The L.A. Kings are absolutely on fire

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The L.A. Kings are absolutely on fire

From Comcast SportsNet
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Los Angeles Kings knew the Coyotes would come with everything they had. Even when that meant some questionable hits as the frustration grew, the Kings never let it bother them. Withstanding an early push and a slew of penalties late, the Kings took control of the Western Conference finals with another dominating performance, beating the Coyotes 4-0 Tuesday night to match an NHL record with their seventh straight road playoff victory. Jeff Carter scored three goals, Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots and Los Angeles will head back home with a commanding series lead after flummoxing the Coyotes in two games in the desert. "We didn't want to do anything after the whistle," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We just wanted to stay away from it. We didn't have anything to prove that way." All Los Angeles wanted was the victory and the Kings got it, overwhelming the Coyotes after doing the same in Game 1. The Kings shook off the big hits -- a couple that led to game misconducts -- and continued a can't-stop-us roll that started with a playoff push the last month of the regular season. Dwight King scored his third goal in two games, Quick tied Felix Potvin's team record with his third career playoff shutout, and Carter finished off the Kings' first playoff hat trick since Wayne Gretzky in 1993 in the third period. Los Angeles has won seven straight overall, tied an NHL record by opening the playoffs 7-0 on the road, and matched another record by winning nine straight road playoff games over two seasons. The New York Islanders won a pair of Stanley Cup titles while winning nine straight road games from 1982-83, and the Kings are starting to look like a team that could go on a Cup run of its own. Game 3 is Thursday night in Los Angeles. "It's a mindset; we get away, there's no distractions," Carter said. "For some reason, this team likes to play on the road." The Coyotes played better early and fell apart late, becoming frustrated after being unable to contain the more-skilled Kings. Phoenix was hit with a string of penalties starting late in the second period, including a game misconduct to captain Shane Doan for boarding Kings center Trevor Lewis. Martin Hanzal also received one for boarding Dustin Brown in the third period and the Coyotes had 13 penalties for 56 minutes -- most coming after the final 5 minutes of the second period. "I think the frustration level sets in," Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. "You're in the penalty box that much against a team that's in the conference finals, you're going to pay." The Kings won the opener 4-2 by outplaying and outhustling the Coyotes. Knowing Phoenix's makeup, the Kings figured to get more of a pushback in Game 2. And the Coyotes were much more aggressive early, winning some of the individual battles they lost in Game 1 while creating some decent scoring chances. Even with all of Phoenix's hard work and a couple of line changes by coach Dave Tippett, the Kings still managed to score first. King got it, redirecting a shot by Drew Doughty that beat Smith stick side late in the period. Hard work in the corners by Mike Richards set up Los Angeles' second goal, by Carter. He muscled the puck past Smith's glove side as he was going down on a feed from Dustin Penner that made it 2-0 early in the second period. Then things completely unraveled for the Coyotes. Doan, who was suspended three games for elbowing earlier in the season, was given a game misconduct and a five-minute boarding penalty for ramming Lewis from behind. Defenseman Keith Yandle was already in the penalty box and Daymond Langkow joined him after a slashing penalty, giving Los Angeles a two-man advantage for more than 2 minutes. Brown was sent off for diving on a slash by Smith, but that didn't bother the Kings. Carter scored his second a few seconds later on a redirect of a shot by Anze Kopitar, putting Los Angeles up 3-0. With the Coyotes racking up penalties seemingly on every shift, Carter finished them off with his fifth career hat trick, punching in a rebound with the Kings on a two-man advantage after Hanzal's hit on Brown. "There's no question there's going to be frustration, especially when you get down in a game like that, guys try to finish their checks on the edge," Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt said. "We've got to try and find some positives and get things turned around in Game 3." Even if they do, it may not matter the way the Kings are playing. Notes: The Kings were without D Colin Fraser, out of the lineup attending to a family matter. ... Coyotes LW Ray Whitney played in his 100th career playoff game. D Michael Stone played his first with Adrian Aucoin still out of the lineup and David Schlemko still not fully healthy. ... Rocker Alice Cooper, who lives in the Valley, attended the game. ... The last team to win seven straight road playoff games in one season was Chicago in 2010.

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Want to beat the Cardinals? Bring down Carson Palmer

Want to beat the Cardinals? Bring down Carson Palmer

Many considered the Cardinals a Super Bowl contender this season, though the team has not performed to that level so far in 2016. One huge problem for Arizona - protecting quarterback Carson Palmer. 

In its last four games, Arizona has given up 16 sacks on Palmer, including a staggering eight sacks against the Carolina Panthers. In the last two games, Palmer has gone down six times, and both games have been losses. 

With weapons like wideout Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson, Palmer has lots of options to move the ball. That's why Jay Gruden knows how important it is for his front seven to get home.

"It’s going to start with the pass rush," Gruden said. "If Carson [Palmer] has all day to throw and give Larry time to do double moves and stem you inside and vertical and then get back out or break it back across, I don’t care how big you are or how fast you are, it’s going to be hard."

In all six Cardinals losses, Palmer has been sacked at least two times, and in four of the losses, Palmer has gone down at least four times. Beyond the Panthers' eight sacks, the Bills brought down the Cards QB five times, and both the Seahawks and Vikings got to Palmer four times.

While the sack totals stand out, Washington's Preston Smith knows each week is different in the NFL.

"Every game you’re fired up because you feel like it's an opporttunity to get out there and get sacks," Smith said. "You don’t think about what another team did, they’re going to play us different."

Talking on the latest #RedskinsTalk Podcast, Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy acknowledged that the defense knows how beat up the Cardinals' offensive line is. Murphy, who has seven sacks on the season, added that he's 'drooling' for this matchup and the opportunity to take advantage of the Arizona vulnerabilities up front. (Listen to the full podcast below.)

Bruce Arians knows his team is undermanned on the line, and the Arizona offense will be creative to protect Palmer.

"You have to help them," Arians said of his O-line. "You have got to stay balanced and hopefully not get into a situation where it’s a throw, throw, throw game because then you’re putting them in harm’s way and your quarterback in harm’s way."

It doesn't help that in his 14th season, Palmer is probably one of the least mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. After matching up against Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott in their last two games, the Redskins defense knows Palmer won't move nearly as much, though that doesn't mean he's neccesarily easier to get down.

"You’re not going against a mobile quarterback but you still got to get to that spot," Smith said. "Carson’s a good quarterback."

Linebacker Mason Foster said that sacks aren't as important as consistent pressure. 

"On a great quarterback like that you want consistent pressure all day long. Make things tough on him, you don’t want a clean pocket," Foster said. "If you have pressure in his face all day and you don’t get no sacks, I think that's a success."

Even at 36, Palmer is still a dangerous quarterback. He's thrown for nearly 3,000 yards this year with a beat-up offensive line and missing one start. But numbers are numbers, and the data shows that if the 'Skins pass rushers can get Palmer to the ground, the chances of a Washington win shoot right up. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

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Why Ravens could have a strong December

Why Ravens could have a strong December

In four of John Harbaugh’s first eight seasons as head coach, the Ravens won at least three games in December. They will likely need another solid December to make the playoffs. Here are five reasons why the Ravens could be ready for a strong finishing kick, heading into Sunday’s key home game against the Dolphins:

1. The return of outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil.

After missing most of this season with a foot injury, Dumervil finally looked like himself in Week 12 with a key strip sack against the Bengals. Adding Dumervil’s pass rushing to an already strong defense makes that defense even better.

 2. The Ravens’ December schedule doesn’t look as imposing as it once did.

When the Ravens visit the Patriots on Dec. 12, they won’t have star tight end Rob Gronkowski (back surgery). The Eagles (5-6), who visit Baltimore on Dec. 18, have cooled off after a strong start. Don’t sleep on the Dolphins (7-4), who have won six straight and have the potential to beat the Ravens on Sunday. But the Ravens (6-5) will reach at least nine wins if they beat the Dolphins and Eagles at home and beat the banged-up Bengals (3-7-1) in the regular-season finale. Nine wins could be enough to win the AFC North.

3. The infusion of rookie Kenneth Dixon into the running game.

Dixon is trending up after an early-season knee injury, and third-year running back Terrance West has not been overworked. Having two young runners with fresh legs gives the Ravens an advantage some teams don’t have in December, if the Ravens are wise enough to stay committed to the running game.

4. Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley is healthy.

Consider the Ravens are 6-1 with Stanley in the lineup, and 0-4 without him. When Stanley missed four games with a foot injury, quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside protection was not as good. Now with Stanley playing next to Marshal Yanda, who has moved from right guard to left guard, Flacco should have secure blindside pass protection in December.

5. Money time means it is Flacco time.

This hasn’t been a good year for Flacco. But his 10-5 postseason record and his 17-12 record in December both suggest that Flacco plays his best when the stakes are highest. The Ravens aren’t going anywhere if Flacco plays poorly in December, but he has completed 69.6 percent of his passes over the last three games, compared to just 63.3 percent for the entire season. Flacco looks like he’s getting more comfortable with the tweaks offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has made offensively. For the Ravens, that’s a good sign.

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