Peyton Manning set to return to game action

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Peyton Manning set to return to game action

From Comcast SportsNet

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are treating their visit to Chicago on Thursday night just like any other preseason opener.

Only, it isn't.

This marks the four-time MVP's first game of any sort since Jan. 30, 2011, when he went 2-for-5 for 12 yards and an interception in the AFC's 55-41 loss to the NFC in the Pro Bowl.

"I think he's anxious to get in there, just like all of our starters," coach John Fox said Tuesday.

Anybody who wants to see Manning's first game in 18 months had better tune in early because he won't have much more than a cameo appearance at Soldier Field.

"Well, we don't get into how much we're going to do but we'll approach it much like any first preseason games," Fox said. "Our first unit will go the first quarter -- about -- and the seconds will go the second and third quarters, and the third will finish out the fourth quarter."

That's fine with Manning.

"We'd like to get a drive or two going," Manning said. "I've always said you love to get a bit of everything in the preseason if you can. You love to get some short-yardage work, some third-down conversions, you'd love to get some red zone, goal line. In all four games, if you can get all the situations that we work on out here, that would be ideal.

"So, however long we play, or whatever Coach Fox wants to do, we're good with. We just need to play well when we're out there."

Manning missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his neck that weakened his throwing arm and led to his tearful release from the Indianapolis Colts that set off the biggest free agent frenzy in NFL history. He landed in Denver and hasn't looked back.

Throughout offseason workouts, minicamp and training camp with the Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro32), Manning has had plenty of zip on his passes and he's been as accurate and cerebral as ever.

Even Tuesday, when he had his share of incompletions against an ever-improving, first-string defense, Manning was sharp in his decisions.

"I wouldn't say that," Manning retorted when asked if it was a frustrating day at practice. "Every day, you're trying to get better. Certainly, there's always some things you can improve on."

Although his fused neck is actually stronger than it was pre-surgery, the next big mile marker in Manning's comeback is bouncing back from that first big hit.

Manning said he has no doubt he is ready to absorb it, although the Broncos aren't exactly eager to get that blast behind them.

"Well, you never want to see your guy the one being hit regardless of position," Fox said. "But it's all part of the game. I think he's definitely preparing himself, and we'll see how it goes Thursday night."

Manning has spent the last five months learning his new teammates and working on timing with his new targets, but he is eager to see who steps up in the preseason.

"The lights have not been on yet," Manning said. "We've had practices, we had the scrimmage Saturday, which was a game-like atmosphere, but going against a different opponent on Thursday" will provide a better gauge.

"So it's serious business out there on Thursday. There's jobs being competed for, there's jobs that people are trying to keep. That's where all of us have something to play for," he added. "Sure, you want to win the game, but everybody's competing, trying to do their jobs well."

Notes: DT Ty Warren didn't finish practice because of a stomach problem. ... Several of DT Ben Garland's defensive teammates gave him two replacement silver sabers he received upon graduating from the Air Force Academy, along with a Falcons football helmet. The originals were lost in the wildfire that destroyed his grandparents' home in Colorado Springs this summer. ... RB Knowshon Moreno made a big blunder when he ran out of bounds during a two-minute drill in which Denver's offense was trying to protect a late lead. "That's why you practice it," Fox said. "I'd rather that happen now in a practice situation vs. in a game when it counts." ... With Manning the marquee attraction, the Broncos have drawn 74,209 fans to camp. With five public practices remaining, they could double their old record of 45,124 set last year.

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Caps getting goals from everyone on epic hot streak

Caps getting goals from everyone on epic hot streak

Since New Year’s Eve, the Capitals have been scoring goals at a ridiculous rate. In fact, they’ve scored more goals—54 in 11 games—than any other team in that timeframe.

And it’s not really all that close.

Consider:

  • Since the outburst began with a 6-2 over New Jersey on Dec. 31, the Caps have scored five or more goals eight times in 11 contests.
  • After Thursday’s 7-3 win in St. Louis, they’ve scored five or more goals in five straight games for the first time since February 2010.
  • They’ve chased four goalies from the opposing net: Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky; Chicago’s Corey Crawford; Philly’s Steve Mason; and St. Louis’ Jake Allen (twice).
  • Of the 54 goals, only seven have come on the power play.
  • Eighteen different players have scored. (Defensive defenseman Brooks Orpik needs to get with the program.)
  • During this prolific 11-game run, Justin Williams leads all Caps in with eight goals. Meanwhile, T.J. Oshie is second with six goals and Brett Connolly and Alex Ovechkin are tied for third with five.
  • The Caps are now averaging 3.20 goals per game, up from the 3.02 they scored a year ago.

RELATED: Caps' offense explodes again in rout of Blues

Over the first two-plus months of the season, offense was hard to come by for the Caps, who hovered around mid-pack in goals per game. These days, however, it seems almost every shot is finding the back of the net—and they couldn’t be enjoying it more.

“It’s always fun to score and see that a lot of different guys scored, too,” Marcus Johansson told reporters at Scottrade Center, where he recorded goal No. 15 on the season. “It’s good for the team and good for the confidence.”

The Capitals have also scored the first goal in each of the last nine games.

“It’s hard to score in this league, but it’s a lot easier and it’s a lot less draining when you score first,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “You’re not chasing the game. There’s a lot more demand on every detail when you’re chasing the game because if you give up another one, it’s a bigger hole.”

Williams is as a hot as anyone in the league right now, but he still felt the need to issue a bit of warning to his teammates: Just because the goals are coming easily (and in big bunches) doesn’t mean they can count on it every night. They've still got to remain committed to the details that vaulted them to the top of the NHL standings.   

“It’s actually kinda strange now that everything seems to be going in,” he said. “I think internally you have to recognize the process and not get carried away with [the fact] that we’re scoring five, six, seven goals a night. That’s not going to last. You ride the highs [but] we need to understand reality.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps chase Jake Allen...twice

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Knicks

5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Knicks

Here are five plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 113-110 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night that are worth revisiting...

1. This first highlight was no precursor whatsoever to the game Carmelo Anthony was about to have, because he went off for a game-high 34 points, including a Knicks-record 23 points in the third quarter. 

But this one was a play he would like to forget. Melo had a wide open chipshot in the first quarter and completely airballed it:

2. John Wall led the Wizards with 29 points, 13 assists and three steals. Two of his points came on this nice left-handed slam in the first half:

3. Wall was just getting warmed up there. In this highlight he blows past Ron Baker and finishes for two:

4. Kristaps Porzingis returned for the Knicks after missing four straight games with a sore left Achilles'. It wasn't enough to lead New York to a win, but he did have this ridiculous putback dunk:

5. That dunk was nice, but this one sealed the victory for the Wizards. Here is Wall getting the rebound and taking it all the way for two with just :13 seconds left. Did he double-dribble? Who cares? The refs didn't catch it:

[RELATED: Wall and Beal not named All-Star starters, but there is a silver lining]