Game 27Ladies and Gentlemen Would You Please Welcome The Pittsburgh Penguins

Game 27Ladies and Gentlemen Would You Please Welcome The Pittsburgh Penguins

Last season, the very first
game the Flyers played was against their current top rival, the
Pittsburgh Penguins. They helped to open a new arena in western PA,
although not quite the way the home team would have wanted. This year,
we've had to wait more than a quarter of the season to see Jaromir Jagr
and Max Talbot face their former club, which we'll finally get to do
tonight.

That storyline aside, the Pens and Flyers are also deadlocked at the
top of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings,
separated by just one point. Pittsburgh has played and lost two more
games than Philadelphia, and the teams aren't alone at the top. There's a
lot of hockey left to be played, but we get the feeling it's going to
be tight most if not all of the way through to the spring.

The division races are heating up as the schedule gets more
Atlantic-heavy, which should provide for some great theatre as the
winter months kick in. The players come and go, but the rivalry never
seems to change much. The coming and going seems to be the spark that
will fuel some of this season's battles, with Jagr and Talbot taking top
billing.

Their stories are quite different, their Pittsburgh tenures
separated by years, but in the eyes of some Pens fans and media members,
the current most important characteristic Jagr and Talbot share isn't
that they won Cups for Pittsburgh—it's that they signed with the Flyers
this past summer. [Puck Daddy has more]

Jagr hasn't played for the Pens since 2001, having stopped in
Washington and New York before heading to Russia for three seasons. When
news broke that he'd be returning to the NHL, it was assumed he play
for either the Pens or the Red Wings, who were rumored to have interest.
But, like a thief in the night, Paul Holmgren worked a deal with former
Flyer and current Jagr agent Petr Svoboda, bringing Jagr to Philly.
Along with the departure of Talbot to none other than the Flyers he once
battled in a memorable playoff series (memorable for the wrong reasons
if you're from Philly), two playoff heroes had traded in their status as
flightless water fowl for roles with a team known for Flying.

The money, and in Talbot's case, years, that the Flyers gave these
two prodigals helped soften the blow for many Pittsburgh fans. Some said
Talbot was overrated and Jagr might dazzle here and there, but these
weren't currently guys you could pin big hopes on. With both playing at
the very least to the potential they were brought here for, I wonder if
the pill's as easy to swallow today as it was in July.

In truth, it probably is. The Penguins are doing just fine without
them, and there's still plenty of time for any Jagr and Talbot haters to
be proven right. But all indications are that if healthy, these two
will be key contributors to a versatile and dangerous Flyers team that
will contend for the division some thought would certainly belong to the
Penguins or Rangers once Homer pushed ctrl+alt+delete on last season's
roster. No one knew what to expect. It's safe to say that as the puck's
about to drop between the Penguins and Flyers for the first time this
season, fans on both sides wouldn't trade their players for their
counterparts in the other sweaters.

Just the way it should be in a great rivalry.

Quick notes:
As you already know, Sidney Crosby won't play tonight. Hope to the gods
that all is soon well with him and that we're not seeing the beginning
of concussion symptom recurrence so soon after his return. 

Also, HBO is shooting at tonight's game, gathering footage for the first episode of 24/7.

Ilya Bryzgalov will get his second start in as many nights, facing
Marc-Andre Fleury. Crosby's a well known Flyers assassin, and his
bullet's been dodged for the night, but the Flower's numbers (20-10 in
33 career appearances) against Philly aren't anything to shrug off… 

Quite possibly my favorite hockey pump-up song:

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard and Tommy Joseph both start

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard and Tommy Joseph both start

Wednesday's matchup against floundering White Sox righty James Shields is a rare opportunity for Phillies manager Pete Mackanin to have both Ryan Howard and Tommy Joseph in the same lineup (see game notes). In an American League ballpark against a right-handed starter, Howard (DH) will bat cleanup and Joseph (1B) will hit sixth.

Howard, who is hitting .378 with five homers and 13 RBIs in August, sat out Tuesday's 9-1 loss (see game recap). The Phillies managed only five hits, as White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon stymied the team's offense.

Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera also return to the lineup. Herrera has four hits in six career at-bats against Shields. Overall, the Phillies have a .297 batting average against the veteran Sox starter. 

With Herrera and Hernandez back at the top of the order, Aaron Altherr moves down from second to seventh. Out of Altherr's 95 at-bats this season, only four have come from the seventh spot. Here is the full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, DH
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Aaron Altherr, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

NFL Notes: Chargers withdraw offer to 1st-round pick Joey Bosa

NFL Notes: Chargers withdraw offer to 1st-round pick Joey Bosa

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers have withdrawn their contract offer to first-round draft pick Joey Bosa and will restructure a new deal that takes into account his absence from the team.

The Chargers' statement Wednesday said they believe "Joey will be unable to contribute for the full 16-game season without the adequate time on the practice field, in the classroom, and in preseason games." They characterized their previous offers to the Ohio state defensive end as fair and structurally consistent with the contracts of every other Chargers player."

Bosa is the only first-rounder who has not signed with his team.

Negotiations stalled over when Bosa's $17 million bonus would be distributed and offset language in the contract.

San Diego said it offered an initial signing bonus payment larger than any draftee received in the last two drafts, and more money in 2016 than anyone draftee except Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (see full story).

Giants: Owner Mara 'comfortable' with Brown suspension
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A visibly shaken Giants owner John Mara said Wednesday he was fine with the NFL's suspension of placekicker Josh Brown for one game, despite allegations Brown abused his ex-wife as many as 20 times prior to the Giants signing Brown to a two-year extension last spring.

The 37-year-old Brown was arrested in May 2015, when he allegedly grabbed his ex-wife Molly by the throat and held her down with his knee in their Woodinville, Washington home. Brown was charged with fourth-degree domestic assault. Five days later, the King County prosecutor's office dropped the charges because of insufficient evidence. Brown's ex-wife reportedly dropped the charges.

After the NFL hit Brown with a one-game suspension instead of the six games mandated by the league's new personal conduct policy, Molly Brown told media she was physically accosted at least 20 times, including once when she was pregnant in 2009.

Vikings: Bridgewater expects to play Sunday 
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater says he'll play this weekend in the first game at the team's new stadium.

Bridgewater was coy after practice Wednesday about his shoulder injury, but he said "of course" when asked if he's expecting to take the field Sunday for the opener at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings host San Diego, and the third exhibition contest is typically when the starters play the longest in the preseason.

Last week at Seattle, Bridgewater was a surprise scratch from the lineup. Coach Mike Zimmer has refused to discuss his condition.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Wednesday he didn't see any limitations with Bridgewater the day before.

Panthers: Rivera expects Short to get long-term deal
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Coach Ron Rivera says defensive tackle Kawann Short is "too important a player" for the Panthers not to sign him to a long-term contract.

Short has one year remaining on his rookie deal. He's outperformed his current contract, recording 11 sacks last season while being named NFC Player of the Month twice.

Rivera said Wednesday that "somewhere along the line, those are good guys, they'll figure it out. I believe they will. ... (Short) likes where he is. We'll see where it all unfolds."

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has a policy of not discussing contract negotiations in the media.

Gettleman also does not negotiate contracts once the regular season begins, so the Panthers essentially have two weeks to strike a deal.

Short said last month he has no plans to holdout.

Lane Johnson declares he's done taking supplements

Lane Johnson declares he's done taking supplements

No more supplements, Lane Johnson says. Those days are over.
 
Johnson, who faces a 10-game NFL suspension after a second positive test for a banned substance, said Wednesday he’s finished taking anything that could possibly put him at risk for a career-threatening third suspension.
 
Johnson claims the amino acid he ordered online and took was approved by the NFL but was tainted with a banned substance that didn't appear on the label, the so-called peptide found in Johnson’s sample.
 
Johnson also said he is planning to take legal action against the company that provided him with the amino acid.
 
“Going after them,” he said. “I have people on it to get it done.”

Johnson declined to identify the company that supplied him with the supplement.

Johnson was suspended for four games in 2014. A third suspension would result in a two-year ban.
 
“Seriously, I don’t want to have to go through this again,” Johnson said at his locker after practice Wednesday. “Unless something changes, the policy, I don’t trust anything.
 
“I can’t risk it. If it happens again, I miss two years and I’m just not going to risk that happening. I’m not taking any chances.

"Food and water. That's all I'm going to put in my system. Food and water. No supplements, no powders, nothing."
 
Johnson has been practicing with the second team and playing in the preseason games while he awaits his fate.

Johnson was the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, the Eagles' highest-drafted player since Donovan McNabb was the second pick in 1999.
 
Once Johnson’s B sample comes back — presumably positive, since Johnson has admitted taking the supplement — Johnson said he plans to appeal the suspension. But he said he doesn’t expect it to be reduced.
 
“Even if you prove it (was tainted), there’s nothing you can do,” he said.
 
It would be unusual for an NFL offensive lineman to not use any supplements at all.
 
“Look in everybody’s locker,” Johnson said. “Everybody’s got ‘em. But you just don’t know what’s really in them.”
 
Players say supplements help them not only to build strength and muscle but also in their recovery following games.
 
Johnson insists he can get by without them.
 
“You’ve got cold tubs, you’ve got different stuff you can do, foam rolling, soft tissue stuff,” he said. “There’s only limited (benefits) with that stuff. I think I’ll be fine.”

Meanwhile, he waits.

“It’s like waiting for an execution date,” he said. “It’s been living hell the past month.”