NY Rangers land Rick Nash in blockbuster deal

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NY Rangers land Rick Nash in blockbuster deal

From Comcast SportsNet
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The wait to land in a new city and with a new team is over for Rick Nash. Finally, after months of speculation, the high-scoring forward was dealt on Monday. And the destination was not a surprise. He's gone from Blue Jacket to Blueshirt. "There was a lot of limbo for sure," Nash said. "It was a tough period. The good thing now is it's over and I can look forward to next year." Nash was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the New York Rangers for three players and a first-round draft pick. The All-Star, who first went to Columbus management in January and asked to be dealt, heads to Manhattan in exchange for forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov along with defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick in 2013. Nash, at 28, is the oldest of the players in the deal, and was shipped along with a third-round pick and a minor-league defenseman to the Rangers, who can use offense. Nash is a former NHL goal-scoring champion, who has never played for a contender, but could blossom under the bright lights of the big city. "We're happy to have a five-time All-Star on our team and a 40-goal scorer," said New York general manager Glen Sather, who was also happy he didn't have to break up the young core of his team any more than he did. "He will help us immensely." Talks heated up over the weekend between Sather and Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson. And by Monday afternoon, a day before labor talks resume between the NHL and the players' association in Toronto, the long-rumored deal was done. Howson began his comments at a news conference by thanking Nash for his contributions over a nine-year career in Columbus as he became the face of the franchise. Howson conceded that the fans might need some time to take it all in. "This is difficult for people to accept when you trade what is arguably your best player," he said. "We understand the fans (might find it) difficult to understand this or (be) upset with this. But this is something that we did because we think it's going to better our hockey club. We got the right value for Rick. "And it's all about moving forward." For both sides, of course. The deal, after all, gives the Rangers a big, sturdy right wing to add to their core of solid young players and also helps them counter moves made by other Eastern Conference powers this offseason. Nash will join a New York offense that includes captain Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. "They are already one of the top teams in the league. The players they have are pretty impressive," Nash said. "In finding a team, I thought the Rangers were perfect. They are a great fit for my style." The Rangers were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season and just missed out on the Presidents' Trophy for most regular-season points. New York defeated Ottawa and Washington in the playoffs before losing to New Jersey in the conference finals in six games. Nash immediately improves its credentials and gets it -- on paper, at least -- closer to its first Stanley Cup since 1994. "This changes the complexion of our team," Sather said. "He is a world-class player. This kind of quality hockey player doesn't come along very often." The move to New York and a perennial playoff team should be a boon to his career, although it will require a major alteration in his lifestyle. Quiet and almost shy, Nash enjoyed playing golf at nice courses and walking around Columbus virtually unnoticed. That will end when he takes his act to the Big Apple. Nash is in the third year of an eight-year contract he signed in 2010 which has an average annual value of 7.8 million. The total salary cap hit of Dubinsky, Anisimov and Erixon is almost exactly the same. One of the most decorated players in the league, Nash helped his native Canada win the gold medal in the 2010 Olympics. He also has played in four World Championships, leading Canada to gold in 2007 and silver in 2005 and 2008. Plus, he shared the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2004, scoring 41 goals to lead the league along with Ilya Kovalchuk, then of Atlanta, and Calgary's Jarome Iginla. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said he was pleased by one aspect in particular of the trade. "I'm glad that he's in the East," he said with a laugh. "Obviously, he's a great player, and if you only have to play him one time, that's a good thing." On April 5, 2013, Columbus will play host to Nash and the Rangers for the first time. Nash is coming off a season in which he had 30 goals and 29 assists while playing in all 82 games. He has 289 goals and 258 assists in 674 career NHL games, all with the Blue Jackets. His offensive skill set will be welcomed by a New York team that struggled for offense during the postseason. With one of the NHL's top goaltenders, Henrik Lundqvist, playing in front of a deep, young defense, many people believed the Rangers were just one scorer away from a title last season. Offense was clearly a problem in the six-game loss to the rival Devils, as the Rangers did not score more than three goals in any of those contests. Meanwhile, the acquisition of the three skilled, young players greatly improves the Blue Jackets, who had the worst record in the NHL last season. They believe they made a key step at the trade deadline when they sent forward Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings -- who would go on to win the Stanley Cup with Carter playing a key role -- for young defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick. Johnson, who captained the United States squad in the 2010 Olympics, will likely take over that role in Columbus. They also traded for another young forward, Nick Foligno, in a one-for-one deal with the Senators earlier this summer. The loss of Nash will hurt a Columbus offense which already was starved for goals. But Dubinsky and Anisimov will likely get a shot at playing on the top two lines as will Foligno, Vinny Prospal, Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger and youngsters Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson. The Blue Jackets, who have only been to the postseason once in their 11 seasons, now own three first-round picks in the 2013 draft. Dubinsky, 26, had 10 goals and 24 assists in 77 games a year ago with the Rangers, while the 24-year-old Anisimov had 16 goals and 20 assists in 79 games. Erixon, just 21, a former first-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2009, only played in 18 games for the Rangers last year in his first year as a professional. Dubinsky missed part of the Rangers' playoff run this year with a foot injury. Howson said both Dubinsky and Erixon were looking forward to a fresh start with a young team in Columbus. Anisimov, as far as anyone knows, still doesn't know he was traded. "Artem is on his honeymoon in Fiji," Howson said. "A number of people left messages for him but we haven't heard from him yet."

Antonio Brown posts questionable locker room video after Steelers win

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Antonio Brown posts questionable locker room video after Steelers win

Showing a knee-buckling lack of self-awareness, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown put up 13:35 of footage on Facebook Live after his team’s 18-16 win over Kansas City on Sunday night.

It was a weird betrayal of the team’s privacy by one of its star players. Brown, allowed viewers to see live (and on tape until it’s inevitably taken down) that, while head coach Mike Tomlin was around a bank of lockers addressing what Tomlin presumed was his entire team, Brown was mugging in front of his phone for a growing online audience.

The video starts with Brown and teammates having fun in front of their lockers. As the team is called together for a postgame prayer, Brown keeps the camera rolling. After the prayer, Tomlin made a statement.

“When you get to this point in the journey, not a lot needs to be said,” said Tomlin. “Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We spotted those a******* a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We gonna touch down at 4 o’clock in the f****** morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for that ass. But you ain’t gotta tell them we coming. Because some of us might not like the damn (woofkisses?) The chest pounding.  Keep a low profile.”

While Tomlin was issuing that low-profile request, Brown rolled on. Another Steeler then spoke up saying, “Keep cool on social media, this is about us, nobody else.”

Finally, what sounded like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger addressed the team saying of Foxboro, “That’s a lion’s den we’re going into this week. It’s a lion’s den. I’ve been there, a lot of us have been there. Keep your mouth shut.”

While people might fan themselves over Tomlin calling the Patriots a*******, that’s benign and likely will be matched in private by Patriots coaches this week.

What’s staggering is that a player of Brown’s ability and seeming intelligence would be so self-absorbed as to be agog at putting on a video show for Facebook followers at the expense of his coaches, teammates and franchise.  

Steelers survive, advance to visit Patriots despite red-zone woes

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Steelers survive, advance to visit Patriots despite red-zone woes

For the third time in the Belichick-Brady Era, the Patriots will be trying to step over the Steelers to get to a Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh went into Kansas City on Sunday night and outlasted a breathtakingly sluggish Chiefs team 18-16.

If you spent the day stewing about the Patriots adequate-against-Osweiler-but-probably-nobody-else offensive performance Saturday night, maybe Sunday night calmed your nerves.

Despite having a more than 2-to-1 edge in total yards entering the fourth, Pittsburgh had managed just six field goals from kicker Chris Boswell. Their best chance at getting six on the board was squelched when Ben Roethlisberger got picked at the goal line in the first half.

That Kansas City was even in the game with a chance to tie it in the final three minutes has to be humbling for the Steelers. They dominated every statistical category of consequence while the Chiefs played aimlessly behind Alex Smith, who may be a cut above Brock Osweiler but is definitely a cut below every other quarterback in the Divisional Playoff round.  

On this night, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t much better.

Still, Pittsburgh’s got the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at running back and receiver – LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown were both at 101 yards after halftime – and New England’s entire defensive game plan will revolve around corralling those two and getting them horizontal.

The Patriots beat a Roethlisberger-less team in October, 27-16. Landry Jones was at quarterback that day.

The Steelers were in the Patriots’ red zone four times. They came away with 10 points. They were inside the Patriots’ 40 six times and finished with 16.

“In an offense like that with a bunch of very explosive players, one slant can turn into a touchdown so you have to be really careful in your coverages,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich told me after that game. "There’s not just one go-to guy. They got a running back that can catch it out of the backfield and make plays (Le’Veon Bell). [Antonio Brown] can catch it anywhere on the field and make plays. You just have to make sure with a guy like [Landry Jones] to have him make the throws. It’s hard in this league to be perfect. So to have him sit back there and try to make all the throws was what we chose and the secondary did a great job.”

Bell and Brown combined for 268 yards from scrimmage against the Patriots.

The Steelers scored one touchdown.

The ever-dawdling Bell, who practically walks to the line of scrimmage then skips around like a little kid with a full bladder before finding a crease to exploit, is where it will start for the Patriots.

If the Patriots are going to go to their seventh Super Bowl since Belichick’s hire, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Donta Hightower and Elandon Roberts – their two best interior linemen and their two inside linebackers – will be the ones who start the bus. The overwhelming majority of Bell’s runs are between the guards so building a wall and out-patienting him as he probes for a crease is Job One.

The Chiefs weren’t stout enough at the line of scrimmage and Bell brutalized them. It will, of course, fall to more than just those four. Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Vincent Valentine and Shea McLellin will also be in focus. Run-support from safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will be a part of it as well, but that’s where the Steelers become tough to deal with.

Once Bell’s established himself, the Steelers can start to work play-action and get Brown into space. Creep too far and the numbers on the back end could wind up being insufficient to deal with one of the NFL’s fastest players.

That’s why you can expect the Patriots to not overexert themselves with pressures and blitzes against Ben Roethlisberger. They’ll want as many back in coverage as possible to deal with Brown and some of the other Steelers speed merchants.

The Patriots have dealt with Pittsburgh’s defense enough to know where to attack. LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards on 24 carries in the first meeting and

Tom Brady went 19 for 26 for 222 with two touchdowns.

The Patriots had Gronk that day and the Steelers didn’t have Roethlisberger. That tips the scales some when measuring the differences. But after watching Pittsburgh kick six field goals and keep afloat an underperforming Chiefs team, the issue that dogged them in October – red zone offense – looks like its still around.

And they are going to visit a team that does that led the NFL in preventing points.