NHL Three Stars: Leafs, Caps downed in OT; Patrick Kane, boy wizard; Captain Pickard

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 26: Brent Seabrook #7 of the Chicago Blackhawks takes a shot into the defense of the Colorado Avalanche as goalie Calvin Pickard #31 of the Colorado Avalanche defends the net at Pepsi Center on November 26, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

No. 1 Star: Blake Comeau, Pittsburgh Penguins

Comeau secured his second career hat trick in dramatic fashion by scoring the OT winner against the Leafs.

No. 2 Star: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Kaner assisted on all three ‘Hawks goals in Chicago’s 3-2 victory over Colorado. He pulls some kind of black magic puck handling to set up Bryan Bickell’s game winner.

No. 3 Star: Calvin Pickard, Colorado Avalanche

WHO?? Exactly. The 22-year-old backup to the backup netminder for the Avs drew the short straw and had to face the Chicago Blackhawks in his fifth ever NHL game. He may have taken the loss, but the kid made 45 saves against a pretty good team.

Honorable Mention: The Islanders were credited with 55 (!!) hits to the Caps 28 … Washington was 2-for-2 on the power play and the Islanders were 2-for-3; either both teams are really good on the man advantage or really bad on the penalty kill … Alex Ovechkin scored 2 power play goals in the 3-2 OT loss to NYI; John Tavares netted the winner on the power play (natch) … My, what wonderful power play passing skills you have, Pittsburgh Penguins …

… Martin St. Louis was honored by the Lightning in his first return to Tampa since the trade … The Bolts spoiled the homecoming for St. Louis on the back of 3-point nights from Steven Stamkos, and the other half of the trade sending Marty to New York, Ryan Callahan … With the Panthers up 1-0 against Carolina, Al Montoya took over in net for Roberto Luongo, who suffered an upper-body injury, and held the score to get his team the win … Martin Jones gave Jonathan Quick another night off as the Kings shelled Minnesota 4-0. All the Kings goals came in the first period including this wacky deflection…

… Dustin Brown scored his 200th career goal  … ‘Uncle Leo’ Komarov netted 2 goals and 6 hits for the Leafs … Pavel Datsyuk returned to the ice for his first game in 10 days and scored 2 goals in the Red Wings 5-2 win against Philadelphia … Karri Ramo got the rare start for Calgary and ended up shutting out the Sharks with help from Juri Hudler and his 2 goals.

Did You Know? Sidney Crosby notched his 800th point on Comeau’s third goal in his 571st game. His career average now sits at 1.40 points per game.

Dishonorable Mention: Patrick Kaleta left the game and did not return after being on the receiving end of this hit from Adam Lowry … Buffalo did not capitalize on the major penalty power play resulting from the hit on Kaleta; instead they gave up a game-winning short-handed goal to Winnipeg’s Michael Frolik … Philly’s Steve Mason was pulled in favor of Ray Emery after giving up 3 goals on 14 shots to Detroit … Darcy Kuemper let in 4 goals on 10 shots from LA in the first period and Nicklas Backstrom finished the final 2 periods without allowing a goal.

Maui champ Arizona avoids the ‘rocky start’ Sean Miller feared

As he assessed how good he felt about his team a few days before its season opener earlier this month, Arizona coach Sean Miller offered a harsher evaluation than many expected given the Wildcats gaudy No. 2 preseason ranking. 

“Realistically, we’re not that good of team right now,” Miller said. “We’re nowhere near where we [were] a year ago at this time. I can see us getting off to a rocky start in the month of November.”

Arizona indeed hasn’t bolted from the starting blocks as fast as fellow top-five teams Kentucky, Duke and Wisconsin have this season, but the Wildcats are starting to show signs that they may yet close the gap. They showcased stifling defense, an emerging freshman star and a knack for getting to the free throw line Wednesday night in the Maui Invitational title game, continuing their recent domination of San Diego State with a tense 61-59 victory over the 15th-ranked Aztecs.

That Arizona managed to thwart San Diego State’s latest upset bid is impressive because the Aztecs had plenty of motivation. San Diego State had hoped to avenge three previous narrow losses to the Wildcats, one in the Sweet 16 last March in Anaheim, one in the regular season in San Diego last November and one in the finals of the Diamondhead Classic in Dec. 2012.

It’s unlikely Arizona would beaten San Diego State a fourth time in a row if it didn’t produce its best defensive stretch of the season during the final 10 minutes of Wednesday night’s game. The previously unbeaten Aztecs took a 48-47 lead on an Angelo Chol basket midway through the second half but eventually ran out of ways to generate offense against the Wildcats, missing nine of their next 10 shots and scoring only three points in nine minutes. 

Such a stifling stretch is a good sign for an Arizona team that surrendered an unusually high shooting percentage in a narrow victory over Kansas State in the Maui semifinals the night before. The Wildcats miss Nick Johnson’s vocal leadership and Aaron Gordon’s knack for defending multiple positions yet they still have the personnel to overwhelm opposing offenses in time, from an elite on-ball defender at point guard, to overwhelming size, strength and ball-hawking instincts at wing, to several capable interior defenders and rim protectors in the paint. 

Where there are greater questions about Arizona is on offense because sometimes the Wildcats simply don’t score as easily as other top teams. Arizona shot just 36.5 percent from the field against the formidable San Diego State defense and only managed 61 points because its guards turned turnovers into fast-break chances and got to the foul line 24 times.

In reality, the ability to turn defense into offense and to generate free throws may turn out to be the Wildcats’ best offensive weapons this season. The T.J. McConnell 3-pointer that gave Arizona the lead for good with 7:39 to go was set up by a J.J. O’Brien Turnover. Rondae-Hollis Jefferson then gave Arizona some breathing room when he blocked a Dwayne Polee 3-pointer and raced out for a breakaway dunk that extended the lead to four.  

That Arizona shot so many free throws was also no surprise considering the Wildcats average nearly 30 per game. While the downside of playing Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson together at wing is that neither can shoot consistently enough from the perimeter to space the floor, the upside is that both are big, strong wings who excel attacking the rim and getting to the foul line.

One of the biggest questions facing Arizona entering the season was who would fill Nick Johnson’s role as the team’s offensive catalyst and go-to scorer down the stretch in close games. There wasn’t an obvious choice among the returning players since Hollis-Jefferson still lacks the ball handling skills and jump shot to make that transition and Brandon Ashley is ill-suited for the role as a pick-and-pop forward. 

Maybe the most encouraging aspect of Wednesday night’s victory was that highly touted freshman wing Stanley Johnston for the first time showed signs that he may yet emerge as Arizona’s top scoring threat. Johnson delivered a season-high 18 points and 9 rebounds against the fearsome San Diego State defense, and while his shooting percentage was low, he was also fearless attacking the rim and getting to the foul line throughout the second half.

In many ways, Johnson symbolizes where Arizona is right now as a team — flashes of greatness but still a work in progress.

Arizona still needs to become more consistent on defense and to develop an identity late in close games on offense. Nonetheless, the team Miller insisted was “nowhere near” where it needed to be three weeks ago is steadily getting closer. 

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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David Perron on trade block; headed to Columbus?

The Edmonton Oilers are winless in seven games after losing to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. Changes will be made, and reports say that forward David Perron’s change of address will be one of the first.

Aaron Ward of TSN reported that Perron could be shipped out to the Columbus Blue Jackets, with center Artem Anisimov potentially headed back to the center-starved Oilers.

This would reunite Perron with Jackets president John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who knew him well during their days with the St. Louis Blues.

Anisimov is signed through 2016 with a $3.283 million cap hit. Perron is also signed through 2016 with a $4.5 million cap hit.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet believes the Montreal Canadiens would have interest in Perron, and that the Pittsburgh Penguins could be in the derby too, given their need for another veteran wing in the top six after the loss of Pascal Dupuis.

Perron, who was a minus-2 vs. the Stars, has two goals and eight assists in 22 games. He had 28 goals last season in 78 games.

Giannis and Jabari team up for a taste of the Bucks’ future

The Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the biggest surprises of the NBA season, hitting .500 and jumping into the East playoff picture much faster than anticipated. While much of their performance has depended on the sorry state of their conference, the Bucks do enough well to convince that they are not destined to fall out of postseason contention.

Yet being ahead of schedule has not changed that it’s difficult to watch Milwaukee without imagining how much better this young team could look in a few years. That’s in large part due to the talent of forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, both just 19 years old.

The two paired up for one of the highlights of the night in Tuesday’s 98-86 win over the visiting Detroit Pistons. Antetokounmpo used his point forward skills on the break with a delicious ball fake and found Parker, who finished the rest:

Antetokounmpo wasn’t particularly fantastic on the night (just two points on 1-of-13 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and two steals), but Parker had one of his best games as a pro (14 points on 7-of-10 shooting and nine rebounds). Neither of these players is a star just yet. In highlights like this, though, you can see the raw material that has the Bucks and anyone who watches the team very excited about the future.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

NBA Stock Watch: Bradley Beal moving up, Andre Drummond down


Bradley Beal: He’s back after missing the start of the season with a wrist injury, and despite coming off the bench, Beal has been a top-35 fantasy player (on a per-game basis). He’s unlikely to continue shooting better than 50.0 percent from the floor, but he’ll join Washington’s starting five soon and looks like a budding star. The third-year guard averaged 19.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg and 1.5 3pt over the final month last season, giving a glimpse of the kind of upside Beal possesses.

[Join FanDuel.com’s $1.75M Week 13 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 14,530 teams paid]

Tobias Harris: He was a disappointment during his first year in Orlando last season, but Harris has been anything but so far, as he’s been the No. 30 ranked fantasy player (and in the top-10 over the past two weeks). He’s averaging 18.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.2 spg, 0.7 bpg and 1.0 3pt while shooting 81.5 percent from the line. Harris missed Monday’s game with a calf injury, but the ailment isn’t supposed to be serious. Over his previous three games, he’s totaled 40 rebounds/assists/steals/blocks while committing one measly turnover. Still just 22 years old, Harris looks like an elite fantasy commodity for many seasons to come.

Mo Williams: With Ricky Rubio sidelined for multiple weeks with an ankle injury, Williams has become Minnesota’s starting point guard after rookie Zach Levine failed during his brief opportunity. Over the three games since joining the starting five, Williams has averaged 13.3 points, 9.7 assists and 1.7 3pt. He’s a must-own as long as Rubio remains out.

Darren Collison: When given the opportunity to start last season, Collison averaged 14.8 points, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 3pt over 35 games, so it’s no shock he’s thrived as Sacramento’s No. 1 point guard this year. In fact, he’s getting career-highs in ppg (15.9), rpg (3.5), apg (7.0), spg (1.6) and bpg (0.4) thanks to the most playing time he’s ever seen (35:19 mpg). Collison has been a top-30 fantasy player, and there’s no glaring reason to sell high. His 27.3 shooting percentage from beyond the arc is actually a career low by a wide margin.

Corey Brewer: With Kevin Martin undergoing wrist surgery that will sideline him at least the next six weeks, Brewer has moved into Minnesota’s starting lineup. He hasn’t exactly lit up the league, but few players are a bigger asset when it comes to recording steals, and there are so few options on this Timberwolves team, he’s going to have a big role on offense. The same can be said about No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, who scored 29 points on a career high 22 field goal attempts (to go along with 10 free throws) in 41:11 minutes of action during the team’s last game. His fantasy value gets a nice boost with Martin out as well.

Here’s Brandon Knight missing a wide-open layup at the end of overtime

Here’s Iman Shumpert with a sick reverse dunk over the Greek Freak

Here’s Dallas scoring seven points in 5.9 seconds versus the Lakers

This give-and-go alley-oop was pretty legit. 

Here’s Nerlens Noel throwing one of the worst passes you’ll ever see


Andre Drummond: It’s almost certainly best to be patient with the 21-year-old who possesses a ton of potential, but to say Drummond hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations would be a massive understatement. His 43.6 FT% was fully expected (and actually a career high), but after shooting 62.3 percent from the field last season, he’s at 39.7. The 11.6 rpg remain helpful, but foul trouble has limited Drummond’s minutes, and it hasn’t exactly been a smooth transition to Stan Van Gundy’s new system. Drummond is somehow 3-for-28 on shots five feet from the basket or longer and is shooting just 46.5 percent from inside the restricted area. It’s probably safe to expect those stats to be better moving forward, but Drummond has been the No. 230 ranked fantasy player this season.

Lance Stephenson: His mpg are actually slightly down after signing a big contract in hopes of becoming “the guy” in Charlotte, but his Usage Rate is up, so there’s no real excuse other than performance. Stephenson has shot just 38.3 percent from the floor and 61.8 percent from the line while committing 2.6 tpg. His biggest fantasy contribution so far this year has been hurting Al Jefferson’s rebounding numbers. Stephenson was benched for the final 1.5 quarters of Monday’s game and hasn’t been a top-200 fantasy player so far this season.

DeMar DeRozan: He’s in an epic shooting slump, making just 32.6 percent of his shots from the field (15-of-46) over his past three games (he’s shooting 15.4 percent from downtown on the year). These stretches happen, and Toronto is 12-2 despite DeRozan’s poor shooting to start the year. Obviously don’t go dropping him (his 26.2 Usage Rate ranks No. 21 in the NBA), but few players have hurt fantasy teams more over the past two weeks.

Josh Smith: Here are his fantasy ranks over the past four years, respectively: 25, 16, 92 and 127. That’s not exactly trending in the right direction, especially when you consider he’s No. 242 this year when many expected a bounce back campaign. Despite attempting fewer than half as many shots from beyond the arc this year compared to last (1.6 vs. 3.4), his FG% is a career-worst 37.4. His FT% is also a career-low 45.8. The former fantasy star is borderline droppable.

J.R. Smith: He’s been a top-100 player in each of the past four seasons but hasn’t exactly meshed well with the new system in New York, as he’s been the No. 180 ranked player this season (and No. 223 over the past week, killing fantasy teams while shooting 35.7 percent from the field over that four-game span). Smith averaged 2.6 3pt on 6.5 attempts last year. He’s at 0.9 on 3.2 so far this season. The Knicks currently rank last in the NBA in PACE, which isn’t exactly encouraging.

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