TORONTO (AP) — Rookie Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored twice, and the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Saturday night to clinch the Eastern Conference’s top seed through the playoffs.
The Lightning not only dropped the game in completing preliminary round-robin play with a 2-1 record, Tampa Bay’s star defenseman Victor Hedman did not return after appearing to twist his right ankle while going down untouched midway through the first period.
Coach Jon Cooper didn’t have an update on Hedman’s status or how much time he might miss, though acknowledged his potential loss would create a notable hole in the Lightning’s lineup.
“It’s a little frustrating because we feel like we’re going in the right direction and to lose some of the star power we have,” said Cooper, noting the Lightning are also without captain Steven Stamkos and played Saturday minus Hedman’s defensive partner Jan Rutta. “We’ve got to circle the wagons.”
Stamkos has been out since sustaining a lower body injury before the start of training camp last month. Cooper would only list Rutta as being unfit to play.
Joel Farabee had a goal and assist, Tyler Pitlick scored into an empty net with 1:20 left, and Carter Hart stopped 23 shots for the Flyers, who finished 3-0. Philadelphia didn’t allow more than one goal in also defeating Boston and Washington, and out-scored its opponents by a combined 11-3.
The Flyers, who entered round-robin play as the East’s fourth seed, move on to the first round next week and face the 12th-seeded Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal upset Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games of their best-of-five preliminary round series. Philadelphia and Montreal have split their previous six playoff meetings, and the teams meet for the first time since the Flyers defeated the Canadiens in five games of the 2010 East finals.
Tyler Johnson scored for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots. Tampa Bay was coming off a 3-2 win over Boston on Wednesday, and also had a 3-2 shootout win over Washington.
Hedman, a Norris Trophy finalist this year, went down as he spun around to skate backward at the Tampa Bay blue line with Pitlick driving up the right wing. Hedman then got up slowly and broke his stick while heading down the tunnel to the locker room.
“You hate to see any of your teammates have to leave a game. Obviously, we know the significance and the role that Heddy plays on our team,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “It was tough to see but we’ve got to roll with what happens.”
Tampa Bay will enter the first round of the playoffs as the East’s second seed.
The Lightning will face the winner of the best-of-five preliminary round series between eighth-seeded Toronto and ninth-seeded Columbus, which will be determined in Game 5 on Sunday. The Lightning were swept by the Blue Jackets in a first-round meeting last year, and after Tampa Bay won the Presidents’ Trophy. The Lighting and Maple Leafs have never met in the playoffs.
Aube-Kubel, who has seven goals in 45 career NHL games, enjoyed his first career NHL two-goal outing by staking the Flyers to a 2-0 lead by scoring less than seven minutes apart in the first period.
A Lightning turnover in their own zone led to Aube-Kubel standing in front and deflecting in Shayne Gostisbehere’s shot from inside the blue line 7:40 in.
His second goal came on a 2-on-1 break during which he converted Sean Couturier’s pass from the right wing.
“There’s a young man that figured out what it would take for him to play at this level,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said of Aube-Kubel. “He deserves the ice time and he deserves to be playing right now.”
Vigneault also credited Hart for making two clutch saves on Lightning sniper Nikita Kucherov, who got behind the Flyers defense twice in the opening seven minutes
“We bent a little bit. We didn’t break, a lot of it thanks to Carter,” Vigeneault said.
Farabee then sealed the victory by one-timing in Gostisbehere’s pass into the right circle to put the Flyers ahead 3-1 with 5:38 left in the second period, and 10 minutes after Johnson scored a power-play goal.
Gostisbehere had a two-point outing in making his playoff debut after sitting out the first two games
NOTES: Flyers RW Jakub Voracek did not play for an undisclosed reason. He had an assist in two games. … Lightning made one rosrter change from Game 2, with D Zach Bogosian returning to the lineup and D Jan Rutta scratched. … Vasilevskiy appeared in his 36th career playoff game, tying Ben Bishop for the most in team history. Bishop started all 36 appearances, while Vasilevskiy ranks third with 31 starts, two behind Nikolai Khabibulin.
Flyers: Face Montreal in first round of playoffs.
Lightning: Face Columbus or Toronto in first round of playoffs next week.
XFL: Orlando Guardians Sign Former NFL QB Paxton Lynch
ORLANDO (FNN SPORTS) – Source: Orlando Guardians // The XFL announced today that quarterback Paxton Lynch has signed with the Orlando Guardians.
Lynch, 28, joins the XFL after playing for the USFL in 2022, playing six games. Lynch was a first-round selection of the Denver Broncos in the 2016 NFL Draft, spending two seasons with the club. He also has experience with the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL and the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL.
Lynch was a three-year starter at the University of Memphis, where he ranks No. 3 all-time in pass completions (758) and passing yards (8,863), No. 4 in touchdowns responsible for (76) and touchdown passes (59). He holds the school record for single-season completion percentage (.668/2015) and ranks No. 3 on the Tigers’ single-season passing yards list (3,776/2015). He earned a bachelor’s degree from Memphis in May of 2016.
Lynch is a native of Deltona, Fla. and a graduate of Trinity Christian Academy.
LeBron, Giannis chosen as captains for NBA All-Star Game
LeBron James is closing in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA career scoring record. And now, he has caught Abdul-Jabbar on another page of the All-Star record book.
James was announced Thursday as an NBA All-Star for the 19th time, the Los Angeles Lakers’ star tying Abdul-Jabbar for the most selections in league history. James — the leading overall vote-getter — will be the captain of one of the teams for the Feb. 19 All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, while Eastern Conference voting leader Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks will captain the other side.
This is the sixth year the NBA has used the captain format for the All-Star Game; James has been a captain every time and has never lost, taking a 5-0 record into this year. Antetokounmpo is a captain for the third time, after also earning that right in 2019 and 2020.
James and Antetokounmpo will pick their teams shortly before the game in Salt Lake City, a newly announced twist and a departure from past years in which the captains picked a week or two in advance of All-Star weekend.
The other eight starters they’ll be choosing from, barring any changes because of injury beforehand, are: Denver’s two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, NBA scoring leader Luka Doncic of Dallas, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Brooklyn teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell and New Orleans’ Zion Williamson.
“I’m definitely blessed and humbled to be a part of this,” Mitchell said during the televised starters’ announcement on TNT. “To be a part of my fourth All-Star and now to be a starter, I couldn’t be happier.”
The big intrigue was the third East frontcourt spot, where Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid — No. 2 in the NBA’s scoring race entering Thursday at 33.4 points per game — was the odd man out after Antetokounmpo, Durant and Tatum were the top three in the balloting.
Starters — three frontcourt players and two guards from each conference — were selected by a combination of three different votes: fan balloting counted for 50%, media balloting was worth 25% and voting by the NBA’s players made up the final 25%.
The reserves, which are chosen by votes from the league’s coaches, will be announced Feb. 2. Among the players certain to merit strong consideration: Portland’s Damian Lillard, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Boston’s Jaylen Brown and Miami’s Bam Adebayo.
James is 157 points away from Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring total of 38,387 points. At his current average of 29.9 points per game, James will need just over five games to break the record – and, if he doesn’t miss any games in the interim, would be on pace to pass Abdul-Jabbar in a Feb. 7 home game against Oklahoma City.
And that means the All-Star weekend, if James passes the record beforehand, could be a celebration of his breaking a record that Abdul-Jabbar has held for nearly 40 years.
“Calculating out when it might happen, it seems at this point it’s likely to happen before our All-Star break,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last week in Paris. “If it were to happen before our All-Star break, it seems like the All-Star Game this year, which is in Salt Lake City, may be the perfect opportunity to honor him.”
James is now tied with Abdul-Jabbar for most All-Star selections, and if James plays in Salt Lake City he will become the first player in NBA history to actually appear in 19 All-Star games. Abdul-Jabbar was selected to the 1973 game but did not play.
That’ll be just another entry on a long list of All-Star records for James. He’s the first player to be selected to 19 consecutive All-Star games — until Thursday, he shared that record with 18-time-selection Kobe Bryant, the Lakers legend who died Jan. 26, 2020, exactly three years to the date from Thursday.
If he actually starts, it’ll be James’ 19th time doing so, four more anyone else in league history; Bryant made 15 starts. The 19 starts in a row extends another All-Star record; Bob Cousy has the second-longest such streak, having started 13 straight.
James also is the career All-Star leader in minutes, points, field goals made and field goals attempted.
Quinn returning to lead defense as Cowboys shuffle coaches
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — A shuffling of the coaching staff for the Dallas Cowboys won’t include defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is returning after another year of receiving interest from teams seeking head coaches.
Coach Mike McCarthy said the club’s decision not to renew the contracts of six members of his staff, including one with deep ties to him in Green Bay, hasn’t affected his relationship with owner/general manager Jerry Jones or the rest of the Dallas front office.
The Cowboys, who finished 13-6, reached the playoffs for a second consecutive season and won a road game in the postseason for the first time in 30 years.
Still, Dallas’ divisional-round losing streak reached seven games, the longest since the 1970 merger, with a 19-12 loss at San Francisco. The Cowboys haven’t advanced to an NFC championship game since the last of the franchise’s five Super Bowl titles to cap the 1995 season.
“As far as my relationship with Jerry, just using his words, we’re in an excellent spot,” McCarthy said Thursday, a few hours after the club’s announcement on the coaches who aren’t returning.
“The partnership that we have, he’s excited about. He told me a number of times this week that he wants me to coach here as long as coach (Tom) Landry did. And I said, ‘OK, that’s a long time.’”
Jones’ first act as owner in 1989 was firing Landry, coach of the Cowboys for the franchise’s first 29 seasons. There’s been chatter about McCarthy’s job security since a losing debut in the pandemic-altered 2020 season.
Jones said the loss to the 49ers didn’t change his outlook with McCarthy, who has always shrugged off talk to the contrary.
“I get to talk to Jerry a lot,” McCarthy said. “So I’ve never, I’ve never felt that. The narrative was externally generated.”
Quinn, who interviewed with Denver, Arizona and Indianapolis, told McCarthy on Thursday he would be back for a third season with the Cowboys. Quinn, who led Atlanta to a Super Bowl as coach, made the same decision after interviewing for jobs last year.
Dallas was the first team since the “Steel Curtain” era of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1972-74 to lead the NFL in takeaways in consecutive years.
“This is big for us,” McCarthy said. “Gives us continuity with what we accomplished the last two years and build off of that. And just frankly on a personal note, I can’t tell you how thankful I am.”
The future of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore seems less certain. Moore interviewed for the head coaching job with the Panthers, who hired Frank Reich on Thursday.
McCarthy wouldn’t answer a question about whether Moore would be the play-caller in 2023 if he weren’t hired as a head coach elsewhere.
The mostly productive Dallas offense sputtered in each of the playoff losses the past two seasons.
“I really don’t want to play this game today,” McCarthy said. “Kellen Moore, just like the rest of the coaches, will be evaluated. The evaluation, it takes more than one day.”
The coaches who won’t be back include assistant head coach Rob Davis, who spent 10 seasons on McCarthy’s Green Bay staff after finishing his career as the Packers’ long snapper, and senior defensive assistant George Edwards.
The others are offensive line coach and former Miami head coach Joe Philbin, running backs coach Skip Peete, assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett and quality control analyst Kyle Valero.
Edwards was a senior defensive assistant who took a leading role with the linebackers and was praised on Twitter by two-time All-Pro pass rusher Micah Parsons.
Edwards joined the Cowboys when McCarthy was hired in 2020, as did Philbin and Peete. It was Peete’s second stint as Dallas’ running backs coach.
Lett, a two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman who played on all three Super Bowl-winning Dallas teams in the 1990s, just finished his 12th season on the staff. Valero had been with the Cowboys since 2014.
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