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Spurrier-Miles tangle in South Carolina-LSU tilt

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Spurrier-Miles tangle in South Carolina-LSU tilt

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) The fireworks between No. 3 South Carolina and No. 9 LSU on Saturday won't just take place on the field.

Expect a show on the sidelines, too, featuring the Gamecocks' Steve Spurrier and the Tigers' Les Miles, two of game's most colorful leaders.

Count on Spurrier to throw a headset or his visor if things don't go his way. Miles might be munching on a few blades of grass at LSU's Death Valley. Their antics aside, both know what it's like to win it all - something they are again chasing this season.

South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) is off to its best start since 1984 after a dominant, 35-7 win over Georgia. LSU (5-1, 1-1) fell to No. 4 Florida 14-6 last Saturday, its first regular-season defeat since 2010.

In an era where more and more coach's keep their personalities inside the locker room, neither Spurrier or Miles is afraid to ruffle feathers.

The two joined forces on Spurrier's idea that only games against divisional opponents should count toward who wins the SEC East and West divisions. The proposal fell flat at league meetings. Still, Spurrier appreciated Miles' backing.

``I like Les,'' Spurrier said this week. ``I really do.''

Though that hasn't kept Spurrier from throwing a few verbal jabs at Miles in the past.

After LSU's mismanagement of the game clock nearly cost them a loss to Tennessee in 2010, Spurrier spoke about coaches who lose games in the SEC are considered dummies.

``And of course, sometimes you can win and still be a dummy,'' Spurrier said with a grin, his needle stuck right at Miles.

Then again, Spurrier can't laugh too loud. He, too, got beat by the Mad Hatter's tricks on LSU's fake field goal in 2007, holder Matt Flynn flipping the ball to kicker Colt David for an easy touchdown in the Tigers 28-16 victory.

Miles has gotten his digs in as well against South Carolina. In 2008, Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia was stopped cold after running into the referee, a play that gained national attention because it appeared official Wilbur Hackett Jr. put his shoulder into the player.

Miles joked that Hackett needed some coaching. ``He didn't wrap up,'' he said.

Miles, 58, doesn't know the 67-year-old Spurrier too well, but has enjoyed following his career. ``He's one of those guys you enjoy seeing at the SEC meetings,'' Miles said.

There are few who don't marvel at what Spurrier and Miles have accomplished through the years.

Spurrier turned the SEC on its ear with his ``Fun-n-Gun'' passing attack at Florida, earning his national title with the Gators in 1996.

Miles may have kept LSU fans on edge with his go-for-broke nature, but it paid off in 2007 when the Tigers went 12-2 and won the national championship.

Spurrier hopes to keep his team on track for another title run this year. The Gamecocks have an FBS-best 10-game win streak that got their coach in an upbeat mood.

This week, Spurrier poked fun at LSU's tiger mascot and even got in a dig at state rival Clemson, who's stadium is also nicknamed Death Valley.

Clemson administrative coach Brad Scott says the barbs are vintage Spurrier, something Scott's learned from his time as offensive coordinator at Florida State and at Clemson. Scott also owns South Carolina's last head coaching win at LSU, with a surprising, 18-17, nighttime victory there in 1994.

``Steve likes to make those kinds of comments when he's got the team to back it up,'' Scott said. ``They have played really well.''

Miles has no time for jokes this week. The Tigers lost for the first time in 18 regular-season games with a 14-6 defeat at Florida a week ago. Miles promised it would be all business as the Tigers prepared for one of their most difficult tests.

``It's been a long time since this program has lost a game in the regular season,'' Miles said. ``I think that is a natural sting felt and a real want to redirect and get back on track.''

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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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