5

Wins in last 6 games for both Flyers and Sixers

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Eagles’ release of Marcus Smith, Jordan Matthews’ knee injury and the reaction to Michael Phelps’ “race” against a great white shark.

Trading Chase Utley was the right thing to do, both for the Phillies and for Utley. But that doesn’t make it any easier to bid farewell to one of the most popular players in franchise history.

The elevation of center Sean Couturier (pictured) to the top line, with Claude Giroux moving to left wing, has worked out exceptionally well for the Flyers. Jakub Voracek leads the team in assists, Giroux has 7 points and Couturier leads the team in plus/minus rating.

First-and-10

A quick look at 10 sports stories in the news…  

1. Eagles prepare for Vikings invasion Eagles to host Vikings on Sunday (6:40 p.m.) in NFC Championship game, with winner advancing to Super Bowl. Eagles LBs Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), Kamu Grugier-Hill (ankle) limited in practice. Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo limited in practice, remains in concussion protocol. Vikings receivers Adam Thielen, who missed practice Wednesday due to lower back injury, returns to practice Thursday as limited participant. Last Saturday, Eagles defense stops Falcons on fourth-and-goal at end of game to seal 15-10 victory over visiting Falcons. Defense holds Falcons scoreless during 2nd half. Eagles, who notch 1st playoff victory since 2008 season. Eagles have homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs. QB Nick Foles completes 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards. Jake Elliott, who misses extra point after Eagles’ only touchdown, kicks 53-yard field goal as time expires in 1st half to cut Eagles’ deficit to 10-9, then kicks field goals of 37 and 21 yards in 3rd and 4th quarters, respectively.

2. Flyers retire Lindros’ number Flyers retire No,. 88 worn by Hall of Fame center Eric Lindros during emotional ceremony prior to tonight’s game against Maple Leafs. Lindros introduced by Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who has been instrumental in repairing Lindros’ relationship with Flyers organization. Former Legion of Doom linemates John LeClair, Mikael Renberg accompany Lindros’ family to center ice. Lindros compiled 659 points (290 goals, 369 assists) in 486 games during 8 seasons with Flyers.

3. Flyers rally past Leafs Flyers score 3 unanswered goals, including Sean Couturier’s goal 18 seconds into overtime, to defeat visiting Leafs, 3-2. Flyers win for 5th time in 6 games. Leafs score 32 seconds apart during 2nd period to take 2-0 lead. But rookie Nolan Patrick scores unassisted goal 1:33 into 3rd period, then Wayne Simmonds scores tying goal shorthanded less than 2 minutes later. Michael Neuvirth makes 29 saves in superb effort. Flyers to host Devils on Saturday (1 p.m.).

4. Sixers topple Celtics Joel Embiid scores 26 points, grabs 16 rebounds, dishes out 6 assists as Sixers defeat host Celtics, 89-80, gaining revenge for loss 1 week earlier in London. Sixers notch 5th win in last 6 games, beat Celtics for 1st time in 4 attempts this season. On Monday, Sixers beat Raptors for 1st time in 4 attempts this season. Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell contribute 16 and 15 points, respectively. Sixers will host Bucks on Saturday (7:30 p.m.).

5. Embiid named All-Star starter Sixers center Joel Embiid named starter for All-Star Game. Embiid, averaging 23.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots, is joined in Eastern Conference voting by Cavaliers’ LeBron James, Celtics’ Kyrie Irving, Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan, Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo. Sixers guard JJ Redick to miss at least 10-14 days after suffering small crack in fibular head of left leg in collision during Sixers’ 117-111 victory over Raptors on Monday. Rookie Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in draft, practices in 5-on-5 situation at Sixers practice, but he still has discomfort in his shoulder and his shot isn’t in proper form, according to Sixers head coach Brett Brown.

6. Roseman wins award Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman named NFL Executive of Year by Pro Football Writers Association.

7. Brady injures throwing hand Patriots QB Tom Brady doesn’t practice Thursday after injuring throwing hand during practice on Wednesday.

8. Vikings ‘Diggs’ deep in miraculous finish Saints take 1-point lead on field goal with 25 seconds remaining, but Case Keenum connects with Stefon Diggs on sideline pass to set up field goal, but Diggs turns it into 61-yard game-winning touchdown as time expires, boosting Vikings to 29-24 triumph.  Vikings will face Eagles on Sunday (6:40 p.m.) in NFC Championship Game.  Saints rally from 17-0 first-half deficit to twice take 2nd-half lead. Defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots shake off slow start to top Titans, 35-14, to advance to AFC Championship Game for 7th straight season. Patriots will host Jaguars, who score first 21 points en route to shocking Steelers for 2nd time this season at Heinz Field, 45-42. After early turnovers, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger passes for 469 yards, 5 TDs to lead comeback that falls just short.

9. Towson tops Drexel Towson jumps out to 16-point advantage by halftime, cruises to 90-68 victory over visiting Drexel. In Wednesday’s games, Josh Brown hits game-winning basket for 2nd time in a week as Temple edges visiting Tulsa, 59-58, in Owls’ 3rd straight game down to the wire; Villanova shoots 17 of 33 from 3-point range, placing 6 players in double figures, en route to 88-56 triumph over host Georgetown, the Hoyas worst defeat in more than 40 years; James Demery scores 19 points, Taylor Funk contributes 18 and Shavar Newkirk adds 17 as Saint Joseph’s defeats visiting Dayton, 81-65; and Isiah Deas scores 15 points, Tony Washington adds 14 as La Salle celebrates return of B.J. Johnson (11 points) from ankle injury with 75-67 win over visiting Fordham.

10. Titans, Mularkey part ways Titans, who were eliminated from playoffs Saturday by Patriots, part ways with head coach Mike Mularkey after back-to-back 9-7 seasons.  NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, citing sources, reports that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to be hired as Colts head coach, and Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer to be hired as Giants head coach. Raiders hire Jon Gruden to replace Jack Del Rio as head coach. Gruden coached Raiders for 4 seasons before being traded to Buccaneers following 2001 season, and then he led Bucs to Super Bowl victory over Raiders the following season. Gruden’s contract reportedly for $100 million over 10 years. In other NFL news, Texans extend contract of head coach Bill O’Brien.

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WEEKEND RESULTS

Friday
Men’s Basketball
Penn 69, Cornell 61

Saturday
Eagles 15, Falcons 10
Flyers 5, New Jersey 3
Men’s Basketball
Duquesne 101, La Salle 94 (3 OTs)
Memphis 75, Temple 72 (OT)
Hofstra 91, Drexel 86
Penn 77, Columbia 71
Villanova 78, St. John’s 71

Sunday
Men’s Basketball
UMass 72, St. Joseph’s 69

LOCAL SCHEDULE

Monday
Sixers 117, Raptors 111

Tuesday
Rangers 5, Flyers 1

Wednesday
Men’s Basketball
Temple 59, Tulsa 58
St. Joseph’s 81, Dayton 65
Villanova 88, Georgetown 56
La Salle 75, Fordham 67

Thursday
Flyers 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)
Sixers 89, Boston 80
Men’s Basketball
Towson 90, Drexel 68

Friday
No games scheduled

Saturday
Devils at Flyers , 1 p.m.
Bucks at Sixers, 7:30 p.m.
Men’s Basketball
Villanova at Connecticut, noon
Fordham at St. Joseph’s, 1 p.m.
Temple at Penn, 2 p.m.
La Salle at Richmond, 2:30 p.m.
Drexel at J.Madison, 4 p.m.

Sunday
Flyers at Washington, 12:30 p.m.
NFC Championship
Vikings at Eagles, 6:40 p.m.

FOR LEAGUE-WIDE SCORES AND STANDINGS, CLICK ON THE LINKS UNDER THE “STANDINGS” HEADING IN THE SIDEBAR TO THE RIGHT, OR IN THE HEADING AT THE UPPER-RIGHT OF THIS PAGE

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Eric Lindros, shown interacting with youth players during the 2012 Winter Classic, will have his number retired Thursday night by the Flyers. Eric Fisher examines Lindros’ career, Sean Couturier’s All-Star snub and prospect Morgan Frost’s excellent half-season. 

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In the Nick of time

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Believing in Nick Foles