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Rams’ Odell Beckham Jr. says he wants to stay with Los Angeles after 2022 Super Bowl: ‘It feels like a home’

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Odell Beckham Jr. has spent just a half a season with the Rams, but he’s been instrumental to Los Angeles’ journey to Super Bowl LVI, emerging as a top target of Matthew Stafford down the stretch. And if Beckham has his way, he’ll be catching passes from Stafford on the Rams for the foreseeable future. While the veteran wide receiver is scheduled to hit free agency in March, Beckham told NFL.com on Friday he’d like to stay with the Rams — and would even take a discount to do so.

“This place, it feels good in my heart,” Beckham said, per Nick Shook. “It feels like a home.”

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Asked if he’d sacrifice a bigger salary to stay in L.A., Beckham apparently responded with a quick smile: “Yeah, of course!”

It’s a far cry from the Beckham who opened the 2021 season in Cleveland. The former Pro Bowler told the Associated Press on Friday that he hasn’t spoken to Browns QB Baker Mayfield since being released by his old team in November. Beckham reportedly had a tenuous relationship with Mayfield and within the Browns’ offense during his two seasons in Cleveland, before the Rams signed him to a one-year deal this year.

Since joining L.A., Beckham has been a steady target opposite Cooper Kupp, filling in for the injured Robert Woods during the Rams’ playoff run. He’s one of several big-name receivers set to be available this offseason, alongside starters like Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson and Mike Williams.





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Panthers’ toughness becomes weakness as Golden Knights capitalize on undisciplined play

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LAS VEGAS — The Florida Panthers are trying to be tough. The Vegas Golden Knights actually are.

The Stanley Cup finalists were opposites on Monday, and not because the Knights ventilated Conn Smythe Trophy candidate Sergei Bobrovsky in a decisive (and easy) 7-2 victory that gave Vegas a 2-0 series lead in the National Hockey League championship.

For all the overt and cosmetic displays of “toughness” by the Panthers, who revel in their reputation as shift-disturbers, it’s the steady, unbending Knights who appear through two lopsided wins to have the nerve and fortitude that reflect genuine toughness.

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Discipline is toughness. Only one team has it.

The Panthers were so tough they were soft in Game 2. They took two silly penalties early that led to a deficit and displayed little actual resistance around their own net. 

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It’s like they thought time and space might somehow repel Nicolas Roy when the Knight walked the puck out of the corner, untouched between retreating Panthers Carter Verhaeghe and Casey Fitzgerald, and beat Bobrovsky to make it 3-0 at 2:59 of the second period.

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When Brett Howden skated unchecked on to Mark Stone’s pass and outwaited Bobrovsky to make it 4-0 at 7:10, the goalie who co-piloted the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final was hooked by Florida coach Paul Maurice after 13 shots.

The team’s other catalyst, Matthew Tkachuk, had more penalty minutes (22) than playing time (15:57) but did deliver the hit of the game late in the second period on Jack Eichel, who like the rest of the Golden Knights, was undeterred.

As the series moves across the continent to South Florida for Game 3 on Thursday, this final is not close. And it’s not going to be close unless the Panthers smarten up because the Golden Knights are too good and too disciplined to just invite them back into the series.

“Toughness, there’s probably a lot of things that go into the description of that,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s not about fighting. To me discipline is more of the mental toughness part of it, knowing that it’s easy to retaliate and get your sort of instant gratification. But to hold it in takes a lot more. 

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“If you’re going to play a series and the temperature goes up, it’s just going to be required. I think every guy understands that. You’ve got to decide. That’s on the player and good for our guys, really good for our guys.”

Not so much for the Panthers.

Just 6:39 into the game, Florida winger Ryan Lomberg needlessly brought his stick up on Jonathan Marchessault. And 26 seconds after his cross-checking penalty began, Marchessault scored his ninth goal in nine games by lasering a wrist shot past Bobrovsky’s glove.

A few shifts later, Panther defenceman Brandon Montour took an even dumber penalty by elbowing Marchessault in the back of the head. The Knights didn’t score on that power play (but did soon after) and didn’t get a call when Aaron Ekblad cuffed William Karlsson at the first-period buzzer. Ekblad then ridiculously stuck his skate out towards another opponent on his way off the ice.

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That’s not toughness. It’s silly.

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“It’s not a penalty preventing a goal or a scoring chance, right?” Cassidy said of Montour’s penalty. “So you want to take advantage of those. It’s all about creating some doubt, too, for them because they’ve been the story of the playoffs. So you want to put some doubt in their mind.”

Surely, it is there now.

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“We’ve seen what they’ve done in the series before,” Roy said. “They play hard, but they also take penalties after the whistle. It was a big goal from Marchy there on the powerplay to make them pay, and we’re not going to retaliate. We’re going to stay disciplined.”

Is discipline part of being tough?

“Absolutely,” defenceman Alec Martinez, a Stanley Cup winner with the Los Angeles Kings, said after scoring the second Vegas goal. “You’ve got to be able to take a few hacks and whacks to be successful.

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“We know the kind of style that they play. They try to get under your skin and we know that we have to stay disciplined. The referees are aware of how they play, too. There’s a fine line between sticking up for yourself and sticking up for your teammates, but then also taking a few shots for the good of the team.”

Each team had four power plays, but Vegas took only one penalty when the game was still winnable for Florida. The Knights were 2-for-4 on the power play, the Panthers 0-for-4.

Marchessault and Howden each scored twice, and 12 Vegas skaters made it on to the score sheet. The Knights have 12 goals in two games from nine different scorers. Their goalie, journeyman Adin Hill, is also badly outplaying Bobrovsky the same way he did Dallas netminder Jake Oettinger in the conference final.

“Every single game it’s going to be different players to step up,” Vegas winger Ivan Barbashev said. “This is probably why we’ve been having success; there’s always somebody else who’s going to step up and score a huge goal.”

“We know we have depth,” Marchessault said. “We know if we roll four lines and get a good forecheck, we’ll get rewarded. And topping that off, I think our discipline has been unbelievable. You know what? They wanted to set the tone with being undisciplined like (they were) in Game 1, and we set the tone back by scoring the first goal there.”

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Barbashev also set a physical tone by rocking Florida wrecking ball Radko Gudas when the game was still scoreless. The Tkachuk-alanche on Eichel was an even bigger hit. But Eichel returned, Gudas did not.

“This is the Stanley Cup Final,” Martinez said. “I mean, there’s going to be big hits, there’s going to be things like that that happen. To see (Jack) bounce back and continue there, I mean it gives the guys a big boost.”

In every department, the Knights have just been too much for the Panthers.

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“I think our depth has been a strength all year,” Cassidy said. “It is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas, and why we’re ahead against Florida. I just feel that we have the best team from player one through 20. That’s just how I feel.”

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‘It hurts to win’: Jack Eichel responds strong after massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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LAS VEGAS – Unable to change momentum in this lopsided Stanley Cup Final when he has the puck, Matthew Tkachuk decided to make an impact without it.

Hopping off the bench in the second period of an out-of-reach Game 2 and seeing puck carrier Jack Eichel cutting up centre ice with his head down, Tkachuk planted his feet, lowered his shoulder and crunched the Vegas Golden Knights’ top centre so hard and clean, Eichel’s helmet popped off, his right leg buckled, and he rushed painfully to the dressing room.

“It doesn’t matter who you are. You shouldn’t be going through the middle with your head down. You’re gonna get hit,” Tkachuk said, unapologetic. “It’s nothing. It’s not a big deal. He’s a really good player, and really good players can get hit too.”

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Except: It is a big deal.

Because Eichel, surprisingly, returned for the third period and, on his very first post-hit shift went hard on the forecheck and set up linemate Jonathan Marchessault for another goal.

“It’s a physical game. You’re going to get hit sometimes,” Eichel said. “It was definitely a big collision. I got my wits back about me and realized I was fine, and just kind of moved on.”

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And because Eichel has kicked off this final with back-to-back two-assist games and now has racked up the third-most points ever by a first-timer to the playoffs (22).

And because the Golden Knights just cruised past Tkachuk’s Florida Panthers in a 7-2 romp, have tripled up their overwhelmed opponent by a total score of 12-4, and the gulf between the sides’ best players is widening by the minute.

Eichel responded to the collision by impacting the scoreboard. Tkachuk responded by taking two 10-minute misconducts, increasing his series PIM total to 36, and potting a meaningless goal in garbage time.

Let’s be clear: The hit was as clean as it was mean.

Eichel, who toe-picked his way to vulnerability, and Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t dispute it.

“It’s OK to get hit. This is part of the journey,” Cassidy said. “It hurts to win, and it’s not supposed to be easy. So, good for him.

“Great to see him come back. Not only does it give us juice, but sometimes it can take away juice from the other team if they see a guy come back.”

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Bingo.

The Panthers look juice-less.

They wouldn’t be the first group of men to fly home discombobulated after four nights in Vegas, and they now face the unenviable task of swiping four of five from hockey’s most organized, disciplined and dialed-in team.

We could point to Sam Bennett’s 10-game goal drought or Brandon Montour’s 10-game point drought or Radko Gudas’s questionable status for Game 3 and beyond.

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But the two pillars of Florida’s remarkable run to Round 4, Tkachuk and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, are crumbling.

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Bobrovsky has allowed eight goals on 46 shots through four and a half periods of work, is getting screened by his own defencemen, and got chased so swiftly Monday that coach Paul Maurice said he’d use two days to decide whether to start him in Game 3.

As for Tkachuk, his last great appearance on TNT was on the NBA panel.

He has taken three misconducts, committed a costly giveaway in Game 1, and seems more preoccupied with trying to antagonize Adin Hill and Alex Pietrangelo than imposing his hockey skills on the Knights.

For the record, Tkachuk says he was “surprised” at the misconduct he was handed after the Eichel hit but deserved the second one for whacking Michael Amadio’s stick out of his hand after a stoppage in play.

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He then fired a plastic rat a fan had tossed on the ice towards the Knights’ bench.

The question must be asked: Have Tkachuk and the Panthers lost the plot with their preoccupation with trying to stir up the nonsense?

“I don’t think so. I just think we’re a big, physical team,” Tkachukc said. “That’s how we have played the last second half of the year and been successful. I just don’t think there’s teams that play as physical as we do. So, maybe you guys think that a little bit too much. But at the end of the day, it’s just how we play.

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“If we were playing physical and [ahead] in the game, you guys would be like, that’s the recipe for success. So, we’re just sticking with our game.”

Eichel is sticking with his game, too, which means setting up his wingers, contributing to a suddenly hot Vegas power-play, and breaking up plays in the D-zone.

“I mean, he’s unbelievable right?” Marchessault said.

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“It’s not just with the puck. It’s without the puck, the way he works everywhere on the ice. He’s one of those guys that makes everyone look better. He gets a massive hit there, goes into the locker room, first shift back in the third period, he gets on the forecheck, on the body, wins his battle, finds me. I mean, that’s the resiliency we have in that locker room, and it starts with your top guys and goes right through the lineup.”

Starts with your top guys.

Florida’s top guys are either MIA, off the rails, or threatening to turn into pumpkins.

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If they don’t rein in the nonsense and deliver Thursday at home, they too will soon be caught with their heads down at centre ice — in the handshake line.

“We do have to tweak a few things,” Tkachuk admitted.

“They’re halfway there, and hopefully they’re thinking about that a little bit as they’re coming to Florida. I think that could work in our favour. But we definitely have to prepare, give everything in this one game here, and just get a little bit of momentum back.”

Fox’s Fast 5

• That Cassidy trusts his fourth line of William Carrier–Nicolas Roy–Keegan Kolesar to shut down the Nick Cousins–Sam Bennett–Tkachuk line tells you all you need to know about the depth of the Golden Knights.

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Wanna talk depth? 

“It is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas and why we’re ahead against Florida,” Cassidy said. “I just feel that we have the best team from player 1 through 20.”

• Very cool to see Buffalo captain Kyle Okposo in town to support ex-Sabres Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

• Speaking of former Sabres, because Radko Gudas got banged up in Game 1, Maurice surprised by dressing an 11-and-7 lineup, inserting seldom-used defenceman Casey Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald’s appearance marked his first in 43 days. He skated just 8:08 in a Round 1 loss to Bruins. That Fitzgerald, who played limited minutes in just 27 games this season, is Florida’s next man up speaks volumes about the contrast in defensive depth between the two teams.

Gudas was taken out of the game — on his 33rd birthday, no less — by a solid reverse hit by Ivan Barbashev. No update was given on his health.

Massive concern.

• Connor Bedard got jokes.

• The piping-hot Jonathan Marchessault has 10 goals in his past nine games and might just shoot his way to a Conn Smythe Trophy.

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“I have to face his shot every day. It’s unbelievable,” Hill said. “When he gets in tight, he’s probably one of the hardest guys in the league to stop. There’s a reason why he’s scoring.”

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Seth “Freakin” Rollins defended his new World heavyweight Championship for the first time against Damian Priest on Monday Night Raw after issuing an open challenge on social media that dared any Superstar to step up and attempt to de-throne the champion.



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