Nationals

Rutgers focused on Big East title, not Big 10 move

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Rutgers focused on Big East title, not Big 10 move

PITTSBURGH (AP) Senior linebacker Khaseem Greene will be long gone before Rutgers ever takes a snap as a member of the Big Ten.

Forgive Greene if he's not exactly caught up in the hype surrounding the school's decision to bolt the Big East for more stable ground in 2014.

``At the end of the day, we ain't winning no Big Ten championship this year,'' Greene said.

The Big East, however, is another matter entirely.

The 21st-ranked Scarlet Knights (9-1, 5-0 Big East) can clinch at least a share of the conference title with a victory Saturday in Pittsburgh. Heady territory for a program that's been playing football for 143 years.

It's a benchmark Rutgers was on the verge of reaching a year ago, only to lose to Connecticut in the regular season finale. The memory still stings, though the Scarlet Knights believe it can also be an important reminder on not overlooking anyone, particularly the Panthers (4-6, 1-4).

``We can learn a lot from that (Connecticut loss) and understand that every team is dangerous and every team has good players and if you're not ready to go and don't take a team seriously they can come up and surprise you,'' senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone said.

Something the Panthers (4-6, 1-4) have done a couple of times this season. They stunned Virginia Tech in September when the Hokies were still considered dangerous and nearly knocked off top-ranked Notre Dame last month, falling in triple overtime.

Like Rutgers, Pitt is making a beeline for another conference. The Panthers will join the ACC next fall. Like Rutgers, Pitt is hoping to maximize its final days in the conference it has called home for the last two decades, even if the Panthers' goals at this point are a bit more modest than vying for a Bowl Championship Series berth.

Pitt needs to win each of its final two regular season games to become bowl eligible for a fifth straight season. It's not exactly the conference title the Panthers talked about in August, but it's something.

``We're definitely in touch with reality and what we have to do,'' wide receiver Devin Street said. ``We know we have to beat Rutgers. We know we have to beat South Florida, too. It's something we want to do for the seniors.''

A class that has seen more than its fair share of tumult. The Panthers have burned through four head coaches - six if you count a pair of interims - and more than a handful of missed opportunities over the last four years.

They believe they're heading in the right direction under first-year coach Paul Chryst, who has won the locker room over with his straightforward approach. It's only a matter of time, they figure, before winning games follows suit.

``The older guys we talk about it all the time, we hope (Chryst) stays around for a long time,'' senior center Ryan Turnley said. ``We think he can take this program to great heights. We think he's a great coach. We've had a lot of coaches and he's going to take Pitt where everyone wants to see.''

Delaying Rutgers' party for at least a week would be a step in the right direction.

Good luck with that.

The Scarlet Knights have been the Big East's biggest surprise, riding a dominant defense that has overcome the flurry of mistakes by sophomore quarterback Gary Nova, who has turned it over 11 times in the last four games. Save for a peculiar - not to mention stunning - upset loss to Kent State, Rutgers has been the steadiest team in a conference where teams look either great or awful from week to week.

The goal now is to not get caught looking ahead. A showdown with Louisville looms next weekend. First things first, however. And the Scarlet Knights can add a very big first if they can win their final meeting with Pitt for the foreseeable future.

``Obviously, we want to finish it up and be the lone Big East champions but we know that if we win this week we accomplish something that has never happened in school history,'' Nova said. ``It's an accomplishment in itself but as a team, as competitors, we want to play in a BCS bowl game and represent this school.''

Pitt didn't begin the season talking about playing spoiler. It's a role, however, they've relished in years past, none more memorable than an upset of rival West Virginia in 2007 that derailed the Mountaineers' hopes for a national title.

The stakes aren't quite as high this time, but the Panthers would love nothing more than to start building some forward momentum heading into the ACC while sending the 18 seniors out with a victory in their final home game.

``We're playing for the coaches, and we're playing for us as a team,'' defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. ``So, it would be great to win these last two games to be bowl eligible and give these seniors a bowl to go out with. That's why we're working so hard this week. We still have a lot to accomplish this season.''

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

When the Washington Nationals visited San Diego on May 7-9, they won the first two games of a three-game series to move within 1 1/2 games of the National League West lead.

At the time, the Nationals were on a bit of a run and the Padres were reeling with a 13-24 record.

Two weeks after that series, the Padres and Nationals meet again in Washington, D.C (7:05 p.m. ET, Monday). And the fortunes of the two teams have changed a bit.

Since winning that series finale at Petco Park to avoid being swept by the Nationals, the Padres have gone 7-4 and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Nationals have gone 4-4 and just lost a third straight game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Washington to slip four games off the lead in their division.

The Nationals are the home team this time for a three-game series that opens Monday night with a matchup of left-handers -- Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA) going for Washington with Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.46) making a spot start for San Diego.

On paper, the pairing clearly favors the hosts.

Erlin, 27, has met the Nationals twice in his career. Both games were at Nationals Park. Erlin is 0-2 in the matchups with a 16.39 ERA.

In Erlin's two previous outings in the nation's capital, Erlin has given up 17 runs, 19 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Nationals have hit .413 against Erlin, who has a 2.68 WHIP against Washington.

This will be only the second start of the season for Erlin, who returned this year after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery midway through 2016.

Thirteen of Erlin's 14 appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. His one previous start was April 16 against the Dodgers. He gave up six runs (five earned), seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.

Erlin is filling the vacancy created when rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi went on the disabled list with a slightly strained glute. The Padres are hoping Lucchesi will miss only one start, although it looks like it could now be two or three.

Gonzalez is no stranger to the Padres. He started the May 9 game that the Nationals lost 2-1. Gonzalez allowed one run, five hits and three walks in six innings. Afterward, he said he struggled with his command.

Gonzalez was not involved in that decision. During his career, he has made seven starts against the Padres and has a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.357 WHIP and a .253 opponents' batting average. Against the Padres, Gonzalez has given up 19 runs (15 earned), 41 hits and 16 walks with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings.

When the Nationals were in San Diego, first baseman-left fielder Matt Adams went 3-for-8 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored -- although he got the third game off.

Since leaving San Diego, Adams has hit only .143. Washington's Bryce Harper is hitting .125 in the last eight games with a homer and three RBIs.

Another key player in the first Padres-Nationals series was Howie Kendrick, who was 5-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. But Kendrick has been lost with a ruptured Achilles tendon and on Saturday the Nationals promoted a 19-year-old prospect from Double-A.

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Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

When the Capitals take the ice in Game 6, they will be playing for their playoff lives. After losing Game 5 on Saturday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps must win on Monday or their season will be over.

In order to do that, the Caps will have to change some things. First, they have to figure out how to win at home, something they have yet to do in this series. Second, they will have to find a way to get to Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been dominant the past three games. Alex Ovechkin also needs to win the matchup against the fourth line since he has only two five-on-five points through five games. Finally, the defense will have to be better. Matt Niskanen took the blame for Game 5, but really it was a tough night all around.

Also, a few penalty calls against Tampa Bay would be nice too.

Where: Capital One Arena

When: 8:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBCSN

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Lightning Game 6 on NBC Sports' live stream page.

WHEN IS GAME 6 OF THE CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING PLAYOFF SERIES?

Game 6 of the Capitals vs. Lightning 2018 NHL Playoff series takes place on Monday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Capital One Arnea.

WHAT CHANNEL IS GAME 6 OF CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBCSN. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 on NBCSN
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM GAME 6 OF THE CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING SERIES?

Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is available to stream online on Monday, May 21 live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR GAME 6 OF CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING?

Capitals projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Lightning projected lines:

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - J.T. Miller
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy starts with Louis Domingue as backup.

CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 6 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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