6:30 p.m. Eastern
-Jacksonville received permission to interview OC Bill O’Brien, says Adam Schefter.
4:40 p.m. Eastern
-San Diego will likely retain both head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith, says CBS’ Clark Judge. This would be very surprising.
4:10 p.m. Eastern
-Jeff Fisher will interview for the new Rams vacancy, says NBC Sports’ Peter King.
3:45 p.m. Eastern
-Buffalo has fired DC George Edwards and has replaced him with former Dolphins and Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt, says Trey Wingo.
3:33 p.m. Eastern
-Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum announced just now at a press conference that OC Brian Schottenheimer will return unless he accepts a head coaching position.
3:28 p.m. Eastern
-On the Jacksonville front, the team has been granted permission to interview Falcons OC Mike Mularkey and will ask to interview Panthers OC Rob Chudzinski.
2:43 p.m. Eastern
-Miami will interview Chicago Special Teams Coach Dave Toub for their head coaching vacancy, says Brad Biggs.
2:38 p.m. Eastern
-The Colts are expected to clean house, says ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. That will include Bill and Chris Polian, who have run the team for the better part of a decade, 14 years for Bill. The fate of head coach Jim Caldwell is to be determined.
1:50 p.m. Eastern
-Despite being under fire in New York, Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer will interview for Jacksonville’s head coaching opening, says Manish Mehta.
1 p.m. Eastern
-Possible candidates for the Dolphins, as per Armando Salguero: Interim coach Todd Bowles, Jeff Fisher, Saints DC Gregg Williams, Jets DC Mike Pettine, Green Bay OC Joe Philbin, Washington DC Jim Haslett, Dallas special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and Atlanta OC Mike Mularkey.
-Raheem Morris’ entire coaching staff was fired as well.
11:52 a.m. Eastern
-Tampa Bay has, as expected, fired head coach Raheem Morris, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
11:25 a.m. Eastern
-St. Louis, as expected, has fired head coach Steve Spagnuolo along with general manager Billy Devaney after three seasons. The Rams went 2-14 this past season and have decided to go in a different direction. One possible option for St. Louis is former Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, who would also receive interest from Indianapolis if the Colts decide to fire Jim Caldwell, according to Mike Freeman. There were rumors last week that St. Louis would love to hire A.J. Smith, who is expected to be relieved of his duties as GM of the Chargers. Philadelphia is widely expected to be the likely landing spot for Spagnuolo, who would take over as Eagles defensive coordinator.
-Raheem Morris is expected to hear from Tampa Bay about his fate, likely resulting in his ouster, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports. The Bucs lost their final 10 games and played incredibly uninspired football down the stretch. Fisher could have interest in the Tampa Bay job, according to Freeman.
-Here are a couple of rumors when it comes to current vacancies: Jacksonville has asked for permission to speak with Atlanta offensive coordinator, and former Bills head coach, Mike Mularkey, according to ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas. Because of Mularkey’s success with Matt Ryan, the Jags would love him to groom Blaine Gabbert. That very same reason would lead Tampa Bay to be interested if they let Morris go. *Another interesting rumor has Miami interested in Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine for their head coaching vacancy.
Winter Classic A Battle For Eastern Lead
Monday’s NHL Winter Classic between the Rangers and Flyers at Citizens’ Bank Park in Philadelphia has pretty much everything you could ask for in a feature game.
New York and Philly represent two large media markets whose fans and players hate each other. There’s a natural rivalry between the two cities that extends to all the sports played between the two cities. There is abundant star power on each side and a whole host of recognizable names and storylines to make the television folks at NBC quite happy.
What could be the most intriguing storyline for the Monday game is the benching of Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who was profiled extensively in the HBO “24/7″ series leading up to the Winter Classic. Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51 million contract with the team this past offseason and led to the trading of top forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Bryzgalov has played quite poorly of late and has a 3.01 goals against average this season.
The most important aspect of Monday’s 3 p.m. game (the start time was pushed back two hours due to a mild forecast in the Philadelphia area) is what’s at stake. The Rangers are currently in first place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with 50 points. The Flyers are just two points behind New York and could tie the Blueshirts with a regulation win. So the stage is set and hockey will be played outdoors on Monday, with a lot at stake in this rivalry match.
Team Of The Week- Nashville Predators
The Predators won three straight games over three very strong Western Conference opponents to improve its playoff positioning and get within striking distance of first place Detroit in the Central Division. Goalie Pekka Rinne was extremely strong in net in consecutive 2-1 shootout wins over playoff teams Minnesota and St. Louis, and Sergei Kostitsyn notched his first career hat-trick in Sunday’s 5-3 win over Calgary.
Forward Of The Week- Alex Ovechkin, Washington
The Caps have won three straight to get right back into the Eastern Conference playoff race and their star player is a major reason why. He scored twice in two straight games, a 4-2 win at Columbus on Saturday and a 3-1 win over Buffalo on Friday. Ovechkin added two assists in Wednesday night’s impressive 4-1 win over the Rangers that gave the team a good deal of momentum.
Goalie Of The Week- Tomas Vokoun, Washington
Vokoun came back from injury last week, which was a large Capital gain. He was in net for all three Washington wins this week and played quite well doing so. He saved 35 shots on Saturday against Columbus, 25 in the win over Buffalo and 31 against the Rangers. He improved to 15-8 with a 2.57 goals against average.
Top Five Power Poll
1) Chicago Blackhawks (1)- A nice run of eight wins in 10 games keeps Chicago at the top spot thanks in part to the emergence of goalie Corey Crawford, who was excellent in Friday’s win over Detroit.
2) New York Rangers (N/R)- The Blueshirts have won six of seven to take the Eastern Conference lead and Henrik Lundqvist’s stellar goaltending has again been the story going into Monday’s Winter Classic battle with Philadelphia.
3) Boston Bruins (2)- Saturday’s loss against Dallas broke a seven-game winning streak, and a more consistent schedule should be kinder to the Bruins as the new year begins.
4) Vancouver Canucks (N/R)- The defending Western Conference champions have settled into a groove and they have sped past Minnesota for the Northwest Division lead. Roberto Luongo and the Sedin twins have gotten much better of late and the Canucks will be a force the rest of the way.
5) Detroit Red Wings (N/R)- Jimmy Howard nearly won goalie of the week. He helped Detroit win three of four to get into this top five just by a hair over Philadelphia.
Games To Watch
Monday- Besides for the Winter Classic discussed at length above, there will be a big night in the incredibly mediocre Pacific Division. Los Angeles leads the division with just 44 points, and the Kings will play Colorado while San Jose takes on Vancouver.
Tuesday- The Pacific Division drama continues, with four teams within two points of each other. While LA and San Jose played on Monday, it will be Dallas and Phoenix on Tuesday. The Coyotes will take on the slumping Blues while the Stars host a hot Detroit team.