Surprising twist in NHL labor talks

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Surprising twist in NHL labor talks

From Comcast SportsNetTORONTO (AP) -- The NHL and its players' union are to resume bargaining Friday for the first time since the lockout began, although the talks will concentrate on secondary economic issues.Deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHL Players' Association special counsel Steve Fehr met Tuesday in Toronto and set up the session, which will be in New York. These will be the first formal negotiations since Sept. 12, when the players and owners exchanged proposals.The lockout started Sept. 16, when training camps were to open. This is the third lockout since Gary Bettman became commissioner in 1993. The last lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season and ended when players accepted a salary cap.With the league and union far apart on money, both sides decided to discuss other economic issues that also are necessary for an agreement. Fehr said the topics will include pension and medical plans, schedule rules, drug testing and the grievance procedure.Top officials from the NHL and NHLPA met Monday to review last season's economics and complete escrow payments due players. The labor contract was not discussed."Obviously, we've got to talk before you can get a deal, so I think it's important to get the talks going again," Daly said Monday. "But you also have to have something to say. I think it's fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players' association in a meaningful way because I don't think that they've really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now."The St. Louis Blues laid off what is believed to just under 20 front-office workers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday. The Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators already have had layoffs. Other teams have said they could do so depending on how long the lockout lasts.It took three months for the NHL and NHLPA to resume bargaining after the lockout began in 2004. Since this lockout started a handful of players have expressed concern that it could last the entire season. Detroit Red Wings forward Danny Cleary said Monday he was "just trying to be realistic."The NHL has 3.3 billion in annual revenue. The league wants to reduce the players' share of hockey related revenue from 57 percent to a range between 49 percent and 47 percent, up from 43 percent in its original proposal. Players think management's alleged financial problems could be addressed by re-examining the teams' revenue-sharing formula.

College Football Playoff projections: Bring on the chaos

College Football Playoff projections: Bring on the chaos

College football fans have learned to expect the unexpected. The unpredictability of the sport is exactly why we love it. So, when looking at the first two years of the College Football Playoff, you can't help but feel like something is missing.

The playoff has been a bit too...clean.

Sure, there was the mini controversy of Ohio State jumping ahead of TCU in the final rankings in 2014, but everyone outside the state of Texas understood why that happened. While TCU and Baylor were getting participation trophies for being co-champs of the Big 12, the Buckeyes were rolling over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Other than that, the playoff has worked exceptionally well with little question as to who the top four teams in the nation have been the past two seasons. That cannot possibly continue.

SEE THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PROJECTION HERE

The BCS system seemed to work well when it first began too, but then every nightmare scenario possible in a foolishly restrictive two-team system began to play out annually.

So what are the nightmare scenarios for the College Football Playoff? A non-power conference team or Notre Dame could go undefeated, a two-loss team could win its conference, an undefeated team could loss in the conference championship game, two teams in the same conference could establish themselves as the top teams in the nation. A team with an easy strength of schedule could finish the season as the only undefeated team, and those are just the ones we know about. There could be all sorts of whacky scenarios no one has even thought of that play out over the course of the season.

While a four-team playoff is certainly better than a two-team one, it is still restrictive to a point that could cause some real problems come December. So far, that hasn't happened.

College football is due for some chaos.

With that in mind here are my preseason College Football Playoff projections, featuring two teams from the same conference reaching the playoff for the first time.

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Scherzer, Turner keep rolling in Nats win, Espinosa heating up?

Scherzer, Turner keep rolling in Nats win, Espinosa heating up?

Notes and observations from the Nats' 3-2 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park…

Scherzer again flirts with a no-no: It's a stat that just keeps getting more amazing the more we watch Max Scherzer go to work as a Washington National. Tuesday night was the ninth time in 61 starts since he signed with the Nats that Scherzer has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning. That's 15 percent of his starts, which - not surprisingly - is more than any other pitcher in baseball. Scherzer is so locked in when he takes the mound that it often takes opposing teams five full innings to figure him out.

Scherzer was perfect through 4 1/3 innings on Tuesday before Cameron Rupp drew a walk in the fifth. And he didn't allow a hit until Freddy Galvis doubled to begin the bottom of the sixth. Scherzer ended up allowing a two-run homer to Ryan Howard, but he made it eight innings and only gave up three hits and that one walk to Rupp. Scherzer struck out 11 batters and now holds a Nationals record for most double-digit strikeout games in one season with 12. 

Scherzer stumbled a bit in consecutive starts in the middle of August when he gave up eight earned runs in 10 1/3 innings against the Rockies and Braves. But in two outings since, Scherzer has allowed just two runs across 16 innings with 21 strikeouts and one walk. He now holds a 2.89 ERA across 190 total innings pitched this season. And since his seven-run start at Wrigley on May 6, Scherzer has a 2.39 ERA in 21 starts with a .531 opponents' OPS.

Turner does his thing: It has become a common sight for Trea Turner to not just get on base in every game, but often to record at least two hits. He had two singles on Tuesday to record his 21st multi-hit game of the year in 43 total outings, 41 of them starts. If Turner is in the starting lineup, he is more likely than not to have at least two hits. And with 45 hits in August, he's just two away from the franchise record for hits in one calendar month. The odds he gets there on Wednesday night would seem to be good.

Turner has now reached base in 20 straight games. Only one other Nats rookie - Danny Espinosa - has accomplished that in team history. But it's not just getting on base that makes Turner special, of course. He got another steal in the 3-2 win and now has 18 on the year. That tied Bryce Harper's rookie record for a single season set back in 2012. Again, Turner has played in just 43 games.

Espinosa getting hot?: Don't look now, but Espinosa might be quietly heating up. The Nats shortstop had another solid game on Tuesday with two hits and a walk. He's now batting .355 (11-for-31) in his last nine games with a 1.009 OPS during that stretch. It's a small sample size, of course, but that's a positive sign for a guy who in 45 games since July 6 has hit just .191/.294/.268. This is quite easily the most consistent two-week stretch that he's had in months.

Harper gets on again: It's now 17 games since Harper has been back and he just keeps getting on base. He's reached in all of those outings and on Tuesday landed an RBI double in the first inning and later scored on a Wilson Ramos single. Harper continues to be on a tear since he got back from his neck injury. That was his 18th RBI and his seventh double since his return.

[RELATED: Turner on playing like a little kid, rest helped Ramos]

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Versatile Anthony Levine helps others on Ravens roster bubble

Versatile Anthony Levine helps others on Ravens roster bubble

As the Ravens face the painful task of whittling the roster to the 53-man limit by Saturday afternoon, Anthony Levine's versatility is a huge bonus.

Levine, a safety by trade, has spent a lot of time this training camp working as a linebacker, or more accurately a dime back, lining up in a linebacker spot in passing situations. And, as he showed in 2014, he can also play cornerback in a pinch. He's also one of the Ravens top special teams players. In short, he essentially fills two or three roster spots by himself.

That will come in very handy when Ozzie Newsome and Co. are trying to fill out the final two or three lines on the 53-man roster. The Ravens might be able to keep an extra receiver or an extra lineman knowing they essentially have an extra safety and an extra corner and an extra linebacker in Levine.

"It's valuable, a trick of the trade, but I just go out and play football wherever my coaches need me to go," Levine said last week. " 'Anthony, we need you to play here this week.' 'Yes sir.' "

Levine has been one of the Ravens top playmakers this preseason -- his two-point interception return of a two-point conversion attempt proved to be the deciding points in the Ravens' 19-18 win over the Colts in Week 2. He had a leaping interception and a sack in the win over Detroit this past week.

Those kind of plays, and his work as one of the Ravens top special teamers for three years running, will certainly land Levine on the 53-man roster on Saturday.

But as someone who went undrafted out of Tennessee State, then was twice cut by the Packers, and spent most of his six previous training camps on NFL roster bubbles, Levine takes nothing for granted.

"I have been the guy that has been on the bubble my whole career," Levine said earlier this week. "Every year I come in, I have to make the team. This year, I have to come in and make the team. I’m not sitting up here like, ‘Oh, I made the 53-man roster.’ I still have to prove myself every year.

"It is not about what you did last year; it is about what you are going to do this year. Every year, you have to come out and show them that you still have it.”

MORE RAVENS: A healthy Perriman has big play potential