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Sports world shaken by Connecticut school shooting

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Sports world shaken by Connecticut school shooting

Stars from several different sports took to Twitter on Friday to try and cope with the school shooting in Connecticut, and the NFL asked each of its teams to observe a moment of silence before this weekend's games to pay respect to the victims.

A man killed his mother at home and then opened fire inside the elementary school where she taught, slaying 26 people, including 20 children. The 20-year-old killer, carrying two handguns, then committed suicide at the school.

``It's awful, just an awful day. It really, really is,'' Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before their game at Houston. ``This is our jobs. This is not a game for us, it is what we do but when something like this happens, it supersedes job and everything else. As a parent - I don't know - this is just awful, awful what happened.''

Struggling to stay composed, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott paused a couple of times as talked about the tragedy in Newtown, a small community about 60 miles northeast of New York City.

``I have three healthy kids and a beautiful granddaughter,'' he said. ``When you hear about kids who are that young and don't get a chance to live because of something that's so senseless as somebody going in and doing the things that this person did, I think it affects everybody. It puts everything in the right perspective as well. As much as we love this game, this doesn't mean nothing.''

From the full slate of NBA games to high school and college football finals, there were moments of silences at sporting events of all sizes. The overhead videoboard at the Barclays Center showed a candle and the town seal of Newtown as the Nets and Pistons paused for reflection before their game in Brooklyn.

Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant wrote ``Newtown CT'' on both shoes for the Thunder's 113-103 victory over Sacramento.

``I wish I could do more,'' he said. ``But it hit me really hard. It's tough to see, especially kids that couldn't do anything for themselves. Words can't even describe it. I'm kind of at a loss for words right now.''

The NFL sent a memo asking for each of its teams to observe a moment of silence before this weekend's games.

``This shocking event has brought the nation together in grieving for the victims and their families as well as the survivors,'' the note read. ``We believe it is appropriate and important for us to collectively recognize and participate in the grieving process at our games this weekend, as we have done on other occasions.''

Many athletes took to social media websites to process what happened, discussing their shock and horror, and openly worrying about their kids at school.

``Innocent victims just gone,'' Miami Heat star LeBron James said in a series of posts on Twitter. ``This is really messing with my mind. Kids is everything to me! And of course i have 2 of my own in elementary school as well. I can't imagine it happening to my kids school. I and the rest of the families would be devastated! Something has to be done.''

Golfer John Daly talked about home schooling his children, and outspoken Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wondered about the road ahead.

``The way we deal with this tragedy in CT will tell us a lot about where we're headed as a society. Do we only address the symptoms (i.e. just gun control laws)? Or do we also address the disease - how we treat each other and those who need help,'' Kluwe said in a couple of posts on Twitter.

There also was some anger.

Montreal Canadiens captain Brian Gionta tweeted: ``Not sure if there is anything lower than harming innocent children.'' He ended the tweet with a hashtag of ``coward,'' then was critical of the media interviewing young children outside the school.

``At some point, we've got to get past bureaucracy and all the nonsense and do something about this so our kids can be safe,'' said New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams, who has five children ranging in age from 2 to 14.

``If we can go to outer space and take care of trees and rivers and animals, we can do a better job of taking care of our kids. It's just a sad situation.''

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?

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