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Vols' Jones confident he can thrive in SEC

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Vols' Jones confident he can thrive in SEC

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) When his lack of Southeastern Conference experience came up at his introductory news conference Friday, Tennessee coach Butch Jones wasted no time responding.

``I'll be the first to tell you that Nick Saban and Les Miles had zero experience when they came into the league,'' Jones said.

Jones' chances of approaching their success will depend on how well he adapts to the conference that has won the last six national championships.

During his last two stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Jones went 50-27 and won at least a share of four conference titles in six seasons. The SEC offers a much tougher test than the Mid-American Conference or Big East.

Jones relishes the opportunity.

``If you want to be best, you want to compete in the best,'' Jones said. ``Obviously the SEC is the best football conference in the country. I have many good friends that compete at this level - on the center stage - and I look forward to it.''

Lately, Tennessee hasn't been competitive at this level.

The Volunteers have gone 1-7 in SEC play each of the last two seasons. Jones is replacing Derek Dooley, who was fired after losing 14 of his last 15 conference games.

That makes this a new type of challenge for Jones, who inherited winning teams from Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Now he must rebuild a Tennessee program that has produced three straight losing seasons.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said at the start of the search he wanted someone familiar with the challenges of the SEC. Although Jones hasn't worked in the SEC before, Hart believes the coach understands the league well enough to succeed.

``I do think it's important - particularly in this league and we talked about this at great length - to understand this league and to understand the competitive nature of this league,'' Hart said. ``Butch talked about how good the Southeastern Conference is at the line of scrimmage. He talked a lot about that. He has an excellent grasp and an excellent plan on what he wants to do in that regard.''

That plan could include adding assistants who have competed in this league and have recruited in SEC territory before.

Jones' contract includes a minimum of $3 million per year to pay his assistants. Jones vowed to put together ``the best football staff in the country,'' though he also noted SEC experience wasn't essential for a coach to recruit effectively in this part of the country.

``Recruiting is a people business, so I want the best teachers and best recruiters no matter where we have to go get them,'' Jones said. ``I do think it's important that we have some coaches that know the lay of the land, but I really think if you're a great recruiter, you can recruit anywhere because it's all relationship based.''

Jones wants some staff members with Tennessee roots. He placed a priority on recruiting within his home state, a recent problem for the Vols.

``The first thing you want to do in any situation in recruiting is own your home territory, and Dooley did let that get away from him,'' said Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. ``It's a combination of a few things. Winning is the first. When Tennessee wins, those kids flock to Knoxville. When you've got a dynamic recruiter (Vanderbilt's James Franklin) across the state and Vanderbilt's the better program in state, you're going to end up having those kids either decide to look harder at Vanderbilt or just take off.''

The Vols don't have verbal commitments from any of Tennessee's top five 2013 recruits according to Rivals, and four of them have committed elsewhere. Rivals listed 10 four-star prospects from Tennessee in 2012. Only one signed with the Vols.

``We are going to win first and foremost with the great state of Tennessee,'' Jones said. ``We have tremendous high school coaches in this state. We are the state institution and we will own our state. We are going to be at every high school in the state, and our players are going to understand what it is to wear the `power T.'

``They're going to understand what it is to represent their home institution. I take great pride in that.''

Jones also takes pride in his track record. He believes his previous results show he can make Tennessee a contender, even if that resume doesn't include any stops at SEC schools.

The improvement might not happen immediately. Cincinnati went 4-8 in Jones' first season, but the Bearcats have gone 19-6 since. Jones used the term ``process'' - one of Saban's favorite buzzwords - to describe the project he's taking on at Tennessee.

``It's a process,'' Jones said. ``You have to look at the body of work. It hasn't been just performed at one institution. It's now been formed at two institutions along the way, and I look forward to the third here at Tennessee.''

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

ARLINGTON — Devante Smith-Pelly will skate onto the ice at Capital One Arena tonight and the crowd will roar. They will chant “D-S-P!” and give him an ovation and he will try to keep a stone-faced focus, though it will be hard.

Not bad for a player who was cut in February, passed on by 30 other NHL teams and banished to the minors after a disappointing season and a salary-cap crunch. But that is life as a Stanley Cup playoff folk hero. After scoring seven goals with 19 points during last year’s postseason, including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the final series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Smith-Pelly bought himself a lifetime of good will. 

Now, an injury to T.J. Oshie gets him another chance with the Capitals. Smith-Pelly will be in the lineup tonight when Washington hosts the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series (8 p.m., NBC). 

“I don’t know if weird is the word. It’s a business,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s hard to go through something like that. I missed the guys a lot. I still kept in touch with pretty much everyone. It was just going there and doing what I had to do and waiting for a shot. It’s unfortunate that [Oshie] had to get hurt.”

Smith Pelly had just four goals and four assists in 54 games this season and was held out of several preseason games to get his conditioning where it needed to be. When the Capitals traded for forward Carl Hagelin on Feb. 21 they needed salary-cap space to make the move, according to general manager Brian MacLellan. He chose waiving Smith-Pelly over Dmitrij Jaskin. 

When Smith-Pelly cleared waivers, Washington sent him to AHL Hershey so he could play and be ready if needed again. That didn’t seem likely when the playoffs began and the salary cap was no longer an issue. MacLellan said the team had no immediate plans to recall Smith-Pelly just so he could sit. 

But the Capitals wanted him to stay in game shape in case injuries struck – and they finally did on Monday in Game 4. T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Smith-Pelly got the recall and is in the lineup tonight at right wing on the fourth line. It is another chance for a player who was once a second-round draft pick, but has been let go by three previous organizations (Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey) and found himself on tenuous ground with the Capitals. This isn’t how he wanted it to be. But now he’s back. 

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. I was watching the games and cheering the guys on,” Smith-Pelly said. “I wasn’t really sure. I definitely didn’t want to get a chance by someone else getting hurt. That’s for sure. So I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird spot. I’m focused on playing the playoffs there and helping the team there. I wasn’t really thinking about too much about what would happen.”

News and notes

Still no update on Oshie other than he’s out indefinitely, according to coach Todd Reirden. He will obviously not play in Game 5 after crashing into the boards following a nudge from behind by Carolina forward Warren Foegele. … Reirden’s lineup changes include Carl Hagelin moving to right wing on the second line and Chandler Stephenson joining Smith-Pelly and Nic Dowd on the fourth line. … After a nice first playoff game, rookie Jonas Siegenthaler will start with John Carlson, who moves to his natural right side. He'd been starting games on the left with Nick Jensen.  

Game 5 lineup

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Carl Hagelin

Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly

 

Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson 

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen 

 

Braden Holtby 

 

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

Thursday's games gave us another tied series with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, a slugfest between the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets, and the San Jose Sharks avoiding elimination at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Friday's games pushed the Boston Bruins to the brink of elimination, and the Colorado Avalanche eliminated the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome.

Here are all of Friday's results.

Maple Leafs take 3-2 series lead with 2-1 win over Bruins

Frederik Andersen and Tuukka Rask were sharp for the first two periods, but Auston Matthews broke the scoreless tie with a controversial goal 10 minutes into the third period. Boston challenged for goaltender interference, but the goal stood. Matthews now has four goals in the last three games of the series.

Kasperi Kapanen gave the Leafs the game winner on a 3-on-2 just two minutes later.

The Bruins battled back to make it 2-1 with a backdoor feed for David Krejci, but they couldn't force a tie to send the game to overtime. Should the Leafs hold on to win, not only would they reverse their two-year trend of losing in the first round of the playoffs, they would win a series for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Avalanche extinguish Flames, win series with 5-1 victory

The upstart Avalanche had four players hit three points in their Friday night upset over the Flames. Mikko Rantanen continued his punishing pace with two goals in the game, including the opening and closing goals.

Colin Wilson also notched a two-goal night, and Philipp Grubauer held steady with 28 saves.

This is Colorado's first series win since the 2007-08 season, and the Flames became the second first seed to be knocked out of these playoffs, as the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.

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