Hurricanes Announce 2017 Exhibition Schedule

The National Hockey League‘s Carolina Hurricanes today announced the team’s 2017 exhibition schedule. Carolina will play seven exhibition games prior to opening the 2017-18 regular season, including two games at PNC Arena. Ticket onsale information will be announced in the near future.

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The Hurricanes will open their 2017 preseason schedule at Buffalo on Sept. 18. The following night, Carolina will square off against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena in Tampa before returning to Raleigh to host the Lightning at PNC Arena on Sept. 20. After a road game at Washington on Sept. 23, the Hurricanes travel to Edmonton to open a two-game set against the Oilers. The first game will be at the Oilers’ home arena, Rogers Place, on Sept. 25, while the second will be a neutral site game between the clubs at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Sask. Carolina wraps up its exhibition schedule with a home game against the Capitals on Sept. 29.

Andreychuk’s Hockey Hall of Fame credentials are lengthy and significant. He’s the National Hockey League all-time leader for career power-play goals with 274 during his 23 seasons. He’s the league’s 14th-leading goal scorer with 640 tallies.

On the NHL’s scoring list, Andreychuk is tied with Denis Savard for 29th place (1,338 points). And his 1,639 games played are seventh-most in league history.

“It didn’t matter to me whether (the wait to enter the Hall) was one year or 10 years, I don’t think it really matters,” Andreychuk said. “The numbers and what I had done, there’s not much you can do but sit and wait. You think about this day that’s going to happen, you think you’re prepared for it and you’re really not…I’m extremely happy for everybody that’s around me, my inner circle that have been with me through thick and thin. It’s going to be a great weekend with all the fellow inductees.”

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Andreychuk is no stranger to waiting in hockey. It was 22 seasons before he finally got the lift the Stanley Cup as captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, that signature moment of Andreychuk lifting the Cup over his hiad immortalized by a bronze statue that greets Bolts fans entering Ford Thunder Alley on their way to AMALIE Arena.

Now, fans will pass the statues of two Hockey Hall of Famers before Lightning games: Andreychuk and Lightning founder Phil Esposito.

“When you wait that long, you understand the value and how hard it is to achieve,” Andreychuk said. “I guess that’s kind of the same thing here. I look back on my career and you think about, nobody starts their career thinking they’re going to be a Hall of Famer. You just want to stay in the league. You just want to help your team win. After it’s all done and you look at your numbers and you think that maybe there’s a chance and people start to talk about it, but at the same time, it’s really out of your hands. I’m thankful this day came along for me, for my family.”

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A former first round pick (16th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres at the 1982 NHL Draft, Andreychuk played the majority of his career in Buffalo with stops in Toronto, New Jersey, Boston and Colorado before finishing his career with Tampa Bay. Andreychuk played four seasons for the Lightning, was captain for the final three of those, and accumulated 68 goals and 61 assists in 278 regular season games for the Bolts.

In a press conference on Thursday afternoon inside AMALIE Arena’s Firestick Grill, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, formally addressed the prestegious event, which will be held Jan. 26 through 28 in Tampa.

It will be the second time in franchise history the Lightning has hosted the All-Star Game, and first since 1999 when AMALIE Arena was known as the Ice Palace.

Here is a look at Thursday’s event through the lens of Lightning photographer Scott Audette.

Tony Romo to Broncos tops offseason fantasy wish list

The NFL offseason is about to get very interesting.

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From the start of free agency and the trade period (March 9) to the NFL Draft (April 27-29), we’re about to see a lot of players signed, released and drafted. That also means a whole lot of speculation on where some of the best free agents and rookies will land in the weeks and months to come. Far be it from me not to join in on the banter with a bunch of my own predictions and prognostications as they pertain to the wonderful world of fantasy football, so here are 20 potential scenarios that would benefit fantasy fans ahead of the 2017 NFL season.

Some of them are wishful thinking, some are just out of this world and highly unlikely to happen (but would be fun), and others might just actually come to fruition.

Phillips ended up coaching Ware for half of his 12 NFL seasons.

“Sometimes it’s a sad day when a player retires,” Phillips said Monday on Up to the Minute Live, “but it’s really kind of a happy day when you get to reflect on all the wonderful times you had together with him and all the great accomplishments that DeMarcus had in his career.”

Asked what separated Ware from other premier pass rushers, Phillips cited his “tremendous” talent level.

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Nike Broncos #72 Garett Bolles Orange Team Color Men's Stitched NFL New Elite Jersey“He had Hall of Fame ability, but he utilized it,” Phillips relayed. “The year he had 20.5 sacks, we still kid him about it … I think he missed the quarterback like five times. He almost set the record that year, he had a tremendous year. Every year he’s played, he’s been a difference-maker.”

When the two reunited with the Broncos, Ware captained the defense to the extent that Peyton Manning led the offense.

“Of course I was lucky enough to have him twice,” Phillips explained. “I know what he’s all about — his leadership and everybody talks about Peyton Manning, which is certainly true of being a great leader, but DeMarcus was a great leader on defense.

“I think if it wouldn’t have been for Von (Miller), he probably would have been the MVP of the Super Bowl. Plus, he’s a tremendous person. When I say leader, I’m talking about an example of doing all the right things the right way. In practice, in meetings, just all the time. You can’t put a value on that, but it was a certainly a difference in our team.”

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Butkus Award winner and former Crimson Tide LB Reuben Foster was in Philadelphia on Wednesday to visit the Eagles, according to NJ Advance Media, one of three Alabama defenders to do so this week alone. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos are hosting one of the NFL draft’s top running backs in Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon on Thursday, per ESPN.

Foster is considered a first-round talent, and the Eagles’ top draft choice comes at No. 14 overall. Mock drafts from five NFL.com analysts suggested a wide range of possible landing points for Foster, as high as No. 9 overall and as low as No. 27 overall. He is the third prospect on Alabama’s stellar defense to visit the Eagles. CB Marlon Humphrey was set to visit the club earlier this week, as was LB Ryan Anderson.

The Broncos hold the No. 20 overall pick, but it’s unlikely they’ll need their first-round choice to acquire Mixon. He was barred from the NFL Scouting Combine under an NFL conduct policy, and a 2014 incident in which he punched a female OU student has made him undraftable for some clubs, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. As such, despite being considered one of the draft’s top rushing talents, his draft status remains a blurry picture.

Mixon has already visited the Cincinnati Bengals.

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John Harbaugh: Steve Smith welcome back for 2017

Watching Steve Smith haul in his 1,000th career catch on Sunday, it’s natural to wonder if the ageless wide receiver might consider delaying retirement for a second straight year.

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Still playing at a high level at age 37, Smith filled a highlight reel with a beautiful, toe-dragging sideline grab, several mad dashes after the catch and a tight-window touchdown reception versus the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11.

Along with perennial Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, Smith has been Baltimore’s most valuable offensive player this year. The Ravens are 5-2 in seven games he has started and finished — and winless in the two games he missed with an ankle injury and cheap jerseys.

Coach John Harbaugh conceded Monday that the thought of luring Smith back to Baltimore for a 17th NFL season has “crossed my mind, of course.”

“If he wants to come back, he’s welcome. Absolutely,” Harbaugh continued. “You like every good football player you can get. But I don’t want to speak for Steve. He’s had an unbelievably awesome career.”

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Harbaugh isn’t alone in delivering that message. Fellow wideout Mike Wallace revealed that he pitched the idea of another season or two after Smith celebrated his career milestone on Sunday.

Although Wallace noted that Smith is a “special player and a special person with wholesale jerseys,” he acknowledged that the former Carolina Panthers star will “probably” retire.

“But if anybody can keep playing, it’s him,” Wallace added.

Smith is now eighth all-time in receiving yards (14,448) and 13th in receptions (1,005). Anyone who has witnessed his game-wrecking ability year-in and year-out for the past two decades understands his ticket is already punched for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Ravens quarterback returned to practice on Friday after sitting out sessions all week and was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report. Flacco has been dealing with a right shoulder injury he sustained in Sunday’s loss to the Giants.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters it was “encouraging” to see Flacco at practice, but wouldn’t speculate if the quarterback would be a game-time decision for Sunday.

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Flacco’s presence at Friday’s practice reinforces his claim earlier in the week that the shoulder ailment was “nothing to worry about”.

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Let’s be fair: If J.J. Watt released a statement like this, he’d get destroyed by every sports blog in existence. Suggs deserves similar ribbing for this strange bravado, as do the Ravens for calling attention to it like it was Al Pacino speech in Any Given Sunday or something. “This may be a season-ending injury for someone else, but it’s not season-ending for a Raven jersey”? Wha?

This might be a call-back to Ravens great Ray Lewis playing through his final season — one that ended with a Super Bowl win over the 49ers — with torn triceps, which, I guess, is in the biceps territory of the upper arm. That said, you can safely assume multiple guys play through similar injuries every season. I’m pretty sure the Ravens haven’t cornered the market on grit.

And what’s this “I come from an era” stuff? Suggs was born in 1982. He began his career in 2003. When we think of the “When Men Were Men” bromide, do we really conjure up memories about the mid-aughts of the NFL?

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Shouldn’t it be lose tolerance? Oh forget it.

Braves sign former NFL player to Minor League deal

Sanders Commings has played defensive back for the University of Georgia and the Kansas City Chiefs since last playing baseball. But the Braves were intrigued enough by his athleticism to sign him to a Minor League deal.

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“We feel this is a tremendous athlete and an even better person,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “Our mantra has always been to leave no stone unturned. What’s the downside here?”

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Commings has not played baseball since his success at Westlake High School, located in Augusta, Ga., led the D-backs to select him in the 37th round of the 2008 MLB Draft.

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The 26-year-old athlete’s decision to begin playing the sport again after a long layoff mirrors the one recently made by Tim Tebow, who was pursued by the Braves before he signed a Minor League deal with the Mets in September.

After being selected by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Commings played just two games. He fractured his collarbone during his rookie season and then broke his right ankle during training camp in 2014. He was waived by the Chiefs before the start of the 2015 season.

While training for the NFL Combine, Commings developed a friendship with longtime Major Leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr. As the two were playing pickup basketball during this past offseason, Commings expressed his interest in attempting to play professional baseball with MLB jerseys.

Hairston invited Commings to the batting cage at his home and spent the past few months working with the former defensive back.
“He’s strong, he’s got pop, he’s just a tremendous athlete — you just don’t find that,” Hairston told MLB.com‘s Jesse Sanchez earlier this month. “You never know how a guy will react in Double-A or Triple-A. But he is worth the gamble, I can tell you that about cheap soccer jerseys.”

Hairston opined Commings has the athleticism necessary to play center field.

“I’m out there having a great time with a new team,” Brinson said. “Just trying to come back and do it right, just kind of show them what they missed out on. I wanted to go deep, but three hits will work better with china jerseys. It was fun seeing all those guys again, seeing the old faces. Having a good game makes it even sweeter.”

Brewers right-hander Junior Guerra jersey, who was the club’s PItcher of the Year in 2016, made his first start of the spring and pitched a scoreless inning. Guerra gave up a one-out double in the first to Shin-Soo Choo but struck out Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli.

Royals #25 Kendrys Morales White New Cool Base 2015 World Series Champions Gold Program Stitched MLB JerseyRangers knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa made his first start and pitched two scoreless despite allowing five baserunners. Brinson led off the game with a double and Gamboa picked him off second. Gamboa also got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second by striking out Michael Reed and getting Ivan DeJesus to fly out.

“It has been awhile, it was fun to get my feet wet and get back out there,” Gamboa said. “It’s competing, when you get between the lines, you’ve got to strap it on and get after it.”

“Everything here, it’s like, how could you not want to come see this?” Blyleven said. “From the virtual reality to watching the IMAX to going back in time to see how the game evolved. This is a traveling exhibition of baseball. It’s beautiful.”

New to the Hall of Fame Tour this year is MLBAM’s state-of-the-art virtual reality video game, “Home Run Derby.” Released in December 2016, the VR game is the first of its kind developed by any professional sports league, and allows fans to compete in a Major League Home Run Derby within the unparalleled 3D environment of one of eight iconic ballparks.

In addition, those attending the Hall of Fame Tour will have access to up-close and personal VR experiences from the 2016 postseason. Fans will be able to relive the dramatic highlights from the Wild Card Games all the way through the final out of the Cubs’ historic World Series win — and even the championship parade through Chicago.

Special interactive sessions with prominent figures in baseball and entertainment, including Hall of Famers, are also on tap for the 2017 Hall of Fame Tour. For one hour, a limited number of visitors can participate in a Town Hall-style conversation with dignitaries, who will be announced at a later date.

Manuel inducted into Philly Sports Hall of Fame

Charlie Manuel had a flashback or two late Wednesday night as rain started to fall during Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

It looked a little like Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.

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That game between the Phillies and Rays had to be postponed. The series resumed two days later and the Phillies won, making Manuel one of just two managers in Phillies history to win a World Series. His success during arguably the greatest era in franchise history is why he was inducted Thursday night into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

The Phillies hope to return to the World Series in the near future, although they will need some of their young talents to live up to their potential to make it happen. Manuel, who is a senior advisor to general manager Matt Klentak, shared a few thoughts on some of the Phillies’ top young players before his induction ceremony at Hilton City Avenue.

“I’ll say definitely, within the next two or three years, we’ve got a chance to have a real good hitting ballclub in the Major Leagues,” Manuel said. “And not only that, we’re going to have guys that are talented enough to play defense, run the bases and all of those things.”

Manuel looks at third baseman Maikel Franco and sees a hitter that should have 100-plus RBIs at the end of the season. Franco, 24, hit .255 with 25 home runs, 88 RBIs and a .733 OPS in his first full big league campaign.

“I think Matt [Stairs] is going to help him,” Manuel said about the Phillies’ new hitting coach. “I think when [Franco] gets going and hitting real good and feeling real good, he gets caught up in it. I’d see Jim Thome smoking balls in BP out of the yard. I told him, ‘Hey, Thome, don’t be doing that, man. Hit the ball low. Hit it through the fence.’ Because he’d get in the game, overswing and strike out four times.

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Kendrick hit .255 with eight home runs, 40 RBIs and a .691 OPS last season. He posted a combined .758 OPS the previous five seasons with the Angels and Dodgers, which was 14 percent above league average. The Phils believe Kendrick can return to prior form with regular playing time, something he lacked this season with the Dodgers.

“We believe Howie Kendrick is definitely a candidate to have a bounceback year,” Klentak said. “A lot of the underlying more advanced statistics would suggest he got a bit unlucky last year.”

Kendrick had a .301 BABIP last season, compared to a .342 BABIP in 2015, .347 in ’14 and .340 in ’13.

Kendrick was attractive to the Phillies, not only because they believe he can provide a much needed veteran presence in the lineup and clubhouse, but because he can play multiple positions and because he is in the final year of a two-year, $20 million contract. He will make $10 million next season.

Kendrick’s ability to play multiple positions is important because the Phils plan to place several players on the 40-man roster in advance of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Some of those players might not reach the big leagues next year, which means the team will have less flexibility with its 25-man roster. Having an everyday player like Kendrick who can play multiple positions could come in handy.

“That’s something — just in terms of general roster management — that is going to be very important to our China jerseys this year,” Klentak said. “The versatility that the [trade] brings to our team is a huge benefit.”

But could Kendrick also be insurance if they trade Cesar Hernandez jersey?

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“We are not looking to trade Cesar Hernandez,” Klentak said.

Men's Pittsburgh Pirates Nike Gray Cooperstown Collection Hybrid Pullover Hoodie“In this market, he’s probably the foremost young, under-30 pitcher on the market,” Boras told reporters. “He had a 3.70 ERA in Philadelphia, which in case you didn’t know is a little bit of an offensive ballpark. He’s done very, very well. He’s got a fresh arm. He has the highest spin rate on his breaking ball. He has a lot of components that tell you why he’s successful — command, changeup, breaking ball — that are creating a lot of interest for a lot of teams.

“Then in a marketplace where MLB jerseys of the free-agent market is very short on starting pitching, it’s really advantageous for him.”

Hellickson, 29, is expected to reject the Phillies’ offer. He said in September he prefers a multi-year contract and he will likely get one. Hellickson is one of the top pitchers available in a weak starting-pitching market. He went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA, a career-high 32 starts and a career-high-tying 189 innings.

If Hellickson rejects the Phillies’ offer, any team that signs him will lose its highest unprotected Draft pick. That could be an issue if teams question Hellickson’s health or ability to replicate his 2016 success over several seasons. He posted a combined 4.86 ERA in 72 games (71 starts) with the Rays and D-backs from 2013-15.

“A qualifying offer is a good thing and a bad thing,” Boras said. “Maybe the only good thing about it is you’re identified as one of the special talents in the free-agent market. In the pitching market, there aren’t many starting pitchers that achieve that, that are in that realm.”

Tom Brady’s drama-filled season always pointed to Super Bowl LI

Since the first week of the season, it has seemed inevitable that it would end this way, with Tom Brady jersey in his seventh Super Bowl and two years of drama finally winding down to one final scene.

From the moment the New England Patriots beat the Arizona Cardinals in the one game they seemed most likely to lose without Brady — on the road, in prime time, in the first start of Jimmy Garoppolo’s career — the trajectory of the Patriots’ season was set. That first month certified Bill Belichick’s ability to adapt to his circumstances, without Brady and then, incredibly, without Garoppolo, too, shutting out the Houston Texans jerseys with rookie third-stringer Jacoby Brissett under center. But everything after — the 13-1 record since Brady came off his suspension, the nearly flawless regular-season statistics, the relentlessness of the Patriots’ offense even after Rob Gronkowski jersey was hurt — was testament to Brady’s own ability to compartmentalize and carry on.

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“The team was 3-1 at that point, so I didn’t want to screw it up,” Brady said this week. “The team was playing great. I just wanted to come in and do my job as best I could. I always try to be the same person and the same leader for our team. I’ve really tried to show up every day and work as hard as I can. That didn’t change in October. That won’t change tomorrow. That won’t change next season.”

But there were subtle changes this year, a barely perceptible frisson of tension that was never far from the smooth surface of Brady’s public persona. He avoided questions about whether this season was about avenging the suspension, but he also never definitively said he was over it. Instead, he said in one recent appearance that perhaps he would share his feelings about Commissioner Roger Goodell after the season was over.

The Patriots seemed unusually relaxed and loose this week, and owner Robert Kraft jersey, who has been the most outspoken about his ire over Brady’s suspension, spoke of it being such a privilege to play in the Super Bowl that he wanted the players to relish and enjoy it. And then, earlier this week, it was revealed just how much was weighing on Brady all this time, and his carefully controlled emotions came ever so slightly loose. He choked up while saying his father is his hero, and not long after came a report by CSN New England that Brady’s mother had been having health issues for more than a year and had been unable to attend a game all season.

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In truth, it always has seemed overly simplistic to think that Brady’s superlative performance this season was solely the product of the sting of scorn. Brady uses slights to drive himself like many athletes do — that he was a sixth-round draft pick is fuel that will help propel him all the way to eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame — but the suggestion that his suspension was responsible seemed somehow to shortchange everything else about Brady’s extraordinary effort, from his minutely controlled diet to his exacting demands of his teammates.

At 39, he is playing with the precision of his 10-years-younger self. His 67.4 completion percentage is second-best of his career (he completed 68.9 percent in 2007), and his interception rate of 0.5 percent is the lowest of his career. He can still throw a deep ball and slide from pressure in the pocket. Is Brady still angry at the NFL about his suspension? Probably, and perhaps he always will be. Is that why he is as sharp now as when he was 25? Only if you include the fact that one less month of physical battering in September — replaced by games of catch with college players and an Italian vacation with his wife — might mean his body feels fresher this late in the NFL year than it has in any of his previous seasons.

Still, listen closely to Brady in recent days and it is clear that a quest for respect is ongoing.

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“At different parts, I looked at a lot of the guys that I’ve played with over the years, and there was a time when the Patriots weren’t a very good team, and no one gave us a lot of respect,” Brady said. “Teammates like Rodney Harrison jersey, that always said, ‘They don’t respect us! They don’t respect us!’ I think that was always a good metric for us. I think feeling that way and feeling like you need to earn other people’s respect is a great source of motivation for me. I think my main motivation is representing my family, representing my team, representing my teammates, representing our fans. That gets me motivated every week. I want to do great for them. I want to try to go out and win every time we take the field.”

He and the Patriots have done nearly that again. This would seem to be another legacy-defining moment for them, and to reach it, they will have to outduel an offense even more explosive than their own and overcome a fast, young defense. Brady grew up idolizing Joe Montana, and if Brady completes the oddest season of his career with a victory Sunday, he will move ahead of Montana with five Super Bowl championships. Wherever the suspension will be noted on his résumé — and whatever impetus it has provided for this season — it will be overwhelmed by all of those championships.

Tony Dungy once said Peyton Manning jersey had dominated his era like no one except maybe Otto Graham, who played 10 seasons of professional football and took his team to the championship game each season, winning seven of them.

But that was before Brady reached his most recent three Super Bowls, before he won his fourth championship. Before it became clear that a season blemished by suspension might very well culminate in celebration.