Wings Win, Flyers' Special Teams Are Not Magnificent

Wings Win, Flyers' Special Teams Are Not Magnificent

For the second consecutive weekend, the Flyers played a packed schedule yet will head into Monday without a single point to show for it. Their effort against the Detroit Red Wings wasn't enough to keep them from tying the NHL's mark for consecutive home wins, which is now jointly held at 20 by this Detroit team, the '74-'75 Flyers, and the '29-'30 Montreal Canadiens. It wasn't enough to help us forget a seven-game losing streak to the New York Rangers. But it wasn't that bad overall, either.

The play on special teams? Yeah, that was pretty awful. Again.

After giving up three power play goals on seven opportunities to the Rangers on Saturday, the Flyers allowed another two on the man advantage Sunday night to the Red Wings. To top it off, they didn't score a power play goal of their own in either contest, and haven't in their past four games after going six straight with one.

Special team were the difference in this one. The Flyers are currently lost in their efforts to  tie up sticks, clear screens, and break passing lanes when down a man, and teams are salivating at the common site of a Philadelphia player on his way to the box. The coaches have their work cut out for them, but fortunately a few days to work on things.

Brayden Schenn led the way on the score sheet, notching his first ever two-goal game. He's been on fire lately, making the most of some loose pucks around the net.

Hard not to credit Red Wings goalie Joey MacDonald with at least one of the assists on Sunday night, and a subpar effort on the second. MacDonald flubbed a pass from behind his net, which was stolen by Danny Briere and passed to a wide open Schenn in front of a wide open net. That goal tied the game after Niklas Kronwall had opened the scoring on a first period power play, and Schenn would score again to get things started in the second. He now has eight on the season.

Similar to the Rangers though, the Red Wings would quickly answer each Flyers goal from the second period on. Three minutes after Schenn scored the go-ahead in the second, Pavel Datsyuk put home a power play equalizer. Max Talbot then scored his 14th of the season, only to have Henrik Zetterberg answer two minutes laster. Johan Franzen put the Red Wings ahead for good in the third period.

Bob took both losses on the weekend, making a few very good saves but otherwise falling under the "unremarkable" mantle. Hard to hang the losses on him with so many power play goals factoring in.

Notes:
Max Talbot's goal set a career high, 14. Wayne Simmonds also raised his career mark this week.

The Red Wings wore patches in remembrance of the Lokomotiv players and coaches who died in their team's plane crash last fall. The initials Brad McCrimmon, well known as both a Flyer and a Red Wing, Ruslan Salei, and Stefan Liv appeared on the players shoulders. Those jerseys, as well as the ones worn by the Flyers, will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the families of those three players.

The Flyers are mercifully off until Thursday, when they'll host the Buffalo Sabres and try to reverse their trend of losing at home. On Saturday, the Penguins will be in town before the Flyers go on the road for four straight. With five of the last six games ending in L's, we're grateful for a few nights off from each other, but optimistic there are points to be had in the coming week.  

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Even with Jordan Matthews' return, Paul Turner still in Eagles' plans

Even with Jordan Matthews' return, Paul Turner still in Eagles' plans

There were just two things on Paul Turner’s mind as he sprinted across the field early during the third quarter on Sunday, anticipating his first career NFL catch. 

Turner relayed them on Wednesday: 

1. “Make sure you get in [Carson Wentz’s] vision.” 

2. “You better catch this ball.” 

He did both. 

Turner, the 23-year-old undrafted receiver from Louisiana Tech, who has become a fan favorite since his stellar training camp and preseason, caught his first NFL pass during Sunday’s loss to the Bengals and it went for a big gain of 41 yards. 

On his first catch, the Eagles used the play-action to tilt the defense and Wentz threw a dart into a small window to hit Turner on an over route. Then, the rookie turned upfield with a ton of space in front of him. 

By the end of the afternoon, he caught six balls for 80 yards. It was the best receiving day for an Eagles rookie since Jordan Matthews in 2014 and was a better day than last year’s first-round pick, Nelson Agholor, has ever had. 

“It's always good to catch a few balls,” said Turner, who has been on the 53-man roster and active for just the past two games. “It gets your motor going and gets your confidence going. It just gets you more into the game and gets you excited. I think it does a lot for a person's confidence.”

Turner played 41 snaps against the Bengals in large part because Matthews was out with an ankle injury. Matthews predominantly plays in the slot, which is where head coach Doug Pederson and his coaching staff like Turner. 

“Honestly, that wasn't really my mindset going into the game,” Turner said when asked if he knew how much opportunity he’d have with Matthews out. “My mindset was to go in there and if my number was called, just go out there and make a play. Even if my number was called, just take care of my assignment and take care of the little details and I knew everything else would just take care of itself. I knew that if I got the ball, I'd be excited. But even if I didn't, just to go out there and just block, and give up myself for my teammates. That was my goal coming into the game and just try to stay focused on that.” 

It appears as though Turner has done enough to warrant keeping his playing time. As Matthews returned to practice on Wednesday — as a limited participant — Pederson said there will still be opportunities for Turner. 

“There are, there are,” Pederson said. “And these are things we talked about the last couple of days as a staff — getting Paul in there, even with Jordan coming back. I think it can be a benefit to the offense to have both of those guys ready to go.”

The Eagles still haven’t had more than four receivers active for any game this season. During the last two weeks when Turner has played, either Agholor or Matthews were out. 

“It means a lot that the coaching staff has confidence in me,” Turner said. “My biggest thing is just to come in here and just work each and every day in practice and just prepare in practice so I'm prepared when I go out there in the game.” 

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen -- a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever -- that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Rangers: Gomez reaches deal to stay with team
OXON HILL, Md. -- Carlos Gomez is staying with the Texas Rangers.

The outfielder agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract, a deal subject to a successful physical.

"Many of the objectives of the Rangers for Carlos go beyond one year," his agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday. "Certainly Carlos really enjoyed the team and the environment and feels he's got a great chance to win. So I think both parties' objectives were met by that deal."

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center as general manager Jon Daniels structured an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left. Ian Desmond left Wednesday for a $70 million, five-year deal with Colorado.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for Houston and was released by the Astros in August. He signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

"J.D. was very clear from the onset about them wanting Carlos back, and we've had communication since the season's end to pursue that," Boras said. "So it was something in our minds and in their minds. It was just a constant dialogue."

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Red Sox: Sale not worried about being ace
BOSTON -- New Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the pitching staff after being traded from the White Sox to Boston.

The 27-year-old lefty told reporters on Wednesday, "We play for a trophy, not a tag."

Sale was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings. He was the top starting pitcher on the market, and the Red Sox gave up touted prospect Yoan Moncada as part of a package to land him.

Sale has been an All-Star for five straight seasons and finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting each time. He joins a staff that already includes 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and '12 winner David Price (see full story).