Flyers Face Off Against Atlantic Division- and Eastern Conference-Leading Devils

Flyers Face Off Against Atlantic Division- and Eastern Conference-Leading Devils

You often have to wonder how the New Jersey Devils do it. Their
goaltender is 40, and their best player departed during free agency, yet the 2012
Stanley Cup Finalists rarely show signs of slowing down. With 19 points and an
8-2-3 record, the Devils sit atop the Eastern Conference once again.

It’s early, but New Jersey seems to be getting along just
fine without Zach Parise so far. The trio of David Clarkson, Patrick Elias, and
Ilya Kovalchuk have been able to shoulder the load just fine, with Clarkson in
particular breaking out for nine goals already – tied for fourth in the NHL.
And Martin Brodeur just keeps on ticking for the Devils in net, off to a 6-2-2
start.

We already know they can still shut down the Flyers. In the
third game of the season back on January 22, New Jersey blanked Philadelphia
3-0 in Newark, a losing effort that cost the team Scott Hartnell. The Flyers
dominated much of the first period, but were still trailing by two goals when
it was over, and Brodeur shut the door from there.

Marty stopped 24 shots, while the Devils got two of their
three scores from Clarkson and Kovalchuk.

It would be fair to say they’ve had the Flyers’ number going
back to the playoffs last season. Philly stole game one of the Eastern
Conference semis in overtime, then proceeded to flat-line for the remainder of
the series, dropping the next four in what amounted to an extended sweep of
sorts.

The problem of late has been their inability to sustain and
sometimes even generate offensive chances against New Jersey’s backcheck. The
Flyers averaged 2.2 goals per game against the Devils last postseason, and
obviously they were shutout in their first encounter in 2013.

That theme could continue on Friday night. Philadelphia is
tied for 21st in goals per game (2.49) and ranks 20th in power-play percentage
(16.9%), while New Jersey is tied for fifth in goals against average (2.08) and
eighth in penalty killing (84.1%).

The offense has shown some signs of improvement, as it looks
like Peter Laviolette may have found a solid combination in the tandem of Jakub
Voracek, Brayden Schenn, and Tye McGinn. We’ll see if the young guns can keep
up the pressure against a gritty division rival.

In other words, we may need another stellar performance out
of Ilya Byrzgalov to carry the Orange & Black, although they could get a little help should Sean Couturier return from a touch of the flu. Puck drops at 7 p.m. as the
Flyers search for their second win of their season-long six-game road trip.

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Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid will have to hope NBA coaches trust the process.

Embiid on Thursday was not named a starter in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler locked in the three Eastern Conference frontcourt spots. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan rounded out the backcourt.

James (25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists) and Antetokounmpo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists) were locks as starters. That left Butler, Kevin Love and Embiid as the next in contention. Butler is a two-time All-Star averaging 24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.8 minutes for the 21-22 Bulls. Love is posting 20.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game on the Eastern Conference-leading, 29-11 Cavaliers.

The Western Conference starting spots went to Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. 

The voting was made up of fan votes (50 percent), player votes (25 percent) and media votes (25 percent). Embiid has a chance to be voted in by the NBA coaches, whose reserve selections will be announced on Jan. 26. 

Embiid would have been named a starter had the results been based on fan voting (50 percent). He finished third ahead of Love and Butler.

Embiid was in the running for a starting role during a breakout rookie season. He is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Even though his playing time is capped at 28 minutes, he ranks seventh among all players in scoring per 48 minutes. He is eighth overall in free throw attempts per game (7.9) and 10th in those made (6.2).

Embiid had obstacles, though, when it came to the voting: rookie status, 28-minute restriction, limited games played (29) because of his allocated workload, and the Sixers’ record.

Even though the All-Star Game highlights individual achievements, team record is often taken into consideration. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine games (see story), but still stand well below .500 at 14-26.

When it came to the players’ vote, it is hard for a rookie who hasn’t even competed against every team in the league to make a strong enough impression for another player to influence their perception of the top talent. Embiid finished outside of the top five in the players' vote, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Sixers' big man finished fifth in the media vote.

Embiid and the Sixers were very active in pushing for the fan votes. Embiid received the social media support of celebrities including Triple H, Kevin Hart and MLB MVP Mike Trout, among others. The Sixers promoted Embiid through a Shirley Temple campaign based on his favorite drink.

Embiid picked up major steam in the last week of voting. He had trailed Love by 16,028 fan votes in the second returns on Jan. 12.

He took to Twitter to express his gratitude.

Chip Kelly still jobless after swinging and missing with Jaguars

Chip Kelly still jobless after swinging and missing with Jaguars

Chip Kelly's job search continues.

The beloved (sarcasm) former Eagles head coach reportedly interviewed for the Jaguars' offensive coordinator opening. However, on Wednesday night, Jacksonville announced it was retaining Nathaniel Hackett as its OC.

“We are excited to announce Nathaniel Hackett as our offensive coordinator and he will immediately be tasked with installing and implementing our offense this offseason,” Jaguars new head coach Doug Marrone said in a statement from the team. “I have had the pleasure of working with Nathaniel for seven consecutive seasons and know firsthand how knowledgeable and passionate he is about winning.”

So, Kelly swung and miss twice on the Jaguars, as he reportedly interviewed for Jacksonville's head coaching job, as well.

"I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said, via CSNBayArea.com, two days after his firing as 49ers head coach. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

Kelly's decline is staggering, even if you saw it coming.

Look at this NFL coaching history ...

With Eagles in 2013: 10-6, wild-card playoff berth
With Eagles in 2014: 10-6, missed playoffs
With Eagles in 2015: 6-9, fired before final regular-season game
With 49ers in 2016: 2-14, fired after regular season

Who knows what's next for the Chipper?