Mystics head west to face Beard, Sparks

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Mystics head west to face Beard, Sparks

I dont have an explanation for it except that people werent ready to play and that is unacceptable and inexcusable.What Im going to do is find the five people that want to play together, that want to play defense and want to play (with) energy for the entire game.That is what Mystics coach Trudi Lacey had to say following the June 8 loss to New York, at the time Washingtons fourth straight setback. It also marked another game the revamped roster opened with a less than full-throated effort and in turn fell behind by more than 20 points in the first half.With a week to prepare before facing Indiana on Friday and Lacey staying true to her lineup shakeup pledge, Washington may have found the right mix at least the result for one night said as much. They stayed in contact early and made enough plays late for a 67-66 home win over the Fever."We have felt like this has been coming for a long time, Lacey said following the Mystics second win of the season. As I try to explain that when you have so many fresh faces to the offense the chemistry takes some time, our defense has been pretty solid. It was a total team effort.Now, starting Monday night in what is a de-facto reunion Los Angeles against Alana Beard, Washingtons all-time leading scorer, Lacey will see if the lessons learned travel as the Mystics (2-5) start a three-game road trip. Dating back to last year and including two games this season, the Mystics have dropped 11 straight away from the Verizon Center.Crystal Langhorne heads west with a streak of three straight games of 20 or more points. That level of production from the All-Star forward is baked into the Mystics winning formula recipe. Its the other ingredients enhancing her post presence that changed the taste from bitter to winning.Assertive wing guard Matee Ajavon, making her first start of the season along in the new-look backcourt with fellow newbie start Jasmine Thomas, scored 15 points, shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range. In the opening lineup for a second straight game, center Michelle Snow, one of the man y newly acquired players added this off-season, pulled down 12 rebounds. Simply new altogether, 5-foot-2 guard Shannon Bobbitt, signed as a free agent on Wednesday, finished with eight points and five assists n 19 minutes of play on Friday.
Well, she maybe the smallest player on the court but shes the toughest player on the court.The Mystics will need some toughness against the Sparks (7-3), winners of all four of their home games this season, but entering Monday on a two-game losing skid.Los Angeles defense has sparked those home wins as opponents are scoring just 68.7 points per game. Offensively, Candice Parker leads the Sparks in scoring with 19.4 points and Kristi Tolliver, Langhornes former teammate at the University of Maryland, averages 16.2 points.The current Mystics will also have to contend with all the ex-Mystics now playing on the left coast starting with Beard. After missing two seasons with injuries, the 30-year-old guard is averaging 9.8 points and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. DeLisha Milton-Jones, Marissa Coleman and Coco Miller are also part of the Sparks rotation. No matter the players, the two sides have been even over the years. The Mystics and Sparks have split their last seven season series.

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Possible needs and targets for the Caps at the trade deadline

Possible needs and targets for the Caps at the trade deadline

The NHL trade deadline is on Wednesday which means if general manager Brian MacLellan wants to bolster the roster, he needs to do it now.

But what do the Caps need? Let’s take a position by position look.

Goalie

Possible need: Third goalie

The Caps arguably have the best goalie tandem in the NHL with defending Vezina winner Braden Holtby and future NHL starter Philipp Grubauer. Both have registered phenomenal numbers over the season. There’s nothing to add in terms of the team’s top two. After them, however, the team is a bit thin. Joe Cannata was signed in the offseason to be the team’s third option if needed, but he has struggled in the AHL this season with a 3.22 GAA and putrid .876 save percentage. Prospect Vitek Vanecek has cooled considerably after a hot start with a 2.69 GAA and .905 save percentage. Both goalies have struggled considerably of late and neither instills much confidence. Granted, this is not a huge concern considering the chances of needing to play your third goalie in the playoffs are remote, but it’s not unheard of. Jeff Zatkoff had to start for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round last season with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray both out.

Now let’s be clear about what we’re talking about here. This doesn't mean the Caps will be looking to make a deal for Ryan Miller or Marc-Andre Fleury. The team needs a goalie who doesn’t mind playing in the AHL because they are unlikely to use him and who the team would still be confident in serving as a backup in the playoffs just in case of injury to one of the top two guys.

Possible targets: Linus Ullmark (Buffalo Sabres), Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey Devils), Jeff Zatkoff (Los Angeles Kings), Andrew Hammond (Ottawa Senators), Jhonas Enroth (Anaheim Ducks)

RELATED: Capitals welcome back trio of injured players

Defense

Possible need: Right-shooting defenseman

The most glaring need for the Capitals team comes on the blue line where they have only two-right shooting defensemen in Matt Niskanen and John Carlson. Washington leads the NHL in goals against per game, so it hasn’t hurt them yet, but there are two reasons why MacLellan would consider an upgrade for the defense. First is depth. If either Niskanen or Carlson goes down, the Caps are in trouble. Second, a playoff series allows for opposing coaches to exploit a third pair with two left-shot defensemen in a way the regular season does not. When a coach has to focus on one team for a best of seven series, he can find and exploit those weaknesses more effectively than in the regular season when teams face only once then move on to the next opponent. If the third pair is a weakness for the Caps, we’ll see it in the playoffs. MacLellan has already brought in Tom Gilbert as a depth move, but they can bring balance to the defensive pairings with another right-shot defenseman they can plug into the lineup.

The problem is that a top-six defenseman comes with a price tag both in terms of salary cap and the cost to get him. Do the Caps have enough cap space to add another defenseman and is MacLellan willing to trade assets to acquire a player like that? If you’re worried about chemistry, this is a bad move because it would change the team’s D-pairing and probably cost them a player in a trade package.

Possible targets: Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues), Luke Schenn (Arizona Coyotes), Paul Postma (Winnipeg Jets)

Offense

Possible need: Scoring depth

There may be no offensive lineup as deep as Washington’s when healthy, but what happens when someone gets nicked up in the playoffs? The plan appears to be to carry Jakub Vrana and Zach Sanford as extras for the postseason which means if there’s any injury on offense, the team will be turning to a rookie. That’s a gamble.

What type of offensive player would the Caps target? Washington currently ranks second in the NHL in goals per game so there’s no point in adding a top six player. The price tag would be too high and it would mean a major shakeup of the lines. Instead, the target would be a bottom-six caliber player who can produce and can be relied upon in the postseason. In my mind, that does not include a 39-year-old Jarome Iginla or a 40-year-old Shane Doan.

Possible targets: Brian Boyle (Tampa Bay Lightning)

MORE CAPITALS: Power Rankings: Trade season

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With receiver group in flux, might Redskins make run at Alshon Jeffery?

With receiver group in flux, might Redskins make run at Alshon Jeffery?

It seems likely the Redskins stand to lose one or both of receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon in free agency. That could mean more than 2,000 yards receiving exiting the offense, a significant blow.

Could Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery come to Washington and cushion the blow?

Multiple reports say that Chicago will not put the franchise tag on Jeffery, which means the 6-foot-4 receiver will hit the open market when free agency opens in a little more than a week. Coming off consectuive injury-marred seasons, still expect the market to be ripe for the former South Carolina star.

A five-year veteran that will turn 28 in August, Jeffery posted more than 2,500 receiving yards in the 2013 and 2014 seasons to go with 17 touchdowns. An extremely gifted red zone receiver, Jeffery is one of the best in the league at high-pointing the football and coming down with circus catches. His last two seasons, however, the Bears wideout only played in 21 of 32 games and his numbers dipped dramatically: just over 1,600 yards and six TDs combined.

Though Washington will likely lose at least one of Garçon or Jackson, and very possibly both, that does not necessarily make Jeffery a prime target. 

Expect cost to be a major factor as the Chicago receiver will likely command the top free agent payout at the position. And his recent injury history could be a factor as well. 

Further, the Redskins must believe they have a No. 1 receiver already in house in Josh Doctson. The No. 22 overall pick in 2016, Doctson hardly played as a rookie due to an Achilles injury but appears to be progressing well in his rehab. At 6-foot-2 and extremely athletic, Doctson was drafted to be a prime red zone target with the ability to go up and get TDs.

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