Slow-starting Flyers and Rangers Fighting to Dig Out from Early Holes

Slow-starting Flyers and Rangers Fighting to Dig Out from Early Holes

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The Flyers exorcised some demons last Thursday, defeating
the New York Rangers for the first time in nine tries over nearly two full
calendar years. Now they must find a way to repeat their effort, or they risk slipping
into sole possession of last place in the Atlantic Division.

Philadelphia and New York are currently tied at the bottom
with four points, although the Rangers have a game on their rival. One point
for an overtime loss would match either of them with the New York Islanders –the
Isles are in action tonight at the Pittsburgh Penguins however. Regardless of
what happens in that one, best-case scenario is the loser of this second tilt
between the Flyers and Rags remains entrenched in the cellar.

Is it too early to be worried about the standings? Perhaps, especially
with all five clubs separated by just three points – only the Northwest
Division is as tightly contested. That said the Flyers do need to be concerned about
falling into a hole in this shortened season, as they are already behind eight
teams in the Eastern Conference. Every point is magnified this year.

Last week’s 2-1 victory is probably still fresh in everybody’s
minds, as it was the type of game that can turn seasons around, even in these
early stages. If nothing else, the Flyers destroyed a lot of the mystique the
Rangers had built during their dominance over Philly. Instead of skating against
a narrative, tonight the orange sweaters can skate against their opponents.

That’s not all the Flyers busted up in a hard-hitting battle
that featured a few fights. They also held the Rangers’ struggling power
play in check. New York converted on one-of-four advantages, with Ilya
Bryzgalov and his mates fighting off a 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 consecutively in the
final half of the third period.

The Rangers are now ranked 27th in the NHL, scoring on just
9.1% of their power plays. Then again, the Flyers haven’t been much better,
coming in at 24th while lighting the lamp on 12.9% of their chances. Plus, the
opportunities should be there against Philly’s killing unit, which is coming up
with the stop only 69% of the time – good for 27th in the league.

They seemed to have found the on-switch after a huge 7-1
victory over a shorthanded Florida Panthers club over the weekend, scoring and
killing power plays alike. On the second half of a Sunshine State back-to-back
however, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent the Flyers right back to square one in
both areas during a 5-1 mauling.

It should be interesting to see which Flyers squad comes out
tonight. The good news is Bryz is back in net after taking Sunday off, and he
has looked very solid through five starts thus far. Zac Rinaldo also returns to
the lineup
for the Orange & Black, although it appears impressive rookie
Tye McGinn will be headed back to Adirondack to make room. Don’t worry, Tye – you’ll
be back, and you’ll always have this beatdown.

The bell sounds for this heavyweight fight from Madison
Square Garden at 7 p.m., and it’s a big one.

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MLB Notes: White Sox scratch Chris Sale after 'clubhouse incident'

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USA Today Images

MLB Notes: White Sox scratch Chris Sale after 'clubhouse incident'

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale has been scratched from his start against the Detroit Tigers after he was involved in what the team says was a "non-physical clubhouse incident."

The White Sox declined to describe the incident, but said it's "currently under further investigation by the club" and that Sale was sent home from the park.

The move was announced less than a half hour before Saturday's game. Sale was going to attempt to become the first 15-game winner in the majors.

The White Sox planned to use multiple relievers in his place. The start of the game was delayed by rain.

With the White Sox fading from playoff contention, Sale's name has been mentioned as a possible trade target for contending teams.

The left-hander is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA.

TWINS: Suzuki leaves game after taking foul ball off mask
BOSTON -- Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki left Saturday night's game against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning after getting hit in the mask with a foul ball.

Suzuki appeared to have a cut on his chin as he walked to the dugout with a team trainer.

Boston's Dustin Pedroia was at the plate and fouled one off the catcher.

Suzuki was replaced by Juan Centeno.

PADRES: Cuban prospect signs deal with $7 million signing bonus
WASHINGTON -- Top Cuban prospect Jorge Ona and the San Diego Padres have agreed to a minor league contract with a $7 million signing bonus.

The 19-year-old outfielder receives $4.9 million within 30 days of the deal's approval by the commissioner's office and $2.1 million on Jan. 15. The deal is pending a physical.

Ona was ranked as the No. 8 international prospect of the 2016 class by MLB.com and the fourth-best available Cuban player earlier this year by Baseball America.

General manager A.J. Preller said during a conference call Friday that the contract is for 2017. He hopes Ona will play in the fall instructional league and then report for spring training and start his pro career next season.

Instant Replay: Pirates 7, Phillies 4

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Associated Press

Instant Replay: Pirates 7, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco and David Freese hit two-run singles during a five-run fifth inning to rally the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-4 victory over the Phillies on Saturday at PNC Park.

Polanco’s hit put the Pirates ahead 4-3 and chased starter Aaron Nola. Freese’s hit off Severino Gonzalez pushed the lead to three runs and Francisco Cervelli capped the inning with a sacrifice fly as Pittsburgh won for the fourth time in six games.

Nola (5-9) allowed six runs in four-plus innings to take the loss. Center fielder Odubel Herrera went 3 for 4 with a triple as the Phillies outhit the Pirates, 12-7.

Catcher Cameron Rupp left the game in the third inning after being struck in the left ear flap of his helmet by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow (see story). Rupp was found to have no concussion symptoms.

Starting pitching report
The bad Nola returned after pitching six scoreless innings in his previous outing Monday against the Miami Marlins. Prior to shutting down the Marlins, Nola allowed a combined 30 runs in five starts while failing to get past the fourth inning four times.

On Saturday, Nola gave up six hits, walked two and struck out five. He needed 80 pitches to get 12 outs.

Nola’s clunker came after Phillies starters allowed no more than one run or five hits in four of the previous five games. On Friday night in the opener of the three-game series in Pittsburgh, rookie right-hander Zach Elfin pitched a three-hitter for his first career shutout in the Phillies’ 4-0 victory over the Pirates.

At the plate
Herrera is 6 for 9 in the first two games of the series after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games. He tripled in the sixth inning and scored the game’s last run on a single by Andres Blanco.

Cesar Hernandez hit a pair of RBI singles and was one of four Phillies with two hits along with Blanco, Tommy Joseph and Carlos Ruiz, the last of whom took over behind the plate for Rupp. Joseph also hit an RBI single.

The Phillies held a 12-8 edge in hits.

Up next
The Phillies finish their three-game series with the Pirates at 1:35 p.m. Sunday then open a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday night at Miami.

The projected starters for the next four days:

Sunday afternoon --- RHP Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.15) vs. RHP Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.44)

Monday night --- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 4.99)

Tuesday night --- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42)

Wednesday afternoon --- RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) vs. LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58)

Former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn signs 2-year deal with Coyotes

Former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn signs 2-year deal with Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have signed former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn to a two-year contract.

The 26-year-old defenseman had four goals and 12 assists in 72 games with the Flyers and Los Angeles Kings last season. Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier were traded by the Flyers to the Kings last January in exchange for Jordan Weal and a third-round draft pick in last month's entry draft.

In his career, Schenn has 28 goals and 100 assists in 566 games with the Kings, Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs. In three-plus seasons with the Flyers, Schenn scored 12 goals and added 30 assists.

Schenn was the first-round draft pick - fifth selection overall - by the Maple Leafs in 2008.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka called Schenn "a good, young defenseman" who will be "a solid addition" to the Arizona blue line.

- CSNPhilly.com contributed to this story.