NHL Three Stars: Philly duo downs Leafs; Bob lifts Blue Jackets over Hawks

 No. 1 Star: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Scored two goals and added two assists in 7-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. They were Giroux’s first goals in five games. It was his seventh four-point game in his career. Giroux now ranks second in the NHL in scoring – tied with Stars forward Tyler Seguin – behind teammate Jakub Voracek.

No. 2 Star: Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

Notched four assists in Philly’s win over Toronto. Three of Voracek’s helpers were primary assists. Voracek was the set-up man on two of Giroux’s goal. His four assists tied a career-high. Philadelphia’s win was the first game of an eight-game roadtrip.  

No. 3. Star: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Stopped 41 of 43 Chicago shots on goal including six of six on power play shots on goal. Stopped eight of nine Blackhawks in the shootout, including the below move by Chicago shootout ace Patrick Kane. Bobrovsky has not lost in regulation since Nov. 28.

Honorable Mention: Colorado’s Jarome Iginla notched three assists in the Avs’ 5-1 win over Buffalo. Teammate Alex Tanguay scored two goals and added one assist … Kings forward Anze Kopitar notched three assists in Los Angeles’ win over Arizona … Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal scored his first goal since Nov. 14 … Kings defenseman Jamie McBain notched two assists … Flyers forward Michael Raffl scored on goal and added one assist … Habs forward Alex Galchenyuk scored one goal and added one assist in Montreal’s 4-1 win over Ottawa … Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty returned with two assists, just two days after a bruising hit by Clayton Stoner … Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin scored an absurd goal in win over New Jersey … Caps goaltender Braden Holtby made 21 saves in his second shutout of the year … Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevsky made 45 saves on 47 Islanders shots on goal in a 3-1 loss to New York … Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby scored his first mump-free goal, and his first score in eight games, in a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers … The Rangers’ Kevin Klein late third period tally sent New York’s game into overtime against Carolina, an eventual 3-2 shootout win by the Rangers … Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scored a goal and fired seven shots on goal against Columbus … Predators defenseman Shea Weber notched two assists and played 26:43 in Nashville’s 6-5 OT win over Minnesota … Minnesota’s Zach Parise scored two goals and notched one assist in defeat … Wild defenseman Ryan Suter played 31:27 and had two assists against his former team … Vancouver’s Ryan Miller broke a three-game losing skid in a 3-2 overtime win over Calgary … San Jose’s Brent Burns fired the overtime winner for the Sharks in their win over the Blues. It was San Jose’s fifth straight win. 

Did You Know?:  With one assist Saturday night (on San Jose’s game-tying goal) Sharks center Joe Thornton moved into a tie with Phil Esposito for 22nd overall on the NHL’s all-time list with 873. 

Dishonorable Mention: Buffalo’s Nikita Zadorov was a minus-3 in his team’s loss to the Avalanche …  Arizona’s Devan Dubnyk picked up his third loss of the year, stopping 31 of 35 Los Angeles shots on goal in a 4-1 defeat … Nazim Kadri and Dion Phaneuf were each a minus-4 for the Maple Leafs … New Jersey’s Andy Greene was a minus-3. Devils goaltender Cory Schneider made 17 saves on 20 Washington shots on goal … The St. Louis Blues gave up the game-tying goal at San Jose with 18 seconds left. Then the Sharks won the game in overtime … Montreal’s Carey Price couldn’t field this floater  from Ottawa’s Erik Condra.


Catcher David Ross to join Cubs, reunite with Jon Lester

Not to suggest Jon Lester has any pull with the Chicago Cubs after signing a six-year, $155 million contract, but he surely can’t be disappointed to hear veteran catcher David Ross will be joining him. According to Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal, Ross and the Cubs have agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal, which means the former Boston Red Sox battery will be reunited on the north side.

It’s not a signing that will steal headlines or earn lengthy discussion on television. The 37-year-old backstop has essentially been a backup throughout his 13-year career. Ross appeared in 90 and 112 games respectively for the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 and 2007, but never topped 70 games in any other season. He’s a .233/.318/.435 career hitter with 95 home runs, 38 of which came in those two years with Cincinnati.

He had two separate stints with the Red Sox. In 2008, he appeared in eight games after being released by Cincinnati. After four seasons with the Atlanta Braves, he returned to Boston in a backup role in 2013. In two seasons, he appeared in 86 games, hitting .197/.276/.374 with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs.

Not that any of those stats matter to Chicago, because it was during that return that a relationship between Ross and Jon Lester blossomed, leading to some of the left-handed ace’s best numbers. Of Ross’ 86 games in Boston, 29 were Lester starts. Lester posted a 2.77 ERA overall in those games. In four postseason games back in 2013, he put up a 1.33 ERA with Ross behind the plate. 

Familiarity, comfort and trust go a long way sometimes. Even with Miguel Montero on board, it’s assumed Ross will be Lester’s regular catcher in order to give him all of the above.

As for Ross, he’ll leave some comfort behind, but it’s a chapter he’s looking forward to. 

Overall, it’s a great fit. The right-handed hitting Ross serves as a nice compliment to the left-handed slugging Montero, so it’s not as if Chicago is creating a major roster logjam to accommodate the signing. They’ll just have to find a trade partner for Wellington Castillo, who’s expendable to them but likely plenty valuable to someone else seeking a veteran catcher.

Just beware, inquiring teams. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have had a pretty hot hand at the trade table recently. You can ask Billy Beane all about that

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- – – – – – -

Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Recap: Day 2 at the Texas high school football state championships

4A Division II State Championship: Gilmer 35, West Orange-Stark 25
What went down:

Gilmer entered the contest scoring an average of 58 points per game, but it was West Orange-Stark that took a surprising 25-7 lead into halftime. But a different Gilmer team emerged in the second half, scoring 28 unanswered to dominate the Mustangs. The Buckeyes were led by Baylor commit Blake Lynch, who had 116 total yards and two touchdowns, and Kris Boyd, a highly sought-after defensive back recruit, who had 145 total yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Demarco Boyd led the defensive shutdown in the second half, and then did something after the game that will raise a few eyebrows in the recruiting world.

Name to know: 

Desmond Pollard. During a pickup basketball game in March, Pollard collapsed and died. The Gilmer Buckeyes dedicated their season to their fallen teammate, and carried his No. 8 jersey out in front of the team as it took the field, with the captains then carrying it out to the coin toss. During their drive to AT&T Stadium, the last stop they made on the way out of town was at Pollard’s grave, as a reminder of who they were playing for once they arrived in Arlington. The band marched in a No. 8 formation during halftime, the players held up eight fingers at the end of the game, a photoshopped image of Pollard leaping for a catch with angels wings was hoisted in the stands. To say it was a moving collective tribute is an understatement. 

It was awesome because:

West Orange-Stark’s quarterback’s name is Jack Dallas. I mean, that’s a fantastic name for a quarterback in Texas. It’s almost too obvious. It’s so obvious that it would never even make it in the first draft of the scripts for a season of Friday Night Lights.

4A Division I State Championship: Navasota 42, Argyle 35 (2 OT)

What went down:

Argyle running back Nick Ralston had one mission: Grind Navasota to dust. Ralston is neither flashy nor fast, and he’s been recruited as a linebacker by Arizona State. But Argyle had no illusions about how they could win a title: Take risks on defense that paid off against a flashy offense, and then eat up the clock behind a relentless and punishing running back. Ralston carried the ball a bone-crunching 54 times for 225 yards and three scores. He was far and away the driving force behind their play. But Navasota found a way to hang around, capitalizing on those Argyle risks that went too far, and an interception set up the game-tying touchdown with just under a minute left in the game. It headed to overtime, and after both teams scored and converted, a second overtime. Tren’Davian Dickson, the game’s top college prospect, caught the go-ahead touchdown, though not without controversy. In a Calvin Johnson moment that Lions fans will understand, Dickson came down with the ball, which was then jarred loose by the ground. Did he maintain possession? The referees thought so, and it stood. On Argyle’s attempt to answer, facing a 4th-and-5, Ralston was stuffed on his 54th carry of the game. Navasota stormed the field, and Ralston lay face down on the turf, completely spent. Argyle had won 31 straight games until that moment.

Name to know: 

Dickson. The junior wide receiver is a Baylor commit, and set the national record for touchdown catches in a season this year with 39. He also made this ridiculous touchdown catch as part of the winning effort.

It was awesome because:

Are you kidding? It was double overtime in a state championship. That’s as awesome as it gets. But since that’s already been covered, the Navasota Rattlers mascots are a male and female snake that roam around the sidelines. But here’s the thing: They are snakes with arms and legs. What do you call a snake with arms and legs? Not a snake. This is less awesome than it is egregious in the most trivial sense imaginable. 

5A Division II State Championship: Ennis 38, Cedar Park 35

What went down:

If Argyle vs. Navasota were two fighters throwing counter punches and dancing around the ring, this one was two heavyweights throwing haymakers, each one feeling like it might leave the opposition flat on the canvas. Ennis jumped out to a 17-0 lead, only to watch it slip away as fast as it was obtained to trail 21-17. By the time the fourth quarter started, Ennis had edged back into the driver’s seat with a 31-28 lead. With 4:48 left in the game, facing 4th-and-10 at the Ennis 21-yard line, Cedar Park quarterback Amir Alzer hit a wide open Davis Fiala for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Ennis fumbled and Cedar Park recovered at the Ennis 29-yard line. It should have been the ballgame. It wasn’t. Cedar Park tried to run the clock down, wound up missing a field goal, and that glimmer of hope was all Ennis needed. Quarterback Devin Smith led them down the field on 11 plays, hitting Donta Thompson for a 36-yard go-ahead score with 21 seconds left. Smith was far from flawless on the day, but in such an evenly matched game, a difference-maker was needed and he was there to wear the cape at the end. Alzer threw a game-sealing interception on the first play of Cedar Park’s last-gasp drive. There wouldn’t be another lead change. 

Name to know: 

It’s not often that the Offensive Player of the Game honor is bestowed upon a losing player, but that just shows how impactful Thomas Hutchings’ was on the field. The Cedar Park running back carried the ball 18 times for 155 yards and a score, while playing both ways, which is far less common at this level or higher. 

It was awesome because:

Well, six lead changes, for starters. This was about as back-and-forth as any of the seven games thus far in Arlington. It was easy to lose track over how many times a team seemingly wrested away momentum for good, only to watch it vaporize in a flash. Also, the crowds are growing. Day 3 should be an even more packed house than the final game on Friday.

Here’s the full schedule (all times central), courtesy of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. For more info on attending the games, check out their page. You can also visit the University Interscholastic League page for more information. All 10 games will be televised live on Fox Sports Southwest. Games may also be bumped to Fox Sports Southwest Plus; check your local listings. The games are being played in order of smallest schools to the biggest, so the talent pool gets deeper with each opening kickoff.

Thursday, December 18
10 a.m. — 
2A Division II State Championship: Bremond 28, Albany 21
1 p.m. — 2A Division I State Championship: Canadian 34, Mason 7
5 p.m. — 3A Division II State Championship: Waskom 41, Newton 22
8 p.m. — 3A Division I State Championship: Cameron Yoe 70, Mineola 40

Friday, December 19
12 p.m. — 4A Division II State Championship: Gilmer 35, West Orange-Stark 25
4 p.m. — 4A Division I State Championship: Navasota 42, Argyle 35 (2 OT)
8 p.m. — 5A Division II State Championship: Ennis 38, Cedar Park 35 

Saturday, December 20
12 p.m. — 5A Division I State Championship: Aledo vs. Temple
4 p.m. — 6A Division II State Championship: Cedar Hill vs. Katy
8 p.m. — 6A Division I State Championship: Allen vs. Cy Ranch

- – – – – – -

Max Thompson is at the Texas state high school football championships for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter!

NBA look ahead: The Fantasy Five

This column will concentrate on borderline fantasy options who should get strong consideration to start/bench during the upcoming week based on schedules.

Shabazz Muhammad: Despite averaging 19.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.9 steals while hitting 53.0 percent of his shots from the floor over the past eight games, he’s owned in just 28 percent of Yahoo leagues, which needs to be rectified immediately. He may be playing a bit over his head, but after getting inserted into the starting lineup Friday, he produced a couple of threes and a career-high five assists. Muhammad has averaged 16.0 field goal attempts over the past five games (he came off the bench in four of them). To put this in perspective, that would rank No. 18 in the league this season, ahead of players like Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Dirk Nowitzki. Muhammad may eventually lose playing time when Kevin Martin returns, but he’s looking at a big increase in Usage Rate with Corey Brewer traded to Houston, so while Minnesota plays three games in Week nine, he’s well worth using (Muhammad has been the No. 26 player over the past week in which he played just three contests).

[Week 16 rankings: Quarterback | Running Back | Receiver | Tight End | Kicker | DST]

Robert Covington: He’s averaged 3.4 3pt over the past nine games, shooting 49.2 percent from downtown over that span. That’s obviously unsustainable, but Covington has been the No. 27 player over the past two weeks (and a top-80 player on the year) and yet is still owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues. Covington looks locked in as the 76ers’ new starting power forward, where he’s averaged 19.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.0 blocks and a whopping 4.3 3pt while shooting 89.5 percent from the line over four games. Philly plays just three games next week, but its third-highest PACE in the league helps offset that, so start Covington with confidence.

[Join FanDuel.com’s $2M Week 16 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 17,475 teams paid]

Matt Barnes: He got off to an extreme shooting slump to start the season but has picked it up of late and has averaged 14.0 points, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.3 3pt over the past four games, shooting 57.9 percent from the field over that span. Barnes is owned in just 35 percent of Yahoo leagues despite being a top-75 player over the past month. The Clippers play four games next week, so he looks like a nice start, although to be fair, all of his opponents in Week nine rank in the top-11 in Defensive Efficiency.

Trey Burke: The former top-10 pick is owned in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues (more than any player listed above here) despite being outside a top-150 player this season. In fact, over the past two weeks, he’s been the No. 239 ranked player, thanks mostly to shooting 34.3 percent from the floor over the past eight games (34-of-99). Utah has the third-lowest PACE in the NBA and plays just two games in Week nine, making Burke an easy sit.

Josh Smith: I hate to continue to denigrate Smith, who’s shown improvement lately, as he was the No. 76 ranked player over the past week. But he still remains ranked No. 168 on the year while playing for a team that’s below average in PACE and second worst in Offensive Efficiency behind only a 2-23 76ers team. Smith is owned in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues, but he plays just two games next week, so strongly consider benching him. Smith’s shooting line this season is 39-25-46, which is just like Kevin Durant’s last year, only the opposite.

Follow Dalton Del Don on Twitter.

Claude Giroux is biting jerseys and wiping boogers and gross (Video)

Dec 18, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) skates against Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m the lead physician for Hockey Monitoring Mumps Measles, Muscus and Mirsey, a.k.a. HMMMMM… 

“We’ve instructed the members of the National Hockey League to do what they can to stop the spread of infectious diseases, lest anyone wish to see Sidney Crosby do another media availability looking like he’s hiding a boomerang in his cheek.

“To that end, we present this short feature called ‘How To Not Spread Bodily Fluids And Be Generally Gross, Starring Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Here we see Mr. Giroux, once called the best player in the world by the current coach of the Nashville Predators, taking off his glove, bringing his finger to his face and then vigorously wiping his hand on the back of a linesman before a faceoff against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The common theory here is that Mr.. Giroux is applying a viscous colloid, a.k.a. a ‘booger’ to the official’s shirt, a common practice among second graders but a bit of a lost art in pro hockey.

“While some are quick to blame Mr. Giroux, we believe this is a general failure on the part of the National Hockey League to not have small boxes of Kleenex attached to the belts of each on-ice official. 

“Later in the week, Mr. Giroux was playing the Florida Panthers when he leaned over and began gnawing on the sweater of defenseman Erik Gudbranson.

“This, again, is curious and troublesome behavior at a time when mumps are affecting true superstars of the game like Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry as well as Tanner Glass. Recent statistics show there are currently more NHL players with the mumps than there would have been fans in the stands had this game been played in Sunrise.

“But, again, we can’t put the blame on Mr. Giroux. Clearly it’s the responsibility of the National Hockey League to have more snacks readily available around the ice for the players. A bowl of peanuts near the benches. Maybe a Cliff bar in the penalty box. Had they been, we believe Mr. Giroux would have relented from chewing on synthetic fibers or, potential, human shoulder flesh. 

“In summary, we here at HMMMMM excuse this pattern of seemingly gross, yucky and grucky behavior from Mr. Giroux in recent games.

“Although, admittedly, we don’t have any medical explanation for that whole grabbing a cop’s buttocks thing without a definitive measurement of his blood alcohol levels …”