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NEW YORK — Todd Bowles is concerned about only one thing regarding his future with the New York Jets: the team’s next opponent.

Despite all the rumours and expectations that the game Sunday at New England will be his last as coach of the franchise, Bowles refuses to publicly fuel any of the speculation that has seemed like an inevitable ending for weeks.

“I do not talk about my job,” Bowles said during a conference call Monday.

Plenty of other people do that for him, of course, with many fans and media already preparing for a coaching search and throwing out potential replacements for Bowles.

Pro Football Talk reported Sunday night, citing an anonymous source, that the Jets plan to pursue Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Bowles said he had no response to the report, but the team issued a statement from acting chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson denying it.

“Todd Bowles is our head coach,” Johnson said in the statement. “There is no truth to the report of our interest in Jim Harbaugh.”

That, of course, doesn’t mean Bowles will, in fact, remain the coach moving forward. The Jets also might know the reality is Harbaugh has made it clear he intends to remain with the Wolverines.

Harbaugh’s brother John, another name mentioned in speculation and rumours, will also not be on New York’s list after Baltimore announced last week it will sign him to a contract extension.

Former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy has been a much-discussed option on sports radio and social media, and there will be plenty more names to consider over the next several days.

Bowles remaining with the Jets, however, does not seem likely. He is about to finish his fourth season — all without a playoff appearance — and has a 24-39 overall record, including a 44-38 overtime loss to the Packers on Sunday.

“Personally, I do not speak about my next job,” Bowles said. “I worry about tomorrow and when Christmas comes, and I worry about New England on Sunday and I go from there.”

That’s not just lip service from Bowles, who has always been reserved about his private life and his job status since being hired by the Jets in 2015 to replace the fired Rex Ryan. Bowles has insisted on keeping the focus on his players, and not letting the outside chatter affect anyone inside his locker room.

“That’s my only job,” the 55-year-old Bowles told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “Nothing else matters. They’re younger and they haven’t been through anything like this, so it’s up to me to make sure we approach it the right way and learn the things we need to learn, and it gets navigated the right way, and that’s my only job.

“There’s nothing else to really lose sleep over.”

To a man, the players have said Bowles has not strayed from that approach. They have praised his ability, despite all the swirling speculation, to not let any of it affect his preparation.

“I can say that our minds and our focus is on the Patriots coming up this week,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “We can’t worry about things going on outside our building. I think more guys are focused on making sure that they’re spending time with their families for Christmas. We don’t have time to really look at what the media has to say about what’s going on.

“At the end of the day, it’s about this organization, about these players in this building.”

When asked what Bowles has to say about it, Beachum said the coach has said nothing regarding his future.

“He’s got us focused on the Patriots,” Beachum said. “That’s not something that is on top of mind right now. What’s on top of mind is finding a way to close out games. We’ll handle the rest when the season is over.”

NOTES: After blasting officials for calling so many penalties on his team, included 16 accepted for a franchise-record 172 yards, Bowles said he had nothing more to add. “I said what I said, I meant everything I said,” Bowles said. “I’m done with it.” … Bowles said WR Jermaine Kearse injured an Achilles tendon and was going for X-rays. He had four catches for 55 yards before leaving against Green Bay. … WR Quincy Enunwa appears likely to end the season having missed the final three games with an ankle injury. When asked about Enunwa’s chances of playing at New England, Bowles said: “Slim. I haven’t talked to him yet, but I would say slim.” … Beachum and his family were treating people to lunch in his hometown of Mexia, Texas, to celebrate Christmas. Although Beachum can’t join them, he invited residents to stop by a local chicken and catfish eatery for a meal “to show holiday love to my hometown.”

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With 10 days until kickoff, the Dallas Cowboys are adding a piece to their offensive line.

The Kansas City Chiefs are trading offensive lineman Parker Ehinger to the Cowboys for cornerback Charvarius Ward, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the situation.

Ehinger was a fourth-round pick of the Chiefs out of Cincinnati in the 2016 draft and won a starting guard job as a rookie, but saw that campaign cut short by a torn ACL. The knee injury has kept him from regaining his job since — save for his lone start in Week 17 of 2017 — and GM Brett Veach evidently deemed him expendable.

Dallas welcomes him in a move that appears to be for interior depth. We took a close look Wednesday at the struggles the Cowboys have faced and likely will continue to endure with Joe Looney taking over at center, but Ehinger has only seen starting snaps in the NFL as a guard. The Cowboys are looking at starting rookie Connor Williams at left guard, opposite two-time All-Pro Zack Martin, and might feel more comfortable with Ehinger behind (or competing with) Williams than the previous situation. It doesn’t appear as though Ehinger will play center, though crazier things have happened.

The loss of backup Marcus Martin to a torn ligament in his toe during this preseason likely is a more logical explanation for this trade. Dallas doesn’t want to enter the season without reliable depth behind the rookie guard and acquiring Ehinger for a bubble player addresses that concern.

Ward was an undrafted free agent who some expected to make the final 53-man roster in Dallas after he showed potential during camp. He’ll instead move to a team that has had issues with its secondary during the preseason.

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Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller realizes speed can get you only so far as a teenager in the NHL.

Although it certainly is a huge advantage to be able to sustain the pace and intensity while playing top-line minutes, Keller knows his ability to adjust in other areas will ultimately determine his future success.

“I’m an offensive player, trying to contribute every night, but there are things to work on, like getting pucks out of the defensive zone, finding the middle guy and doing everything I can to get him the puck,” Keller said. “Also, staying on my guy at the point can really go a long way. It’s no secret that offense in the NHL today is usually the result of a good breakout and offensive zone time.”

Keller, 19, leads all NHL rookies with eight goals, 12 points and 43 shots on goal in 11 games. He ranks second among rookies in average ice time (19:54) and Arizona has controlled 51.01 percent of all shots attempted at 5-on-5 when he’s been on the ice.

Keller said the fact he has earned the trust of his coach to lead all NHL rookie forwards in ice time has boosted his confidence and comfort level.
Keller steals and scores

00:54 • October 29th, 2017

“There hasn’t been a time where he’s really been out of it, doing stuff that we don’t want him to do,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “He’ll make a mistake, but when we tell him he seems to correct it. Everyone is going to make mistakes; it’s what you do after the mistake that you really judge a player on.”

The fact that the Coyotes (0-10-1) have yet to win a game hasn’t deflated Keller’s confidence. In fact, it drives him.

“To turn this thing around we’ve got to develop a bit of a swagger and an inner confidence and belief in what we’re doing, and [Keller] is a guy who has a lot of confidence,” general manager John Chayka said. “He’s bordering on cocky at times, but he’s very respectful, hard-working, and very well-liked. You need confidence in order to have success, and our team needs to develop it. He’s got it.”

Selected No. 7 by the Coyotes in the 2016 NHL Draft, Keller’s maturity level seems to improve daily.

“This guy is unbelievable,” forward Max Domi said. “He looks like a younger version of Patrick Kane out there.”

Keller was ranked No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting’s final list of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 draft.

“He plays the game at a high pace in all zones both with and without the puck and this puts pressure on his opponents to commit first when trying to defend him which he often takes advantage of,” David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting said. “His ability to read the play on the fly allows him to create opportunities for himself and his teammates. He’s a dynamic player that is worth the price of admission.”
Keller tallies nifty PPG

01:06 • October 27th, 2017

Keller signed an entry-level contract with the Coyotes on March 26 and played in three games late last season after scoring 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 29 games as a freshman at Boston University. He won the 2017 Tim Taylor Award as the best first-year player in NCAA Division I men’s hockey.

“I like his swagger,” Tocchet said. “I know it’s early, but he’s a big-time player. When the chips are down I can see him trying some plays that I see some high-end players try that I’ve coached and played against.”

Keller said the fact that he has earned enough trust from his coach to lead all NHL rookie forwards in ice time has boosted his confidence and comfort level.

“It takes a lot for a coach to trust a 19-year-old,” Keller said. “He always refers to things that Sidney Crosby did when he was coaching him in Pittsburgh; how he practiced and played, things like that.”

 

Rookies on the rise

Oscar Dansk, G, Vegas Golden Knights (2012 Draft, No. 31, Columbus Blue Jackets): Dansk (6-3, 195), 23, is the third goalie used by the Golden Knights. He got the chance to play after Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and Malcolm Subban (lower body) were injured. Dansk leads rookie goalies in wins (3-0-0), goals-against average (1.34), save percentage (.959) and shutouts (one). After spending the past two seasons with Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League, Dansk signed a one-year contract with the Golden Knights on July 3.

 

Adrian Kempe, LW, Los Angeles Kings (2014 Draft, No. 29): Kempe (6-2, 195), 21, who has nine points (six goals, three assists) in 11 games, was the first rookie to have a hat trick this season; he scored three goals in a 5-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 18.

“There are not many guys that can carry speed like he does, but we like the fact that he’s shown the ability to be a 200-foot player, and that’s what we’re going to need from him,” coach John Stevens told the Kings website.

 

Brock Boeser, RW, Vancouver Canucks (2015 Draft, No. 23): The 6-1, 191-pound top prospect was a healthy scratch the first two games of the season, but has nine points (two goals, seven assists) and 23 shots on goal in the past eight games. Boeser, 20, had five points (four goals, one assist) in nine games at the end of last season after signing with the Canucks following two seasons at the University of North Dakota.

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SUMMERSIDE, Prince Edward Island — The New Jersey Devils’ youth brigade put on a show during an 8-1 win against the Ottawa Senators at the 2017 Kraft Hockeyville preseason game at Credit Union Place on Monday.

Pavel Zacha, a first-round pick (No. 6) in the 2015 NHL Draft, had two goals in the first period. Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, had a goal (his third in as many games) and an assist. John Quenneville, a first-round pick (No. 30) in the 2014 NHL Draft, had two power-play goals in 29 seconds during the second period. The Devils scored the game’s first seven goals.

The town of O’Leary, Prince Edward Island won the Hockeyville title, but the game was played here to accommodate more fans. Credit Union Place was filled early in a historic hockey night for the province.

Defenseman Dion Phaneuf, an alternate captain for the Senators, is a summertime resident of the island. Whether it was that relationship with the fans or the fact that Ottawa is more centrally located to the province, the majority of the sold-out crowd was pulling for the Senators.
Recap: NJD 8, OTT 1

04:09 • 6:00 AM

Phaneuf was not happy with the Senators’ performance, but insisted the night was a positive one.

“We would have liked to play better, but the bottom line is we came here to support this event and there more to it than the hockey game,” Phaneuf said. “It’s about this morning when you are interacting with the kids. It’s about spending some time with the fans.

“At the end of the day, there is a National Hockey League exhibition played in Summerside, and it’s a big step for PEI.”

O’Leary will also receive a $100,000 grant to help update the town rink, O’Leary Community Sports Center.
Trophy presented to O’Leary

02:20 • 6:00 AM

The fans may have waited a long time to see an NHL game here, but they did not have to wait long to see some goals.

Marcus Johansson scored 1:07 into the game on a fluky goal and, from there, the flood gates opened.

Zacha scored twice before the period was finished and Stafford and Hischier each had a goal in the first 20 minutes.

“It was my first game with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri and I was really excited for that game,” Zacha said. “I played with Taylor a little bit last season and we know what we are going to do. The chemistry is there. I was lucky to play with them today.”

Hischier and Quenneville are trying to secure spots on the NHL roster. Zacha had eight goals and 16 assists in 70 games as a rookie last season.
Zacha’s second PPG

00:54 • 6:00 AM

Stafford, a free agent after playing last season with the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets, finished with two goals to give him three in as many games. He played with Johansson and Hischier throughout the game. The line combined for nine points.

“I just have to put my stick on the ice,” Stafford said. “There is a reason why Nico is No. 1 overall [draft pick], and Johansson is a great player.”

Stafford said that as nice as the score was, the two-day experience here was what will be most remembered.

“They did a tremendous job here,” Stafford said. “The people here were extremely friendly and accommodating.

“It’s good to see all the kids come out today, because I know I was one of those kids watching the big boys play at one point as well. All in all, it was a great experience for us.”

Devils goalie Cory Schneider made 21 saves.
Quenneville scores two quick PPGs

00:29 • 6:00 AM

Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot scored a power-play goal in the second period. Goaltender Mike Condon started and allowed seven goals on 27 shots in 28:45. Andrew Hammond finished the game and allowed one goal on seven shots.

Devils coach John Hynes said the strong showing by his young players will make the final roster decisions difficult, but insisted that is a good place to be. New Jersey has one preseason game remaining against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.

For the Senators, some roster decisions were made easier after the game. They have two preseason games remaining, but coach Guy Boucher said he wants to get close to his opening-night roster in the next couple of days. Ottawa opens its regular season against Washington on Oct. 5.

“The downside is that it wasn’t pretty out there,” Boucher said. “The good side is we know we have to get back to who we are for the next game. Having said that, I think we have taken a lot of our high-end vets out [of the lineup] on purpose to see the young guys and what the guys battling for spots could do.

“I tried all kinds of things and put guys with different guys to give them a chance to show themselves, and we saw that some guys were able to battle through and still show something and some other guys it was a tough night. Every day gives us information.”

The Senators have preseason games remaining at the Jets on Wednesday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.