Redskins

Top scorer for No. 14 Butler feeling better

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Top scorer for No. 14 Butler feeling better

When the soreness in Rotnei Clarke's shoulders dissipates, Butler's senior guard plans to carry the Bulldogs as far as he can.

For now, all he can do is watch, wait and heal.

The top scorer for the 14th-ranked Bulldogs said Tuesday he is feeling better after a scary crash into a padded basket support, but Clarke still hasn't been cleared to resume contact and Butler has not said how much more time he'll miss beyond this week's two games.

``I'm going to start getting on the bike a little bit and then when the pain in my shoulders starts to leave a little bit with the nerves, I'll be able to shoot and be able to do non-contact stuff hopefully,'' he said, answering questions for the first time since sustaining a sprained neck at Dayton. ``Right now I'm just resting for a couple of days.''

Clarke was injured during last Saturday's victory when he was fouled on a layup, and the contact sent him head-first into a nearby basket support.

He stayed down for eight minutes before being taken away on an ambulance and was transported to a local hospital. He was released later Saturday night and returned to Indianapolis with his team despite complaining of a sore neck and a bad headache.

On Sunday, trainers removed the protective brace from Clarke's neck and allowed him to go through a light workout. On Monday night, though, the Bulldogs (14-2, 2-0 Atlantic 10) issued a statement saying Clarke would be held out of Wednesday night's home game against Richmond and Saturday's home showdown against No. 8 Gonzaga.

Beyond that, the timetable is unclear.

``I'm doing the best that I can,'' Clarke said. ``I'm going to listen to our trainers and our coaches and doctors. I just have to know that they have my best interest at hand and they want what's best with me.''

Clarke was third in the Atlantic 10 in scoring heading into last weekend at 16.3 points per game.

Losing Clarke, a strong 3-point shooter who can drive to the basket, will force the Bulldogs to make changes.

Coach Brad Stevens acknowledged he will spread out the 35 to 40 minutes per game that Clarke typically plays among the rest of his players, and he'll need other players to help make up for the loss of his top scorer. He also expects defenses to make some adjustments.

``They might make some tweaks and some changes, which I do expect from some teams, but I don't know that it's necessarily predictable,'' Stevens said. ``I would assume that we will see some small tweaks, but nothing major, certainly nothing out of the norm of what teams are usually doing.''

But Stevens believes the scary scene at Dayton should raise concerns about potential injuries at other schools and could instigate a debate about where basket supports belong on the court during college games.

``It was obviously a hard foul. I've looked at it. I've seen harder fouls. But it was a hard foul,'' Stevens said. ``I think the bigger question is at what point are we going to start talking about backstops being so close to the floor. That's the bigger question. We saw one of our scarier moments in college basketball in a long time on Saturday.''

The injury couldn't have come at a worse time for the Bulldogs, who face the Spiders (11-6) before playing one of the biggest non-power conference games of the season.

If the Bulldogs beat Gonzaga, it would mark the first time in school history that they have upset three Top 10 teams in one season. They beat North Carolina in Hawaii and handed No. 2 Indiana its only loss of the season last month.

Clarke wanted to be around for Saturday's game, but he will now have to settle for playing the role of supportive teammate and getting himself ready to play as soon as he's cleared.

``I feel very blessed to be walking right now. I feel blessed that I was able to walk out of the hospital,'' Clarke said. ``It puts a lot of things in perspective when something like that happens.''

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2019 Redskins Draft Bracket: DK Metcalf and TJ Hockenson would inject the offense with needed talent

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USA TODAY Sports

2019 Redskins Draft Bracket: DK Metcalf and TJ Hockenson would inject the offense with needed talent

NBC Sports Washington wants Redskins fans to help decide the team's ideal 2019 first-round pick by voting in the Redskins Draft Bracket on Twitter. Before you vote, though, take in this breakdown of the next matchup.

Looking for a stat to describe the rough season the Redskins receivers had in 2018? Well, there's tons to choose from.

The team's wideouts had the second-fewest catches of 20-plus yards in the league. Antonio Brown had more grabs, yards and touchdowns than Washington's top three targets combined. Josh Doctson led the squad in receiving yards — with a measly 532.

You could easily find plenty more, but those three are all you need to realize that DK Metcalf should absolutely be on the franchise's mind when it comes to their first-round pick this April.

While Metcalf's numbers at Ole Miss won't overly impress you, his athleticism and potential explosiveness as a pro absolutely does. That's why it's no surprise the WR met with the Redskins while at the Combine, as Jay Gruden and Co. are well aware that they must become more dangerous on the outside.

As with any prospect, there are questions with Metcalf. He only had 67 catches in 21 games in school, and while he shredded most of the drills in Indianapolis, his short area agility numbers were worse than Tom Brady. That's not great.

Regardless, he'd instantly become the offense's scariest athlete, and you have to like his chances of at least contributing splash plays early while he learns the nuances of the NFL.

The 'Skins don't just need improvement out wide, however. Jordan Reed was largely ineffective despite playing for much of 2018, Vernon Davis is 35 years old and Jeremy Sprinkle isn't much of a threat in the air at tight end.

Perhaps TJ Hockenson could be their answer. NFL.com says the Iowa product "is an ascending talent with a chance to become one of the best all-around tight ends in the game." 

One problem the Burgundy and Gold have encountered in recent years is Reed and Davis don't help much as blockers, while Sprinkle won't worry a defense with his hands. Taking Hockenson at pick No. 15 would mean Gruden could finally have a guy who excels in both areas.

It remains to be seen whether Metcalf or Hockenson will last until the Redskins' choice, as they could continue to rise up boards as the draft draws closer. If both or either is there, however, they need to be heavily considered. 

While the offense may have to be run-oriented again in 2019, it still needs more weapons for whoever is under center. They won't be able to grind out 13-play scoring drives every time they need a TD, and grabbing Metcalf or Hockenson would go a long way in introducing a new element to the group.

You've heard the case for both players. Now, retweet or like depending on whom you'd prefer to see move on in the bracket.

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How Tom Wilson's first game back from suspension against Minnesota sparked the Caps

How Tom Wilson's first game back from suspension against Minnesota sparked the Caps

WASHINGTON – Capitals forward Tom Wilson did not miss a beat. 
 
That’s what happens when a player sits the first 14 games of a season because of an NHL-mandated suspension for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in a preseason game. 
 
With his suspension reduced from 20 games to 16, Wilson was suddenly eligible to play Nov. 13 when Washington played a game against the Minnesota Wild. Wilson scored a goal in the first period – and ironically was penalized on the same play for running into the goalie. He later had a fight with Wild forward Marcus Foligno. He also helped the penalty kill strop five of six chances. That pretty much summed it up. 
 
Wilson sees Minnesota again tonight when the Capitals host the Wild at Capital One Arena (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). That first game in St. Paul sparked a turnaround for the Capitals, who were lethargic early in the season as they tried to stay emotionally engaged after last spring’s dramatic championship run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.
 
Wilson’s return against the Wild had a visceral effect. The players had a jump not seen often in a 7-6-3 start to the season that included back-to-back home losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes. 
 
The Capitals won 5-2 that night against the Wild and went on an 8-2-0 run in Wilson’s first 10 games. He had eight goals and seven assists in those games before sustaining a concussion during a fight in a Dec. 4 loss at the Vegas Golden Knights. 
 
Wilson missed three more games and has only played 55 total. But he’s had a major impact on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and either center Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nicklas Backstrom. Wilson has 21 goals and 16 assists. Those are both career highs. His 37 points are also a career best. And that’s all in 23 fewer games than the 78 he played last season. There are eight games left for Wilson to top 40 points for the first time. 

Djoos returns

The lower-body injury to Michal Kempny sustained Wednesday means Christian Djoos is back in the lineup. He will be on the top pair with John Carlson. Djoos is playing just his second game since Feb. 23. The Capitals will be experimenting here down the stretch thinking Kempny will be out for a while. It’s a good opportunity for Djoos, who has played with Carlson before. Washington will not recall a defensemen from AHL Hershey for now. They will stick with six unless another player is needed during the remaining three games of this four-game homestand.

50

Alex Ovechkin couldn’t find the back of the net in Wednesday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Tampa Bay, but he is still just two goals shy of 50 for his career. That would be his eighth 50-goal season. Ovechkin finished last year with 49. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy have had more (nine each). Ovechkin always torches Minnesota with 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in just 15 career games. That’s his highest goals-per-game average against any franchise.

Holtby goes

No surprise here as the Capitals don’t have any more back-to-back games and will ride Holtby down the stretch until they possibly clinch the Metropolitan Division. They lead by three points over the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins and have eight games to go. Holtby is 8-2-0 in his career against Minnesota with one shutout and a .922 save percentage. 

Going streaking

The Capitals have won eight games in a row against Minnesota, led by former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau. Expect a good push from the Wild, however, who are still in the playoff chase in the Western Conference. At 34-31-9, they have 77 points and are one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second and final wild card spot. 

Expected lineup

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly
Andre Burakovsky – Nic Dowd – Travis Boyd
Christian Djoos – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen
Braden Holtby
Pheonix Copley
Scratches: Chandler Stephenson, Dmitrij Jaskin
Injured: Michal Kempny

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