Progress in the NHL labor talks

798254.jpg

Progress in the NHL labor talks

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Negotiations between the NHL and the locked-out players' association ended after nearly six hours Wednesday. Just as they did a night earlier, the sides agreed to get right back to the bargaining table.Representatives for the owners and players will resume talks Thursday, marking the third straight day they will meet face-to-face. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr also met alone Saturday when in-person talks restarted for the first time since Oct. 18.The sides met for a total of about 13 hours over Tuesday and Wednesday at an undisclosed location in New York. Neither side offered any details of what was discussed on Wednesday."The NHLPA and the NHL met today to discuss many of the key issues," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said in a statement. "We look forward to resuming talks (Thursday)."Daly also was reserved after the talks ended for the day."Not providing any specifics on today's meetings," Daly said in an email to The Associated Press.On the 53rd day of the lockout, the sides discussed revenue sharing between teams and held talks on the "make-whole" provision, which involves the payment of player contracts that are already in effect.Those hot-button topics are scheduled to be on Thursday's agenda, too.Eight players were in attendance for Wednesday's talks, but a handful of players -- including Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby -- who took part Tuesday left New York to try to avoid an impending storm that brought snow to the area, the union said.There was already common ground before negotiations began Tuesday. The players' union adhered to the league's request to keep the meeting location a secret. With no outside distractions, the sides talked from afternoon until night.Once they broke for the day, neither side gave any hint of what was discussed or if progress was made, but both pointed to the next round of talks.Steve Fehr met with Daly on Saturday, and neither provided many details of what was discussed, but both agreed that the meeting was productive.Time is becoming a bigger factor every day a deal isn't reached. The lockout, which went into effect Sept. 16 after the previous collective bargaining agreement expired, has already forced the cancellation of 327 regular-season games -- including the New Year's Day outdoor Winter Classic in Michigan.Whether any of the games that have been called off through Nov. 30 can be rescheduled if an agreement is made soon hasn't been determined. But the NHL has already said that a full 82-game season won't be played.Back in October, the players' association responded to an NHL offer with three of its own, but all of those were quickly dismissed by the league -- leading to nearly three weeks without face-to-face discussions. Daly and Steve Fehr kept in regular contact by phone and agreed to meet last weekend.Both sides have made proposals that included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues.The NHL has moved toward the players' side in the contentious issue of the "make-whole" provision and whose share of the economic pie that money will come from. But work will still need to be done to get an agreement.Other core economic issues -- mainly the split of hockey-related revenue -- along with contract lengths, arbitration and free agency will also need to be agreed upon before a deal can be reached.The players' association accepted a salary cap in the previous CBA, which wasn't reached until after the entire 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout. The union doesn't want to absorb the majority of concessions this time after the NHL recorded record revenue that exceeded 3 billion last season."The issues the players are concerned about remain the same," Donald Fehr said Tuesday. "The players haven't seen any need to go backward, given the history of the last negotiations and given the level of revenue increase since then. Player-contracting rights are very important to them."Before we have any agreement, both sides have to see everything on paper and make sure that they all understand it right. That's about all I can say about it at this stage. I don't want to prejudge or indicate that I have any particular impressions or expectations. That's what the meetings are for," he said.

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

hockey-generic.jpg

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

VANCOUVER – It was a successful first game coming out of the bye week for the Sharks, as they won going away against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1. Here are our three takeaways from the evening in British Columbia…

1 – Slow start, strong finish

The league-wide trend of starting slow coming out of the NHL’s newly instituted bye week was on display in the first period, as the Sharks and Canucks played one of the uglier frames of NHL hockey you’ll ever see. San Jose was on its heels early, surrendering the first six shots of the game and looking particularly confused. They didn’t register a single hit in the period, either, which is hard to do.

The Sharks were lucky that Vancouver wasn’t much better, and that Martin Jones – whose performance we focused on in primary the game recap – was looking sharp and well rested.

The message after the scoreless first period, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was just to “try and get better.” That’s what happened.

“We knew it would be a little messy, and it was,” DeBoer said. “Jonesy thankfully was our best player, and gave us a chance to get our legs under us. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means.”

Chris Tierney said: “After the first 10 minutes [we] started to feel good and then kind of felt back to normal in the second there. It definitely took a little bit. Joner bailed us out in the beginning a couple times. I thought we started to get going in the second and third.”

2 – Standing up for Karlsson

Melker Karlsson was lucky to return in the third period after he took a heavy hit from Joseph Labate. Karlsson had to be helped to the dressing room after the blow, when his head violently snapped back as Labate ran him into the boards in front of the bench.

Micheal Haley pounced on Labate immediately after the incident, earning a two-minute minor that the team was probably happy to kill off. Labate, to his credit, answered the bell in the third period when he was challenged by and fought Brenden Dillon. The Sharks will face the Canucks three more times this season, including on Thursday, so a response to the hit was particularly necessary even if it was clean.

“That sends a good message to the team that everybody has each other’s back,” Mikkel Boedker said of Haley and Dillon’s efforts. “Those guys are real standup guys, and they’ve done it so many times. Every time they do it, it means something special to all of us.”

DeBoer said: “That’s a huge part of our team and our team identity. We’ve got a group that you’re not going to be able to push to of games, and I think we’ve shown that over the last two years here. You don’t even have to say anything, that’s just automatic.”

3 – Avoiding the mumps

Some eyebrows were raised in the press box midway through the game when the Canucks tweeted that defenseman Luca Sbisa would not return with the stomach flu. That’s one of the early warning signs of the mumps, meaning Sbisa could have exposed some Sharks to the virus, which is making its way through the Vancouver dressing room.

“What are you going to do? We’ve just got to cross our fingers and get outta here and hope that he didn’t rub up against anybody,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks coach said after the game that he thought “most of our guys” have had vaccinations, but “I believe there’s a couple that haven’t.”

After the virus invaded several NHL dressing rooms two seasons ago, the Sharks’ training staff will likely be on the lookout for symptoms when the team reconvenes on Monday. Hopefully, the outbreak will begin and end in Vancouver this time.

“Definitely, you want to make sure that you stay away from all that stuff,” Boedker said.

GM details Rockets' strategy for beating Warriors, winning NBA title

GM details Rockets' strategy for beating Warriors, winning NBA title

Coming off a disappointing 41-41 2015-16 season, Rockets GM Daryl Morey retooled his roster with one goal in mind for the 2016-17 campaign: put up as many 3-pointers as possible.

Offseason acquisitions Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson have fit in perfectly, and with them, the Rockets are averaging a league-high 40.3 3-point attempts per game. The next closest team, Cleveland, is averaging 33.8 3-point attempts per game. The Warriors, who lead the NBA in scoring, are only averaging 31.8 3-point attempts per game.

For Morey, the high volume of long-distance shots is all part of his plan to detrone the Warriors as Western Conference champs.

"We want to win the title, and obviously, that's probably going through the Warriors at some point. We absolutely figured the only way we're going to beat them is with a barrage of 3-pointers. And it's probably going to be a 124-120 affair if we're going to get past them," Morey said on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Friday.

In the first meeting this season between the two teams on Dec. 1, 2016, Houston went 14-of-44 from behind the 3-point line in a 132-127 double-overtime win in Oakland.

When they met again in Houston on Jan. 20, Houston made just 7-of-35 3-pointers as the Warriors ran away with a 125-108 victory.

The Rockets will get two more chances in the regular season to test their strategy.

If there's any team best equipped to defuse the Rockets' plan, it's the Warriors, who lead the NBA in holding opponents to 32.6 percent shooting from 3-point distance.

The Warriors have eliminated the Rockets from the postseason each of the last two seasons. Currently, the Warriors hold the top spot in the West, while the Rockets are sitting in the third spot in the conference. If they stay where they are in the standings, the earliest they could meet would be the Western Conference Finals.