From Comcast SportsNetLONDON (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams took the first step to becoming Britain's "home" team Friday, agreeing to play a regular-season NFL game in London in each of the next three seasons. And first up are the New England Patriots, who are two wins from another Super Bowl title. The Rams and Patriots meet at Wembley on Oct. 28, about two months after the closing ceremony of the London Olympics. That will be followed by games at Wembley against undetermined opponents in 2013 and 2014. The Rams are owned by Stan Kroenke, who is also the majority shareholder in the English soccer club Arsenal. The team will give up home games in St. Louis for the three seasons they are in London. "We've seen first-hand the increased popularity of the NFL not only in London but throughout Europe," Kroenke said in a statement. "To play a role in that growth over the next three years will be incredible and is a testament to the many good things happening not only in the NFL but also in the St. Louis Rams organization." This year's contest will be the sixth regular-season game at Wembley. But despite plans to bring a second game to Britain starting next season, the NFL said the Rams-Patriots date would be the only one in 2012. "This year is a very competitive year for sport in the UK, especially with the Olympics in London," NFLUK managing director Alistair Kirkwood said. "Also, with the Rams having made an unprecedented commitment to playing in the UK for the next three years, we wanted to focus on them as our 'home' team without another game taking place. "We would like to increase beyond one game per year as soon as possible and the five-year commitment by the owners to playing in the UK allows us to make that decision when we feel it is appropriate." NFL owners agreed last year to play regular-season games in the UK for the next five seasons. The league said Friday all the games would be played at Wembley. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has repeatedly spoken of the possibility of a full-time franchise in the UK one day. The Rams finished 2-14 this season, tied for the NFL's worst, and have won only 15 games the last five seasons. Last week, the team hired Jeff Fisher as coach to replace the fired Steve Spagnuolo. The NFL first played at Wembley in 2007, with the New York Giants beating the Miami Dolphins 13-10. Since then, seven other teams have visited Britain, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers making the trip twice. The Patriots have already been to London, beating the Bucs 35-7 in 2009. The Bucs returned this season, losing to the Chicago Bears 24-18 in October -- the first of the Wembley games that wasn't a sellout. This season, the Patriots have been one of the best teams in the league. Led by Tom Brady, they will face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in the AFC championship with a chance to reach their fifth Super Bowl in the last 11 years. And Patriots owner Robert Kraft is already looking forward to coming back to London, especially since they again don't have to give up a home game. "For us in a way it is like, I think, having another home game, we have such a large fan base there," Kraft said. "We have had a group of fans come over from the UK and come here to a game each year and it is a tremendous fan base. Happy we will be able to go over there." In the NFC championship, the San Francisco 49ers host the New York Giants.
NASHVILLE – Apparently, one wake up call wasn’t good enough for the plummeting San Jose Sharks.
Just one day after suffering what was arguably their worst game under coach Pete DeBoer, Nashville put up a touchdown on the Sharks in a 7-2 win, giving San Jose its sixth straight defeat – all in regulation.
After getting outscored 13-3 the last two nights, including Friday’s 6-1 loss in Dallas, where do they go from here?
“In two years, last year and this year so far, we haven’t had one night like this almost. Now we have back-to-back nights,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think it’s just a reality check. A gut-check time.
“It’s on us as players. Bottom line is we haven’t put the effort in that we need to have right now, and it snowballed on us a little bit at times. I think we’ve got to take a deep breath and really take a look in the mirror, refocus a little bit and understand there’s hockey out there, but it’s not going to fix itself.”
What has to be fixed immediately is the defensive structure that has been so vital to the Sharks’ success in the Pete DeBoer era. Even when the club was going through stretches of struggling to score, as it was earlier in the season, it was still collecting points in the standings with its ability to limit the opposition’s scoring chances.
While the game against the Predators was actually a little better in that regard, believe it or not, it was still nowhere near the level it needs to be for the postseason. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s absence was partly to blame for that, but the Brent Burns-Paul Martin pair has been a disaster lately. Both have a minus-nine rating during the six-game losing streak, and that number is indicative of how they’ve looked, too.
“We’re giving up some goals. It’s a combination of things,” DeBoer said. “Obviously it’s not good enough to win games, so we’ve got to figure it out. I don’t have an answer standing here for you, but I know our group. Every team I’ve ever coached has a tough part of the season. This is obviously ours. We’ll regroup, and figure it out.”
Burns, who admitted to a “bad read” on Nashville’s second goal when Roman Josi sped around him, said: “It’s a tough league when you’re not executing little things.”
The Sharks actually looked strong early, poised to put the Dallas disaster behind them. The first few shifts, they had the puck in the Nashville end.
But Tomas Hertl was outmuscled behind the net by Colin Wilson on Colton Sissons’ goal at 4:14, Burns got beat on the second, and the Sharks never recovered. Patrick Marleau’s second period power play goal offered life, but that was extinguished 24 seconds later when James Neal answered with a power play goal of his own. The Sharks never got closer than two goals after that.
“When things are going bad, those are the things that are happening,” Burns said of Neal’s response to Marleau’s marker. “So, you’ve just got work through it."
Will they be able to work through it with just seven games left in the regular season, though? That this cold spell is happening in late March doesn’t speak well to the Sharks’ chances in the postseason, which begins in just two-and-a-half weeks.
Burns said: “Right now we should be just tightening up everything. … We've got figure it out pretty soon.”
NASHVILLE – Sharks forward Micheal Haley could be in line for supplemental discipline from the league, after earning a match penalty in the third period of Saturday’s 7-2 loss in Nashville.
After absorbing a borderline hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok, Haley tracked down the Predators forward and promptly delivered a left jab to Jarnkrok’s face at 12:56 of the final frame, with the Sharks trailing 5-2 at the time.
Naturally, there were differing opinions from the two head coaches on the play.
Pete DeBoer said: “When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth.”
Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters: "It's an ugly play. This isn't the wild, wild west. I mean, Calle hit him. We took a penalty. If we start doing that, we're in trouble, so hopefully it gets looked at."
Any player who earns a match penalty "shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the commissioner has ruled on the issue,” according to league rules.
In 54 games this season, Haley has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. His 110 penalty minutes is fifth in the league.
Jarnkrok did not return after the punch, but told reporters after the game he felt “OK.”
"I feel pretty good," Jarnkrok said. "Obviously, I saw him coming. There were a couple other guys coming, too. I didn't really know what to do. He got in a good punch on me.”