No Pushovers Here: Winnipeg Tests Flyers

No Pushovers Here: Winnipeg Tests Flyers

There was a time in recent NHL history when the Flyers
completely owned a little startup franchise known as the Atlanta Thrashers. In
their 11 seasons of existence, Philadelphia compiled a 30-7-3-3 record against
these Thrashers, once posting a 14-game winning streak in the process. We all
smiled and laughed, and times were good.

But since everybody except Gary Bettman knew hockey doesn’t
fly in Atlanta (the NHL is talking expansion again – third time’s the charm?),
the Thrashers are no more. They packed their bags and made for a real hockey
market – Winnipeg.

They didn’t take everything with them though. They left the
name Thrashers behind, and along with it, the Bullies’ dominance over their team.

The re-imagined Winnipeg Jets performed better than in all
but two of their seasons in Atlanta, finishing 37-35-10 and 84 points. More
relevant to Tuesday night, they ran up a 3-0-1 record over the Flyers in some
of the wildest hockey played anywhere in all of 2011-12.

Winnipeg won games by finals of 9-8, 6-4, and 2-1 via a
shootout, with Philly taking the final tilt 5-4 in overtime. Needless to say,
neither club’s goaltenders had very good numbers, although they all got plenty
of work.

Their recent competitiveness doesn’t look like a fluke,
either. The Jets are making an early bid to be in the postseason mix this year,
good for 11 points so far at 5-5-1. That’s just two points back of first place
in the Southeast Division, and has them very much in the picture for a wild
card berth.

It’s still early, but it would appear the days of taking
this franchise lightly are over.

Anyway, the Flyers have problems all their own right now,
specifically as it pertains to the road. Following last night’s 5-2 loss in
Toronto, the boys in Orange & Black are 1-6 away from the Wells Fargo
Center. To make matters worse, they had to make the two-hour flight to Winnipeg
for a back-to-back, while the Jets haven’t played since Saturday.

Their inability to score could be a problem tonight if last
season’s tilts with Winnipeg are any indication. Philadelphia is still in the
bottom-third in the NHL for scoring, ranked 22nd with 2.38 goals per game. And
while their power play has climbed to a more respectable 16.4% for the season,
the Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi points out they’ve converted just 7.1% of the time
on the road.

They’ll try to find a spark tonight by recalling Harry Zolnierczyk
to the roster. Harry Z has nine goals and eight assists in 46 games this season
for Adirondack, and had three goals and three assists in 37 games with the big
club last season. Jody Shelley was placed on injured reserved to make from for
Z, who is expected to replace Tom Sestito in the lineup.

The downside is Sean Couturier was sent home with the flu,
and Zolnierczyk is no substitute for that presence.

No word yet on who will be in net for the Flyers. Brian
Boucher, up for Michael Leighton who was placed on IR, appeared headed for his
first start – that was until Ilya Bryzgalov got the quick hook on Monday. Now Bryz
could be available, although his .850 save percentage and 3.33 goals against
averaged versus the Jets last season was nothing to write home about.

Al Montoya is in goal for the Jets. Despite spending the
previous two seasons with the New York Islanders, he’s only faced the Flyers
once, allowing four goals on 43 shots in an overtime loss. Montoya is 2-0 for
Winnipeg so far with a .899 SV% and 2.68 GAA

One thing about the Flyers this season is they have shown
some ability to bounce back from adversity. Whenever things start looking
bleak, they’ve picked themselves up and gone back to work. They could use some
of that tonight, if they’re not too tired and beat up to bring it.

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With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

ATLANTA – The final score was a little lopsided and the game was sloppy at times, but after beating Philadelphia, 110-93, Saturday night, the Hawks said they see promise in the rising young Sixers.

The Sixers didn’t have the legs on the tail end of back-to-back games to keep up with another hot team, and Joel Embiid did not play, as Atlanta (26-18) won for the 11th time in 13 games to move within a half game of Boston for the No. 3 spot in the East.

Yet if not for the Sixers' 21 turnovers and a second quarter where Atlanta seemed to make every shot, the Sixers (15-27) looked enough like the team that had won eight of 10 games before arriving in Philips Arena that the Hawks see differences.

The biggest change in the Sixers between Saturday and the first two meetings of the season between these two teams — one played with Embiid and one without — is T.J. McConnell starting at point guard rather than Sergio Rodriguez.

McConnell had a game-high 11 assists against the Hawks in addition to his eight points, and the Sixers had 27 assists on a night where they hit 12 of 29 three-pointers.

“They have an identity,” said Atlanta forward Kent Bazemore, who scored 16. “McConnell is playing really well, putting pressure on the defense and their floor spacing is very good. Very disciplined group.

“Guys are in the right spots, if a guy drives, they have a plethora of options: a guy in the corner, a guy on the jumper, a guy on the wing. They kept us honest for a chunk of the game.”

Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points on 15 shots and Robert Covington added 15 points and 10 rebounds, but the Sixers were gassed in the second quarter, as the Hawks hit 16 of 23 shots in a 37-point period.

Atlanta stretched a 62-54 halftime lead to 18 points late in the third quarter, but the Sixers cut the deficit to 94-87 with 6:46 left in the game on a pair of free throws by rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The Sixers whipped the Hawks, 20-11, in fast break points.

“They were getting some threes in transition,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was on the Spurs' staff for years with Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “Right now, they’re pushing the pace.

“T.J. McConnell does a great job of getting outlets, getting up the court and finding shooters quickly and they’re letting it fly. Covington and Ilyasova and those guys are collapsing us early and shooting early threes.”

The Sixers had problems on the boards in Atlanta, where Dwight Howard grabbed 15 and Paul Millsap added 10 as the Hawks built a 48-38 rebounding edge. Those numbers were every bit as important as Millsap’s 21 points and the 13 added by Howard.

That disparity on the boards and the Sixers' collective loose handle did in the visitors. Atlanta scored 17 points off the Sixers’ 21 turnovers.

Embiid was scheduled to rest Saturday anyway. It’s unclear whether he’ll play Tuesday against the Clippers, who will be without guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, or Wednesday at Milwaukee.

Embiid suffered a knee contusion in Friday night’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers and Brown said he’d be further evaluated Sunday.

Get him back in the mix, and The Sixers have a shot at starting another winning streak.

“We did a good shot of holding them to one shot,” Howard said after the Hawks outscored the Sixers, 14-0, in second-chance points. “They play really hard. They play aggressive. They play good team basketball. They share the ball and find the open man. They have a good group of young guys.

“It wasn’t as easy as people expect out of Philly teams. You have to respect them.”

Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

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Yordano Ventura, Andy Marte die in separate Dominican crashes

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Authorities in the Dominican Republic say that Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former major leaguer Andy Marte both have died in separate traffic accidents.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo says Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Metropolitan traffic authorities say Marte died when a car he was driving hit a house along a road between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.