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Virginia RB Parks heading home to play Duke

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Virginia RB Parks heading home to play Duke

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Kevin Parks flashes a sly smile hoping it will answer the question.

The Virginia tailback and North Carolina native is going home with a bit of an attitude this weekend when the struggling Cavaliers face a surprising Duke team.

The 5-foot-8 Parks played high school ball less than two hours from the Research Triangle, and said coaches in his home state told him he was too small to play football at the major college level.

``I see Carolina games or N.C. State and I circle those games because there's a little more motivation on my back,'' the sophomore said this week. ``Everybody said I'm too small so, motivation.''

Parks leads the Cavaliers (2-3, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) in rushing with 272 yards, including a 49-yard burst, and has scored two touchdowns, giving him 11 in 18 college games. He's also caught 12 passes for 95 yards.

The Cavaliers will take a boost anywhere they can get it. They have lost three straight and also are likely to make a change at quarterback with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims taking over as the starter.

Sims has thrown five touchdown passes without being intercepted playing behind Michael Rocco, and nearly led Virginia back from a 20-point deficit last weekend in a 44-38 loss to Louisiana Tech.

Virginia's chance at getting the ball back in the closing minutes was scuttled by a penalty that gave the Bulldogs a first down - the last of 16 penalties that led to 145 yards.

Parks was responsible for one of several personal foul calls, and was disappointed in himself.

``We just got to be a little bit more smarter about what we do. I hold myself accountable because I was one of those persons to get a flag late,'' he said. ``I just made a bonehead decision at that time because I was a little frustrated. We still got points out of it. It was three points, but maybe could have been a touchdown. It may have been the difference in the ballgame.''

The Cavaliers lost despite piling up 625 yards of offense, and showed signs of getting their running game untracked with 145 yards. Starter Perry Jones ran for 82, and Parks picked up another 60.

He'd like nothing better than to help the ground game take off this weekend.

``We still believe there's nothing wrong with our running game,'' he said. ``We've just got to be a little bit more decisive, make more great reads, make great blocks when we have to so the quarterback can throw, help out the blocking game, catch the ball when we need to and do all those little things right.''

Getting enough tickets for all the family and friends that will make the trip to Durham, N.C., ``can be a little bit stressful,'' Parks said, ``but I don't look at it like that. It's all fun for me.''

Teammate Adrian Gamble, who caught his first touchdown pass against the Bulldogs in the Sims-led rally, also is going home, and hopes the scoring grab was the start of an increased role in the offense.

The freshman from Charlotte is known for spectacular catches in practice, and wants to bring that to the games.

Duke (4-1, 1-0) has won three straight led by quarterback Sean Renfree, who is completing 72 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns. He's listed as questionable this week with a right elbow injury, so both teams may have new faces taking the opening snaps at quarterback. For Duke, that would be Anthony Boone, who finished the game last weekend.

No worries, coach David Cutcliffe said, comparing Boone's situation to what Sims faces.

``We have an offensive system. Anthony Boone has been taking the number two reps all fall camp, all during the season to this point,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We're running the same offense.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.