Vikings hopeful, but Harvin has bad sprain


Vikings hopeful, but Harvin has bad sprain

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was using crutches the day after suffering what a badly sprained left ankle, sounding pessimistic about his ability to play this Sunday.

Coach Leslie Frazier said Monday the Vikings were ``hoping to have him'' against Detroit but that ``it's too early to tell.'' Two hours later, Harvin entered the locker room and acknowledged he's a ``long shot'' to face the Lions, though he refused to rule out the possibility.

``I'm just going to go day by day. Like I said, I'm in a lot of pain. There's a lot of swelling right now,'' Harvin said. ``My whole ankle, all the way around, is swollen. So we've got a lot of work to do.''

Harvin has missed only three games in his four-year career, all due to migraine headaches. He's one of the toughest players in the league, pound for pound, but this might be too much for him to overcome.

Harvin already had a strained right hamstring, an injury that's been bugging him for the last three-plus weeks. He sat out briefly in Sunday's loss at Seattle because of it. Then when Harvin was brought down for a 3-yard loss on a run around the end later in the third quarter, he rolled the ankle. After writhing around on the ground for a bit and hobbling off, Harvin returned to the game once he felt a little better, but he was limping.

Then when he boarded the plane for the flight home, the pain worsened and he was no longer able to put pressure on his foot. By the morning, the swelling had increased. Tests revealed no broken bones and he doesn't have a high sprain, which takes longer to heal, but there's damage in three different spots around the joint.

``I'll be in treatment 24 hours and see if I can bounce back,'' Harvin said.

The Vikings have their bye week after hosting Detroit, which might make a decision to hold him out easy if he doesn't significantly improve in the next three or four days. That way, he could have two full weeks to recover but miss only one game. The Vikings have two matchups apiece against NFC North rivals Chicago and Green Bay, plus a visit to AFC-leading Houston on the final six weeks of the schedule.

``Does it make sense? To me, no. But if that's what has to happen, then that's what has to happen,'' Harvin said. ``I'm shooting to try to play and get everything I can. If I can't, then I'll have to rest it. But I'm not ruling myself out.''

Harvin said he wasn't sure if returning to the game against the Seahawks made the injury worse or not.

``But I'm here for this team. I was able to run or jog so I went back in,'' Harvin said.

Nose tackle Letroy Guion is the other player ``most in jeopardy'' of missing Sunday's game. Guion has a turf toe injury. Tight end John Carlson, however, is expected to return to practice this week after missing the last two games due to a concussion.


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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.




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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.