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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA — Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said his left ankle still is pretty sore.

    But as far as tonight's game with the Flyers is concerned, "There's no thought of me not playing."

    Lecavalier, hurt Saturday when struck by teammate Sami Salo's slap shot, did not skate Monday and spent most of the day getting treatment and icing the ankle. The team said X-rays and an MRI exam revealed a bone bruise.

    Asked how his lineup would change if Lecavalier, who has four goals and 11 points in eight games, did not play, coach Guy Boucher said, "He'll play, so it won't change anything."

    Damian Cristodero, Times staff writer


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    GAINESVILLE — The Florida men's basketball team will take the floor against Arkansas tonight for the first time as the nation's No. 2 team.

    The Gators rose two spots Monday in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls. It is Florida's highest AP ranking since being No. 1 on Feb. 12, 2007, the season it won a second straight national title.

    Florida (18-2) is 8-0 in SEC play and on a 10-game winning streak. The Gators, who received seven first-place AP votes, are also No. 3 in this week's RPI rankings and No. 1 in the Sagarin basketball rankings. Florida is 5-2 vs. teams with an RPI Top 50, 8-2 vs. RPI Top 100.

    The Florida players realize they've become a marked team.

    "I think now for sure every team is going to give us their best shot," junior C Patric Young said. "Getting more recognition means that we have to be ready for everybody bringing their best shot at us. Saying that we're this or we're that. None of that stuff really matters. We've just got to take care of what we can control coming in and trying to get better each and every day."

    HOME ADVANTAGE: Arkansas is 13-1 at home this season, 4-0 in SEC play. The Gators are 4-4 at Bud Walton Arena under coach Billy Donovan, but Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said Florida will be its biggest challenge to date.

    "It's going to be a game where we're going to need everybody to come out and play, and play at a high level, because when you talk about Florida you talk about a team that's pegged to play in the Final Four and win a national championship and I don't see why not," Anderson said. "They have all the weapons, they're playing tremendous defensively. I think that's what gets lost when people talk about Florida and how they shoot the basketball. Billy has them playing at a high level of defense. That's to me what wins you championships."

    MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Florida's attempts to land junior college QB Tanner McEvoy fell short Monday when the Hillsdale, N.J., native orally committed to Wisconsin. McEvoy, a 6-6, 215-pound dual threat from Arizona Western College who threw for more than 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns, chose Wisconsin over Florida and Oregon. The Gators' two backups behind Jeff Driskel have no collegiate playing experience. But ESPN national director of recruiting Tom Luginbill said the Gators are doing just fine. National signing day is Wednesday.

    "I think if there's any coach right now in the SEC that's probably having the best night's sleep over the next two days, I would actually argue that it's Will Muschamp because of what they've been able to accomplish," Luginbill said Monday. "They've been able to sustain verbal commitments for an extended period of time. They've had minimal shifts and minimal changing. We've seen guys like Quinton Powell (who had his scholarship offer pulled), of course, and some other kids, but nothing dramatic. … So hey, this is going to be one of those years where people will look at Florida's class and they will say, 'Wow, they were able to sustain long term,' which is hard to do. It's awful hard to close, but when you can sustain long term that's a very, very difficult task and I think they deserve a lot of credit for that."

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA — When the Lightning opened its road schedule Jan. 21 against the Islanders, it was with a right cross and an uppercut as wings B.J. Crombeen and Pierre-Cedric Labrie fought at the opening faceoff with Matt Martin and Joe Finley, respectively.

    Tampa Bay lost the game, but coach Guy Boucher said a message was sent by a team that last season was second-worst in the league away from home.

    "It wasn't something I had planned,'' Boucher said Monday about the fracas. "I just felt it was right to put our bigger guys out there to set a tone for the season since we weren't tough enough on the road last year. The message was sent and it's the right message: we're a much tougher team and better equipped to challenge other teams."

    Whether the Lightning is ready to win on the road is another story, though we should get a clue during a tough four-game trip that begins tonight against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center and goes through New Jersey, Boston and at the Rangers.

    "A true test for us," center Nate Thompson said. "If you want to be one of the best teams you have to win on the road."

    Tampa Bay's road woes last season were curious, to say the least, because the team was so good at home, tying the franchise record with 25 wins. But on the road the Lightning, at 13-22-6, sometimes seemed lost.

    It was outscored 152-100. The power play was tied for 21st at 13.9 percent. The penalty kill was 18th at 80 percent.

    Had Tampa Bay played even marginally better, perhaps it would have made the playoffs it missed by only eight points. What goes into winning on the road?

    • Be ready to play. Too many times last season the Lightning did not match the home team's intensity and was outscored 46-30 in first periods.

    "We just fell behind the eight ball too much and played chase hockey," center Steven Stamkos said. "Tough to do on the road."

    That is why defenseman Matt Carle said Tampa Bay needs an "overtime mentality."

    "Just get pucks to the net and create havoc in the offensive zone and not try to do things too cute," he said.

    • Play better defensively.

    "Make a simple play and live to fight another day," defenseman Eric Brewer said, and added about last season, "We were just trying to make too many plays, just trying to knife the puck through too many guys. Keep the puck moving forward."

    • Pay attention to details. The home team gets the last line change, so inevitably visitors will face matchups they don't like.

    "You've got to deal with it," Brewer said. "We needed better execution. Quick (line) changes and just stay fresh. You can get over a lot if you're not tired."

    Give the Lightning credit. It did all those things in a 4-1 win Jan. 22 at Carolina, and should have gained confidence from a just-ended 4-1-0 homestand.

    It also saw in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Rangers the kind of game to expect on this road trip: close-checking, physical and more of a grind than the wide open games that helped Tampa Bay score a league-most 39 goals.

    "Playoff hockey," right wing Marty St. Louis called it.

    And we know teams fight less in the playoffs, though Crombeen ruled nothing out.

    "We're competing for two points," he said, "and we'll do whatever we have to to get it."


    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    By Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    You can't help but compare one to the other. • Lightning rookie Cory Conacher is listed at 5 feet 8, although he looks more like 5-7. Lightning veteran Marty St. Louis also is listed at 5-8, although he looks more like 5-6. • The exact measurements really don't matter. They're both small by National Hockey League standards. • They're both also very good — by any standard. • Of course, St. Louis, 37, has been doing this sort of thing for 13 seasons. Conacher, 23, has been doing it for eight games. • Going into Monday night, St. Louis was among the league leaders in scoring with 14 points, while Conacher led all NHL rookies in points and plus-minus. • But the two never-drafted stars have developed a special bond that goes far beyond the score sheet. Call it little brother and even littler brother, although both will tell you that size has nothing to do with this working relationship. • So what is it? Why have these two become so close? Mostly, it's a veteran wanting to pass along all that he knows and a kid thirsty for whatever scraps of knowledge he can pick up. Here's what the two mean to each other and the Lightning.

    What St. Louis means to Conacher

    Ask Cory Conacher a question about himself and he immediately starts talking about everyone but Cory Conacher. This Burlington, Ontario, native must have been raised on a steady diet of humble pie.

    He mentions linemates Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone. He talks about Lightning coach Guy Boucher. He talks about his parents and three siblings and all of his buddies who send him texts after every game. He said he can't wait to buy something nice for his mom and dad to thank them for all they've done.

    But he mostly talks about St. Louis.

    "My whole life, he's a guy who has kept me motivated,'' Conacher said of St. Louis. "He's a guy that I look up to so much. Coming here, he was the first guy I wanted to talk to, just to get an idea of what I had to do.''

    St. Louis' messages are straight to the point, as is most everything that comes out of St. Louis' mouth.

    "Move my feet, go into the dirty areas, do the things that coaches like,'' Conacher said. "That's what I've focused on.''

    It has worked. Conacher's five goals have come in those so-called "dirty areas'' where you are as likely to find a punch in the schnozz as you are a loose puck. He has put up with the hacks and the whacks, checks and punches to put together an impressive start to his NHL career.

    What Conacher means to St. Louis

    Every time St. Louis notices something about Conacher's game — good or bad — he'll pull the kid aside and offer a piece of advice. Maybe it will be on the bench during a game. Maybe it will be in the locker room after practice. Maybe it will be over a bite to eat. Conacher is receptive, so St. Louis keeps talking.

    And, let's get this straight: St. Louis isn't doing this because the two happen to shop in the same section of the men's store.

    "I love his game. I love his energy,'' St. Louis said. "It's not because he is small. People compare him to me and it's not like I try to talk to him more because of that. Every guy that comes in here, if I see something, I want to help.''

    For St. Louis, it's all about doing what a veteran is supposed to do.

    "When I was a young player in this league,'' St. Louis said, "I had players to help make me see things. When you get older, you should pay it forward.''

    Funny thing is, St. Louis doesn't know exactly what he has told Conacher.

    "He probably remembers more of the stuff that I tell him than I remember telling him,'' St. Louis said with a smile.

    What the two mean to the Lightning

    After cleaning up at home with four wins in five games, the Lightning begins a tough four-game road trip tonight in Philadelphia. There's no reason to worry about St. Louis' game. It's not going anywhere. Conacher, meantime, is trying not to think too much about how well he has played.

    "You can't really expect the start that I've had,'' he said. "It's been kind of a dream start. … Maybe in the summer, I'll pinch myself and say, 'Did that just happen?' But not now.''

    St. Louis wouldn't mind seeing Conacher puff out his chest a bit.

    "There is nothing wrong with having a swagger and believing in yourself.'' St. Louis said. "Eventually, people will believe in you because they see that you believe in yourself.''

    Ultimately, St. Louis wants Conacher to do the same thing he does.

    "Just assess your game honestly,'' St. Louis said. "If you can assess your game with honesty, you'll always get better. Players are always their biggest critics and if you're not, you're never going to get any better.''

    If Conacher can be his own biggest critic then St. Louis will be his biggest fan.

    Then the two little guys can continue being a very big deal for the Lightning.

    tom jones' two cents


    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    By Steve Papen, Times Correspondent
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    For the past few years during February and March, grouper closure anglers seeking offshore action have had to change their tactics. As a result they are fast becoming complete anglers.

    New targets: One species these anglers are catching is the hog snapper. This member of the wrasse family was given its name because when on the feed it will root around in the sand for its meal. When targeting these fish, look at the lower relief areas with hard bottom. Understanding their diet is most important. Crustaceans are the key; shrimp, crabs and sand fleas are the top baits to tempt these delicious fish.

    Tackle: A knocker rig with small slip lead connected to a 2/0-3/0 circle hook will work well, as does fishing these baits on small jig heads. The lighter the tackle the more bites you will get.

    Other targets: Amberjack have made their presence known on most wrecks and springs in 120-250 feet of water. Get these fish in a frenzy by live chumming them right to the surface. While these fish are up top, sight-cast and target individual fish. Most have been 30-40 pounds, with a few more than 60.

    Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, February 4, 2013


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    ST. PETERSBURG — Top prospect Wil Myers' chance to make the Rays' opening day roster still seems unlikely, but the multi-talented outfielder at least will have the opportunity to show his skills as he was one of seven minor-leaguers invited Monday to major-league camp.

    Myers, 22, was the centerpiece of the trade that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City and was recently ranked the No. 4 prospect in the game by both Baseball America and mlb.com.

    Also invited: first baseman/DH Leslie Anderson (a 30-year-old Cuban who hit .309 at Triple A with 14 homers), infielder Cole Figueroa and pitchers Matt Nevarez, Jim Paduch, Jim Patterson, Neil Schenk.

    The seven additions push the camp roster to 64, largest under the Andrew Friedman/Joe Maddon regime. And it is likely to grow as free-agent signees Kyle Farnsworth, infielder Kelly Johnson and DH Luke Scott still have to be added, and the possibility the players taken off the 40-man roster to make room remain in the organization.

    The Rays open spring training next week, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Port Charlotte on Feb. 12. For the full spring roster, see tampabay.com/blogs/rays.

    Around the majors

    A'S-ASTROS TRADE: Oakland acquired infielder Jed Lowrie and right-hander Fernando Rodriguez from Houston for first baseman Chris Carter and two minor-leaguers, right-hander Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi.

    A-ROD SAGA: Yankees captain Derek Jeter will withhold comment until Alex Rodriguez addresses his latest controversy. Rodriguez reportedly bought performance-enhancing drugs from a Miami-area lab.

    WEBB RETIRES: Right-hander Brandon Webb, who won the 2006 NL Cy Young Award but hasn't pitched since 2009 because of shoulder injuries, has decided to retire. Webb, 33, went 87-62 with a 3.27 ERA in six-plus seasons.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.


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    Times staff
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    . TOnight

    FSU at Georgia Tech

    When/where: 9; McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 1040-AM

    Records: FSU 12-9, 4-4 ACC; Georgia Tech 12-8, 2-6

    Notable: The Seminoles are coming off a 79-60 trouncing by Duke and have lost four of their past six. … With a less-than-sparkling resume, FSU's next two games, at Georgia Tech and at Wake Forest, could be critical to its hopes for a fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth. … The Yellow Jackets lost their first five ACC games but have won two of their past three, including a 66-60 upset of Virginia on Sunday. They've already topped last season's win total.

    Times staff


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    . TONIGHT

    No. 2 Florida at Arkansas

    When/where: 7; Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.

    TV/radio: ESPNU; 620-AM

    Records: Florida 18-2, 8-0 SEC; Arkansas 13-8, 4-4

    Notable: The Gators are back on the road three days after a home win over Ole Miss. … Florida is just 4-7 at Bud Walton Arena but has won four consecutive and eight of nine against Arkansas. … The Gators rank second in the nation in scoring defense (51 points), but Arkansas has scored 70 or more in 13 home games this season.

    Antonya English, Times staff writer


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  • 02/04/13--18:52: Hoosiers return to top spot
  • Times wires
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    Tom Crean's whirlwind week got even crazier Monday. Upon returning home from the Super Bowl, the Indiana coach found out he's leading America's No. 1 team. Again.

    It was a week full of big wins for the Crean clan. Indiana won three games in seven days, then Crean watched one brother-in-law beat his other brother-in-law at the Super Bowl.

    "Our guys appreciate winning. They appreciate the task that it is and I think because our older guys have been through so many hard times, they appreciate it that much more," Crean said. "And I think our younger guys were raised on winning."

    Miami moved up to No. 8, its first time in the top 10 since 1999 and tied for its highest ranking ever. With Florida at No. 2, it is believed to be the first time since the poll of Feb. 24, 1970, that the state of Florida had two top 10 teams. That week, Jacksonville was sixth and Florida State 10th, the third straight poll both were in the top 10.


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    Monday, February 4, 2013

    NEW ORLEANS — The blackout at the Superdome will not stop the Super Bowl from returning to New Orleans.

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that despite the electrical outage which delayed Sunday night's game for 34 minutes, the city did a "terrific" job hosting its first pro football championship in the post-Katrina era.

    "Let me reiterate again what an extraordinary job the city of New Orleans has done," Goodell said Monday at a post-Super Bowl media conference held for the game's most valuable player, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, and winning coach John Harbaugh. "The most important thing is to make sure people understand it was a fantastic week."

    Baltimore's 34-31 victory over San Francisco was the 10th Super Bowl hosted by New Orleans, tying Miami for the most.

    While serving as the site of America's biggest sporting event and focus of an unofficial national holiday gets any place a lot of attention, this game had special meaning for New Orleans.

    The city last hosted the Super Bowl in 2002 and officials hoped this would serve as the ultimate showcase — on a global scale — of how far it has come since being devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    "I do not think this will have an effect on future Super Bowls in New Orleans," Goodell said. "I fully expect to be back here for Super Bowls. I hope we will be back."

    The cause of the blackout remained under investigation, but public records released Monday show Superdome officials were worried about a power outage several months before the game. An Oct. 15 memo released by the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, which oversees the Superdome, says tests on the dome's electrical feeders showed they had "some decay and a chance of failure."

    A couple of potential culprits had been ruled out. It wasn't Beyonce's electrifying halftime performance, according to stadium manager Doug Thornton, and it apparently wasn't a case of too much demand for power.

    NGATA GIMPY: Ravens DL Haloti Ngata injured his left knee Sunday but was walking without crutches Monday and said he was feeling better, USA Today reported.

    RAVENS PARTY: Baltimore is in party-planning mode a day after the Ravens' victory. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says a parade for the team will begin this morning at City Hall and end with a free celebration at M&T Bank Stadium starting at 12:30 p.m. The National Weather Service forecast temperatures in the 30s with a 20 percent chance of rain or snow.

    VIEWERSHIP: CBS's game telecast drew the third-most average viewers in Super Bowl history (and in the history of American television). The previous two Super Bowls drew more — 111.3 million last year and 111.0 million in 2011. But the total audience was 164.1 million, a record.

    BETTORS' PARADISE: Sports fans bet a record $98.9 million at Nevada casinos. The Gaming Control Board says unaudited tallies show 183 sports books made $7.2 million on the action. In 2006 gamblers wagered $94.5 million in Nevada. Casinos say they lost big on proposition bets, especially when the Ravens gave up a safety in the closing seconds. Casinos paid out at 9-to-1 for the safety and fans who bet that the 49ers' final score would be on a safety cashed in at 50-to-1.

    AROUND THE LEAGUE: The Lions released WR Titus Young. His relationship with the team soured this season, and he posted on his Twitter account last month: "If y'all going to cut me let me go." … Rookie LB Brandon Joiner was activated by the Bengals after completing a prison term. The Bengals signed him out of Arkansas State as an undrafted free agent, knowing he would go to prison in Texas over a robbery that led to his indictment in 2008. He missed this season while serving his sentence. … An attorney for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, which runs the Edward Jones Dome, says it is unlikely the CVC will implement the Rams' plan to upgrade the team's home. City officials believe the team's plan would cost $700 million to $800 million.

    OBITUARY: Walt Sweeney, a standout offensive lineman for the Chargers in the 1960s and 1970s, has died at 71. The team website says Sweeney died Saturday of pancreatic cancer.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Monday, February 4, 2013

    NEW ORLEANS — With only an hour and a half of sleep, Joe Flacco was still sharp enough the morning following his brilliant performance in Super Bowl XLVII to realize that the Ravens' victory over the 49ers Sunday night changed his life dramatically.

    It started almost immediately after the 34-31 win when Flacco was named Super Bowl most valuable player. It culminated later that night when he met Beyonce and Jay-Z at a postgame party.

    "I don't think that would happen if we would have lost the game," Flacco said of meeting the first couple of hip-hop.

    A few hours later, the enormity of his accomplishment hit the 28-year-old quarterback who had taken an underdog's path to NFL stardom through the University of Delaware.

    "Just laying in bed, I was exhausted and couldn't wait to put my head down on that pillow. And for some reason, when I was laying there I couldn't quite fall asleep and just kind of had my eyes open in disbelief a little bit," Flacco said Monday.

    He visited with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and was paraded through Disney World, and later Monday appeared with David Letterman as a guest on The Late Show. The whirlwind will last for months and include a new baby — he announced that his wife, Dana, was expecting their second child — and likely a new contract.

    "He's a guy that no matter what happens, no matter what criticism he felt in front of him, no matter what disappointments he might have, he steps up and he bounces back, and he comes back and goes to work," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I think he'll be the same with this success."

    Flacco ended contract extension talks before the season and stands to earn millions of dollars more because of the gamble. His five-year deal expires in March. The Ravens could place their franchise tag on Flacco, but his Super Bowl victory all but guarantees that his team will give him a new deal in line with other elite quarterbacks.

    "I'm pretty optimistic, but who knows?" Flacco said. "There's all kinds of crazy things that can happen with these contracts that we've all seen before. But this is a great organization. I love being (in Baltimore) … so I don't really anticipate any problems."

    Flacco became only the second quarterback to throw as many as 11 touchdowns in one postseason without tossing an interception, joining Joe Montana. Told of the select company he was in, Flacco was elated, he said, because Montana was his favorite quarterback growing up.

    The Ravens led 28-6 early in the second half Sunday, but after a 34-minute delay because of a power failure the 49ers scored 17 straight points and eventually trimmed Baltimore's lead to two.

    But Flacco was unflappable.

    "Joe impressed me as a guy that was really was determined to be good and had a lot to prove," Harbaugh said. "I just felt like he was a guy that was going to do whatever it took to be the best he could be, and that's proved to be true."

    Flacco now will have to deal with being famous on another level.

    "If you say there's going to be some kind of celebrity with it, I'm cool with that. But I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable with it," Flacco said. "I kind of like to go about my business. The people in Baltimore have always been great, so it'll be cool to go back there and just kind of see their reaction that our whole team gets when we get back there."


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse's Jim Boeheim is like any coach: lose a couple of conference games and it's time to start looking for those worry beads.

    No need to search anymore.

    C.J. Fair had 18 points and 10 rebounds, freshman Jerami Grant scored a season-high 14 and No. 9 Syracuse beat No. 25 Notre Dame 63-47 on Monday night to snap a two-game skid that had dropped the Orange three spots in the rankings.

    "This was a big win," Boeheim said. "Obviously, Notre Dame beat us last year. When you lose two games in a row in this league, you get nervous. Everybody does. This is a real good bounce-back win."

    Syracuse (19-3, 7-2 Big East), which was coming off road losses to Villanova and Pittsburgh, has three losses in its past 32 Big East games and has won a school-record 36 straight at home, the longest active streak in Division I. Notre Dame (18-5, 6-4) had won three straight.

    It was the first meeting between the teams since the Irish handed Syracuse its only conference loss last season, 67-58 at Purcell Pavilion last January. The Orange, unbeaten at the time and ranked No. 1, were missing shot-blocking, 7-foot center Fab Melo in that game because of an academic issue, and Monday night senior James Southerland, the team's most consistent outside threat and third-leading scorer, missed his sixth straight game because of an eligibility matter related to academics.

    Gone, too, from the Orange lineup was 6-foot-9, 288-pound freshman forward Dajuan Coleman, out for a month after knee surgery.

    On this night, it didn't matter as the Syracuse defense clamped down behind its front line of Fair, Jerami Grant and Rakeem Christmas, who combined for 44 points, six blocks, and 21 rebounds. They teamed to help limit the touches of Notre Dame big man Jack Cooley in the middle, and the Orange's perimeter defenders held their own against the Irish sharpshooters.

    NO. 23 PITT 56, SETON HALL 46: Lamar Patterson scored 11 for the host Panthers (19-5, 7-4 Big East), who pulled away late for their sixth win in seven games.

    NORTH CAROLINA: Coach Roy Williams said sophomore guard P.J. Hairston, who suffered a concussion last week at Boston College and missed Saturday's game against Virginia Tech, is doubtful for tonight's game against Wake Forest.

    N.C. STATE: Coach Mark Gottfried said he doesn't know if junior point guard Lorenzo Brown, who sat out Saturday with a sprained left ankle, will be ready for Thursday's trip to No. 4 Duke.

    Women

    NO. 8 PENN ST. 69, NO. 13 PURDUE 61: Maggie Lucas had 17 points for the host Lions (18-3, 8-1), who withstood a second-half rally by the Boilermakers (18-4, 7-2) to reclaim sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.

    NO. 14 TEXAS A&M 74, LSU 57: Kelsey Bone scored 21 as the visiting Aggies (18-5, 8-1 SEC) won their sixth consecutive game.

    NO. 3 UCONN: Backup point guard Brianna Banks, a sophomore, will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right leg.

    AP POLL: Baylor remained No. 1 for a fifth straight week. Syracuse entered at No. 24, its first appearance in two years. Iowa dropped out.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Monday, February 4, 2013

    TORONTO — Eric Staal has been scoring with regularity for the Hurricanes. Now that his brother Jordan has a goal of his own, the siblings might really be ready to roll.

    Jordan Staal scored his first goal with Carolina, and Eric added the winner in a 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs on Monday night.

    "It was nice to get a goal to get us going," Jordan said. "As a Hurricane, it was nice to get that first one and hopefully many more after that."

    Jeff Skinner had three assists, Patrick Dwyer added a goal and an assist, and Justin Faulk also scored for Carolina. Cam Ward backed up the offense with a 41-save performance.

    Matt Frattin had the only goal for the Maple Leafs. James Reimer made 35 saves.

    Trailing 1-0 after the first period, the Hurricanes tied it 1:21 into the second. After Skinner beat out an icing call, Dwyer fed Jordan Staal, who was alone in front, for his first goal with the Hurricanes since being acquired from Pittsburgh in June. Staal also assisted on Dwyer's third-period goal.

    Eric Staal then hit the post with a drive a few minutes later. The Hurricanes rebounded from a sluggish opening period to grab momentum with the first nine shots of the second.

    The Hurricanes captain had better luck with his next chance, giving Carolina the lead with his seventh goal of the season at 10:21 on the power play.

    REF HIT BY PUCK, HELPED OFF ICE: Referee Chris Rooney was helped off the ice after being hit by a puck after a shot by Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak deflected off the skate of Avalanche forward Paul Stastny in Denver.

    The puck appeared to carom off the head of Rooney, who stayed down for quite some time behind the Avalanche net. A stretcher was brought out, but Rooney slowly got up and was assisted off the ice.

    Rooney was hit just 3 minutes into the game and with the Stars up 1-0. With Rooney gone, the lone referee was Justin St. Pierre, along with two linesmen.

    In the game, Jamie Benn had his first two goals of the season as the Stars won 3-2, spoiling the night for Milan Hejduk as the Avalanche forward was honored for playing his 1,000th NHL game.

    GAME HIGHLIGHTS: Former Lightning goalie Mike Smith stopped 21 shots, Lauri Korpikoski and Martin Hanzal both scored, and the host Coyotes extended their point streak to five games with a 2-1 win over the Wild. Korpikoski has four goals this season, all against Finnish goaltenders — this time against Niklas Backstrom.

    EXTRA GOAL AWARDED: The league agrees with Chris Kunitz — he had four goals, not three, in the Penguins' win Sunday over the Capitals. The league announced Kunitz has been credited with a fourth from the 6-3 victory. Replays appeared to show Kunitz redirected Paul Martin's shot from the point for the first goal. The official scorer initially gave the goal Kunitz but later switched it to Martin.

    AROUND THE LEAGUE: The Rangers traded rugged forward Mike Rupp to the Wild for forwards Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri. … The Blue Jackets placed defenseman Adrian Aucoin on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 29 and recalled defenseman Cody Goloubef from their American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield, Mass. … Red Wings rookie defenseman Brendan Smith will miss two to four weeks with a sprained right shoulder. … The Stars activated center Derek Roy, who missed five games with a groin injury.

    Hurricanes 0 2 2 4
    at Maple Leafs 1 0 0 1

    First Period1, Toronto, Frattin 5 (Kadri, Komarov), 5:44. PenaltiesWestgarth, Car, major (fighting), 2:55; McLaren, Tor, major (fighting), 2:55; McBain, Car (high-sticking), 7:35; Westgarth, Car (tripping), 13:54.

    Second Period2, Carolina, J.Staal 1 (Dwyer, Skinner), 1:21. 3, Carolina, E.Staal 7 (Tlusty, Brent), 10:21 (pp). PenaltiesMcClement, Tor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:41; Fraser, Tor (boarding), 11:48; McBain, Car (hooking), 13:05; Kostka, Tor (tripping), 19:16; Holzer, Tor (tripping), 19:46.

    Third Period4, Carolina, Faulk 2 (Skinner, Semin), :43 (pp). 5, Carolina, Dwyer 3 (J.Staal, Skinner), 9:58. PenaltiesSemin, Car (hooking), 6:21; Brent, Car (holding), 18:52. Shots on GoalCarolina 12-20-7—39. Toronto 18-5-19—42. Power-play opportunitiesCarolina 2 of 4; Toronto 0 of 5. GoaliesCarolina, Ward 2-3-0 (42 shots-41 saves). Toronto, Reimer 3-3-0 (39-35). A19,072 (18,819). T2:43. Referees—Marc Joannette, Graham Skilliter. LinesmenDerek Amell, Scott Cherrey.

    Stars 2 1 0 3
    at Avalanche 1 1 0 2

    First Period1, Dallas, Ja.Benn 1, 2:21. 2, Dallas, Morrow 1 (Jagr, Ja.Benn), 11:18. 3, Colorado, Hejduk 1 (Mitchell, Stastny), 18:12. PenaltiesHunwick, Col (roughing), 13:21; Bordeleau, Col (charging), 13:21; Ryder, Dal (slashing), 18:37; Parenteau, Col (hooking), 19:00.

    Second Period4, Colorado, Parenteau 7 (Stastny, McGinn), 11:33 (pp). 5, Dallas, Ja.Benn 2 (Roy, Rome), 15:29. PenaltiesJagr, Dal (slashing), 5:43; Morrow, Dal (goaltender interference), 8:31; Robidas, Dal (tripping), 10:46.

    Third PeriodNone. PenaltiesJagr, Dal (delay of game), 6:42; Zanon, Col (holding), 14:22; O'Byrne, Col (delay of game), 16:13. Shots on GoalDallas 14-3-9—26. Colorado 13-11-7—31. Power-play opportunitiesDallas 0 of 5; Colorado 1 of 5. GoaliesDallas, Lehtonen 4-2-1 (31 shots-29 saves). Colorado, Varlamov 3-5-0 (26-23). A13,441 (18,007). T2:41. Referees—Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre. LinesmenMark Wheler, Bryan Pancich.

    at Coyotes 1 1 0 2
    Wild 0 1 0 1

    First Period1, Phoenix, Korpikoski 4 (Yandle), 15:09. PenaltiesMitchell, Min (hooking), 9:34.

    Second Period2, Phoenix, Hanzal 4 (Vrbata, Michalek), 7:48. 3, Minnesota, Parise 6, 10:20. PenaltiesNone.

    Third PeriodNone. PenaltiesSullivan, Pho (hooking), 8:49; Morris, Pho (holding stick), 16:11. Shots on GoalMinnesota 10-8-4—22. Phoenix 17-6-11—34. Power-play opportunitiesMinnesota 0 of 2; Phoenix 0 of 1. GoaliesMinnesota, Backstrom 3-3-1 (34 shots-32 saves). Phoenix, Smith 2-2-1 (22-21). A9,508 (17,125). T2:18. Referees—Francis Charron, Brad Meier. LinesmenLonnie Cameron, Mike Cvik..


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Dave Walker, Times Correspondent
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Break in weather: After many days of wind in a row, there have been a few breaks in the weather that have allowed reasonable boating and fishing conditions. Cabin fever can get real bad this time of year. The beautiful days are a good cure.

    What's hot: Speckled trout and redfish are returning to the shallows and have been quite cooperative. On nice days, the afternoon has brought the best bite. Water temperatures are above normal and have made the usually lethargic fish active. Live shrimp or soft plastic jigs have worked well for both species. Be patient and fish slowly for optimum results.

    Tip: Ultra-light gear will make subtle strikes more likely to be detected. Using light equipment increases the fun factor as well.

    Options: If it is windy, residential canals can be very productive while offering a buffer from stout breezes. Live shrimp fished close to or under docks will do the trick.

    Seasonal: Whether outboards, or reels, it's time to service these items before the shops get slammed at the beginning of spring.

    Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 310-6531, email captdavewalker@verizon.net or visit snookfish.com.


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    TAMPA — In two months, new USF football coach Willie Taggart has worked hard to put together a solid first recruiting class, and as the Bulls get official signatures today, three top-tier Miami-area recruits could take the class to another level of success.

    The Bulls are among the final options for Miami Southridge DB Lamar Robbins, Miami Booker T. Washington OL Denver Kirkland and Oakland Park Northeast WR Stacy Coley. Robbins committed to USF last week, but he's getting a strong push from Louisville, which has also had great success recruiting the Miami area.

    All three are ranked in the top 50 in the state by the top recruiting sites. Getting any of them would be a success for Taggart and his staff, and getting more than one would turn many heads and likely give the Bulls the highest-rated recruiting class in the Big East's lineup.

    Some of the Bulls' biggest recruiting wins in recent years have come in Miami, including CB Kayvon Webster in '09 and DT Elkino Watson in '11. The only assistant that Taggart kept from Skip Holtz's staff was former Bulls lineman Larry Scott, who has led USF's recruiting efforts in Miami, going back to Jim Leavitt's tenure.

    USF's toughest competition on Coley and Kirkland looks to be Miami and FSU, and a head-to-head win on signing day against either would be a major victory. The Bulls are waiting to hear on two more local prospects — Jesuit TE Travis Johnson and Lakewood WR Marquez Valdes.

    SECOND HALF: USF men's basketball opens the second half of the Big East season tonight against No. 24 Marquette, this after a disappointing 1-8 record in the opening nine conference games. The biggest improvement coach Stan Heath is hoping to see during these final nine games?

    "I'd like to see us be tougher," Heath said. "I think that's one of the biggest reasons we let down at the start of the second half (of games). We come out with a casual, cool attitude. We have to change that attitude. We have to have more of a feisty attitude, especially in the second half."

    USF (10-11) has shown it can play with top-tier Big East teams but hasn't closed out victories, a frustrating trait after the Bulls were consistently successful in close games during last year's run to the NCAA Tournament.

    "What's disappointing to me is I've got veteran guys … who were in those same battles last year and won those games at a high rate," Heath said. "They've been there, done that. I don't think they've passed the baton to some of those younger guys about what it really takes to get the job done for 40 minutes."

    THIS AND THAT: If USF's women's basketball (RPI 62) wants to continue hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Bulls (15-6, 4-4) need to win their next three games, with the lowest-RPI opponents of the eight games remaining in the regular season. Four of their final five games should be against other Big East bubble teams, the other being Connecticut in the Sun Dome. … Baseball coach Lelo Prado is optimistic after an early scrimmage Sunday. The Bulls will be counting on a few freshman pitchers: Jefferson's Jimmy Herget could have a key bullpen role, while 6-foot-5 RHP Justin Patrick of Rhode Island has a shot at the No. 3 starting job. USF opens on Feb. 16 with Big Ten-Big East Challenge games in Clearwater against Louisville and Purdue. … USF softball, seeking a return to the College World Series, opens Friday in Clearwater, facing Marshall at 2:30. With four games in the opening weekend, expect to see a glimpse of the Bulls' pitching depth, with four solid arms for Ken Eriksen to utilize.


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    . TONIGHT

    USF vs. No. 24 Marquette

    When/where: 7; Sun Dome, Tampa

    TV/radio: ESPN2; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

    Records: Marquette 15-5, 6-2 Big East; USF 10-11, 1-8

    Notable: The two teams play for the second time in nine days. The Golden Eagles got a 63-50 win last week in Milwaukee, led by 30 points from G Vander Blue. … USF struggled to find its shot in that game, going 8-for-19 on 3-pointers but just 7-for-36 on 2-point attempts. … USF's depth at guard could get a boost, as sophomore Musa Abdul-Aleem, out with back problems, could make his return tonight.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer


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  • 02/05/13--18:42: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    TENNIS

    NADAL RETURNS, FOCUSES ON PLAY

    VINA DEL MAR, Chile — Rafael Nadal wants to stop talking about the aching left knee that kept him away from the ATP Tour for just over seven months until his doubles victory Tuesday with Juan Monaco on clay court.

    Nadal had not played since June 28 when he was upset in the second round of Wimbledon by qualifier Lukas Rosol.

    Nadal and Monaco won easily in just over an hour at the VTR Open, defeating Czechs Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy 6-3, 6-2. Nadal's return to singles play comes today against Argentine Federico Delbonis.

    The former No. 1-ranked Nadal addressed the question for several minutes, then said he wanted to drop the subject.

    "The knee — I said it when I got here. I would prefer not to keep talking about the topic," Nadal said. "At the end of the day the doctors have said it's okay. There is no risk of making it worse. My knee keeps hurting. But the fact I am playing here is a thing of joy."

    SOCCER

    U.S. starts final 10 qualifying games

    The United States opens the final round of World Cup qualifying today at Honduras without all-time leading scorer Landon Donovan, 30, who is taking a break from soccer after leading Los Angeles to its second straight MLS title last fall. The Americans, seeking their seventh straight World Cup berth, play three of their first four qualifiers on the road. The top three teams out of six remaining in CONCACAF — 10 games per team, each facing the other home-and-home — qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The fourth-place team faces the Oceania winner for another berth.

    MATCH FIXING: Revelations that a Singapore-based crime syndicate has been heavily involved in fixing matches put extra pressure on authorities to take action against the alleged ringleader. Singaporean businessman Dan Tan is on Italy's wanted list and has been implicated in various investigations into corruption, including Monday's revelations in The Hague by the Europol police agency. He has avoided arrest in his homeland.

    OLYMPICS

    Winter Games to air even before ceremony

    Prime-time television coverage of the Winter Games will start a day early next year in Sochi, Russia. NBC will air events the night before the opening ceremony, a first for a U.S. broadcaster. Team figure skating, women's freestyle moguls and slopestyle snowboarding — U.S. star Shaun White's event — will air Feb. 6, 2014. With 12 new events, including team figure skating and slopestyle, the International Olympic Committee expanded the length of the games.

    AUTOS

    Darlington test fast for new NASCAR car

    Carl Edwards and several other Sprint Cup stars gave the new, faster Gen-6 car a thumbs-up after a Goodyear tire test at Darlington Raceway. Edwards said the digital speedometer on his Ford Fusion hit 193 mph right before Turn 3, a typically unheard of speed at the tricky egg-shaped oval.

    INDYCAR: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing signed James Jakes and will pair him with Graham Rahal in a two-car team. Jakes drove for Dale Coyne the past two years.

    ET CETERA

    SPEED SKATING: American short-track star Katherine Reutter, a two-time Olympic medalist, announced her retirement at age 24, citing the toll training was taking.

    WNBA: Tamika Catchings, the 2011 MVP and three-time Olympic gold medalist, re-signed on a multi-year deal with defending champion Indiana. … Los Angeles signed guard Lindsey Harding.

    SKIING: Tina Maze became the first Slovenian to win world championship gold in a speed event, taking the opening women's super-G in Schladming, Austria in a race overshadowed by a crash involving American Lindsey Vonn (see 1C).

    Times wires


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    Times wires
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    ST. LOUIS — Chris Carpenter, one of the best clutch pitchers in the Cardinals' storied history, may have thrown his final pitch.

    General manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny announced Tuesday that Carpenter almost certainly won't pitch in 2013 and that his star-crossed career is probably over after a recurrence of a nerve injury that cost him most of last season. Carpenter did not attend, and Mozeliak said the emotions for the 37-year-old were still too raw.

    Retirement isn't official yet. Carpenter plans to seek further medical evaluation. But Mozeliak seemed resigned to losing him.

    "He's leaving the door slightly open, but it's unlikely," Mozeliak said of Carpenter's return.

    Carpenter is 144-94 with a 3.76 ERA in a career that began in Toronto in 1997. He spent six seasons with the Blue Jays and nine in St. Louis. He won the 2005 NL Cy Young Award, going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA, and was second in 2009.

    As impressive are his postseason results: 10-4, 3.00 in 18 starts. There were the eight innings of three-hit shutout baseball in a Game 3 World Series win over Detroit in 2006, a series the Cardinals won in five games; a 1-0 shutout to beat Roy Halladay in Philadelphia in the deciding game of the 2011 NL Division Series; and the gutty Game 7 World Series-clinching win over Texas on three days' rest in 2011.

    Carpenter also has missed most or all of five seasons because of injuries.

    PED INVESTIGATION: Brewers slugger Ryan Braun said he used the founder of the Miami-area clinic under investigation by Major League Baseball as a consultant on his drug suspension appeal last year, and nothing more. Yahoo Sports reported that Braun's name showed up three times in records of Biogenesis, run by Anthony Bosch, whom Braun said he consulted in his successful appeal. No specific drugs were listed next to the references to Braun.

    YOUK OFFERS OLIVE BRANCH: Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain said he received a text from new teammate Kevin Youkilis and hopes whatever tension existed between the two is past. The two feuded over Chamberlain throwing inside fastballs when Youkilis was with the Red Sox.

    CUBS: Former Rays right-hander Matt Garza, who missed the final 11 weeks of the 2012 season with a stress reaction in his elbow, had no issues a day after his first bullpen session since July.

    D'BACKS: Outfielder Gerardo Parra agreed to a $2.35 million, one-year contract, settling the team's last arbitration case.

    MARLINS: First baseman Logan Morrison, coming off two right knee surgeries, will not be at full strength when camp opens and might not be ready for opening day.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    PHILADELPHIA — When Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen went off the ice after his first-period fight with Zac Rinaldo, he was put through an NHL-mandated protocol that looks for concussion symptoms.

    Crombeen was brought to a quiet area and put through "a battery of tests," head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said, that included simple questions about where he was and what just happened to him, and more complicated tasks such as remembering word sequences.

    He also was put through physical tests — on the stationary bike, pushups, situps — to see his reaction to an increased heart rate. Despite Mulligan saying Crombeen "did well with that" and showed no symptoms, the decision was made to keep him out of the game.

    "He wanted to go back but I decided not to put him back," coach Guy Boucher said.

    Added Mulligan: "We wanted to make sure he didn't have any lingering issues. Sometimes symptoms don't set in until after the fact."

    Crombeen said he feels fine.

    "I was a bit wobbly when I went to get up," Crombeen said. "It was probably better to play it safe than sorry to make sure no symptoms come up and I'm ready to go for the next game."

    CAPTAIN RESPONDS: Before the season, Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier had not had a fight since Feb. 3, 2009. But he has now fought twice in nine games — Jan. 27 against the Flyers' Luke Schenn and Tuesday against Max Talbot.

    "I don't know what to say. It just happened," said Lecavalier, who now has 23 fights, including playoffs, in his NHL career. "It just happened at the faceoff and that was it."

    Asked if the punch with which he hit Talbot after Talbot was down had anything to do with Rinaldo apparently hitting Crombeen twice when he was on his knees, Lecavalier said he didn't see Crombeen's fight.

    "The refs were in my way. I didn't see what was going on."

    WRONG TURN: After four seasons with the Flyers, Matt Carle said he wasn't quite sure how to get to the visitors' locker room at the Wells Fargo Center.

    "I had to do a quick tour," said the defenseman, who during the summer signed with Tampa Bay. "I didn't know what the visiting locker room really looked like."

    IMPRESSIVE: RW Dana Tyrell was scratched after playing four straight games and getting his first goal, but not because he did anything wrong, Boucher said. In fact, Tyrell, 13 months since a second surgery on his right knee, looks quicker and stronger than ever.

    "A horse off the ice," Boucher said. "He's one of the strongest pound-for-pound players we've got and one of the most dedicated individuals."

    But "still in and out of the lineup," Tyrell said. "I have to keep battling and prove myself."

    ODDS AND ENDS: RW Pierre-Cedric Labrie got in his second game of the season and first since the Jan. 21 road opener at the Islanders. He had 7:18 of ice time, two hits, a blocked shot and was minus-1. … D Victor Hedman (left foot) did not skate in the morning but played. … As he will when the Lightning is on NBC Sports Network, Sun Sports analyst Bobby "The Chief" Taylor joined play-by-play announcer Dave Mishkin on 970-AM. … Defensemen Brendan Mikkelson and Marc-Andre Bergeron also were scratched.


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