Are you ready for some football?

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Are you ready for some football?

The NFL season may be over (at least in terms of games -- the off-season is a season unto itself) but pro football is not gone completely. In just two short weeks the San Jose SaberCats will kick off their 16th season in the Arena Football League. Only long-time head coach Darren Arbet isn't exactly looking at it that way.The 2012 campaign will mark just the team's second season since its 2008 Arena Bowl loss to Philadelphia. As SaberCats fans are well aware the AFL closed its doors shortly after ArenaBowl XXII and was revived in 2010 after some major restructuring. The 'Cats didn't return until last season and quickly learned it was indeed a whole new league.San Jose's 7-11 record marked its worst since Darren Arbet's first season with the 'Cats in 1999.Anyone who watched last year's team knows lady luck was not on their side as the injuries were ridiculous. San Jose suited up 57 different players over the course of 18 games. Fifty-seven! AFL teams only have 24-man rosters.But Arbet told me this week he refuses to blame the injuries for the SaberCats' struggles."Obviously I didn't do enough homework on the players and understand the league," he said. "Now I have a better feel by being thrown into that fire last year and we feel pretty good about it."Knowing the players and the league was hardly the only obstacle Arbet encountered in 2011. So too was the reality that the new version of the AFL was a stark contrast from the original in terms of structure. Gone were the multi-year contracts and six-figure salaries for the league's stars. In its place was a revised modest pay-per-game wage table and mostly one-year deals.It's a new reality that forces most of the players in the league to hold down second jobs as they still pursue their football dreams. That takes some getting used to.Arbet told me he's well aware of the needs of his players to support their families and attempts to accommodate them as much as possible. But he still wants to win.Nothing illustrated that point more than his cross-country trip over the offseason, in which he traveled from Oklahoma to Florida and beyond to personally recruit some of the league's biggest stars to relocate to San Jose. It was a stark contrast from the previous year when he hired an assistant to do his "recruiting." And it paid big dividends.The 'Cats waiver wire signings read like a who's who in the AFL. The new additions include:2-time All-Arena WR Huey Whitaker
2011 All-Arena DB Andre Jones
2011 All-Arena DL Tim McGill
2-time All-IronMan selection WRDB Jason Geathers
2011 AFL O-lineman of the year Rich Ranglin
2010 All-Arena DB Vince HillThat's one heck of a crop. Now it's Arbet's job to make them mesh.A week into camp he likes what he sees."They're working together, they're working hard," he said. "They're doing what it takes to win football games."So yes, optimism is back as the SaberCats gear up for 2012, but if you are planning on cheering them on this year, be sure to buy a program. With just nine returning players off last year's team in training camp there's little doubt you'll need it. ------------------On the Air with the 'CatsCSN Bay Area will again be the TV home of the SaberCats as we are set to broadcast 14 of their 18 games. If you can't catch the telecast you can catch them on the radio on KNBR-1050. Yours truly will be handling the radio play-by-play for a number of their games this season, including the season opener March 10th against Arizona.

NBA Gameday: Iguodala won't suit up against Heat

NBA Gameday: Iguodala won't suit up against Heat

Programming note: Warriors-Heat coverage starts today at 3:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

The last time they saw the Miami Heat, the Warriors got quite the warning. They trailed by as much as 10 points before coming back for the victory in Oakland.

It was quite clear in the postgame comments from coach Steve Kerr and the players that the Heat, regardless of their lowly status this season, never stopped competing.

The Warriors (38-6) surely will recall that when they put their seven-game win streak on the line Monday in the rematch at American Airlines Arena.

The Heat (14-30) have won their last three games, including an impressive victory over the Rockets last Tuesday.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 12

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. Goran Dragic: Though the point guards won’t always defend each other, each serves as the igniter of his team’s offense. Both have been playing well, as Curry is coming off a 27-point effort (with seven 3-pointers) at Orlando and Dragic has scored 57 points (on 67.9 percent shooting) over his last two games.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Andre Iguodala (rest) and C David West (L thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Heat: G Tyler Johnson (L shoulder sprain) is listed as questionable. F Josh McRoberts (L foot stress fracture), G Josh Richardson (L foot sprain) and F Justise Winslow (R shoulder surgery) are listed as out.

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won the first meeting this season, 107-95, on Jan. 10 at Oracle Arena and have won five in a row and eight of the last 10.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE BIG MEN: Heat center Hassan Whiteside torched the Warriors for 28 points and 20 rebounds two weeks ago. He was Miami’s most effective offensive player, even as the Warriors rotated five defenders on him. Though Zaza Pachulia will again get the primary assignment, expect Whiteside to again see different looks.

KLAY’S BACK: The Warriors opted to rest Klay Thompson in the last meeting, starting rookie Pat McCaw. Well, Thompson will play tonight, and he is one day removed from drilling 7-of-9 3-pointers in the win at Orlando. Though Dion Waiters will try to match Thompson’s scoring, Miami has nobody suited to contain Klay.

BRING IT EARLY: Expecting constant defensive pressure from the Heat, the Warriors will need to summon intensity from the start or risk, yet again, having to generate a second-half comeback. It worked well on Sunday, but it’s a dangerous game to play, particularly on the road.

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

Programming note – Sharks-Avalanche coverage starts today at 6:00 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 29-16-2, 60 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Avalanche: 13-29-2, 28 points, 7th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Tonight’s game is the second of a home-and-home for the Sharks and Avalanche, after San Jose’s 3-2 win in overtime at SAP Center on Saturday, and the final game of the season series. David Schlemko got the deciding score 1:18 into the extra frame, as the Sharks improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight against Colorado.

The Sharks have won four straight, while Colorado, just 2-14-1 in its last 17, has lost five in a row. The Avs have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

***Colorado will reportedly give rookie Spencer Martin his second straight start after he made 27 saves in his NHL debut against the Sharks on Saturday. 

Martin Jones is tied for third in the NHL with 24 wins, and is 5-1-0 in his last six starts.

***Four of the Sharks’ last six games have been decided by one goal, including three in a row. San Jose is 16-10-2 in one-goal games – the second most one-goal wins in the league, and the most one-goal losses in regulation.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The Sharks rookie has hit a bit of a wall since bursting onto the scene, going without a goal for the last 10 games. Coach Pete DeBoer said recently that he had a talk with the rookie about maintaining a high level of play, and Labanc has been more noticeable in his last two games, recording an assist in each. The 21-year-old has 14 points (7g, 7a) in 34 games this season.

Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon. No forward was more effective for Colorado on Saturday against the Sharks than MacKinnon, their lone All-Star, who recorded a game-high seven shots and set up the tying goal in the third period. The first pick in the 2013 draft has 10 points (7g, 3a) in 10 career games when opposing San Jose, and is Colorado’s leading scorer with 32 points (11g, 21a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones 
Aaron Dell

Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen – Nathan Mackinnon – Mikhail Grigorenko
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Matt Nieto
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne

Francois Beauchemin – Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin – Nikita Zadorov
Patrick Wiercioch – Eric Gelinas

Spencer Martin (starter)
Calvin Pickard

INJURIES

Sharks: Micheal Haley (lower body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Avalanche: Tyson Barrie (lower body) and Rene Bourque (lower body) are day-to-day. Semyon Varlamov (groin) and Erik Johnson (broken fibula) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I felt we did a pretty good job in our end, [but] we probably played there a little too much. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to coming out of our end or through the neutral zone. There’s going to be games like that and it’s good to find a way to win.” – David Schlemko, after Saturday’s win