Kevin Labanc scores second goal in OT, lifting San Jose Sharks over Edmonton Oilers 3-2

F Joel Ward returned to the lineup for San Jose in place of Tommy Wingels.UP NEXTOilers: Host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.Sharks: Visit the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.02:12ET 24-12-16 But the Sharks prevented any good chances and ended up 6 for 6 on the penalty kill.“It was the difference in the game,” coach Peter DeBoer said. Kassian also appeared to hit a linesman during the scrap but wasn’t given an additional penalty, and San Jose failed to capitalize.NOTES: There was another fight in the second period when San Jose’s Micheal Haley squared off with Kassian. Rookie forward Kevin Labanc sent the San Jose Sharks into their Christmas break in first place in the Pacific Division.Labanc scored his second goal of the night 3:24 into overtime and the San Jose Sharks beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday for their sixth victory in seven games.“That’s a great way to end the break,” he said. … Martin Jones made 16 saves.San Jose prevailed when Logan Couture got the puck below the goal line and fed Labanc, who skated in and beat Cam Talbot on the short side for his sixth of the season.“He scores goals,” Couture said. “If you told us at the beginning of the year that we’d be sitting in second place in the Pacific Division down by one point, I think everyone in here would have taken that.”San Jose controlled play for most of the game and held a 1-0 lead before things opened up with three goals in less than 3 minutes in the third period.McDavid scored one goal that deflected off two Sharks defenders and then set up Maroon for another after Labanc had put San Jose back ahead with his first of the night. It was a disappointing performance but we’ll steal the point and move on.”The Oilers could have gotten the second had they converted on two later power plays in the third period. That’s always nice.”

Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks, one point ahead of the second-place Oilers. He’s a guy that’s consistently creating chances and scoring some goals for us. “We never like to take six penalties, we were playing with fire, but I thought those guys that hopped over the boards, they were aggressive, took away a lot of time and space, blocked shots when we needed to.”The first of five matchups this season between the teams was rather heated, with a pair of fights, numerous hard hits and a few smaller scraps as both clubs appeared to be trying to set the tone for the season series.The Sharks killed off two early penalties against the NHL’s top road power play before getting their first chance with the man advantage late in the first period when Matt Hendricks got an extra roughing penalty after a fight with Brenden Dillon.San Jose converted on the power play in the opening minute of the second when Brent Burns set up Pavelski for a one-timer from the faceoff circle that beat Talbot to make it 1-0.The Sharks had a great chance to add to the lead when Zack Kassian was sent to the box for 4 minutes for roughing and cross-checking Dillon midway through the second period. That helped Edmonton come away with a point.“We were never in that game,” coach Todd McLellan said. Talbot made 28 saves.Despite the loss, the Oilers earned five points on their three-game trip and are in position to end a 10-year playoff drought.“We’re in a good spot,” McDavid said. “They were better than us in every facet of the game. He’s done a tremendous job.”Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon each scored a tying goal in the third period for the Oilers, but they never managed to take the lead as their three-game winning streak was snapped. “We’re a team that’s struggling to score right now. “But it’s even better that we’re first in the standings.

Giordano’s two goals lift Flames over flat Canucks

The trailer on an odd-man rush, Mikael Backlund found Giordano open in the slot and he wristed a shot into the top corner on Jacob Markstrom.Giordano put the Flames ahead for good at 11:15 when he went to the net and had Michael Frolik’s rebound go in off him.Both goals came during a stretch of over 16 minutes where the Canucks went without a shot. The Flames outshot Vancouver 37-14 on the game.Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk into an empty net also scored for Calgary (18-16-2), which heads into the Christmas break 8-3-0 in its last 11. He did not return. Calgary defenceman Mark Giordano scored twice less than 10 minutes apart in the second period on Friday night as the Flames won 4-1 over the Vancouver Canucks.Down 1-0 after the first period despite carrying the play territorially by a wide margin, the Flames kept coming with Giordano tying it 2:34 into the second period on a power play. The Canucks limp to the break 2-5-1 in their last eight.Vancouver was thoroughly dominated in the first period, getting outshot 16-5, yet scored the only goal at 11:35 when Tryamkin’s shot hit the skate of Flames forward Kris Versteeg and fluttered high in the air, dropping behind Brian Elliott — who had no idea where it was — and bouncing into the net.The power-play goal by Giordano, the first of three second period goals for the Flames, was the 14th goal on the man advantage in December after the team scored only eight in the season’s first two months.Ranked 30th at the end of November, the power play was up to 14th entering Friday’s game thanks to a month where they’ve gone 14 for 38Calgary increased its lead to 3-1 at 18:07 when Backlund knocked in a Hamilton rebound.Elliott, who was only tested 14 times, wins his second straight after going over seven weeks without a victory.While not busy the entire night, he did make a couple dandy saves, his best was a blocker off Brandon Sutter on a two-on-none. Backlund added two assists, as did Dougie Hamilton and Frolik.Nikita Tryamkin with his first of the season had the lone goal for Vancouver (14-18-3). He improves to 5-9-1.Markstrom, who made 33 saves, sees his record fall to 7-8-2.Calgary lost right-winger Troy Brouwer left the game after being hit in what appeared to be the hand on a dump-in by Versteeg late in the first period.

Lowry scores season-high 36 to lead Raptors over Jazz

Kyle Lowry took advantage of a depleted Utah guard corps by scoring a season-high 36 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 104-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.Lowry was nearly unstoppable as he either pulled up for a 3-pointer or drove the lane unfazed by the lurking Rudy Gobert. The Jazz led 84-83 with the crowd in full throat before Lowry took over the game with dazzling drives and high-arcing jumpers.DeMar DeRozan, who had 24 points, regained his composure from a cold shooting stretch and a flagrant foul to make two key baskets as the Raptors topped the century mark for the 16th straight game, one behind Houston’s league-leading 17.Gordon Hayward led Utah with 23 points. The point guard shot 9 for 10 in the final quarter as the Raptors set a franchise record with six straight wins on the road.

Doan scores 400th, but Leafs top Coyotes

The Maple Leafs have won three of four, while the Coyotes have lost four straight. Doan and Matthews, the first overall pick in the draft, started the game on opposite sides of the face-off circle, an early matchup of mentor and mentee. Arizona captain Shane Doan scored his 400th goal in his 1,500th game, and Toronto rookie Auston Matthews had an assist in his first NHL game in his hometown in the Maple Leafs’ 4-1 victory over the Coyotes on Friday night.Leo Komarov scored twice, and Connor Brown and William Nylander also scored for Toronto, and Frederik Andersen made 31 saves. Matthews, who grew up and played youth hockey in Scottsdale, struck on his second shift of the night.Martin Hanzal tried clearing the puck out of the Coyotes’ zone but his pass deflected off the skates of Matthews and then Radim Vrbata. Matthews pulled the puck off the blue line inches before it left the zone, took two strides and passed to Brown on his right for the score over Mike Smith’s right shoulder.Komarov made it 2-0 with a power-play goal 43 seconds into the second, deflecting Jake Gardiner’s shot from the point past Smith.Doan cut the lead in half with 43.4 seconds left in the period when he took a pass from Connor Murphy skating between the circles and beat Andersen for his milestone goal.

Blue Jackets beat Canadiens, pick up 12th straight win

The Columbus Blue Jackets made it 12 straight wins Friday night, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 to maintain the best record in the NHL.Columbus, improved to 23-5-4 — its best start in franchise history — and has not lost since Nov. It was his 15th goal on the season and sixth on the power play.The Jackets made it 2-0 with Brandon Saad’s 13th goal of the season, just 1:22 into the second period.The Canadians dominated the puck in the third period, and made it 2-1 with Jeff Petry’s goal at 9:08. Sam Gagner put Columbus on the board at 17:50 of the first period, 16 seconds into a Canadiens bench minor for too many men on the ice. 26. Montreal, which outshot Columbus 37-24, fell to 21-9-4.The win was a league-leading 20th for goalie Sergei Bobvrosky, who kept Columbus in the game despite an apathetic third period in which the Blue Jackets took just five shots.

IOC opens 28 new doping cases for Russian Olympic athletes

That performance is often cited as the motive for Russia to orchestrate a doping program to ensure better results in the home Sochi Olympics, which cost $51 billion to build and run.Russia did top the Sochi medals table, but looks certain to lose that place to Norway when the IOC processes the disciplinary cases announced Friday. Putin said Rodchenkov was forcing Russian athletes to take illegal substances he had brought in from Canada, where the scientist had previously worked.In further fallout Friday from McLaren’s report, the world ski body said Russian officials have handed back hosting rights for the end-of-season World Cup finals in cross-country skiing.The event was scheduled in March in Tyumen, which on Thursday also lost the right to host a biathlon World Cup event in March.“The findings in the McLaren Report have seriously damaged the integrity of sport and we are determined to ensure the necessary measures are undertaken to punish the offences,” said FIS President Gian Franco Kasper, who is also a member of the IOC’s executive board.The IOC said the 28 new cases being examined by its disciplinary commission are not positive doping tests. All Russian samples from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are now being re-analyzed.At Vancouver, an underachieving Russia team placed 11th in the medals table. Urine samples retained by the IOC since Sochi included some with unnatural levels of salt in healthy humans.Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied there was a state-backed program, and on Friday blamed the director of the labs at Moscow and Sochi, whose allegations to American media in May led to McLaren’s appointment.Putin accused Grigory Rodchenkov of forging doping evidence against Russian athletes at the behest of foreign forces he did not name. Six Russian men won five medals, including one gold, in cross-country skiing on home snow at Sochi.The new wave of Olympic doping cases is set to produce a flow of verdicts and disqualifications next year that could fuel calls for some or all of the Russian team to be banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.The cases are based on evidence provided this month by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.McLaren detailed vast state-backed cheating in Russian sport that included swapping athletes’ tainted samples for clean urine through the testing laboratory at Sochi.The Canadian law professor offered evidence of a method for state intelligence officers to break open supposedly tamper-proof glass sample bottles which had scratches behind the lid. However “the manipulation of the samples themselves could lead to an Anti-Doping Rule Violation and sanctions.Samples from Russian athletes at Sochi are now being re-tested at the WADA-accredited lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC said.The IOC cites legal reasons for not identifying the athletes.FIS said it was the responsibility of the Russian ski federation and the athletes themselves if they wished to be identified.On Thursday, the International Biathlon Union said it provisionally suspended two Russians whose cases from Sochi were opened by the IOC.The re-testing of Russian athletes’ samples for traces of steroids and other banned substances now involves all four Olympic Games from 2008 through 2014.The IOC said Friday that it already disqualified 27 Russian athletes, stripping an array of titles and medals, in re-tests of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. Six cases involve cross-country skiers who are now provisionally suspended by the International Ski Federation (FIS), which did not identify them. On yet another doping-tainted day for Russian sport, 28 athletes now face IOC cases linked to cheating at the Sochi Winter Olympics and a major cross-country skiing event was removed from the country.The IOC said Friday it has opened 28 disciplinary proceedings against Russian athletes whose urine samples were likely tampered with at the 2014 Olympics.

Tennis star Petra Kvitova released from hospital after knife attack

Petra Kvitova is determined to play tennis again — no matter what that requires after a knife-wielding intruder attacked her inside her home and injured her playing hand.The two-time Wimbledon champion was released from a hospital on Friday, three days after she was operated following injuries in the attack in the town of Prostejov. The attacker is still at large.In April 1993, Monica Seles was at the height of her success when she was stabbed in the back during a changeover at a tournament in Hamburg. A man reached over a courtside railing and knifed her, leaving an inch-deep slit between her shoulder blades.Seles returned to the game 27 months later and reached the 1995 U.S. With a big bandage covering her left hand and forearm, Kvitova said she was told by the surgeon who operated on her in a specialized clinic in the northern town of Vysoke nad Jizerou on Tuesday that her recovery is “looking good and without complications, as it should be.”“I feel better day by day,” she told reporters in Prague.“Yesterday morning during a session (with) the doctor, I was able to move the fingers on my left hand which I think … was the greatest Christmas present I could have wished for.”Apparently in a good mood and smiling, Kvitova offered thanks for support she received from other players, fans, her family, team and doctors.“I never received so many (supportive) messages in my life at a moment,” she said. “But that’s for sure I want to return one day and I’ll do all I can to make that happen. Open final. 2 in 2011, but finished the 2016 season as No. 11.Kvitova didn’t take questions but said she didn’t want to look back and talk about Tuesday’s incident. I had no doubt about my return to the tennis circuit for a second.”Kvitova won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014. “I really appreciate that.”Martina Navratilova was among those who wished Kvitova “a speedy recovery.”“We can’t wait to see you back on court again,” the tennis great tweeted.Kvitova sustained damage to the tendons in her left hand, along with injuries to all five fingers and two nerves.Doctors estimate it will take her about six months to return to tennis.Kvitova vowed to come back, sooner or later.“I don’t care about how much time it takes, if three months, six months or a year,” she said. She reached a career-high ranking of No.

Ottawa Redblacks bring back entire coaching staff for 2017 season

He has helped the Redblacks make back-to-back appearances in the championship game. Ottawa defeated the Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in overtime last month at BMO Field.“It’s exciting to have our entire coaching staff back for 2017, ” Campbell said in a release. Ottawa Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell and his entire coaching staff will return next season after guiding the CFL club to victory in the 2016 Grey Cup in Toronto.Campbell will return for a fourth year at the helm. “Their hard work and dedication played a huge role in us winning the 2016 Grey Cup. This continuity allows us to continue to grow and build a winning team for 2017.”Campbell’s staff includes offensive co-ordinator Jaime Elizondo, defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelson, special teams co-ordinator Bob Dyce, offensive line coach Bryan Chiu, defensive line coach Leroy Blugh, receivers coach Travis Moore, defensive backs coach Ike Charlton, linebackers coach Derek Oswalt, offensive assistant Beau Walker and coaching assistant Patrick Bourgon.

While rivals strengthen rosters, Blue Jays make few off-season moves

Until then the Blue Jays will not comment on the development.Toronto will receive a first-round draft pick in 2017 in compensation for losing Encarnacion.It was not a surprise to learn that Encarnacion is moving on. 1 priority is to get another proven outfielder, hopefully one who can hit for power to try to offset the loss in production with the departure of Encarnacion and Bautista.There is still a chance that Bautista could re-sign with the Blue Jays after rejecting their $17.2-million qualifying offer, but the right fielder is looking for something with a little more term.The Toronto bullpen also needs to be addressed after losing Brett Cecil. That’s the third-highest MLB total over that time frame.Free-agent Jose Bautista, whose run in Toronto is also likely over, leads the way with 249 home runs.With Encarnacion moving on, likely soon to be followed by Bautista, and the free-agent status of Michael Saunders still up in the air, the Blue Jays are thin in several areas.Atkins has stated that the No. There is still plenty of time before the start of the 2017 Major League Baseball season for the Blue Jays to address the many needs they have to fill if they hope to remain a major force in the upscale American League East.But until some of that heavy lifting starts to take place, the Blue Jays fan base will continue to openly fret about just what the heck is going on.While A.L. A utility infielder and outfielder, Pearce will probably spend most of his time at first base.The Blue Jays had reportedly offered Encarnacion a four-year deal worth $80-million to remain a Blue Jay once the 2016 MLB season concluded. But they moved swiftly on Morales when Encarnacion, who had earned the right to see what was available on the open market, didn’t immediately jump at the offer.Morales, who will fill Encarnacion’s primary role in Toronto as the team’s DH, is a decent hitter in his own right – he batted .263 with 30 home runs and 93 runs-batted-in for Kansas City in 2016.Morales is also a switch-hitter, which will add to his value with the Blue Jays, whose batting lineup this past season was predominantly from the right side.But Morales is not in Encarnacion’s league, either offensively or defensively.Encarnacion slugged 42 home runs this past season and three more in the post-season – none bigger than the three-run blast in the 11th inning that delivered a 5-2 win over Baltimore in the A.L. In fact, it was expected after the Blue Jays clearly indicated they were moving in a different direction when they signed Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33-million contract on Nov. 11, three days into the beginning of the free agency free-for-all.In their only other notable off-season move, the Blue Jays signed Steve Pearce to a two-year, $12.5-million deal. The team’s most dependable left-handed arm out of the pen, Cecil is moving on after signing a four-year, $30.5-million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. Or are team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins being ultra-cautious and waiting for just the right moment to strike? While it is evident the Cleveland Indians are serious about returning to the post-season in 2017 with the reported signing of Edwin Encarnacion, you have to wonder about the motives of the Toronto Blue Jays moving forward.Is the American League East outfit being thrifty with its so far low-key approach in the free-agent market? East rivals like the Boston Red Sox (trading for lefty ace Chris Sale) and New York Yankees (signing flame-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman and heavy-hitting designated hitter Matt Holliday on free-agent deals) have busied themselves strengthening their rosters, the Blue Jays have been relatively quiet.The club’s mystifying off-season took another body blow on Thursday night when word started to filter out that Encarnacion, the Blue Jays’ popular slugger, had signed a free-agent deal with the Indians, who came within a game of winning the World Series this season.The deal reportedly is for three years and $60-million and includes a club option for 2020 for another $20-million.The Indians could also terminate the contract at that time for $5-million, bringing the total guaranteed value of the deal to $65-million, making it the largest free-agent contract in Cleveland history.The deal will not be official until Encarnacion has undergone a physical, which is not expected until early 2017. wild card game.In seven full seasons with the Blue Jays, Encarnacion was incredibly consistent, belting out 231 home runs.

Luke Richardson set to lead Canada’s title defence at Spengler Cup

“Not that I ever wanted or needed one, I just never had one. They include forwards Chris DiDomenico, Cory Emmerton and James Sheppard, defenceman Daniel Vukovic and goalie Drew MacIntyre.Former NHLers Mason Raymond, Shaone Morrisonn, Gregory Campbell and Nick Spaling are also on the roster along with Montreal goaltending prospect Zach Fucale.“Hockey Canada goes for gold at every event,” said Richardson, who also played internationally at the 1987 world juniors and the 1996 worlds. We know that every night everybody’s trying to knock you off.” “You remember that feeling,” he said. “Some of them have never had the chance to play for Canada. “It was a great thing to be a part of.”Now Canada’s head coach for this year’s Spengler Cup, Richardson is hoping to make some new memories over the holidays.The Canadians head into the six-team showcase tournament in Davos, Switzerland, as the defending champions, but as always face a number of challenges.The five professional clubs based in Europe and Russia also taking part in the event are in the middle of their schedules, while Canada’s roster is made up of a scattered group of non-NHL players plying their trades in leagues around the world.Canada will have one full practice on Christmas Day before opening its round-robin schedule Boxing Day against Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.“We’ve put a really unique group of men together,” said the 47-year-old Richardson. You can see the passion.”Richardson, who spent four seasons coaching the Ottawa Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y., decided to part ways with the organization last spring in hopes of landing an NHL gig.“I felt really good about the job I did and felt I was just ready for the next challenge, which is the NHL,” he said. That’s one of the most inspiring things. “I was fortunate to play for him [in Columbus] for one season. The joy of winning gold for Canada at the 1994 world hockey championship remains fresh in Luke Richardson’s mind.A veteran of more than 1,400 NHL games over 21 seasons, the victory that ended the country’s 33-year title drought at the tournament was one of the highest points in the bruising defenceman’s playing career. “That’s where the bar’s set. I learned a lot then.“The Deutschland Cup was a learning experience every minute of every day. King will serve as an associate alongside Richardson at the Spengler Cup, which Canada has won 13 times.“I lean on him every day,” Richardson said of King. “Unfortunately there’s only 30 jobs, so I have to be patient with that.“I wanted to be a free agent for the next opportunity, and Hockey Canada has given it to me.”Richardson and his family endured the tragedy of his 14-year-old daughter Daron’s suicide while he was an assistant coach in Ottawa, a nightmare that shook the community and the hockey world in 2010.With his eldest daughter graduating college and moving to Boston this fall, he felt it was time to step away from the game briefly.“After I retired as a player I really never took a break from hockey,” he said. The work ethic this guy has is amazing, and a real positive in a short tournament.”The Canadians have five returnees from last year’s team that won gold under head coach Guy Boucher. This year was the right moment to take a break.”Richardson agreed to be an assistant under legendary coach Dave King at the Deutschland Cup in November.

NFL teams seeking a playoff berth should let the Giants’ loss be a lesson

1.Division record: 3-2. 1.Division record: 2-2. 1.Division record: 3-1. The Giants only had to beat Philadelphia on Thursday night to clinch at least a wild-card berth; yet, Eli Manning was intercepted three times in a 24-19 loss. If they don’t get that, the Falcons could still clinch at least a wild card this weekend.Green Bay needs a win over Minnesota and help to clinch a playoff berth Saturday. A wild-card berth remains an option with the Titans a game back of Miami, a team they beat head-to-head for that tiebreaker. Conference record: 7-3.The Ravens probably must win out to win the division.Eliminated: Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1), Cleveland Browns (0-14). AFC WEST Oakland Raiders (11-3)Remaining schedule: vs. The Giants also clinch a spot if Green Bay, Tampa Bay or Atlanta loses.New England, AFC East title in hand, needs a little help this week to claim home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Conference record: 8-2.The Cowboys will have a Texas-sized home-field advantage this post-season. Denver on Sunday night, at San Diego on Jan. Conference record: 8-2.Control is in Oakland’s hands, as long as the Raiders finish one game ahead of the Chiefs. The NFC West champs must beat Arizona and also need Atlanta to lose or tie and then wait to see if Detroit can win in Dallas on Monday night.Three division titles have been clinched, with eight playoff berths still up for grabs, and the Pittsburgh Steelers can wrap up the AFC North title by beating Baltimore on Christmas.The Houston Texans will know before kicking off Saturday night if a victory over Cincinnati will give them their second straight AFC South championship. Minnesota Vikings (7-7)Remaining schedule: at Green Bay on Saturday, vs. 1.Division record: 4-0. New Orleans on Jan. New York Jets on Saturday, at Miami on Jan. Indianapolis on Saturday, at Denver on Jan. Indianapolis Colts (7-7)Remaining schedule: at Oakland on Saturday, vs. The Raiders can win the AFC West title and grab their own first-round bye by beating the Colts with Denver beating Kansas City on Sunday night.Seattle is trying to earn the NFC’s other first-round bye. Victory means a division title for Pittsburgh. If not, the Saints beating Tampa Bay can allow Detroit to clinch at least a wild-card spot with a win or a tie in Dallas.Kansas City already squandered one chance to clinch a playoff berth. Chicago on Jan. Now, the Chiefs can assure themselves of at least an AFC wild card by beating Denver on Christmas night, putting the Broncos on the verge of elimination. 1.Division record: 3-1. NFC NORTH Detroit Lions (9-5)Remaining schedule: at Dallas on Monday night, vs. Denver Broncos (8-6)Remaining schedule: at Kansas City on Sunday night, vs. Conference record: 4-6.Barely alive, needing lots of help. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)Remaining schedule: vs. New York Giants on Jan. 1 for the division title.Atlanta heads to Carolina trying to clinch both a playoff berth and the NFC South title, needing both a win and a New Orleans victory over Tampa Bay to win the division. 1.Division record: 3-1. 1.Division record: 2-1-1. 1.Division record: 5-0. The Lions could have a playoff berth in hand if Washington and Tampa Bay already have lost and Atlanta wins at Carolina. Conference record: 6-4.Tom Savage has the starting job at quarterback after keeping the Texans tied atop the division. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6)Remaining schedule: at New Orleans on Saturday, vs. Conference record: 6-4.Winning in Buffalo combined with a Denver loss or tie Sunday night secures a wild-card spot.Need a miracle: Buffalo Bills (7-7).Eliminated: New York Jets (4-10). Oakland on Jan. 1 seed. Otherwise, they play the Packers for the NFC North crown in Week 17. Two wins, or one win and a loss by Raiders, or two losses by Raiders, locks up No. 1.Division record: 1-3. 1.Division record: 4-0. 1.Division record: 3-1. The Dolphins also can leave Buffalo with a tie and clinch if Baltimore, Denver and Houston lose, or with losses by Baltimore, Denver and Tennessee.Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers also can clinch a playoff berth by beating New Orleans, combined with losses by Green Bay, Detroit and Washington.The regular season ends Jan. Conference record: 7-3.The Lions can win the division with a victory at Dallas and a Green Bay loss to Minnesota. Cincinnati on Saturday night, at Tennessee on Jan. New England on Jan. Miami Dolphins (9-5)Remaining schedule: at Buffalo on Saturday, vs. AFC NORTH Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)Remaining schedule: vs. Lots of help.Eliminated: Philadelphia Eagles (6-9). Conference record: 5-4-1.First-round bye is this close for the Seahawks.Eliminated: Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1), Los Angeles Rams (4-10), San Francisco 49ers (1-13). Jacksonville on Jan. 1.Division record: 3-1. 1.Division record: 2-3. 1. Washington (7-6-1)Remaining schedule: at Chicago on Saturday, vs. NFC EAST Dallas Cowboys (12-2)Remaining schedule: vs. Conference record: 7-3.Having already lost at Baltimore, the Steelers get the Christmas rematch on their own field. Green Bay Packers (8-6)Remaining schedule: vs. Baltimore on Sunday, vs. Conference record: 5-5.Simple math for the Titans. 1.Division record: 3-2. Houston appears headed for a division-title showdown on New Year’s Day in Tennessee. Tennessee Titans (8-6)Remaining schedule: at Jacksonville on Saturday, vs. New York Giants (10-5)Remaining schedule: at Washington on Jan. Houston on Jan. Carolina on Jan. Conference record: 7-3.The Falcons control their path to the playoffs, though a win by the Saints against Tampa Bay could help Atlanta clinch the division this weekend. 1.Division record: 3-2. That started a big celebration by the Cowboys’ faithful, with Dallas now assured of staying in Texas throughout the post-season.Five division titles remain up for grabs with two weeks left in the National Football League season.Dallas can help out the Giants, the only team to beat the Cowboys all season, by defeating Detroit on Monday night, which would clinch a wild-card berth for New York. 1.Division record: 1-3. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)Remaining schedule: at Pittsburgh on Sunday, at Cincinnati on Jan. But the Packers only need to win their final two games to take the NFC North title.The Lions are trying to hang on in that division, and they can clinch the crown Monday night if Green Bay loses to Minnesota. 1.Division record: 3-1. Detroit on Monday night, at Philadelphia on Jan. The Chiefs also can clinch a spot if Baltimore loses earlier Sunday.The Miami Dolphins need a win, with Denver losing or tying. NFC SOUTH Atlanta Falcons (9-5)Remaining schedule: at Carolina on Saturday, vs. Conference record: 7-4.The Giants will spend their weekend off waiting to see if another team can help them out. Conference record: 5-5.The defending Super Bowl champs face a major challenge with the league’s toughest finish.Eliminated: San Diego Chargers (5-8). Arizona on Saturday, at San Francisco on Jan. The Patriots first must beat the Jets, then wait to see if the Colts can win in Oakland. 1.Division record: 1-3. Lots.Eliminated: Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12). Winning out means their first division title since 2008 and avoids tiebreakers they would lose to Houston. Conference record: 4-6.Staring at elimination unless the Vikings can storm Lambeau Field.Eliminated: Chicago Bears (3-11). NFC WEST Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)Remaining schedule: vs. Here’s a closer look at the teams and scenarios: AFC EAST New England Patriots (12-2)Remaining schedule: vs. Conference record: 9-1.Clinched division and first-round bye. Conference record: 6-4.The Bucs are pushing Atlanta in the division and are poised to grab the second wild-card spot with some help in the NFC North.Need a miracle: New Orleans Saints (6-8), Carolina Panthers (6-8). Cleveland on Jan. Green Bay on Jan. They need Tennessee to lose to Jacksonville earlier Saturday to avoid playing the Titans on Jan. Conference record: 7-3.A series sweep of Oakland gives the Chiefs a tiebreaker, but they no longer control the division race. The New York Giants have given teams chasing playoff berths a fresh reminder to take nobody for granted, especially division rivals.As a result, the Dallas Cowboys’ only challenge now as the NFC East champs and the NFC’s top seed is handling the final two regular-season games before a first-round bye. Conference record: 5-5.Win, then hope for help. 1.Division record: 3-2. Conference record: 6-4.A wild card is possible, but winning out makes the Packers champions of the North. Minnesota on Saturday, at Detroit on Jan. AFC SOUTH Houston Texans (8-6)Remaining schedule: vs.

NBA players, coaches embrace Christmas showcase as a privilege

“You come to find out that it’s a privilege because if you’re playing on Christmas, that means you are on one of the good teams. Christmas has already been celebrated at Dwyane Wade’s house. His wife and kids unwrapped their presents on Wednesday night, since waiting until Sunday morning wasn’t an option this year.Dad’s got to work. “You’re going to play on Christmas.”LeBron James is playing on Christmas for the 11th time, Pau Gasol for the ninth time, and Chris Paul and Kevin Durant will be making their seventh appearances. That was always a great game to watch and at some point, while I’m here, we’re going to get ourselves on Christmas Day.” “I mean, that’s a dream come true for people and I know, I remember watching games in New York and that feeling. For him, the atmosphere on Dec. 26.“It’s not a burden,” Cavaliers guard James Jones said. The rebuilding Heat weren’t picked this year, nor were the Grizzlies – something Fizdale hopes to change soon.“Our guys [in Miami] really got up for that Christmas game,” Fizdale said. At the end of the day, no matter what’s happened in my career, the NBA has put me on Christmas, let me play on Christmas, let me be part of Christmas. One day, I won’t be playing. You’re one of the teams people want to see. He’s part of the NBA’s lineup on Christmas for the 12th time in his 14 professional seasons – and even though it meant having a non-traditional holiday celebration, the Bulls guard still relishes being part of the league’s showcase day. You don’t lose sight that our business, my business, is entertainment and there’s no better time to play than when everyone is at home.”It’s a smorgasbord of basketball, starting with Boston visiting New York at noon and followed by Golden State at Cleveland, Chicago at San Antonio, Minnesota at Oklahoma City and the Clippers visiting the Lakers in the building they share in Los Angeles.The league’s schedule mandate is simple: There’s usually a Finals rematch, and the other four games are about finding matchups of high-profile teams or players and hoping fans at home watch.And they will. “Not a lot of people get to do that. That means he’ll be home for Christmas night.“This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal for me,” Crowder said.Knicks star Carmelo Anthony abhors day games. Some of the league’s next stars – Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins – all will make Christmas debuts.“Being able to play on Christmas is like a privilege,” Wiggins said. Usually, it’s the best teams in the league or the most exciting teams, and for the NBA to think that we’re one of the most exciting teams to play on Christmas – that says a lot for us.”There’s obvious inconvenience, but Boston’s Jae Crowder said it gets cancelled out by the opportunity.Besides, it’s a 40-minute flight from New York to Boston. 25.“It’s the responsibility of being the best,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. “I won’t lie to you and say it means as much as it did when I was young or when I got to be in my first Christmas game,” Wade said. “They all got their new Christmas shoes that they could wear that day, and the new Christmas uniforms. It’s a different feel playing here on Christmas.”Memphis coach David Fizdale wants that feeling again.He spent the past eight seasons as an assistant in Miami, and the Heat were a Christmas fixture on the NBA schedule during his tenure. “But it is still special. There’s two NFL games on Christmas as well, but the NBA is always a huge TV draw on Dec. He makes an exception once a year. But for now, it’s still so cool.”The annual Christmas quintupleheader – highlighted by the NBA Finals rematch of Golden State visiting champion Cleveland – involves 10 teams, five arenas, hundreds of players and team employees, who-knows-how-many workers in those various buildings and will draw about 100,000 fans.And no fewer than seven other teams will be travelling at some point on Christmas, because they play on Dec. 25 at Madison Square Garden is as Christmassy as the North Pole.“You can’t beat playing in the Garden on Christmas,” Anthony said. They knew everyone was watching that game. Again.Wade will wake up on Christmas morning in San Antonio, instead of being with his family in Chicago.

Crystal Palace FC hires new manager Sam Allardyce to avoid relegation

In his previous firefighting role in the Premier League, he joined Sunderland AFC in October, 2015, when the team was next-to-last in the league and preserved its place in the top flight.He has established Bolton, Blackburn and West Ham United as Premier League teams during his 25 years in management.The Eagles became an expansive, attacking team under Pardew, who was backed in the transfer market by the club’s board that is fronted by Parish and has also contained American businessmen David Blitzer and Josh Harris since they became co-owners in December, 2015.However, defensive problems plagued Pardew’s side – especially at set pieces – and Parish said on Thursday “now we’re going to wind the dial back the other way.”With Allardyce known for his pragmatic approach, he fits the bill.He will take training on Saturday and his first game in charge is away to Watford FC on Monday, the first of three games in nine days for the Eagles over the festive period. The Eagles have been the worst-performing team across all four leagues of English soccer in 2016.“We are delighted to be able to make an appointment so quickly,” Palace chairman Steve Parish said, “and fortunate that someone of Sam’s calibre and experience was available.”Palace’s hierarchy has reportedly been in contact with Allardyce for weeks. Three months after losing his dream job as England manager, Sam Allardyce was back in football on Friday and facing a familiar task: Keeping a struggling team in the English Premier League.Allardyce was hired as the manager of London team Crystal Palace FC, which fired Alan Pardew on Thursday with the club lying in 17th place in the 20-team standings. The 62-year-old Allardyce will look to rebuild a reputation that was damaged by an ill-fated 67-day spell with England’s national team, which ended in humiliating fashion in September, when he was forced out because of unguarded comments he made to undercover reporters posing as businessmen.He has never been relegated from the Premier League as a manager – a record that attracted Palace as the club looks to halt its downward momentum and stay in the most lucrative league in Europe.

Five big moments from Edwin Encarnacion’s time with the Blue Jays

Confusion about the play led to frustration and anger throughout the stadium.The Blue Jays tied the game in the bottom half and Jose Bautista would put Toronto up for good with his epic bat-flip homer off Sam Dyson.Hat trickRogers Centre felt like a hockey arena on Aug. Hats rained down on the Rogers Centre turf when Encarnacion’s third blast gave him a home run hat trick.The slugger later posed for a photo with a giant bag of hats by his locker-room stall.Encarnacion also tied Roy Howell’s franchise record with nine RBIs in one game.May DayA quiet April led to a May to remember for Encarnacion in 2014.He set a team record with a whopping 16 homers that month and tied a major-league mark with five multi-homer games in a month.Encarnacion, who hit only two home runs in April that season, went deep twice off Kansas City Royals starter James Shields in an 8-6 loss on May 29.The Rogers Centre crowd gave him a standing ovation after his second no-doubt blast left the stadium.Hang manEncarnacion moved into a tie for the major-league home run lead with his ninth-inning walkoff blast on July 2, 2014 against the Milwaukee Brewers.His 26th homer of the season gave the Blue Jays a 7-4 victory. The Brewers reliever gave up the second-level homer with two outs in the ninth inning. The Blue Jays went on to sweep the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series before falling to Encarnacion’s new team in five games during the AL Championship Series.Forgotten homerLost in the shuffle after the craziest inning in Blue Jays history was Encarnacion’s key solo shot in the decisive Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against Texas.He hit a sixth-inning blast off Cole Hamels that tied the game at two and energized the crowd at Rogers Centre.The Rangers pulled ahead again an inning later when Toronto catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to the pitcher hit Shin-Soo Choo’s bat and Rougned Odor scampered home. 29, 2015.Encarnacion belted three home runs against the Detroit Tigers in a 15-1 laugher that day. Wild walkoffIt was a no-doubt home run from the moment it left the bat.Encarnacion turned on an Ubaldo Jimenez offering in the 11th inning and immediately extended his arms in the air.The ball eventually landed in the second level of seats at Rogers Centre to give the Blue Jays a 5-2 walkoff victory over the Baltimore Orioles in the 2016 American League wild-card game on Oct. 4. Encarnacion also delivered after the game with one of his best quotes.“He hang it, I bang it,” he said.It’s a phrase that must make Brandon Kinztler grimace.

Premier League soccer’s holy week begins on Boxing Day

“It’s crazy,” he said.Indeed, for all that recent additions to the league tend to eulogize the Christmas period, a vast majority of players are – at best – ambivalent about it. Clubs vary when they train: Some will ask their players to come in a little earlier, so they can enjoy lunch with their families; others prefer to train in the afternoon, giving players the chance to spend the morning with their children. Only one of the elite teams – Tottenham Hotspur – will be at home on Christmas Day.For the rest, it is work. “The big teams have more players of the same level, so maybe they can make more rotations. If and when it is introduced, though, the assumption is that a hiatus would come after the Christmas week fixtures. “It will be sometime in January. As far back as 1919, Hull City played on Dec. Having to be absent from families leads, in Le Saux’s words, to feeling “guilty for not being around.”That, he conceded, “comes with the territory,” a punishment for the privilege of playing professional soccer. And it could be worse: Until 1959, English clubs played back-to-back games, home and away against the same opposition, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. To millions of fans, Boxing Day and the games that follow are a staple of the calendar, a high point of the year. As a player, Graeme Le Saux would flick straight to December when he received the Premier League schedule for the forthcoming season.His teammates tended to be more concerned with which rival they would face on the campaign’s opening day, or working out when the season’s big derby matches were, or checking whether their last game fell at home or on the road. It was the first thing I looked for: Where are we on Boxing Day?”It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to English soccer. The Premier League games broadcast over Christmas and New Year’s are regularly among the most watched of the entire season across the world. 26 fixture. I can see the sense in that. No wonder soccer at Christmas caught on. The TV channels pay good money, the stadiums are full, it is a great competition. Playing three games in a week when you could be resting at Christmas? English soccer’s holy week is looked on with envy and admiration worldwide.Except, perhaps, for those inside it. “Even then, you are naturally very conservative, because you know you won’t have much time to recover.“If we were winning comfortably on Boxing Day,” he continued, “I’d always think: ‘I won’t make that run forward now.’ You start saving energy straightaway, really, just to get through it, which raises the question whether fans are actually getting value for money in the performances.”Though the promise of a winter break at the end of it might alleviate the physical concerns, the mental challenge would remain. It is a connection to a longstanding tradition, one that dates back more than a century. I don’t have any problem with any of that. “I can’t say any of them enjoy it; they think we’re nuts,” Hughes said.That, certainly, is the verdict of Thomas Müller, the Bayern Munich forward. But it is my opinion that individual players need a break.”There is now a groundswell of opinion within English soccer that Koeman is right; the majority of Premier League clubs would support some sort of winter break, and the Football Association, which governs the English game, is broadly behind the idea, too. To those tasked with providing the entertainment, though, it is less a period to be enjoyed and more one to be endured.For managers, of course, the next 10 days or so will be spent fretting, biting their nails as their million-dollar assets are put through such strain, fearing that their seasons, so carefully plotted, might be broken simply through exhaustion.“It is really tough,” Ronald Koeman, the Everton manager, said. “If you had two home matches, or did not have to travel far, that made a massive difference. Increasingly, that is true of teams playing at home, too, as the tendency to gather players together on the eve of a match catches on. I don’t think anybody, really deep down, wants to change the Christmas period, because it is unique to this country.”To the players, the physical demands are only part of the problem posed at this time of year.“The only game you play over Christmas when you are 100 per cent fit is the first one,” Le Saux said. In some places – including Newcastle United – democracy takes hold: Manager Rafael Benítez tends to ask his players what they would prefer, then goes with the majority verdict.Later, players for whom the Christmas schedule has not been kind will set off for away trips in the early evening, spending the night in a hotel. The pictures that players paint of their Christmases verge on the bleak.When he was at Manchester United, the striker Danny Welbeck described having to spend Christmas night on his own in a hotel room waiting for a Boxing Day game as among “the worst parts” of being a professional. Rivals, most notably France’s Ligue 1, believe it gives English soccer a competitive advantage in the global battle for viewers.Jean-Michel Aulas, the president of Olympique Lyon, for one, has suggested France would do well to reconfigure its league calendar to incorporate a Dec. It lost the first two games to Spurs, but then beat Wolves, 10-3. It is a core tenet of the ultramodern Premier League’s international branding, a chance to reassert its popularity when most of its peers go into hibernation.It is a source of immense pride, a central pillar of the league’s identity as the toughest on the planet, the festive slog through three games in what can be as little as seven days, seen as proof of just how uniquely mentally and physically draining it is.To most, it is sacrosanct; the idea of not playing on Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and various points in between is seen as somewhere between anathema and heresy.The week’s popularity bears that out: Even in the Premier League, where most seats in most stadiums are sold on most match days, what soccer’s executives call the occupancy rate notches even higher over the holiday period.Last year, for example, 96 per cent of seats were sold over the course of the Premier League season. Hughes acknowledged that while he enjoyed the games, he was less enthused by having “to come in to train while everyone else is enjoying themselves.”Few players in the Premier League will enjoy much of a break over Christmas. The next round of games was played less than 72 hours later. “The key thing was whether Christmas had been kind to you,” he said. Le Saux always had one priority: to find out whether the list was naughty or nice. 25, 26 and 27. Most clubs gave their squads some time off at the start of last week, a couple of days to spend with their families and to rest before the most arduous period of the season. Joey Barton, who rejoined Burnley this week, once wrote that he had spent Christmas watching “enviously” as his family “ate turkey and drank wine.”It can be especially difficult for foreign players, of course, who are unused to the Premier League’s endless rhythm. On Boxing Day, that went up to 98 per cent. It kind of makes or breaks Christmas. This week is too special to be touched.“If we ever do have a midseason break, it won’t be over this period,” Mark Hughes, the Stoke City manager, said. Stadiums across the country were at 98-per-cent capacity then, too.The love affair is not just local.