Browns vs. Chiefs Preview, Holgren turns down Seattle Seahwaks Offer, Lake Erie Monsters defeat Manitoba Moose, NHL Notes

Good Morning Sports Fans!

In a battle of two teams that are still looking for a direction, the Cleveland Browns will travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs at 1pm today. The Browns are coming into the 2-11 and are riding off an emotional high from their win against the Steelers ten days ago. The Chiefs are currently 3-10 on the year and are coming off a loss last week to the Buffalo Bills. Both teams had different results last week but have had similar struggles this season.

The Browns have had to battle through injuries this season but the players they have picked up off waivers and off the practice squad have made the most of the opportunity. Browns receivers Brian Robiske, Evan Moore and Mike Furrey have come up with big catches in the last couple of games and Jerome Harrison and Chris Jennings have filled in greatly for the injured Jamal Lewis. On defense Matt Roth (who was picked up from the Miami Dolphins), Jason Trusnick, Kenyon Coleman and Ahtyba Rubin have stepped up to help this Cleveland Browns defense. All of these players have been able to make key stops when needed and are proving to the Browns they belong in the NFL. The Browns may have some of their regular starters on injured reserve but with lots of players looking for an opportunity next year, they can be a dangerous team.

Despite the occasional bad throw or missed route, Browns quarterback Brady Quinn seems to be getting a hang of the offense and has been able to communicate and connect better with his receivers. During the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Quinn did not necessarily have the numbers his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger had but still was able to connect downfield when needed. Teammate Josh Cribbs proved how powerful he could be running the ball out of the Wild Cat formation in that game and was a key factor in that victory. If Quinn is able to connect with his receivers today and Cribbs plays like he did against the Steelers, the Browns offense will be able to put the Chiefs defense on their heels.

On defense, the Browns will have to put pressure on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell. Cassell, who was acquired in a trade before the season began, is not having the success he had last season in New England but can still motivate an offense. With wide receiver Chris Chambers becoming a friendly target, the Browns will need to put pressure on Cassell early on in the ball game and have the secondary ready to cover deep. Cassell is not afraid to go long early on in the ball game and the Browns defense will have to be ready. Like the Browns, the Chiefs are a team still looking for a direction, have nothing else to lose and will be ready to take on anyone who stands in their way.

In other NFL news, it has been reported that Mike Holmgren turned an offer…..from the Seattle Seahawks. It was reported Holmgren was offered a similar position that Browns are looking to bring him in for with the Seahwaks and he turned it down. Holmgren still has not said whether or not he is officially coming to Cleveland as more rumors about his possible role with the Browns have begun to surface.

Earlier this weeek, there were some reports that Holmgren might serve as the Browns Vice President of Football Operations and be the team’s head coach. Holmgren would serve well in both capacities and the former Seahawks and Packers head coach is looking at around $10 million per year. The Browns would still have to figure out what to do with current head coach Eric Mangini’s contract (Mangini still has two years left) if Holmgren was brought in to serve as the head coach of the Browns.

Moving from the NFL gridiron to center ice, the Lake Erie Monsters rebounded from their loss on Friday with a come from behind win Saturday night against the Manitoba Moose. Down 2-0 going into the second period, goals by Monsters forwards Brian Willsie and Ryan Stoa tied the game up 2-2. In the third period, Monsters forward Phillipe Dupuis would become the hero as Dupuis put one past Moose netminder Cory Schnieder to take a 3-2 Lake Erie lead. The Moose failed to tie the game up with less then five minutes to go and the Monsters pulled away with the victory. Monsters goaltender Tyler Weiman finished the night with 29 saves.

Despite losing on Friday night, the Monsters have not played badly on this road trip. The team has been keeping the games closer then some other contests this season and seem to rebound better after a loss. If netminder Tyler Weiman has a good night, the Monsters tend to play with a bit more energy and the lines become a bit more cohesive. With Billy Sauer in goal at times, the Monsters offense seems to gel a bit better and creates more scoring opportunities.

The Monsters record might be lousy but there is still plenty of season left for their players to make an impact. Many of the players on the Monsters roster want to get a taste of the NHL and playing well will provide them that opportunity. Brandon Yip took advantage of the opportunity given and was rewarded recently with a call up to the Colorado Avalanche. Justin Mercier was awarded a similar opportunity and if the Monsters players are hungry enough, the thought of going to the NHL will motivate them.

Moving on to the NHL, in a game in which they were outplayed early on, the Columbus Blue Jackets woes continue as the team was stomped on 5-2 last night on the road against the Colorado Avalanche. The Jackets were sluggish on defense early on as Avs forward (and former Lake Erie Monsters player) Chris Stewart scored on an easy breakaway goal just :21 seconds into the game. Minutes later, the Avalanche would score two more goals with the help of Wojtek Wolski and the Jackets were forced to pull starting goaltender Steve Mason after Colorado went up 4-0 with a goal by John-Michael Liles. Mason did not have a lot of defensive help in front of him as the Jackets were constantly out of position in their own defensive zone and allowed the Avalanche to get wide open shots.

The Jackets would get on the board in the second period with goals by Jason Chimera and RJ Umberger but the damage was done and another Avalanche goal by Milan Hejduk in the third period sealed the 5-2 win for Colorado. Avalanche starting netminder Craig Anderson finished the game with 28 saves.

Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason has not been as impressive this season but last night’s game was not entirely his fault. Mason has not been the goaltender fans saw last year but the Blue Jackets have been downright sluggish on defense at times this season. During last night’s game, the Jackets constantly were out of position in front of their own net and would not challenge the Avalanche at all. The goals the Avalanche scored in the first period were goals that came from wide open shots from the Blue Jackets being out of position. Like many games this season, the Avalanche took advantage of an early lead and took the Jackets out of the game as a result.

The Blue Jackets have a talented roster but changes are going to have to be made. Head Coach Ken Hitchcock helped develop a lot of players on this team but his effectiveness seems to be wearing off. Many teams such as the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Colorado Avalanche have benefited in previous years by making a coaching change in the middle of the season. A few seasons ago, the Capitals promoted Bruce Boudreau from their Hershey Bears AHL affiliate and the team has become of the NHL’s best ever since. After the Pittsburgh Penguins were not winning under then head coach Michel Therrien, promoting Dan Bylesma up from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins paid off not only during the regular season but in the Stanley Cup Finals as well. By promoting former Lake Erie Monsters head coach Joe Sacco, the Coloardo Avalanche are starting to play like the Avalanche of old and have become one of the biggest threats in the NHL.  The Jackets have benefited under Ken Hitchcock but there are certain situations in which a team needs to make a change.

Taking a look at other NHL action, the Pittsburgh Penguins took down the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 last night in a shootout victory. The Sabres got on the board early on with a goal by Jason Pominville but the Penguins answered a few minutes later with a goal by Chris Kunitz. Both teams were locked in a stalemate until the shootout when Penguins forward Kris Letang became the hero by scoring the only goal in that session. Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury finished the game with 31 saves as Sabres netminder (and former Cleveland Lumberjacks and Penguins goaltender) Patrick Lalime finished with 23 saves.

That’s it for now. Keep it real.

Jeff

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~ by jeffrsabo on December 20, 2009.

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