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Texans want to build momentum going into playoffs

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Texans want to build momentum going into playoffs

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans need a win this weekend at Indianapolis to secure a bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

They also want to build some momentum instead of limping into the postseason despite their 12-3 record. Houston had a chance to secure home-field advantage last week, only to post its worst offensive performance of the season in a 23-6 loss to the Vikings.

``It's not important, it's crucial, because in order for you to get to where you want to be, you have to be playing your best ball,'' veteran linebacker Bradie James said. ``And that's what we've been working on this week. Guys have been frowning during the holiday time. So that means we should respond well.''

They now have to win at Indianapolis, where the Texans are 0-10. The Colts, who went 2-14 last season, are 10-5 this season and have already secured a playoff spot.

``This is like a playoff game for us,'' quarterback Matt Schaub said. ``This is a team that is in the playoff themselves and we're in their building. With all that we can gain from playing well and getting a win on the road, it's definitely a playoff-type game.''

Schaub and the offense should get a lift from the return of running back Arian Foster, who missed most of the second half of Sunday's game because of an irregular heartbeat in a game in which Houston rushed for a season-low 34 yards. He has practiced all week and coach Gary Kubiak said he will play Sunday.

He said since it had happened to him before, the medical staff knew exactly how to handle it on Sunday.

``Anytime something like that happens that's unusual, so it concerns you,'' Kubiak said. ``At least it's something that they had a little history with and they could deal with.''

This is Houston's second meeting with the Colts in the last three weeks. Houston's only win in the last three games came in a 29-17 victory over the Colts two weeks ago.

``I think that's the biggest thing is to get the confidence,'' offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. ``We have a very confident team when we get things going in the right way. I think we will. I think our guys will respond.''

Though much of the focus this week has been on the poor play of the offense, the defense is also looking to get better in its last game before the postseason. Defensive end J.J. Watt liked how the unit played in the first meeting against the Colts, but hasn't been happy with its performance in other recent games.

He has already set a franchise record with 20 1/2 sacks, leaving him 2 1/2 shy of breaking Michael Strahan's single-season sack record.

``It's on my mind,'' Watt said of the sack mark, ``but winning is No. 1 by far. I had someone ask me (Tuesday), would you rather win the game or get the sack record? There is no debate whatsoever. I'd much rather win the game, but then I said I would love to win the game and get the sack record.''

Watt had 10 tackles, including three sacks and forced a fumble, in Houston's first game against Indianapolis.

Kubiak said it's a big week for his veterans to step up and help get the team headed back in the right direction. He doesn't really have to say anything to those players because they know what needs to be done.

After making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, Kubiak is looking for his team to do more this year.

``There's another level that you play the game at,'' Kubiak said. ``There's another level of expectations. There's another level of responsibility, and that's why you see a lot of the same people in the playoffs all the time ... because they find ways to raise that level. To me that's the next step for this organization.''

NOTES: Tight end Owen Daniels sat out of practice on Thursday with a sore hamstring, but Kubiak said he should be OK for Sunday. ... LB Brooks Reed, who returned last week after missing three games with a groin injury, is doing well this week and Kubiak said he expects him to play more than he did against the Vikings.

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Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

ST. LOUIS -- There was no All-Star championship for the Metropolitan Division All-Stars this year. The Metro was not able to defend its crown in 2020 as it fell 9-5 to the Atlantic Division in the first game of the All-Star Game tournament on Saturday.

Despite the early loss, the Capitals certainly left their mark on the event. Here were the highlights:

An ovation for Oshie

T.J. Oshie began his NHL career in St. Louis and remains a fan favorite there even now in the midst of his fifth season in Washington. That was evident when Oshie was introduced to the crowd to thunderous applause.

“I think it's a pretty cool story,” Oshie said. “It's something that I'm going to enjoy telling the kids and grandkids down the road. But I think the coolest part for me was just the cheers from the fans when my name was called a couple times there. I enjoyed playing here. I love playing in D.C. though, but I had some good experiences here, some heartbreaks, some pretty good teams we played on. Just to get back here, just kind of crazy that my first All-Star Game ended up being in St. Louis. It was a great weekend, it was fun, the fans were awesome as always.”

The starting lineup

Todd Reirden went with what he knew to start the game as Oshie and John Carlson both started the game with Braden Holtby in net. The only non-Cap to start was New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal.

The Barzal, Oshie, Carlson trio seemed to find some chemistry through the game and Oshie had nothing but positive things to say of the speedy forward after the game.

“Obviously his skill level's off the charts, just skating, his stickhandling and vision on the ice,” Oshie said. “Obviously we would've liked to put up some more goals, but it's nice trying to get open and have him find me than chase him around the ice and just try to not get made a fool of. It was awesome. He's a great kid. It was nice kind of getting to know him off the ice here these last couple days.”

While Oshie wished for more production, that line actually acquitted itself nicely. Oshie recorded one goal and one assist, Carlson had one goal and Barzal had two assists.

Carlson scores a milestone

The Atlantic Division jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Carlson scored the first goal of the game for the Metro.

Holtby broke up a scoring chance for the Atlantic as he blocked a centering pass with his stick which sparked the breakout in the other direction. Carlson and Barzal had a 2-on-1 opportunity and Barzal set up Carlson for the shot past a helpless Frederik Anderson. Oshie recorded a secondary assist on the goal.

That was not just the Caps’ first goal of the game, it was the first goal by a Caps defenseman at the All-Star Game in franchise history, according to the team. Quite the milestone.

“That’s great,” Carlson said. “I guess I had no idea.”

Oshie scores in St. Louis

I mean, he had to, right? His first All-Star game coming in St. Louis, there was no way Oshie was going to walk away from this game without scoring.

The Metro Division cycled in the offensive zone and Seth Jones dropped the puck off to Oshie near the blue line. He cut up the middle then fired a shot to the corner to beat Anderson, making him the eighth player in Caps’ franchise history to score at an All-Star Game.

Coach Osh in the house

Oshie’s family has always been the talk of Washington because of how adorable his daughters are and that was on full display again on Saturday. But it was Oshie’s dad who stole the show.

Oshie’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. That makes traveling very difficult. After Oshie’s goal, however, the broadcast cut to Oshie waving up to his father who had been able to make the trip to St. Louis.

“It's always great to have Coach Osh around,” Oshie said. “He missed our fathers' trip this year, it's kind of hard for him to travel, but we were able to make it work for him to come to St. Louis where a lot of the people you see working down here behind the scenes probably know him better than they know me, so he got to see some old friends. Just special to have him here to witness my first All-Star Game in person.”

Oshie added, “There's certain milestones that I've made in my career that I want him to be a part of if he's able to make it and this was one of them He came to St. Louis quite a bit when I played and he has a lot of friends here, a lot of people that treat him really good as well. This was something that I didn't want him to miss."

Holtby ends on a high-note

Let’s face it, the All-Star Game does not favor the goalies. A 3-on-3 tournament is meant to promote as much scoring as possible. As a result, it is often a tough night for the netminders and that was true for Holtby who made five saves on nine shots in his single period of play. But Holtby was able to end his night on a high note with one of the top saves of the game.

David Pastrnak set up Shea Weber on the far-side for what looked like a lay-up on Holtby, but Holtby was able to stretch the pad for the fantastic toe save to deny Weber.

“It felt good to make a save,” Holtby said.

“It's difficult, but it's fun too,” Holtby said of the 3-on-3 format. “It's challenging. I think guys are starting to figure it out a little bit more with the cross-ice pass and stuff. But it's fun to be a part of.”

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Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Former St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie was welcomed back to Enterprise Arena fondly by the NHL All-Star crowd that included his family.

At the end of Oshie's entrance on to the ice, the camera showed plenty of Blues players cheering for him. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie played 443 games and tallied 310 points (110 G, 200 A) and a +71 plus/minus rating. He even served as an alternate captain for his final two seasons before being traded to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick. 

That wasn't all for Oshie's All-Star performance -- he scored 5:29 into the first period to give the Metropolitan Division team a 3-2 lead.

Oshie is the eighth Capitals player in franchise history to score in the NHL All-Star Game.

Oshie's family, including his dad, Tim, affectionately known as "Coach Osh," was in attendance to witness his first All-Star appearance, making the moment even more special.

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