The NFC Championship game features two Hall of Fame quarterbacks at different stages of their career, but there's massive intrigue outside of this QB showdown, too.
The Winnipeg Jets got the better of the Ottawa Senators for a third consecutive game, capping off an eventful day for the franchise. Paul Stastny, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler each had three-point nights in a 6-3 Winnipeg Jets win over the Ottawa Senators at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg late Saturday night. Stastny and Scheifele scored a goal and added two assists in the Jets' win (4-1-0), their third consecutive victory over the Senators (1-3-1). Winnipeg also beat Ottawa last Tuesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, Wheeler had three assists. The victory came at the end of a long day for the Jets. Earlier in the day, the Jets traded winger Patrik Laine and centre Jack Roslovic for centre Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round draft pick. "Clearly, we had an eventful morning here," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "And then you've got a 9:00 (Central time) game that just starts a half an hour before my bedtime. I don't know how the players feel about that." "We have a game to play," Wheeler said. "It's the most important thing. We're professionals. Unfortunately, it's part of this business. But at the end of the day, it's what we do for a living. This is bigger than anything else that happened today. I thought it was a good effort for our team and a big win." Andrew Copp also added a pair of goals. Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg. Evgenii Dadonov, Brady Tkachuk and Nick Paul each scored a goal for Ottawa, but they ultimately couldn't keep up with the Jets once they scored three goals with less than five minutes to go in the game. "They were coming out hard in the third period," Paul said. "I think we just got to keep making plays to break out and once we hit their blue line, get pucks deep." Senators forward Derek Stepan hopes his teammates can learn from tonight's game, specifically that they can continue to press their opponent through a 60-minute effort and not just through two periods of play. "With a younger group you want to continue to push and teach them that it's okay to continue just to play the way you did in the first two periods and you don't need to change anything. You don't need to sit back." Stepan said. Senators goalie Marcus Hogberg made 32 saves in the loss, while Connor Hellebuyck made 18 saves for the Jets. Ehlers opened the scoring with 5:57 left to play in the first period with a power play goal. Ehlers quickly fired a shot past Hogberg after receiving a pass from defenceman Neil Pionk. Adam Lowry also picked up an assist on the goal. The Senators' offence woke up in the second period with three goals, beginning with Dadonov tying the game a little over four minutes in. The forward drove to the net while trying to brush off a defenceman. While falling, Dadonov used his stick to push the puck through Connor Hellebuyck's pads. As the puck trickled into the net, Dadonov crashed into the boards. But, he soon raised himself up to celebrate with his teammates. It was the Russian's first as an Ottawa Senator. Connor would later give the Jets the lead once more, scoring his fourth of the season to make it 2-1. Scheifele and Wheeler each picked up an assist on the goal. Tkachuk then tied the game with 8:46 to go in the second. Tkachuk retrieved a backhand pass from Austin Watson with a Winnipeg Jet draped behind him. Tkachuk would then spin around and fire on net, beating Hellebuyck between his legs. Paul gave the Ottawa Senators their first lead of the game with over five minutes to play. Paul fired a shot into the top-right corner of the night for his second goal of the season. Copp then tied the game in the early stages of the third. Paul Stastny handled the puck in the offensive zone before passing the puck to Copp, who redirected the puck towards goal but hit the post. Copp would immediately bury the puck into the back of the net. The Jets would take the lead on a power play goal from Stastny with 4:15 left to play. Prior to the goal, Senators forward Derek Stepan lifted the puck out of play and was later called for a delay of game penalty. Stastny would soon take advantage with his first goal of the season. Copp added a fifth goal for the Jets seconds later as he whacked at the puck several times in front of Hogberg, eventually earning his second of the night. Stepan fired a puck from distance to put his team within one, but the goal was reviewed and eventually waved off after a Senators player was offside. The Jets would eventually put it out of reach thanks to an empty-net goal from Scheifele with 2:09 to play in the third. Winnipeg will be back in action Sunday night against the Edmonton Oilers. Ottawa will play the Vancouver Canucks Monday night. NOTES: Blake Wheeler's assist on Kyle Connor's second period goal was the 500th of his career. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
Dana White offered a blunt prediction for the upcoming exhibition between Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather.
Social media detectives remain undefeated, and polarizing Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo may have just met their wrath.
Matthew Stafford has likely played his last snap in a Lions uniform.
After Duke dropped its third straight game, Coach K belittled a student reporter for asking a totally reasonable question.
The AFC's two best teams have arrived on a collision course in the championship game.
Watson reportedly wanted the Texans to interview the new Jets head coach. That didn't happen.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse disagreed with the idea that his team is a veteran squad. He also discusses how disappointed he was with his team’s effort last game and why it’s important to show up for every game in the NBA.
Hornets coach James Borrego thinks differently.
Raptors centre Chris Boucher is putting up some extraordinary offensive numbers, reminiscent of Pascal Siakam's breakout 2018-19 season.
There were a number of significant developments this week, both good and bad for fantasy hockey managers.
LONDON — Tammy Abraham scored a hat trick as Chelsea beat Luton 3-1 and Leicester had to come from behind against another second-tier club before ousting Brentford by the same score to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup on Sunday. Abraham netted twice in a seven-minute span in the first half. Jordan Clark profited from the struggling Kepa Arrizabalaga’s latest goalkeeping error to reduce the deficit to 2-1 on the half-hour before Abraham struck again in the 74th minute, taking his season tally to 11. Timo Werner missed a late penalty in a frustrating end to his afternoon. Chelsea will play another lower-league club, Barnsley, in the round of 16. This victory was crucial for under-pressure manager Frank Lampard after five losses in the past eight Premier League games. LEICESTER COMEBACK Brentford, which beat four Premier League teams on its way to this season’s League Cup semifinals, threatened another shock when it took the lead through Mads Bech Sorensen’s sixth-minute goal against Leicester. But Leicester turned it around within six minutes at the start of the second half. James Maddison weaved through the Brentford defence to the edge of the area before teeing up Cengiz Under, who powerfully fired in the equalizer. Youri Tielemans was tripped in the area by Tariqe Fosu and the Belgium midfielder netted from the penalty spot. Maddison killed it off in the 71st minute when he tapped in the rebound after Harvey Barnes’ shot was saved. BURNLEY ADVANCES Jay Rodriguez struck twice for Burnley in a 3-0 win at Fulham — the 31-year-old striker's first goals since July. With just under 10 minutes left on the clock, Rodriguez turned provider for Kevin Long for the third. A week after they drew in the Premier League, Manchester United and Liverpool meet again in the FA Cup with Jürgen Klopp’s side struggling in its Premier League title defence. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
TORONTO — George Armstrong, who captained the Toronto Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cups in the '60s and wore the blue and white his entire career, has died. He was 90. The Maple Leafs confirmed the death Sunday on Twitter. Armstrong played a record 1,187 games with 296 goals and 417 assists over 21 seasons for the Leafs, including 13 seasons as team captain. The right-winger added another 26 goals and 34 assists in 110 playoff games. Known as the Chief, Armstrong was one of the first players of Indigenous descent to play professional hockey. Armstrong was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. Some 41 years later, Armstrong was voted No. 12 on the franchise's list of 100 greatest Maple Leafs in its centennial season. "George is part of the very fabric of the Toronto Maple Leaf organization and will be deeply missed," Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. "A proud yet humble man, he loved being a Maple Leaf but never sought the spotlight even though no player played more games for Toronto or captained the team longer. Always one to celebrate his teammates rather than himself, George couldn't even bring himself to deliver his speech the day he was immortalized on Legends Row." A young Armstrong met Syl Apps when the Maple Leafs star came to his bantam team's annual banquet. Armstrong would go on to wear No. 10, the first Leaf to do so after the retirement of talismanic Cup-winning captain Apps. Armstrong would also become one of a select number of Leafs honoured with a banner at Scotiabank Arena and his number was officially retired in October 2016 at the team's centennial anniversary home opener. In 2015, Armstrong and Apps were added to the Leafs' Legends Row. The Leafs released a statement on Sunday with the words from Armstrong's unread speech that night. "Hockey is a great game and I love it. I am part of a fading generation that you will never have again. Every one of us is one of a kind, that will never be repeated. To all of my friends and acquaintances, thank you for your advice and direction, that helped make me who I am today … a very, very happy person." NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also paid tribute Sunday to the former Leafs' captain. "The National Hockey League family is saddened to learn of the passing of George Armstrong,” Bettman said in a statement. “For 70 years, he represented his beloved Maple Leafs and the entire NHL with class and distinction as a player, coach, executive and ambassador. "A humble man and revered leader, Armstrong captained the Leafs for 12 seasons – including to three straight Stanley Cups in 1962, 1963 and 1964 and the stunning 1967 title – and scored the final goal of the Original Six Era in Game Six of the ’67 Final. “Our game will miss him dearly. The NHL extends its deepest sympathies to George’s wife Betty, their children, grandchildren and the entire Armstrong family.” After hanging up his skates in 1971, Armstrong coached the Toronto Marlboros to Memorial Cup victories in 1972-73 and 1974-75 before accepting a scouting position with the Quebec Nordiques in 1978. He spent nine years with Quebec before returning to the Toronto fold as assistant general manager and scout in 1988. Armstrong served as interim coach for the final 47 games of the 1988-89 season after John Brophy was fired after an 11-20-2 start. The next year, Armstrong returned to his role as a scout for the Leafs. Armstrong scored 20 goals four times during his career but was better known for his leadership and work ethic, helping restore the franchise's winning touch. A smart player and talented backchecker, he worked the angles to get the best shot at his opponent and formed a formidable penalty-killing tandem with Dave Keon. A humble man, Armstrong was quick to deflect praise. He credited his players for his Memorial Cup wins as coach. "It wasn't because I was a great coach, it was because I had some great players," he said in a 1989 interview, listing off the likes of the Howe brothers, John Tonelli, Mark Napier and Mike Palmateer. And he offered a typical response when inducted into the Leaside Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. "I don't know whether I deserve it or not but I sure am happy to get it," said Armstrong, who lived in several areas of the city before making Leaside his Toronto home. Born in Bowland’s Bay, Ont., to an Irish father and an Iroquois mother, a young Armstrong honed his hockey skills in Falconbridge near the Sudbury nickel mines where his father worked. The Boston Bruins were interested but Armstrong waited until the Leafs put him on their protected list while he was playing with the Copper Cliff Jr. Redmen of the NOHA in 1946-47. After winning the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy as the OHA's leading scorer with Stratford next season, the Leafs sent him to their main junior affiliate, the Toronto Marlboros. He was elevated to the senior Marlies for the 1949 Allan Cup playoffs and helped the team win the title over Calgary the next year. It was during the Allan Cup tournament, specifically a visit to the Stoney Indian Reserve in Alberta, that he got his nickname. When the band heard of Armstrong's ancestral background, they made him an honorary member with the name "Chief Shoot-the-Puck" and presented him with a ceremonial headdress. It was a different era and "The Chief" nickname stuck. Armstrong, who was proud of his mother's heritage, would become the first player of Indigenous descent to score in the NHL. He spent most of two seasons in Pittsburgh with the Leafs' American Hockey League farm team before making the big league. He made his NHL debut in December 1949 and became a full-time member of the Leafs in time for the start of the 1952-53 season. "It looks as if he's going to be here for quite a long time the way he handled that puck," legendary broadcaster Foster Hewitt said after Armstrong scored his first NHL goal in a 3-2 win over Montreal. Taking a pass from future Hall of Famer Max Bentley, Armstrong beat defenceman Butch Bouchard and beat goaltender Gerry McNeil. "I did a little war dance that night and I think everybody in Maple Leaf Gardens was pretty happy about it as well," Armstrong recalled 15 years later. Toronto owner and GM Conn Smythe named Armstrong his captain before the 1957-58 season. Smythe would later call Armstrong "the best captain, as a captain, the Leafs have ever had." The Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1962, the first of three straight championships. Armstrong was 36 when the veteran Leafs won the franchise's last championship in 1967. His insurance empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining in the clinching 3-1 Game 6 win proved to be the final goal of the Original Six era. The six-foot-one, 204-pounder played a few more seasons, but suffered a knee injury during the 1969-70 campaign that forced him to retire. Armstrong was convinced to come back for the 1970-71 season before quitting for good at age 40. At the time, Armstrong had played more seasons and more games as a Maple Leaf than any other player, and was second in career points. Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
GREEN BAY, Wis. — An 85-year-old Green Bay Packers fan who has never missed a playoff game at Lambeau Field thought her streak was coming to an end this week until two charitable brothers heard her story. Fritzie Neitzel, of Green Bay, went to her first Packers game with her father in October 1945, when she was 10. “When I was born they didn’t put red blood in me. I got green in one side and gold in the other,” Neitzel said. As longtime season ticket holders, her family tried buying seats for the NFC championship game once they went on sale Wednesday. They were unsuccessful. That's when Neitzel heard about the Spirit of Wisconsin Booster Club led by Steve Ewing, of Milwaukee, and Neal Ewing, of Green Bay. Organized in 2015, the Spirit of Wisconsin Booster Club has been asking people to send the Ewings their most compelling stories and explain why they’re deserving of the opportunity to attend playoff games. Neitzel was this week's recipient of two tickets to Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Packers said all tickets on cellphones are nontransferable, with no exceptions. So Steve Ewing drove from Milwaukee to Green Bay on Saturday to hand off the phone with the tickets. “Still a total mess, to tell you the truth. It’s just, I keep pinching myself. I’m thinking, am I dreaming or is this real?” Neitzel told WITI-TV. Said Neal Ewing: “There’s no comparison to the reward of the joy because it’s bigger than money. It’s bigger than any of the other things people chase around." ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL The Associated Press
MIAMI — The Miami Heat are bringing back some fans, with help from some dogs. The Heat will use coronavirus-sniffing dogs at AmericanAirlines Arena to screen fans who want to attend their games. They’ve been working on the plan for months, and the highly trained dogs have been in place for some games this season where the team has allowed a handful of guests — mostly friends and family of players and staff. Starting this week, a limited number of ticket holders will be in the seats as well, provided they get past the dogs first. “If you think about it, detection dogs are not new,” said Matthew Jafarian, the Heat's executive vice-president for business strategy. “You’ve seen them in airports, they’ve been used in mission critical situations by the police and the military. We’ve used them at the arena for years to detect explosives." The first Heat game with ticket holders is set for Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers. Monday is the first day that season ticket holders will be able to start securing their seats. The Heat have sold out 451 consecutive games, the sixth-longest streak in NBA history. Sellouts, obviously, aren’t happening this year. The Heat will keep attendance under 2,000 for now, or less than 10% of the building’s typical capacity. “Please note that seating will be very limited, as we will be observing proper physical distancing,” the team said in its letter to season ticket holders. The coronavirus-sniffing dog idea has been put into place at airports in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Helsinki, Finland, in recent months. At Heat games, fans arriving for the game will be brought to a screening area and the detection dogs will walk past. If the dog keeps going, the fan is cleared; if the dog sits, that’s a sign its detect the virus and the fan will be denied entry. Other protocols the Heat will use: A health screening questionnaire will be mandatory for all guests, masks must be worn continually and only soda and water will be sold. All transactions will be cashless and if a fan feels ill during a game, isolation rooms will be available. And if a fan is allergic to or afraid of dogs, the Heat are offering an option to skip the dog screening and submit to a rapid antigen test instead. The Heat say those tests can be processed in less than 45 minutes. Dogs have a superior sense of smell, which is why they’re often used by law enforcement to find everything from drugs to bombs to missing people. Medical researchers have long reaped the benefit of canine sniffing, training some dogs to detect when a human is dealing with things like too much stress, too little blood sugar and even certain cancers. A German study last year found that dogs there were right 94% of the time when it came to coronavirus detection. “Researchers are finding that specially trained dogs can detect COVID on humans quickly and accurately," Jafarian said. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press
Super Bowl teams reportedly won't be allowed into Tampa until two days before the big game, which means the Buccaneers could have an advantage.
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — Bayern Munich extended its German league lead to seven points as Robert Lewandowski scored for the eighth Bundesliga game in a row to earn a 4-0 win over last-place Schalke on Sunday. After title rivals Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund all lost earlier in the weekend, three assists from Joshua Kimmich took Bayern a step closer toward what would be its record-extending ninth consecutive Bundesliga title. Kimmich put Bayern on track for the win with a superb 33rd-minute cross which left Thomas Müller needing only a simple headed finish to score the opening goal. Kimmich also set up Lewandowski in the 54th when the Polish striker beat defender Ozan Kabak before scoring his 23rd goal in 17 Bundesliga games this season. Müller headed in another goal in the 89th off a Kimmich free kick, and David Alaba made it 4-0 soon after from long range. Bayern had goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to thank as the team recorded back-to-back shutouts in the league for the first time this season. Neuer made a series of saves in the first half and showed fast reactions to parry an angled header from Mark Uth in the 11th as Schalke threatened to score first. Despite Bayern's two late goals, it was a far closer game than Bayern's 8-0 hammering of Schalke on the opening day of the season in September, testament both to Schalke's recent improvement under new coach Christian Gross and to Bayern's own dip in form, with two rare defeats this month. The German and European champion's punishing schedule will only intensify next month with a trip to the Club World Cup in Qatar and a Champions League last-16 game against Lazio. Schalke is last in the league with seven points from 18 games and is 10 points from safety as it battles deep-seated financial problems worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. It has lost all three games since a hat trick from U.S. striker Matthew Hoppe led the team to a 4-0 win over Hoffenheim on Jan. 9 — the club's first league win in nearly a year. Hoffenheim hosts Cologne later Sunday in the day's other Bundesliga game. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports James Ellingworth, The Associated Press
Bettors are expecting a lot of points on Sunday.
Reece Howden made it back-to-back ski cross victories on the World Cup Tour in Sunday's big final at Idre Fjäll, Sweden. The 22-year-old from Cultus Lake, B.C., was back to his usual self, leading from start to finish after choosing to sit back and charge late in Saturday's win. "The draft wasn't as big of an issue today so as I got into the start gate one of my coaches said, '100 per cent from top to bottom,'" the six-foot-plus Howden told Alpine Canada of his third win in four races. "I skied as fast as I could today [and] it worked out. I'm so happy, this is unbelievable. "I'll keep trying my best. I'm super proud of these last few races, so I'll try to carry it through the rest of the season, stay safe, stay injury-free, and keep it going." WATCH | Reece Howden posts 3rd win in a little over a month: Howden's Canadian teammate, Marielle Thompson reached the podium for a fifth time this season, placing third in the women's race. The Whistler, B.C., skier fought poor visibility as blowing snow made conditions tough on the lower part of the track. "I'm a lot happier with how I skied today," the 28-year-old Thompson said. "I think I brought some good skiing to each heat and I'm happy to land on the podium." WATCH | Marielle Thompson happy with 5th podium finish of season: The Canadian squad will compete in Feldberg, Germany before returning to Idre Fjäll for the world championships in February. Sunday's other Canadian results: Men: Jared Schmidt (33rd), Kris Mahler (36th), Brady Leman (40th), Chris Del Bosco (48th) and Carson Cook (53rd). Women: Courtney Hoffos (7th), Hannah Schmidt (14th), Tiana Gairns (15th) and Zoe Chore (16th).