin. Furman turned the ball over twice, but so did Virginia Tech which now has eight total turnovers through the first three games of the season.

The ugly: The first half

There was outright panic in Blacksburg after the first half as Furman took a 14-3 lead into halftime. That's not supposed to happen against an FCS opponent.

Virginia Tech had only 107 yards of offense in the first half with one made field goal, one missed field goal, two punts and two turnovers.

Navy 42, East Carolina 10

The good: Malcolm Perry's six touchdowns

Perry ran for four touchdowns on the ground and threw for another two touchdowns for six total scores. Six is the most a single player has scored for Navy since Keenan Reynolds scored six on Nov. 15, 2014.

The bad: Three wins

Navy is 2-0 on the season, already pulling them within one win of last year's total of three. Their dominance in the early season is a reflection of how much this team hasa improved and is ready to put an ugly 2018 behind them.

The ugly: The pass attack

Who would have thought you would be reading about the passing offense from Navy? If you can't even keep the Midshipmen from passing, it is going to be a long day for you. That proved true for ECU on Saturday.

Perry completed five of seven passes on Saturday for 151 yards and two touchdowns showing a different dimension of the Navy offense most would have assumed they did not have.

Virginia 31, Florida State 24

The good: Bryce Perkins

Florida State linebacker Leonard Warner said earlier in the week of Perkins, “I don’t think we are going to have too much trouble with him. We have a good game plan built up. I think we have pretty good plan for controlling him.”

Perkins ended up throwing for 295 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 46 yards. He did throw two picks, but he also had perhaps the play of the game.

When Virginia scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:34 remaining in the game, they lined up to go for 2. Left with no one to pass to, Perkin danced around in the backfield desperately trying to find an open receiver. He stepped into the pocket, retreated back, scrambled right, put on the breaks and turned back left, set to throw, pulled the ball in again, then turned the corner on the defense to the left and knifed through the stunned defense into the end zone.

The bad: A missed extra point

A one-yard touchdown run from Taulapapa pulled UVa within one at 24-23 with just over six minutes left to play. Brian Delaney stepped up for the extra point...and missed. At the time, given how much time was left in the game, it felt like a significant blunder for Virginia. Luckily for the Cavaliers, it did not end up costing them.

The ugly: Penalties

Just about everything is going wrong for Florida State in the Willie Taggart era, but one issue that was staggering on Saturday was the Seminoles' total lack of discipline. Florida State was flagged 10 times for 83 yards in this game including four fourth-quarter flags. Two of those flags were personal fouls.

As undisciplined as the Seminoles looked in the fourth, Virginia was just as bad with four penalties late in the game, all of which came with less than three minutes remaining to give Florida State a chance to tie the game.

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Projecting the Caps opening night roster after the first day of training camp

Projecting the Caps opening night roster after the first day of training camp

Training camp for the 2019-20 season has officially opened for the Capitals who first took to the ice on Friday.

There has been a lot of talk through the offseason and a lot of people working the “Armchair GM” tool on CapFriendly trying to figure out what the roster will look like. After hearing Todd Reirden and Brian MacLellan speak, plus seeing the team take the ice on Friday, we have at least a rough idea of what the team may be thinking in terms of lines. The news of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s suspension, plus the fact that his cap hit will not count during his suspension, also dramatically changes the roster plans for the start of the season.

There is still an entire preseason to play and a lot of questions that need to be answered, but here is an early projection for the opening night roster for the Caps based on the first few days of training camp.

Offense

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik Breandan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway Chandler Stephenson

Suspended: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov’s suspension frees up a significant chunk of cap space for opening night. That creates a lot of possibilities for some players who otherwise would not have made the team to stick around through the first week of the season. If there is a prospect who impresses throughout the preseason, however, this can change. A solid performance for Connor McMichael, for example, and perhaps it is not farfetched to think he could play a few games before getting sent back to juniors. As a junior player, he could play up to nine NHL games in a season without burning a year of his entry-level contract.

For now, I am going pretty vanilla with my projection and including Boyd and Stephenson

Training camp lines should always be taken with a grain of salt, but this is how the top nine has looked on the wings. At center, Kuznetsov has been skating on the second line with Vrana and Oshie with Eller on the third with Hagelin and Panik. No doubt Eller will move up to the second line in Kuznetsov’s absence.

As for the fourth line, there were two different lines skating with the likely candidates. Leipsic and Boyd were with Brett Leason -- which I would not read into, I don’t think there is any chance Leason is a serious candidate to make the team this year -- while Dowd and Hathaway were with Stephenson.

Both Stephenson and Boyd enter camp with something to prove. Frankly, if the team had faith in them to play a fourth line and penalty kill role, they would not have gone out and signed Leipsic and Hathaway.

"It's a competition,” Reirden said Thursday of Stephenson and Boyd. “They know it's a competition. They're well-informed. It's a very clear message. No one in situations where there's competition are wondering what's going on.”

The Kuznetsov suspension puts Boyd on the third line for now and gives Stephenson a second chance to prove he belongs to stay. I see Boyd primarily being an extra this season and Stephenson most likely headed to Hershey once Kuznetsov returns.

Defense

Michal Kempny - John Carlson Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas Christian Djoos

It seems doubtful that Kempny will play in the preseason, but the goal is for him to be ready for the start of the season. He has yet to skate with the team in practice, but he seems far enough along that he looks to be on pace for Oct. 2.

The Caps will eventually need to make a tough decision somewhere to shed salary and I believe that will mean moving Christian Djoos. If a team suffers an injury in training camp and wants to make a deal, I could see that happening. For now, like with many of the forwards, Kuznetsov’s suspension means the Caps have an extra week to make that decision. For now, I will keep him in the lineup, but I would not be surprised if he is playing for a different team by the start of the season.

The team is excited about prospects Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary. Alexeyev, however, is dealing with an upper-body injury and there is no timetable for when he may return to the ice. Fehervary, meanwhile, has received nothing by rave reviews. Like with the forwards, the Kuznetsov suspension could open the door for a player like Fehervary to get a game or two.

Goalies

Braden Holtby Pheonix Copley

I’m not ready to predict this yet, but with Kuznetsov’s salary off the books for the first week of the season do the Caps consider keeping Samsonov and starting him against the New York Islanders in the second game of the season?

The Caps face a back-to-back with the Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes. I assume Holtby gets Carolina since it is the home opener, but what about the Islanders? Washington has to get their young goalies starts this season and Kuznetsov’s suspension gives them the ability to do so without putting Copley on waivers.

But is it too early? It’s worth watching to see how Samsonov and Vanecek play in the preseason to see if either may be ready for a quick start at the start of the season.

“We’re not going to force it,” MacLellan said. “Based on performance, we’ll evaluate it. … I’ll go with Scott Murray and we’ll see how they do in camp. We like all four of our goalies. We have four good goalies, we feel. We have a lot of depth. Vanecek played well – he was an all-star at the AHL level last year, and I’d like to see him get games. I’d like to see Samsonov get games. Copley has continued to improve, so it’s going to be a competitive situation.”

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