Flyers in Sunrise for One Last Pre-All-Star Tilt

Flyers in Sunrise for One Last Pre-All-Star Tilt

The NHL All-Star Game and its associated break seem to be coming at just the right time for the Flyers, who have a few key forwards missing time due to injuries. Tonight's matchup in The Middle of Nowhere, Florida, is the final stop before most of the team gets a week off. Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Matt Read, and Sean Couturier all head to Ottawa, where they'll be part of the festivities.

It's nearing the end of January, and to be honest, I wouldn't have believed you if you told me the Florida Panthers would be leading the Southeast Division at this point in the season. Part of that is the Washington Capitals not living up to the high expectations everyone had after they only seemed to get better in the off-season, but the work the Panthers have done can't be tossed aside even though they'd be in fifth place were they in the Atlantic Division. Riiiiight? [/masking bias against Southeast Division...]

However, the Panthers have fallen on hard times recently, enduring a slump that makes the Flyers win some-lose some January look a lot better in comparison. A few more notes on the game below, including a look at the familiar face leading the Panthers' attack.

Since December 20th, Florida has won just four games, while losing 10. They did win their last game, taking the extra point off the Winnipeg Jets in a shootout. Hopefully we won't see tonight's game go to that distance. After Sunday, a game in which we saw some of the most entertaining and electric hockey settled in an event better suited for the coming weekend, I don't think I can take another shootout so soon.

The Panthers do lead the league in mercy points, with their slot in the standings owed in part to 10 overtime losses.

Fans were excited when Kris Versteeg came to Philly at last year's trade deadline. His production wasn't quite what everyone expected, and without getting into why (we're not actually sure why), he was part of the jettison this past summer. Kris has found a friendly landing in Florida, where he leads the team in goals (19) and points (42). I never had any problem with Versteeg, almost a little happy to see him doing well.

Versteeg was a key contributor in the Panthers' win over Winnipeg, credited with a pair of goals and an assist. But, before that, he hadn't scored a goal since December 27th, and had only one point since then. Hopefully he didn't just find a groove that continues tonight.

The vibes coming out of the Flyers' loss to Boston were somewhat sour, particularly toward Ilya Bryzgalov, who couldn't stop a single shot in the shootout. But the team proved it could hang with an elite conference foe; it was just one of those endings that deflates all that came just before it.

Sergei Bobrovsky gets the road start tonight. Puck drop is at 7:30.

Phillies will take a peek at Tim Tebow, mostly out of curiosity

Phillies will take a peek at Tim Tebow, mostly out of curiosity

CHICAGO — The Phillies will send a scout to watch Tim Tebow’s baseball showcase next Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Now, before you start clearing a space in your closet for a red-pinstriped Tebow jersey — you know, right next to the midnight green Tebow jersey — keep this in mind: the Phillies, and every other team that stops by Tebow’s workout, are merely practicing due diligence by taking a look at an accomplished athlete who long ago showed some baseball aptitude. Tebow’s chances of ever playing in a major-league game are extremely thin.

The former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national championship quarterback from the University of Florida has not played baseball since 2005, his junior year in high school. He has been training as a baseball player for several months in Arizona. Next week’s showcase was arranged by Tebow’s representatives. Southern California is loaded with amateur baseball talent so many scouts live there. It makes sense that most teams would have a set of eyes on hand for curiosity if nothing else.

Tebow, who turned 29 earlier this month, was a left-handed hitting outfielder/pitcher in high school. He hit .494 with four homers and 30 RBIs as a junior at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, before giving up baseball to focus on football. That was a good move as he enjoyed a storied run at Florida. But Tebow has not been able to stick in the NFL.

Tebow played for the Denver Broncos in 2010 and 2011 and the New York Jets in 2012. He attended training camp with the Eagles in 2015, but failed to make the team. He spent last year working as a broadcaster for ESPN.

Obviously, Tebow’s competitive juices still run hot. His athletic résumé alone will attract scouts to his baseball showcase, which, by the way, will be closed to the public.

Prosecutor says he doesn't believe Jerry Sandusky accuser's claim

ap-jerry-sandusky.jpg
AP

Prosecutor says he doesn't believe Jerry Sandusky accuser's claim

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A former Pennsylvania prosecutor testified Tuesday he does not believe a man who reached a settlement with Penn State over a molestation claim is the same person seen by a witness being abused by Jerry Sandusky in a university football team shower.

Joe McGettigan, a former prosecutor who is now a lawyer in private practice, took the stand as the final witness during three days of testimony in Sandusky's bid for dismissal of charges or a new trial.

McGettigan said his opinion about the man who claims to be the person described as Victim 2 in court records is based on changes in the man's story, that he appears too old to be the boy in the shower and that he did not provide certain details to investigators until after the man who witnessed the attack had given his own story in open court.

Sandusky's grounds for appeal include a claim that McGettigan lied when he said during closing argument that Victim 2 was known "to God but not to us."

McGettigan said he did not believe the man's claim to be Victim 2 at the time of Sandusky's 2012 trial.

"I did not then and I do not now," McGettigan said.

Graduate assistant Mike McQueary has testified he saw Sandusky abusing a boy inside a team shower late on a Friday night in early 2001, and reported the matter to then-head coach Joe Paterno and other top administrators.

Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of abuse of 10 boys after eight of them testified against him -- but not Victim 2.

McGettigan said the man who settled with Penn State was born in 1987, so he would have been about 14 at the time, but McQueary described Victim 2 as being about 10. McGettigan said the man was unable to properly describe the location of the attack and drew a map of a locker room that was not accurate.

The man denied to police in September 2011 that any abuse occurred and gave the same statement to an investigator working for Sandusky's lawyers. But after McQueary testified in a related preliminary hearing, he hired a lawyer and changed his story, claiming to have been sexually abused. Neither the man nor Penn State has disclosed the precise nature of his claim against the university or said how much he was paid to settle it.

McGettigan said Sandusky, who attended all three days of the Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing, "could at any time have told any number of persons" the identity of Victim 2. "He declined to say so."

Another former state prosecutor, Jonelle Eshbach, testified that her office set up a sting after a March 2011 story in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg disclosed details of the grand jury investigation that led to Sandusky's arrest about seven months later.

She and her supervisor, Frank Fina, placed a fake notice within the prosecution agency's file about someone who had been subpoenaed and then watched to see if it would produce a story that would indicate a leak within the attorney general's office. She said no one took the bait.

Fina, the third person to testify Tuesday, said his doubts about the man's claim to be Victim 2 were based in part on early questions about when the McQueary incident occurred. At first, it was publicly reported to be 2002, which the man confirmed. Later it was determined to have been 2001.

"There was a possibility that (he) had conformed his testimony to Mr. McQueary's recollection of the date," Fina said.

Sandusky previously lost direct appeals to the state's Supreme and Superior courts. The current process, presided over by the trial judge, is under the Post-Conviction Relief Act and therefore limited to newly discovered evidence, constitutional violations and ineffective lawyering.

The judge did not say when he would rule but indicated there may be additional proceedings.

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Wendell Smallwood 'really excited, ready to go' for NFL debut Saturday

Eagles rookie running back Wendell Smallwood will finally make his NFL debut on Saturday. After missing out on the team’s first two preseason games with a quad injury, Smallwood can’t wait for his first action.

“I’m really excited, ready to go,” Smallwood said Tuesday. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a game.”

Smallwood held out some hope that he would play against the Steelers, but said he never cleared the final hurdle.

“The trainers and coaches didn’t feel like I had my last burst,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was up to full speed, I was about 85 percent running. I didn’t feel like I had that last gear … this week, I’m back to full speed.”

As he discussed last week, Smallwood has maintained his focus and tried to learn from watching his teammates while on the sidelines. Given his desire to impress as a rookie and the fact that he’s never missed a game before in his football career, that’s obviously been a challenge. Running backs coach Duce Staley and veterans like Darren Sproles understand that and have paid close attention to Smallwood’s development.

“Darren talks to me all the time about it, he asks me every day how I’m doing and what I need to do,” Smallwood said. “I think just having him and the other running backs in my corner is definitely a positive.”

One facet that Smallwood has been constantly working on is his pass-blocking knowledge. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich on Tuesday stressed the importance of all his backs being strong in pass protection, and said he was encouraged by Smallwood’s progress in that phase of the game.

“Even though he was a great runner in college, you could see glimpses of him in the passing game, you could see him in protection, that he was a willing blocker,” Reich said. “And he had the aptitude when you talked to him in the interviews and when you watch film with him, you can see that he gets it and he processes it, and that’s a very important part of it. So his continued progress to get on the field is going to have to come in the passing game, as well.”

Smallwood is pleased with his understanding of the Eagles’ pass-blocking schemes, but he knows he always has to be on his toes, just in case a question flies his way.

“I think I’ve been progressing very well with [pass blocking,]” Smallwood said. “Just learning techniques and learning the system, all the calls the line has, and I think I’ve picked it up. Duce throws random questions at me and I’m right on time with them, so I think I’m doing very well in that area.”

On Saturday, he’ll be dealing with more than questions; Smallwood will have to pick up linebackers and safeties trying to hit his quarterback. He’s looking forward to it.

DL Martin (knee) day to day
Defensive lineman Mike Martin is another Eagle who has been frustrated by a lingering leg injury.

Like Smallwood, Martin has yet to play in the preseason. Since twisting his knee several weeks ago in training camp, Martin has mostly been on the sidelines. Now he’s back to practice, though Martin said he’s “just easing back into it, not trying to throw myself in there hard right off the bat.”

It seems unlikely that Martin will play against the Colts. While he classified his situation as “a day-by-day thing right now,” it’s hard to imagine him going from “easing back into it” to the heat of an NFL game.

While he’s been out, Martin, a third-round draft pick by the Titans in 2012, has aimed to learn as much as he can.

“Anytime you miss time and can’t be out there, it sucks, but I’ve been in my book and haven’t missed much on the mental side of it,” he said. “Every day I’m just trying to pick up where I left off.”

Once he returns, Martin can’t wait to play in Jim Schwartz’s defense and create chaos for opposing offenses along with Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and his other talented teammates on the defensive line.

“[This defense] is just an attack style, which is really great for me,” Martin said. “That’s the type of player I am and it fits me perfectly.”