Yankees close to acquiring Vernon Wells from Angels

Yankees close to acquiring Vernon Wells from Angels

The Yankees’ front office sure is getting desperate. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, there are serious trade talks taking place between the Angels and Yankees concerning outfielder Vernon Wells. Passan says the deal could be completed by the end of the day Sunday if Wells signs off on it. Wells has a full no-trade…

NHL schedules Tuesday hearing for Penguins' Kris Letang


NHL schedules Tuesday hearing for Penguins' Kris Letang

PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins and Capitals will learn later today what kind of supplementary discipline the NHL Department of Player Safety will give Penguins defenseman Kris Letang for his open-ice hit on Caps left wing Marcus Johansson in Game 3 Monday night at Consol Energy Center.

Letang has a hearing scheduled on Tuesday and there seems to be a consensus around the NHL that he’ll face a suspension of one or two games.

According to TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie, Letang’s hit was delivered .63 seconds after Johansson passed the puck. The NHL considers a late hit as body contact made at least .60 seconds after a player releases the puck.

By comparison, Brooks Orpik’s late hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maata in Game 2 was delivered more than a second after Maatta possessed the puck. Orpik was given a three-game suspension for the hit. Maatta suffered an upper body injury on the play and may not return for the series against the Caps.

Several Capitals, including captain Alex Ovechkin, said they believe Letang should get the same three-game suspension as Orpik, but many around the league believe Letang is more likely to get one or two games because of the nature of his hit on Johansson and the fact Johansson returned to finish the game.

An NHL source said the Department of Player Safety takes into account a player’s medical records when deciding on the length of suspensions.

Letang is averaging 29:13 of ice time in the playoffs, by far the highest on the Penguins and sixth in the NHL. He ranks second on the Penguins in assists (6), fifth in points (7), third in shots (22) and third in hits (22) during the playoffs.

The Penguins were 2-8-1 without Letang during the regular season. 

"He’s a guy who’s very tough, if not impossible, to replace,” Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said after Monday night’s game.

If Letang is suspended, defenseman Justin Schultz is expected to replace him in the lineup, giving the Pens two defensemen (Derrick Pouliot is the other) with just one game of playoff experience under their belts.

The Penguins may also be without rookie forward Bryan Rust, who left Game 3 with a lower body injury and did not return.

The Penguins lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

McCloughan may use extra 2017 picks to deal for players this year


McCloughan may use extra 2017 picks to deal for players this year

Scot McCloughan raised some eyebrows by executing draft trades that got the Redskins three picks in the 2017 NFL draft. He says he did it in part with the 2017 draft in mind. But he also wanted some trade assets should any needs arise this coming season.

“A lot of people don’t want to do it because it’s not immediate impact,” McCloughan said at a news conference at Redskins Park. “‘Well, that’s next year. What about this year?’ Coaches want this year, which I understand completely. But what it gives me the opportunity to do is not just worry about next year’s draft and trading up and that kind of stuff, but this offseason and during the season trading. We’ve got multiple picks now.”

So if the Redskins find themselves in need of a player at any point between now and the trading deadline, which falls in early November, they have spare picks in the next draft to be able to do so.

The Redskins acquired 2017 picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds. They traded away their own 2017 fifth-rounder last summer for tight end Derek Carrier. They currently have nine 2017 selections, one in each of the seven rounds plus two in the fourth and two in the sixth.

The deal that made some fans moderately unhappy was the one McCloughan made the Jets to give them a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2017. But it’s clear that McCloughan didn’t see much value on his board at that point in time.

“Well, the thing about it was if I was dead set on the guys on the board at that pick, I would have taken them,” said McCloughan. “But knowing I can get a fourth next year for them and knowing that it gives me ammunition to trade around too later if need be this year or next year? Yeah, it’s valuable.”

Alex Ovechkin: Penguins 'Don't like to play physical'


Alex Ovechkin: Penguins 'Don't like to play physical'

PITTSBURGH -- Maybe the Capitals know something the rest of us don’t. Maybe they believe they have the Pittsburgh Penguins right where they want them as they head into Game 4 of their best-of-seven series trailing two games to one.

That’s certainly how it sounded inside the visiting locker room of Consol Energy Center Monday night following the Caps’ 3-2 loss in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series. 

“We played the way we wanted,” Capitals right wing Tom Wilson said. “A couple bad breaks ended up in our net. That’s the way the games go sometimes. I think if we play like that we’re going to give ourselves a chance. If we keep that up, keep working hard, getting pucks in and playing smart and disciplined, they better watch out because that’s a good Caps team (they’re facing).

“… We’re rallying. It almost woke us up a little bit. We haven’t really trailed in a playoff series this year.”

In fact, the Capitals haven’t trailed in a playoff series since Round 1 of last year’s playoffs when they split the first two games at home against the New York Islanders, lost Game 3 on Long Island, and won three of the final four games to clinch the series in seven games. 

“Our Game 3 (Monday night) reminded me a lot of our Game 3 in the Island last year,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It took us a couple games to find our game and when we found our game I thought we were good. I’ve got a little bit of the same feeling. We still have some improvement in our game, but that’s our game.”

What, exactly, does Trotz mean by “our game?”

Let’s start with physicality. 

Led by Alex Ovechkin and (who?) Marcus Johansson – each with nine hits – the Capitals outhit the Penguins 58-25 Monday night, with 17 of their 18 skaters getting into the act. (Justin Williams was the only Capitals skater without a recorded hit).

Through three games of this series, the Capitals have delivered 132 body checks on the Penguins, who have answered with just 75. Now, one reason for that disparity could be the Penguins having more puck possession than the Capitals, but it’s clearly the intent of the Caps to wear down the Penguins and get this series to a sixth and seventh game. 

“We set the tone and we left a message,” said Ovechkin, who has delivered a team-high 21 hits in this series and ranks first in the NHL with 49 playoff hits. 

“You can’t win all four games in a row. You have to fight through it. We left a message (in Game 3), big time. We have to play physical. Not them. Those guys don’t like to play physical. Obviously, their D is not that physical enough. We’re big, we’re strong and we have to use it. I think we dominated the whole game and this is the kind of situation where you battle through it and sooner or later it’s gonna come.”

But the Capitals also must understand they can’t body check pucks into the net. Penguins goaltender Matt Murray has been his team’s best player in all three games of this series, allowing just seven goals on 108 shots. Conversely, Braden Holtby has allowed eight goals on 103 shots.   

Ovechkin said he thought the Caps made better decisions with the puck in Game 3, allowing them to get on the forecheck and get some screens in front of Murray.

“We used the middle (of the ice) a lot,” Ovechkin said. “We had plenty of chances to score. We had like 50 shots (49). You can see if we shoot the puck and one guy stands there it’s a good sign for us. Sometimes you have to fight through it and we did.”

Surprisingly, both teams have struggled on the man-advantage in the series, with the Caps going 1-for-10 and the Penguins going 0-for-10.

If the series can be decided on 5-on-5 play, the Capitals believe they have the advantage, especially if the Penguins are without defenseman Kris Letang for a game or two. 

“In order to win a seven-game series you have to make sure you have that (dominance) every single game,” Holtby said. “Sometimes the pucks aren’t going to go your way. That’s hockey. That’s life in general. We have to come back the next game and have the same effort, the same focus.”

And if they do, the Caps like their chances.

“It’s not always going to be roses and grapes all the time,” said Williams, who netted his first playoff goal for the Capitals late in Game 3. “You’re going to have to battle through bad calls, bad breaks, everything. It’s playoff time. 

“… Excuses are for losers and we’re not losers and we’re going to try and be even better in Game 4 and improve our game.”