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Our predictions for who’ll be out there Night 1

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Our predictions for who'll be out there Night 1

This is the time of year when a team’s lineup takes shape, as players compete for a roster spot and minutes.

That’s the subject of this Detroit Red Wings mailbag. Reader Marty H. wants to know, “When do you think next season will start and what’s the opening night lineup going to look like?”

[ The Free Press has started a digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Red Wings content. ]  

The NHL is targeting a December first start to the 2020-21 season, but that’s a fluid situation because of the pandemic. The league no doubt will observe how the NFL does with limited-capacity attendance and evaluate whether it can do the same. Pushing the start date to Jan. 1 — which commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league is willing to do — means the regular season would end July 5.

Detroit Red Wings center Robby Fabbri (14) celebrates his goal with teammates during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at Little Caesars Arena, Dec. 12, 2019, in Detroit.

Training camps, for now, are slated to start in mid-November; the Wings will hold theirs at Little Caesars Arena, but plan to return to Traverse City in 2021. It will be an interesting time, as there are multiple openings — some of which general manager Steve Yzerman will need to address via free agency or trades.

More mailbag: Which of their draft misses hurt more: Quinn Hughes or Brock Boeser?

Jonathan Bernier is the only NHL-caliber goaltender under contract, and he certainly earned the right to start the season as the No. 1 guy after his performance the past season. From Dec. 15 to the last game on March 10, Bernier posted a .915 save percentage in 25 games. He started 23 of those games, coming into to relieve Jimmy Howard in the last two games Howard started.

Yzerman signed Calvin Pickard during the 2019 offseason to have as a reserve in case of injury, but Pickard allowed 15 goals in the three appearances he made with the Wings, and Eric Comrie likewise wasn’t able to grab the backup job when he was afforded the opportunity last December.

More: The Wings need a new goaltender. Here are top candidates

On defense, I think Moritz Seider will be in the lineup on opening night. The 19-year-old defenseman is currently with his former team, Adler Mannheim in Germany, part of a group of Wings loaned to European teams until the NHL gives the go-ahead on camps. Seider did well playing for the Griffins last season, and would have been called up to play a few games had the pandemic not interfered. Danny DeKeyser or Patrik Nemeth can serve as his partner, with Filip Hronek completing the top four. 

Gustav Lindstrom showed he can play a safe, dependable game. So did veteran Alex Biega, who Yzerman acquired last October in a trade with Vancouver, flipping underachieving prospect David Pope. Those are front-runners to form the third pair, though Madison Bowey, if he is re-signed, should challenge for one of the spots. 

Dennis Cholowski started last season with the Wings but he didn’t make a strong impression and finished in the minors. His fate may be partially determined by whether minor leagues are operational, which they aren’t likely to be without fan attendance.

Detroit Red Wings center Robby Fabbri, left, celebrates his goal with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha (39) during the second period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Up front, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi have excellent chemistry to man the top line. Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina can provide offense on the second line, likely with Valtteri Filppula in the center. 

Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Adam Erne could form a good shutdown line — Glendening and Helm are two of the fastest skaters on the team, and Erne adds a dose of physicality.

[ Should the Wings pay Seattle Kraken to rid roster of underachiever? ]

 That leaves Frans Nielsen, Evgeny Svechnikov, Dmytro Timashov, Justin Abdelkader, Michael Rasmussen, Christoffer Ehn, Givani Smith and Mathias Brome to battle for the fourth line and reserve spots. 

Svechnikov is no longer waiver exempt, so he’ll have a spot on the roster — but he needs to prove he should be in the lineup. Rasmussen’s situation depends on whether he can command a spot at the center position, as that’s where the Wings see him playing longterm. Same with Joe Veleno, and again, the uncertainty regarding the AHL will be a factor.

Abdelkader doesn’t provide much offense any more (19 points in 71 games in 2018-19; three assists in 49 games last season) and he has three years left on his contract, making a buyout prohibitive. Under normal circumstances he’s vulnerable to being placed on waivers (clearing a roster spot and roughly one million in salary cap space), but the pandemic might not make that feasible.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments that made the Detroit Red Wings will be published in October by Triumph Books. To preorder, go to Amazon.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings 2020-21 opening lineup: Our predictions

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Kyrgios sends volley at Wilander over Murray comments

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Kyrgios sends volley at Wilander over Murray comments

(Reuters) – Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander came under fire from Nick Kyrgios on Monday after the Swede suggested Andy Murray should consider whether he has the right to accept wild cards into majors at the expense of emerging young players.

Swede Wilander’s comments came after three-time Grand Slam champion Murray’s first-round defeat by Stan Wawrinka at the French Open on Sunday in which he won only six games.

It was former world number one Murray’s joint-worst loss at a Grand Slam and came on his return to the French Open after a three-year absence, during which he has had two hip surgeries.

“I keep getting a little disappointed, is it his right to be out there doing that? I did it and I shouldn’t have, it was the biggest mistake I did in my career,” Wilander told Eurosport.

“I think Murray needs to stop thinking of himself and start thinking about who he was. Does he have a right to be out there taking wild cards from the young players?”

Australian Kyrgios, who has skipped the French Open because of the coronavirus pandemic, quickly jumped to the defence of the 33-year-old British player on Twitter.

“Just read what Wilander said about @andy_murray… shut up Mats, no one cares. Muzz, just know that however long you stay, we all appreciate and enjoy your tennis and banter.

“Also I’ve never watched a point of Mats Wilander.”

Murray returned to singles action last year and won the title in Antwerp where he beat Wawrinka, a result that raised hopes he could again challenge at the top.

However, the three-time Grand Slam winner looked a pale shadow of himself on Sunday and admitted after the match that he would have a good hard think about his game.

“It’s tough to quit, for sure. By giving us all hope by playing, it’s just not right,” Wilander said. “I love the fact that he is back and trying.

“Hopefully he’ll figure out why he’s doing it.”

Wilander’s Eurosport colleague Alex Corretja, a former coach of Murray, said he respected Wilander’s opinion but said Murray needs to be given a chance to enjoy the rest of his career.

“My advice is to retire one year too late rather than one year too early,” Spaniard Corretja said. “I believe that once the indoors season starts he will feel much better.”

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru and Martyn Herman in London; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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The story behind Nick Foles’ game-winning touchdown vs. Falcons is totally insane

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The story behind Nick Foles' game-winning touchdown vs. Falcons is totally insane

The story behind Foles’ game-winning TD call is just insane originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Eagles legend Nick Foles saw his first action as a member of the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and boy did he capitalize on the opportunity. Foles took over for Mitch Trubisky in the third quarter, and promptly led the Bears to a dramatic comeback win over the Falcons to push Chicago to 3-0.

Foles threw a game-winning touchdown to Bears wideout Anthony Miller with less than two minutes left, while absorbing a hit from Atlanta’s pass rush, a play already impressive on its own.

But the story behind how the play came together is even more amazing.

Monday morning on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, Peter Schrager broke down Foles’ inside-the-huddle chatter from the third down TD throw:

“I’ve spoken with folks in Chicago, here’s what happened. It’s third and eight, and Nick Foles looks at Anthony Miller and says, ‘If it’s an all-out blitz, I need you to run to the ‘L’ in the end zone.’ Miller’s like, ‘What?’ Foles goes, ‘Run to the ‘L’ in Atlanta Falcons in the end zone. Just run there and I’ll find you. They don’t have time to talk about it, he just says, ‘Just go there if it’s an all-out blitz.'”

And folks, look where this ball wound up:

Right. On. The. L.

Foles has less than three seconds from snap to throw, basically under duress the whole time, as the Falcons sent six rushers to chase Foles down.

And the man tossed that ball on an absolute rope, right into Miller’s hands, at the L in “ATL” – just like he said he would.

The legend of Nick Foles continues to grow, and it only gets more and more impressive. I would be amazed if Foles isn’t the starting QB for the Bears going forward. He certainly earned it Sunday.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Texas A&M struggles, Georgia’s QB issues, Pitt’s defense

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Texas A&M struggles, Georgia's QB issues, Pitt's defense

A common refrain throughout the offseason was to look out for Texas A&M in the SEC West.

Texas A&M was entering Year 3 under Jimbo Fisher and 2020 was going to be the year that Fisher and his staff’s efforts on the recruiting trail were really going to start manifesting on the field.

If what the Aggies displayed on Saturday night against lowly Vanderbilt was supposed to be evidence of that progression, Fisher’s program has much further to go than any A&M fan will ever want to admit.

Texas A&M managed to barely eke out a 17-12 win over the Commodores, a team many expect to go winless over the course of its brutal SEC-only schedule. From his time at Florida State, Fisher has the reputation as some sort of offensive innovator. On Saturday night, the Aggies looked mostly lifeless. Quarterback Kellen Mond, now a senior, continued to show that he may not ever live up to his billing as a five-star recruit.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher talks with quarterback Kellen Mond during the first half against Vanderbilt. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Mond completed 17-of-28 throws for just 189 yards. His lack of progression was on display yet again. He missed throws any supposed upper tier SEC quarterback should make, and he fumbled twice. His botched exchange with running back Isaiah Spiller with 4:56 to play gave Vanderbilt a shot to take a lead late in the fourth. Luckily for Mond, he was bailed out by his defense, which overwhelmed a thoroughly overmatched Vanderbilt offense.

But the fact that the game was that close — A&M was favored by more than 30 points — has to be tremendously concerning for Aggies fans, especially knowing what lies around the corner. Next on the schedule is a trip to Tuscaloosa to play No. 2 Alabama on Saturday.

The university gave Fisher a 10-year, $75 million guaranteed contract to take the Aggies from a middle of the pack SEC program to one that competes for national championships. With a mediocre 10-7 record in conference play with just one win over a Top 25 SEC opponent, that investment has not yielded much of anything so far.

– Sam Cooper

Georgia’s QB parade

The fifth year of Kirby Smart’s tenure at Georgia began on Saturday. And despite having a near-three year starter in Jake Fromm in his first four years with the school, there’s been an abundance of turnover in the Georgia quarterback room.

And that turnover was apparent on Saturday.

D’Wan Mathis started for the Bulldogs but didn’t make it through the first half as the UGA offense was stagnant. He was replaced by Stetson Bennett, who ended up a serviceable 20-of-29 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the 37-10 win over Arkansas.

Bennett, a former walk-on, began the summer fourth on the depth chart behind Jamie Newman, J.T. Daniels and Mathis. The QB room looked pretty crowded.

It didn’t stay that way. Newman, a graduate transfer from Wake Forest, decided to opt out before the season began. That left the starting job seemingly to the USC transfer Daniels, but he wasn’t medically cleared to play on Saturday as he continues his recovery from a knee injury he suffered with the Trojans.

And now, with a visit from No. 7 Auburn looming, Smart will have a decision to make about his starting quarterback. Does he go back to Mathis, or stick with Bennett? A few months ago, nobody would have believed that this would be the dilemma for Georgia just two weeks into the season.

But then again, Georgia is accustomed to quarterback shuffling.

Georgia struggled early in its opener against Arkansas, but eventually pulled away and won 37-10. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Newman’s decision not to play at Georgia made him the third high-profile QB to leave the program in the past four seasons. Jacob Eason was the starter as a freshman in Smart’s first season with the Bulldogs but suffered a knee injury in the 2017 season opener. That paved the way for the Fromm era to begin and Eason never got his job back. He transferred to Washington ahead of the 2018 season.

Georgia signed Justin Fields in its 2018 recruiting class. Fields was a five-star recruit and the No. 2 QB in the country behind Trevor Lawrence. But he famously spent just one season at Georgia playing sparingly behind Fromm and is now, as you know, at Ohio State. In his first year with the Buckeyes, Fields finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

The great news for Georgia is that Smart has been able to consistently attract top-tier quarterbacks to his team despite so much turnover. The team signed four-star freshman Carson Beck in the class of 2020 and five-star QB Brock Vandagriff — the No. 1 pro-style QB — is committed in the class of 2021.

But that ability to get so many good QBs to sign also comes with the price of transfers. Mathis was a four-star recruit in the class of 2019 and the No. 3 dual-threat QB in his class. While it’s entirely possible that the 2021 roster will include Daniels, Mathis, Beck and Vandagriff, the chances of at least one transfer from among that group aren’t insignificant.

– Nick Bromberg

Keep an eye on Pitt in the ACC

Miami has justifiably gotten the most early-season among the ACC teams that can compete with Clemson and Notre Dame for a possible conference title.

But what about Pittsburgh?

Pitt improved to 3-0 with a 23-20 home win over Louisville, and did so with another stifling defensive effort. The high-powered Cardinals offense was averaging more than 500 yards per game over its first two games. Pitt held UL to just 223 yards, forcing three turnovers in the process.

Malik Cunningham had a miserable afternoon. He completed just nine of his 21 throws for 107 yards and was intercepted three times by Pitt defenders. To make matters worse, he was sacked seven times, including three from senior defensive end Patrick Jones II.

It was easy to overlook Pitt’s first two opponents: Austin Peay and Syracuse. But the way the Panthers smothered a respected offense like the one Louisville has consistently exhibited under Scott Satterfield should make you notice what is going on at Pitt.

Through three games, Pitt is allowing just 177 yards of offense per game, including 3.24 yards per play. The Panthers’ perceived strengths entering the season were defensive line and secondary. Even after Jalen Twyman, the team’s top defensive lineman, opted out to prepare for the NFL, those assessments of Pitt’s talent have proven to be true.

Looking ahead, Pitt’s next two games are very winnable: vs. NC State and at Boston College. Later in October, though, is when the fun begins. In back-to-back weeks, the Panthers will travel to Miami on Oct. 17 and host Notre Dame on Oct. 24. Miami will head on the road to face No. 1 Clemson in the interim, so Pitt could move ahead of the Hurricanes in the ACC standings before their highly-anticipated matchup.

If Pitt wants to realistically compete for an ACC crown, though, it needs to improve on offense. The Panthers are averaging just 3.6 yards per rush as a team, leaving a heavy burden on senior quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett is one of the conference’s most-experienced signal callers, but he can be erratic with his accuracy and decision-making. Pickett and the offense need to get into a better rhythm before going up against the Hurricanes and Fighting Irish.

– Sam Cooper

The AP Top 25 may only get weirder

The AP poll is going to be odd on a weekly basis with teams playing differing numbers of games over the course of 2020. And it’s going to be really odd over the next few weeks until the Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and Mid-American Conference get their seasons going. 

Sunday’s AP poll was the first in-season poll that included Big Ten and Pac-12 teams after the conferences’ decisions to play later this season. The poll had four Big Ten teams among the top 25 and one Pac-12 team — Oregon — in the rankings.

The five new teams that haven’t yet played a game had to kick some teams out. While teams like Army, Louisville and Kentucky lost on Saturday, Louisiana and Virginia Tech got kicked out of the poll despite winning. 

Yeah, that seems unfair, but the Ragin’ Cajuns and Hokies may not have been ranked to begin with if every conference was currently playing football. 

But we’ve got a few more weeks until that actually happens. By the time the Big Ten plays games on Oct. 24, No. 1 Clemson will have already played five times. When the Pac-12 starts playing on Nov. 6, Clemson will have completed seven games.

Where will Oregon be ranked at that point? Given the Ducks debuted at No. 14 in the rankings on Sunday, it’s not unreasonable at all to think that Oregon could move into the top 10 before it actually plays a game thanks to other teams’ losses. Should teams who haven’t started their seasons yet benefit from teams losing games? It’s something that AP voters now have to consider for the next month or so. We’re looking forward to seeing how their reasoning plays out. 

– Nick Bromberg

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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