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NHL Morning Skate for Thursday, March 23, 2017: Toronto, Anaheim win key Division games

Home Team in Caps
Toronto 5, COLUMBUS 2
NY Islanders 3, NY RANGERS 2
ANAHEIM 4, Edmonton 3 

William Nylander (1-1—2) extended his point streak to nine games (3-7—10) and Auston Matthews scored his team-leading 33rd goal of the season as the Maple Leafs improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight contests.

* Toronto (34-23-15, 83 points) moved one point ahead of idle Boston (38-29-6, 82 points) for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs, who have one game in hand, completed a four-game season sweep of the Bruins on Monday.

* Per Elias, Nylander – who scored his 20th goal of the season – tied the longest point streak by a rookie in Maple Leafs history, equaling the mark set by Gus Bodnar in 1943 and later matched by Bob Nevin (1960) and Dan Daoust (1983).

* Matthews (33-25—58) moved within one goal of matching Wendel Clark (34 in 1985-86) for the most by a rookie in Maple Leafs history and vaulted back into a tie with Patrik Laine for the rookie goal-scoring lead.

Hampus Lindholm (1-2—3) earned a career-high three points and Ryan Getzlaf (0-3—3) posted his sixth three-point game of the season as the Ducks (39-23-11, 89 points) overtook the Oilers (39-25-9, 87 points) for second place in the Pacific Division.

Rickard Rakell (1-1—2) extended his point streak to six games (5-3—8), highlighted by his League-leading 10th game-winning goal of the campaign. He also has registered career highs in goals (32) and points (45) this season.

Jonathan Bernier (29 saves) improved to 6-0-1 in his last seven appearances, posting a 1.54 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Andrew Ladd scored the tiebreaking goal with 7:22 remaining in regulation – his 20th of the season – as the Islanders (34-26-12, 80 points) moved within two points of the idle Bruins (38-29-6, 82 points) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The teams face off Saturday at Barclays Center . . . Oilers captain Connor McDavid (26-59—85) recorded his 10th three-point game of the season to extend his lead in the Art Ross Trophy race . . . Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano skated in his 777th consecutive game, surpassing Craig Ramsay (776) for the fourth-longest such streak in NHL history . . . Rangers forward Rick Nash reached the 20-goal plateau for the 12th time in his 14 NHL seasons . . . The Department of Player Safety announced that Toronto’s Roman Polak and Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen each will have hearings on Thursday . . . ICYMI: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin will wear Russian-American themed skates for pregame warmup as part of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

All Times Eastern
Tampa Bay @ Boston, 7 p.m., TVAS, NESN, SUN
Columbus @ Washington, 7 p.m., CSN-DC, FS-O
New Jersey @ Toronto, 7:30 p.m., SNO, MSG+
Carolina @ Montreal, 7:30 p.m., SNE, RDS, FS-CR
Pittsburgh @ Ottawa, 7:30 p.m., NHLN-US, RDS2, TSN5, ROOT
Arizona @ Florida, 7:30 p.m., FS-F, FS-A
Vancouver @ St. Louis, 8 p.m., FS-MW, SNP
Calgary @ Nashville, 8 p.m., FS-TN, SNF
Philadelphia @ Minnesota, 8 p.m., FS-N, FS-WI, CSN-PH
Dallas @ Chicago, 8:30 p.m., CSN-CH, FS-SW+
Edmonton @ Colorado, 9 p.m., ALT, SNW
Winnipeg @ Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m., FS-W, TSN3
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Two of the League’s top teams face off when the Capitals (47-17-8, 102 points) host the Blue Jackets (47-19-6, 100 points) at Verizon Center. Columbus, who leads the season series with a 2-1-0 record (WSH: 1-1-1), looks to narrow the gap in the NHL and Metropolitan Division standings. Washington, meanwhile, is 3-0-1 in its last four games. This matchup also features the League’s top two goaltenders, as Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky – who leads the NHL in wins (39) and goals-against average (2.04) – faces Washington’s Braden Holtby, who ranks second in each of those categories (37 W, 2.05 GAA). The teams conclude their season series in Columbus on April 2.

The second place team in the Metropolitan Division meets the second place team in the Atlantic Division when the Penguins (46-17-9, 101 points) visit the Senators (40-24-8, 88 points) at Canadian Tire Centre. Pittsburgh looks to gain ground in the NHL and Metropolitan Division standings, where the top three teams are separated by only two points. Ottawa will try to narrow the gap on Montreal (41-23-9, 91 points) atop the Atlantic Division standings.

The Flames (41-28-4, 86 points) and Predators (36-25-11, 83 points) – who hold the first and second Western Conference Wild Card spots, respectively – complete their three-game season series in Nashville. The Flames, who are 12-2-0 in their last 14 contests, also trail the Oilers (39-25-9, 87 points) by one point for third place in the Pacific Division.

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MLS Alcatel Player of the Week honors goes to FC Dallas’ Maxi Urruti

NEW YORK(Tuesday, March 21, 2017) – FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti was voted the Alcatel MLS Player of the Week by the North American Soccer Reporters (NASR) for the third week of the 2017 MLS season.

After helping FC Dallas to a critical 2-1 win over Liga MX side Pachuca in CONCACAF Champions League semifinal action midweek, the 26-year-old Urruti continued his fine run of form in MLS, scoring a late brace to rally FCD to a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution at Toyota Stadium. With the victory, Dallas sits in second place in the Western Conference (2-0-1, seven points) and improves to 9-0-2 all-time when Urruti scores a goal. The brace was the second multi-goal performance of the striker’s MLS career, and he now claims three goals this season, tied for third best league-wide.

Maxi Urruti

With FC Dallas trailing in the second half, Urruti recovered a deflected ball at the top of the box, dribbling around goalkeeper Cody Cropper and firing a right-footed shot just inside the near post to equalize the match at 1-1 in the 71st minute (Watch Goal).

Moments later, Urruti dazzled again, collecting a long pass on the right side of the box and outmaneuvering a defender for possession. The Argentine then rocketed home a strike to the top corner from a difficult angle to give FC Dallas a 2-1 advantage in the 77th minute in what would be the eventual game-winning goal (Watch Goal).

FC Dallas next travels to face Pachuca in the second leg of the CCL semifinals on April 4 (10 p.m. ET) before returning to MLS action on April 8 against Minnesota United FC at Toyota Stadium (8 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE).

The MLS Player of the Week is selected each week of the regular season by a panel of journalists from NASR. The group consists of members of print, television, radio and online media.



Will Power takes control of open test at Barber Motorsports Park

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Tuesday, March 21, 2017) – A full day of testing at Barber Motorsports Park pointed to the conclusion that the intense competition that the Verizon IndyCar Series has witnessed in recent seasons is going to be even closer and more unpredictable for the remainder of the 2017 season.

Twenty-two cars turned a total of 1,147 laps on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn scenic permanent road course today, in advance of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama – the third of 17 races on this year’s schedule, set for the weekend of April 21-23.

BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK OPEN TEST: Practice 1Practice 2Combined practice results

And while two-time Barber race winner and three-time pole sitter Will Power wound up fastest after six hours of on-track action, it was by no means decisive. The top 14 drivers on the combined speed chart were separated by less than a half-second.

Power set the best lap of the day moments before the checkered flag waved, at 1 minute, 7.7518 seconds (122.211 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The Aussie nudged out second-year Verizon IndyCar Series driver Max Chilton (No. 8 Gallagher Honda) for top honors by less than a hundredth of a second.

“It just shows how tight it is between Honda and Chevy now,” Power said. “It’s tough, man. We just went through a bunch of stuff (during the test day) to see what it does and I think we got some good answers here. I think we’ve got a good car for here, I feel good about my setup.”

Chilton, driving for the Chip Ganassi Racing team that switched to Honda from Chevrolet in the offseason, put down a lap of 1:07.7591 (122.198 mph) to finish second on the leaderboard.

“Good day apart from Power spoiling the fun at the end of the day, but it’s all good fun,” Chilton said. “It was a good test day. … We got a lot done.

“We actually were struggling a lot with the car all day, that’s why we took a long, long lunch break to sort of change the car,” Chilton added. “Then we definitely made steps forward, did a few fine-tunes. It’s amazing, you make a few changes and you jump yourself up the board.”

Two of Power’s teammates at Team Penske, Josef Newgarden and Juan Pablo Montoya, finished third and fourth on the speed chart. Newgarden is in his first full season with the renowned team, replacing Montoya, who will drive for Team Penske at the two Indianapolis Motor Speedway races in May.

Newgarden, whose fast lap was 1:07.8402 (122.052 mph) in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevy, said it took him time to adapt to the new tire supplied by Firestone for the Barber circuit.

“Very different feeling form the car today than I’ve ever had at Barber and that requires a lot of work,” said the 2015 Barber race winner. “But we had a good day and the Verizon No. 2 car was fast. I think it has a lot of speed in it, it’s just a matter of how we get that out of the car and how to make it consistent so that I can put the lap together for qualifying.”

Montoya was fourth quick in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet (1:07.8406, 122.051 mph) despite it being his first time in an Indy car since the 2016 season finale six months ago. For the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, it was like riding a bike.

“I feel like I drove the car yesterday,” Montoya said. “It’s kind of fun. I’ve been out of the car since September, but I feel fine. I have a new crew, new guys, new engineer. It’s working really well.”

Andretti Autosport drivers Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively, on the day. Sato was fastest in the three-hour first session, but was among the 19 drivers who improved their times in the second practice as teams honed in on setups. Push-to-pass was also activated on all cars for the final hour of the second practice, giving a 60-horsepower boost whenever it was used.

Sebastien Bourdais, winner of the March 12 season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, was 13th fastest overall today. Defending Barber winner and series champion Simon Pagenaud ran 10th.

The next race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The famous street-course race airs live at 4 p.m. ET April 9 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama follows two weeks later at Barber Motorsports Park, airing at 3 p.m. ET on the same networks.




NHL Morning Skate for Wednesday, March 23, 2017: Penguins clinch playoff spot; Capitals goalie Holtby gained 186th win in 300 games to join Dryden, Moog and Osgood with most wins in that many games

Home Team in Caps
Ottawa 3, BOSTON 2
Pittsburgh 3, BUFFALO 1
NEW JERSEY 3, NY Rangers 2 (OT)
WASHINGTON 4, Calgary 2
Detroit 2, MONTREAL 1 (OT)
Arizona 5, TAMPA BAY 3
Carolina 4, FLORIDA 3
WINNIPEG 3, Philadelphia 2
MINNESOTA 3, San Jose 2
Vancouver 5, CHICAGO 4 (OT)
St. Louis 4, COLORADO 2

Sidney Crosby opened the scoring with a highlight-reel one-handed goal and Nick Bonino tallied the go-ahead marker with 5:29 remaining in regulation to help the Penguins clinch a berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their 11th consecutive postseason appearance and 32nd in franchise history.

* At 46-17-9 (101 points), the Penguins eclipsed the 100-point mark for the second straight season and third time in the last four campaigns.

* Crosby has scored in three consecutive games (6-1—7) and paces the NHL with 41 goals this season (66 GP).

Braden Holtby made 29 saves while Alex Ovechkin (1-2—3) and Nick Backstrom (0-3—3) each collected three points to help the League-leading Capitals (47-17-8, 102 points) extend their point streak to four contests (3-0-1).

* Holtby made the 300th regular-season appearance of his NHL career and improved to 186-71-31 (2.31 GAA, .922 SV%, 31 SO). Elias notes that his 186 wins are the second-most by an NHL goaltender through his first 300 appearances:

Most wins through first 300 appearances, NHL history
193 – Ken Dryden
186 – Braden Holtby
177 – Andy Moog
177 – Chris Osgood

* Backstrom has registered seven assists in his last two games (0-7—7) and moved into a tie for the most in the NHL with 57 overall (w/ Connor McDavid).

The Wild (44-22-6, 94 points), Senators (40-24-8, 88 points) and Blues (39-28-5, 83 points) each secured wins to improve their chances of clinching a playoff berth:

* Devan Dubnyk made 21 saves to help the Wild snap a five-game slide (0-5-0) and reinforce their hold on second place in the Central Division. Dubnyk improved to 37-18-3 in 2016-17 (2.17 GAA, .927 SV%, 5 SO) and matched the single-season franchise record for wins by a goaltender, set by Niklas Backstrom in 2008-09.

* Kyle Turris (2-0—2) registered his second multi-goal game of the season as the Senators snapped a four-game slide (0-2-2). The Senators reached the 40-win mark for the first time since 2014-15 and increased their lead to six points over the Bruins (38-29-6, 82 points) for second place in the Atlantic Division.

Patrik Berglund (2-0—2) recorded his fourth multi-goal game of the season as the Blues moved to 8-1-0 in their last nine contests, including three consecutive wins. St. Louis moved ahead of Nashville (36-25-11, 83 points) to reclaim third place in the Central Division.

Anthony Mantha scored a highlight-reel goal in the final minute of overtime to guide the Red Wings to victory . . . The Hurricanes overcame three separate one-goal deficits to extend their point streak to eight games (5-0-3) . . . Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele each collected 1-2—3 to lead the Jets to their third consecutive win . . . Daniel Sedin (1-1—2) scored the 15th regular-season overtime goal of his NHL career as the Canucks snapped a six-game slide (0-4-2) . . . Capitals forward T.J. Oshie (1-0—1) reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career . . . Victor Hedman (15-45—60) scored to become the third defenseman in Lightning history to reach the 60-point mark in a season . . . Coyotes forward Christian Fischer (1-0—1) has scored three goals through the first four games of his NHL career (3-0—3) . . . Elias Lindholm (3-6—9 in 8 GP), Jonathan Toews (3-3—6 in 5 GP) and Pavel Zacha (0-5—5 in 5 GP) each extended point streaks . . . Jets defenseman Nelson Nogier made his NHL debut . . . The Blue Jackets signed forwards Markus Hannikainen and Lukas Sedlak as well as defenseman Scott Harrington to two-year contract extensions . . . Devils forward John Quenneville (1-1—2) scored the first goal of his NHL career (6 GP) and assisted on the overtime winner.



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Blue Jackets travel to Washington in a key Metropolitan Division game tonight

Mar. 23, 2017  ||  Blue Jackets at Capitals  ||  Verizon Center  ||  7:00 pm ET


Blue Jackets Broadcast Information
Television: FOX Sports Ohio (Jeff Rimer/Jody Shelley)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan (Bob McElligott)


The Matchup
Columbus: 47-19-6  (100 pts.)  || 21-9-5 (47 pts.) on Road  || 3rd Metropolitan  || 3.17 GF / 2.33 GA
Washington: 47-17-8 (102 pts)  || 29-6-2 (60 pts.) at Home  || 1st Metropolitan  || 3.21 GF / 2.17 GA
All-Time Series
Columbus: 11-13-6 (4-7-3 on Road)
2016-17: Nov. 15 – at CBJ 2, WSH 1 (OT)… Nov. 20 – CBJ 3, at WSH 2… Jan. 5 – at WSH 5, CBJ 0… Mar. 23 at Washington… Apr. 2 at Columbus
2015-16: Oct. 30 – at WSH 2, CBJ 1… Jan. 2 – at CBJ 5, WSH 4 (SO)… Jan. 19 – WSH 6, at CBJ 3… Mar. 28 – at WSH 4, CBJ 1

*  Winning team has scored at least three goals in 25 of the 29 victories in the series (one tie)
*  Washington (3rd in GF/GP and 1st in GA/GP) and Columbus (4th and 3rd) are the only two teams in the NHL in the top-five in both categories

*  Columbus concludes its 17th of 19 back-to-backs on Thursday (currently 21-8-4 in back-to-backs including 9-4-3 in the second game)
*  The Jackets have recorded 20 road wins in a season for the third time in club history (all in past four seasons) and the 47 points are second, trailing 49 points (23-15-3 in 2014-15)
*  With two goals on Wednesday, the Blue Jackets set a franchise record for most goals in a season (non SO) with 228, surpassing the 227 recorded in 2014-15
Blue Jackets:
* 8  Zach Werenski - Is four points from tying James Wisniewski for most points by a defenseman in a single season (51; 2013-14) and is three points from becoming the fourth teenage rookie defenseman in NHL history to tally 50 points in a campaign
* 72  Sergei Bobrovsky - Leads the NHL in wins (39), GAA (2.04) and SV% (.931) (played at least 30 games) and is riding a seven-game win streak (1.14 GAA, .963 SV% and 3 SOs)
* 19  Nicklas Backstrom - Leads the Capitals in scoring (5th overall in NHL) with 22-56-78 in 72 contests including 0-7-7 in the past two games and has 6-14-20 in 23 career games vs. the Jackets
* 70  Braden Holtby - Ranks second in the NHL in wins (37, tied) and goals-against average (2.05) and has a .925 save percentage to go with his 37-11-6 record

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