2011 NLDS Game 5: Roy Halladay with the Season On the Line

2011 NLDS Game 5: Roy Halladay with the Season On the Line

It's going to be wild.

Charlie and the players like to downplay it as just another game. They're right, in a way, that it's just one more baseball game. It counts the same as all the other games in this series. But the result of tonight's game, unlike any of the previous 166 games, could put an end to our baseball team's season.

There are two clear and distinct outcomes. Lose and experience incredible, massive disappointment. Win and Citizens Bank Park and the city of Philadelphia will explode with joy.

And perhaps relief. Relief that the dream lives on. There's no doubt that expectations for this 2011 Phillies squad have been through the roof. That's why the Daily News' Paul Hagen says this might be "the single most important game the Phils have played" since they were created way back in 1883.

Yeah, tonight's Game 5 of the NLDS is going to be intense.

To add to the drama you have two former Cy Young winners who just so happen to be great friends going up against each other in a deciding game. Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter are going to have some awkward conversations on their next fishing trip, that's for sure.

As Phillies scribe John Finger points out, this is only the third time in the history of the game that two former Cy Young winners have gone up against each other in a decisive game of a playoff series.

Much of the reactionary portion of the Phillies fanbase was a mess after Wednesday night's loss in St. Louis. Ryan Howard took the brunt of that anger, but what so many forget is what those inside the game repeat over and over: baseball is a failure sport. Yes, Ryan Howard did not deliver in Game 4, but the series and the season are not over yet. As Ben Francisco showed in Game 3, redemption is always just a swing of the bat away.

When asked about the Cardinals potent offense yesterday afternoon, Roy Halladay put things in perspective, reminding us all that this is a Phillies team that can win when they have to.

"I think it's important for us to realize what we have on our side, too," Halladay said. "You know, we feel like we have a team that can go out and win games when we need to win games, and I think that's important for us to keep in mind."

Now they just have go go out and do it.

We all know the story lines by now. The Phillies could really use some life from Placido Polanco or some power from Hunter Pence. It'd be nice if someone reminded Choochtober what month it is. Just for kicks, I'm calling Hunter Pence as the Game 5 offensive hero. I feel like he's the one that is bound to bust out.

Most importantly, they need a shutdown outing from Roy Halladay.

I've made the drive down to the sports complex to watch the Phillies play well over 50 times this season. I'll be making it again tonight and I don't want to have to wait another five and a half months to make it again. I'm attending tonight's game with my dad. The last time I went to a Phillies playoff game with him, Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter.

Tonight is one baseball game at Citizens Bank Park to see if the dream lives on.

And the ace of the aces is on the mound for the Phillies.

Roy Halladay.

"That's the reason he was brought up here," said Young James Calvin Rollins, "to come out and be The Man -- be Doc and perform a little surgery."

It's going to be wild.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).