Panthers survive Maple Leafs’ rally to win in OT, Golden Knights take series lead over Oilers

The 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs started the weekend with a pair of entertaining Game 5s, as the Panthers completed their gentleman’s sweep of the Maple Leafs on the road, and the Golden Knights secured a 3-2 series lead against the Oilers at home.

Florida punched its ticket to the Eastern Conference Final with a 3-2 overtime win over the Maple Leafs in Game 5. Toronto came back from a two-goal deficit to force overtime, but Florida put an end to the rally with Nick Cousins scoring on a wrist shot at 15:32 of the extra period. The Panthers will play the Hurricanes next round with a Stanley Cup Final berth on the line.

The Golden Knights grabbed a 3-2 series lead over the Oilers with a 4-3 win at Las Vegas. Edmonton got off to a 2-1 lead over Vegas in the first period, but the Golden Knights exploded for three goals in the second period to gain a lead they would never relinquish. The series will shift to Edmonton for Game 6 that is slated for Sunday.

Here’s a look at all the scores for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Panthers survive Leafs’ late push to win series, advance to ECF
The Panthers are headed to their first Eastern Conference Final since 1996 after eliminating the Maple Leafs in five games. Florida finished off Toronto on the road, winning Game 5 in overtime by a score of 3-2 after surviving a late push from the Leafs.

Florida raced to a two-goal lead in the first period, but was held scoreless for the rest of regulation as Toronto tied the game late in the third period. However, Nick Cousins stopped the Leafs’ rally dead in its tracks by scoring the overtime game-winner on a wrist shot with less than five minutes to go in the extra period.

Aaron Ekblad opened the game’s scoring a mere 3:31 into the first period, capitalizing on an early power play. With less than four minutes left in the opening frame, Ekblad added his second point of the contest by assisting on a Carter Verhaeghe goal that made it 2-0 Florida.

2-0 CATS!

— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) May 12, 2023
Toronto cut Florida’s deficit back to one at 7:50 of the second period, when Morgan Rielly fired a wrist shot past Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The Maple Leafs then tied the game at 15:33 of the third period with William Nylander scoring his second goal in as many games, but the comeback effort ultimately proved to be futile in overtime.

The Panthers will now meet the Hurricanes, who dispatched the Devils in five games last round.

Golden Knights ride hot second period to series lead over Oilers
The Golden Knights used a second-period surge to beat the Oilers 4-3 and go up 3-2 in their second-round playoff series. Down 2-1 after the first period, Vegas outscored Edmonton 3-0 in the second with Mark Stone, Reilly Smith and Nicolas Hague tallying a goal apiece. Connor McDavid brought the Oilers to within one after scoring a goal at 2:40 of the third period, but the Knights held their lead until the final buzzer.

Stoney started the comeback 🙌

— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) May 13, 2023
Jack Eichel, who assisted on Stone and Hague’s goals, scored Vegas’ first goal of the game at 3:52 of the first period.

This series has shifted like a pendulum, as Vegas’ win means that neither team has collected back-to-back victories this series. However, this was the first game decided by less than two goals.

Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse and Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo both missed Game 5 after receiving one-game suspensions for incidents that took place in Game 4. Both are expected to return for Game 6.

With Vegas leading 3-2, the series shifts to Edmonton — where the Oilers have gone 3-2 this postseason — for Game 6 on Sunday. A Golden Knights’ win would send them to their first Western Conference Final since 2021.

Ryan Reynolds, group end bid to buy NHL franchise

Actor Ryan Reynolds, Christopher Bratty and the Remington Group have pulled out of their bid to purchase the Ottawa Senators. According to the Ottawa Sun, Reynolds and his group wanted an exclusive negotiating window in order to purchase the NHL franchise, but the request was turned down.

Specifically, Reynolds and company wanted their own window 30-day window to negotiate with the National Capital Commission and the city of Ottawa to discuss plans for a new arena for the Senators. After being declined that exclusive window, Reynolds reportedly grew frustrated with the entire process. That’s when he, Bratty and the Remington Group elected to remove themselves from the process of potentially buying the Senators altogether.

At least six other groups are still involved in bidding for the franchise, which is why Reynolds and his group were not given exclusive negotiating rights, according to the Ottawa Sun. However, the Sun also reported that the alleged $1 billion offer Reynolds and his group were set to make for the Senators likely would’ve been more than any other bid.

The Remington Group thought that they were “negotiating against themselves,” according to the Ottawa Sun.

Reynolds, who is from Canada and spent a few years of his childhood near Ottawa, had initially expressed interest in purchasing the Senators back in November 2022 when there were rumblings that the team may be put up for sale. The actor stated that he would keep the franchise in Ottawa if he purchased the team.

Much like he did with fellow actor Rob McElhenney at soccer club Wrexham AFC, Reynolds wanted to build something special with the Senators. However, it looks like he won’t get that chance.

Stars edge Kraken to advance to Western Conference Final

The Dallas Stars are returning to the Western Conference Final for the second time in four seasons. On Monday, the Stars shut down the Kraken 2-1 to win Game 7 and received a sensational performance from goaltender Jake Oettinger.

The Stars opened the scoring courtesy of Roope Hintz late in the second period. Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who had played a strong game up to that point, couldn’t corral the puck in the neutral zone, and Hintz made the Kraken pay. Hintz went top shelf and beat Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer to give the Stars a 1-0 lead at the 15:59 mark of the second period.


Roope Hintz RIPS one blocker side and this #Game7 has its first goal! #StanleyCup

🇺🇸: @espn ➡️
🇨🇦: @Sportsnet ➡️

— NHL (@NHL) May 16, 2023
The goal was Hintz’s ninth goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and his fourth of the series. Hintz also registered four goals and two assists over the series’ final four games.

This particular Game 7 proved to be a defensive battle, evident in the fact that there wasn’t a goal through more than half of the contest. However, the Stars got some much-needed insurance in the final period.

At the 12:48 mark of the second period, rookie forward Wyatt Johnston scooped up a loose puck and tucked it over the shoulder of Philipp Grubauer to give the Stars a 2-0 lead. It was the fourth goal of the postseason for the 20-year-old Johnston.

While the two goals were impressive against a confident Grubauer, Oettinger added another spectacular performance to his Game 7 lore. The Stars goaltender turned aside all 21 of the 22 shots he faced in Game 7.

This came after Oettinger stopped 64-of-67 shots against the Calgary Flames in Game 7 of their opening-round series during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That marked the second-most saves in a Game 7 in NHL history, behind only Kelly Hrudey (73).

The Kraken added a goal at the 19:42 mark of the third period, thanks to Oliver Bjorkstrand, but it was too little, too late. Despite the loss, goalie Philipp Grubauer played extremely well as he recorded 26 saves.

Now the Stars will face off against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final after the Golden Knights beat the Edmonton Oilers.

 Will the Oilers ever be able to fix their goaltending issues?

After the Edmonton Oilers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2022 Western Conference Final, it was clear that the franchise needed more stability in between the pipes. So the team went out and signed veteran goaltender Jack Campbell to a five-year, $25 million contract last summer.

Yet one year later, the song remains the same.

The Oilers were let down by the goaltending position throughout the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which ended with them being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

Let’s start by briefly going back one year. During the 2022 postseason, veteran goalie Mike Smith had his fair share struggles:

He posted just an 8-6-0 record to go along with a 3.37 goals-against-average
That included allowing a mind-boggling 19 goals in four games against the Avalanche in the Western Conference Final.
Smith completely came unglued as the Oilers blew a 3-1 third period lead in Game 4 and lost the contest, 6-5, in overtime.
As injuries were signaling the end of Smith’s career, the team chose to address the goaltending position in the form of Campbell. He signed a fairly substantial contract, but, at least in the first year, did not live up to it in the regular season.

The veteran netminder tallied a 21-9-4 record, a 3.41 goals-against-average and a .888 save percentage in 36 games.

As a result of those shortcomings, Campbell was overtaken by Stuart Skinner, 24, who didn’t have a ton of experience entering this year. Skinner had a 29-14-5 record to go along with a 2.75 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage in 50 games (48 starts).

While Skinner did produce a very strong regular season manning the Oilers crease, his performance during the Stanley Cup Playoffs was one to forget.

Skinner had a 5-6-0 record with a 3.68 GAA and a .883 save percentage in 12 games.
Over the course of the Oilers’ series against the Golden Knights, Skinner produced a 3.17 goals-against-average and surrendered at least four goals in four of the six games.
When Edmonton needed a stellar performance to keep their playoff hopes alive, Skinner again gave up four goals to the Golden Knights and was replaced by Campbell after two periods.
Always follow the bouncing puck. 🤭 #StanleyCup

🇺🇸: @espn ➡️
🇨🇦: @Sportsnet ➡️

— NHL (@NHL) May 15, 2023
Campbell actually played well when he replaced Skinner in three of the games in the series. He yielded just one goal in Game 3 and didn’t give up anything else. Over the course of the postseason, Campbell went 1-0-0 with a 1.02 GAA and .961 save percentage in four games.

Considering how well Campbell played when he did see time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it may have benefitted the Oilers to go back to him as the full-time starter after Skinner surrendered 10 goals over the first three games. Yes, Skinner did give up just one goal in Game 2, but he let in four and five goals respectively in Games 1 and 3. During the postseason in his career, he owns a 2.45 career goals-against-average despite giving up 21 total goals in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ seven-game series against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021-22.

Obviously, Campbell didn’t exactly perform the way the Oilers envisioned when they signed him to a five-year deal in the 2022 offseason. Skinner is signed through the 2025-26 season and is certainly too young for the Oilers to give up on despite his postseason struggles. Meanwhile, Campbell also probably isn’t going anywhere considering that he’s got four more years on his contract.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Oilers handle the goaltending position when the 2023-24 season begins. Both have had their fair share of bright spots. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them work in tandem throughout the regular season until one proves that he deserves to be the full-time starter.

They are not in an entirely different position entering this offseason as they were exactly a year ago. One thing is for sure though: this is a team that is way too talented else where — hello, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — to bow out in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the same reason year in and year out.

Coyotes’ plan to build new arena gets rejected by Tempe voters, leaves team with uncertain future in Arizona

The Coyotes’ future in Arizona remains unclear. The team’s hopes to build a new arena in Tempe fell through on Tuesday night when the plan was rejected by voters. As a result, the franchise’s chances of staying in Arizona “will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League” over the next couple of weeks.

The new arena was set to be included as part of a new $2.1 billion entertainment district in Tempe, with at least $1.9 billion of the project slated to be privately funded. But voters had to vote in favor of Propositions 301, 302 and 303 on a special election ballot that was mailed out in April and included in-person voting on Tuesday.

If passed, it would’ve meant that voters accepted that both the funds be spent and the land be used for the new entertainment district. Unofficial results from Tuesday night showed between 56% and 57% of voting “no” on the three propositions, according to CBS’ local Arizona affiliate

“We are very disappointed Tempe voters did not approve Propositions 301, 302, and 303,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “As Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said, it was the best sports deal in Arizona history. The Coyotes wish to thank everyone who supported our efforts and voted yes.”

League commissioner Gary Bettman added that he was “terribly disappointed by the results of the public referenda regarding the Coyotes’ arena project in Tempe” in a statement.

Specifically, the Coyotes wanted to build a new 16,000-seat arena and entertainment district at the west end of Tempe Town Lake. The plot of land the arena would’ve sat on is nearly 46 acres and located two miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. In November 2022, the Tempe City Council unanimously approved the plans.

The Coyotes lost their home in Glendale — at what was then called Gila River Arena but now goes by Desert Diamond Arena — at the end of the 2021-22 NHL season. They had called that arena home for 18 years. The franchise then relocated to the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University, sharing the arena with the school’s men’s hockey team.

The Coyotes are scheduled to call Mullett Arena home for the next two seasons with an option for a fourth year. The 2022-23 season marked the first for the Coyotes at Mullett Arena.

The franchise originally began playing in Phoenix after relocating from Winnipeg in 1996. With the Tempe plan rejected, the Coyotes’ days in Arizona may be numbered.

 Picks, predictions for each conference final series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have thinned the field of teams battling for a championship down to just four. After some earlier rounds of insanity, it’s time to shift our focus towards the conference finals.

Two No. 1 seeds still remain in the Vegas Golden Knights and Hurricanes. Will we see more upsets in this round?

Our experts weigh in with their picks for the Eastern and Western Conference Final:

(1) Golden Knights vs. (2) Stars
Chris Bengel: I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from this Stars team in these playoffs. Sure, they had a few hiccups when facing the Kraken in the second round, but Dallas rose to the occasion when they needed to. There’s one major difference when it comes to the Golden Knights and Stars: goaltending. Jake Oettinger has showcased his ability as an elite netminder when the lights are the brightest. According to Money Puck, he leads all postseason goaltenders with a .957 save percentage when facing unblocked shots.

On top of that, the Stars have a very dangerous offense, which includes the postseason’s second leading scorer Roope Hintz. I’m banking on Oettinger to shine and the Stars to do enough to take this series.
Pick — Stars beat Golden Knights 4-3

Austin Nivison: The Golden Knights have a five-on-five goal differential of plus-15. That is the best of any team in the postseason by several country miles. But according to their expected goal numbers on Natural Stat Trick, that differential should really be closer to plus-1. Vegas has the talent to outperform its underlying numbers, but by that much? Call me skeptical.

On the other hand, the Stars have gotten worse results than their performance would suggest. Dallas ranks first in five-on-five expected goal share (55.5%), but its actual goal differential in those situations is just plus-1.Jack Eichel has certainly been a bright spot this postseason, and Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy may have found something by putting him on a line with Ivan Barbashev and Jonathan Marchessault. However, the Stars do seem like the more talented team coming into the series.

Roope Hintz has emerged as a superstar with 19 points in 13 games, and Joe Pavelski is playing like he is 28 — not 38. Jason Robertson has only found the back of the net twice, and if he can get going, that makes Dallas even more dangerous. The only thing giving me pause about picking the Stars is that Jake Oettinger has been somewhat shaky this postseason, and Adin Hill came out of nowhere to provide elite goaltending for the Golden Knights. I’m betting those trends won’t continue, and the Stars reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in four years.
Pick — Stars beat Golden Knights 4-2

(1) Hurricanes vs. (WC2) Panthers
Bengel: No one expected this matchup –especially the Panthers going this far. But I’m going to focus on the Hurricanes. The deck was stacked against Carolina, already being without star forwards Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov entering the postseason. On top of that, winger Teuvo Teravainen suffered a hand injury that sidelined him for the Devils series, but it looks like he should return at some point in this series. Some may say that the Panthers have the advantage, especially considering how Sergei Bobrovsky has played in net. However, Frederik Andersen has been strong throughout the postseason with a 1.80 goals-against-average and allowed two goals or fewer in four of the five games against the Devils.

With Teravainen likely returning and the Hurricanes offense clicking on all cylinders, I’m taking Carolina to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
Pick — Hurricanes beat Panthers 4-2

Nivison: Carolina is here on the strength of its team defense, goaltending and balance on offense. Jordan Martinook, Jesper Fast, and Seth Jarvis have stepped up to aid Sebastian Aho in the goal-scoring deprtment. Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns have formed the best defensive pair in the postseason, earning a 59.9% expected goals share and a plus-10 goal differential at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. Expect them to see a lot of Matthew Tkachuk, who willed Florida into the postseason and beyond.

In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky put on a show against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round. With Frederik Andersen playing well in net for Carolina, I don’t think there is a huge goaltending edge either way. I do think defense will decide this series, and while Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce have struggled for the Canes, they might be the deeper team on the blue line. Marc Staal has played big minutes for the Panthers, and he has not handled it well. Staal has been getting caved in to the tune of a paltry 43.8% five-on-five expected goals share. Against a strong possession team like Carolina, that could mean bad news for Florida. This will be a close series, but the Hurricanes’ strong defensive structure gets it done.

‘KC coyotes has a nice ring to it!’

After Tempe voters rejected the Arizona Coyotes’ plan to build a new arena and entertainment district in the city, the franchise’s future in the city and state is extremely murky. No relocation plans have been formally announced (yet), but that hasn’t stopped people on social media from speculating where the franchise could potentially move if they leave Arizona.

NFL superstar Patrick Mahomes has offered the NHL a solution. He think Kansas City should be the next home for the Coyotes. On Wednesday, Mahomes called on the NHL to move the Coyotes to K.C. The league wouldn’t even have to change the name, according to the QB:

KC coyotes has a nice ring to it! @NHL what y’all think? @tmobilecenter

— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) May 17, 2023
If the NHL is going to relocate the Coyotes, it could do a lot worse than Kansas City. The geographic location could create a natural rivalry with the Dallas Stars, and sports teams in the city have done quite a bit of winning in the last decade.

The Royals and Chiefs have combined for three championships in the last eight years. Maybe some of that would rub off on a Coyotes franchise in desperate need of a winner.

This would not be the first time the NHL attempted to bring a team to Kansas City. The Kansas City Scouts were founded in 1974, but the franchise spent just two years there before moving to Denver, becoming the Colorado Rockies. Eventually, the Rockies relocated to New Jersey and became the Devils.

 Starting lineup prediction, bench rotation, depth outlook for 2023-24

Last season Kansas went 28-8 and earned a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament before a crushing 72-71 second-round loss to Arkansas brought the Jayhawks season to an abrupt end. Since then, KU lost leading scorers Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick to the NBA Draft and a bevy of others to the transfer portal. In fact, only four scholarship players are back.

But amid all the attrition, one personnel move stood out above the rest for Kansas, both literally and figuratively. When KU landed a commitment from 7-foot-2 Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson on May 4, it signaled to the Big 12 and the nation that the Jayhawks aren’t going anywhere. Dickinson ranked as the No. 1 offseason transfer in the CBS Sports Transfer Rankings. He will combine with veteran returners Dajuan Harris, Kevin McCullar and K.J. Adams to give coach Bill Self an excellent nucleus.

But there are some depth concerns for the Jayhawks following the June departures of freshmen signees Marcus Adams Jr. and Chris Johnson. Without those two, the team was down to just 10 scholarship players before the late signing of freshman small forward Johnny Furphy on Aug. 3.

The Jayhawks put their revamped roster on display during a three-game exhibition tour through Puerto Rico this month, giving us a glimpse into how things are shaping up for Self’s 21st season on the job. As offseason player movement cycle slows to a trickle, it’s time to start breaking down the rosters of the sport’s top programs. For this installment, we’re taking a look at the Jayhawks and trying to decipher what their lineup could look like when the season begins.

Projected starting lineup

  1. Dajuan Harris Jr.
    6-2 | 170 | R-Jr.

Harris is a trusted, veteran point guard who averaged 8.9 points, 6.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game last season on the way to earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. While it’s possible his scoring average could tick up this season, it’s more likely that he continues to serve as a gritty distributor and defensive menace who occasionally looks to score. Now in his fifth season with the program, Harris has fended off critics and plenty of challengers at his position to cement himself as a vital figure in this era of Kansas basketball.

  1. Elmarko Jackson
    6-3 | 195 | Fr.

Jackson steadily rose through the prospect rankings to finish the 2023 recruiting cycle ranked No. 19 overall, according to 247Sports. The McDonald’s All-American is regarded as a fast and physical guard who is still developing skill after picking up organized basketball late in his youth. When Jackson signed, Self said, “we feel he will be an immediate impact player for us and potentially one of the best guards we’ve had in our program.” While the other four starters remained constant during the Puerto Rico exhibition tour, Jackson was one of three Jayhawks who got a shot as the starting shooting guard. He averaged 10.6 points on 52.1% shooting and will be in a battle with Morris and Timberlake for the fifth starting slot.

  1. Kevin McCullar Jr.
    6-7 | 212 | R-Sr.

Getting McCullar back after he tested the NBA Draft waters marked a huge win for KU. A two-time Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist, McCullar rated as the Jayhawks’ best defender by a significant margin last season, per He is only a career 29.8% 3-point shooter but does everything else well. As a fifth-year Big 12 player with 112 college appearances, McCullar will be a tone-setter for Kansas.

  1. K.J. Adams Jr.
    6-7 | 235 | So.

Adams earned the Big 12’s Most Improved Player award in 2023. The springy forward was often asked to punch above his weight in the front court as the Jayhawks regularly deployed small-ball lineups. Adams may need to expand his offensive repertoire a bit this season to allow Dickinson the space needed to operate in the paint. His 2 of 3 shooting performance from 3-point range in Puerto Rico was an encouraging sign.

  1. Hunter Dickinson
    7-2 | 260 | Sr.

The prized transfer of the college basketball offseason chose the Jayhawks over his pick of other top programs after three standout seasons at Michigan. Dickinson is an automatic Big 12 Player of the Year candidate and brings the heft to KU’s front court that was missing last season as Self shied away from playing young bigs Ernest Udeh and Zuby Ejiofor. Both transferred to other schools following Dickinson’s commitment as it’s clear he should log 30+ minutes per game at center for the Jayhawks.

Arterio Morris
6-4 | 195 | So.
Morris played his freshman season at Texas after finishing the 2022 recruiting cycle as a five-star prospect in the 247Sports rankings. He logged just 11.7 minutes per game for the Longhorns but showed some flashes of his potential by reaching double figures in six games. A domestic violence allegation against Morris lingered throughout his freshman season and has cast a pall over the beginning of his college career. Now he’ll get a fresh start with the Jayhawks and compete for the starting shooting guard spot. He averaged 13.5 points on 55% shooting in two games, which included one start, during the team’s exhibition tour.

Nicolas Timberlake
6-4 | 195 | Graduate senior
Timberlake shot better than 40% from 3-point range his last two years at at Towson and evolved into an All-CAA performer. The veteran marksman will be asked to provide some punch from the perimeter amid the departures of Gradey Dick and Jalen Wilson, who combined for 61% of Kansas’ made 3-pointers last season. He hit 6 of 15 attempts from beyond the arc (40%) during the August exhibition tour while starting one of KU’s three games.

Parker Braun
6-10 | 235 | Graduate senior
The older brother of former Kansas standout and current Denver Nuggets wing Christian Braun is joining the Jayhawks as an experienced forward. Braun started 65 games the past two seasons for an upper-echelon WCC program at Santa Clara and has power conference experience after beginning his career at Missouri. He connected on 67.9% of his shots inside the arc last season while averaging 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds. Braun logged 12.6 minutes per game during the exhibition tour.

Jamari McDowell
6-4 | 180 | Fr.
McDowell was four-star prospect rating who ranked No. 84 in the 2023 class. The Manvel, Texas native is a versatile backcourt option for the Jayhawks with a shot to crack the rotation early. “At 6’4″, he’s got great size for his skillset and is a guy that I kind of see like as an Ochai (Agbaji) that you can throw lobs to and he’s a terrific three-point shooter,” Self said.

Zach Clemence
6-11 | 230 | So.
Clemence showed promise as a four-star freshman in the 2021-22 season but failed to carve out an increased role last season. He initially planned on transferring to UC Santa Barbara before changing course and returning to KU. While announcing his return, Self suggested a redshirt year would be ideal for Clemence.

Johnny Furphy
6-8 | 202 | Fr.
Furphy reclassified late in the recruiting cycle and signed with the Jayhawks on Aug. 3 as an intriguing prospect out of the Center of Excellence in Australia. “He is one of the most gifted, skilled young kids in the 2023 class and certainly as gifted and skilled as any player remaining that we could recruit,” Self said.

Marlon Vera vs. Pedro Munhoz, Ian Machado Garry vs. Neil Magny among fights to watch

UFC 292 takes over the TD Garden in Boston on Saturday with a pair of title fights. UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley headlines the card with women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili vs. Amanda Lemos in the co-main event. But do not let gold blind you from the other nuggets on the card.

Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman returns two years after suffering a gruesome leg break, Ian Machado Garry continues his ascent up the welterweight ladder and the violent Marlon Vera is back in action. There is a fair bit to sink your teeth into before fighters rocking gold trim make the walk.

Let’s put the magnifying glass to three fights that deserve your attention beyond Saturday’s championship doubleheader.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of UFC 292 below.

Chris Weidman vs. Brad Tavares
Weidman returns to active competition for the first time since snapping his leg against Uriah Hall’s shin 28 months ago. It’s been a long and difficult road to recovery for the former UFC middleweight champion. Tavares is litmus test to gauge if Weidman can still compete for spots in the official UFC middleweight rankings. There will be a mix of trepidation and relief to see Weidman back where he belongs. Weidman is a competitor and won’t settle for anything less than a win, but a compotent performance win or lose is worth celebrating after such a horrifying injury.

Ian Machado Garry vs. Neil Magny
Garry was originally set to fight Geoff Neal on Saturday night. It was a juicy offering between two fighters who pack a punch. Unfortunately, Neal suffered an injury and Magny slid in to save the day. Magny’s style is nowhere as conducive to an exciting fight, but he is an important measuring stick in the welterweight division. Garry has qualities that have him pegged as a potential future champion, but Magny has long been the gatekeeper between the great and elite at welterweight. There is statistically no welterweight with more Octagon reps than Magny. A win for Garry would be a huge feather in his cap.

Marlon Vera vs. Pedro Munhoz
“Chito” Vera has established himself as a hardcore fan favorite by delivering devastating knockouts to some of UFC’s most celebrated legends. His appetite for violence can be expressed in many ways. Vera boasts eight knockouts and eight submissions on his record. Cory Sandhagen rendered Vera’s offense obsolete in his last fight, “Chito” wants to make up for it. Munhoz is on the tail end of his career but a win over Chris Gutiérrez showed a commendable combination of experience, power, and grappling skills. You need to be a complete fighter if you’re going to beat Munhoz. Vera will enter as the betting favorite in pursuit of another stoppage against the old guard.

Honorable mentions: Andre Petroski vs. Gerald Meerschaert, Karine Silva vs. Maryna Moroz, Gregory Rodrigues vs. Denis Tiuliulin

Every team’s most likely next inductee, from Lakers’ LeBron James to Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of achievement for every NBA player, coach and executive — a sign that your career was not only great but also worthy of immortalization. The 2023 class is riddled with familiar NBA names, including Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich, who will all be inducted on Saturday.

Like most of the sports world, we generally have a hard time living in the present and always want to look to the future, so we thought it would be interesting to take a look at all 30 NBA teams’ current roster to see who their most likely next Hall of Fame inductee would be.

Please note the key words there: First, “current roster” — the player has to be with the team at this very moment to be considered. Second, “most likely” — meaning we’re not saying that the person is certainly going to get in, but it is just the best candidate available. And lastly, “next,” indicating that the person selected has to be the one who’s going to reach the Hall of Fame the soonest.

For the purposes of this exercise, we looked at players, coaches and members of the front office (we decided to leave owners and governors out, because that’s not much fun). As you’ll see, some are extremely obvious — hi, LeBron! — and others are true head-scratchers — Wizards, yeesh!