Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
NHL: Kings vs. N.Y. Rangers, Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network; Ducks vs. San Jose, Honda Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Your long-anticipated Kings’ banner-raising ceremony on opening night against a bunch of visiting New Yorkers has been pre-empted. Reason: Greed. What the puck? It doesn’t mean that everything we saw last June after Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals just didn’t happen. The Kings’ players DNA is all over the Stanley Cup by now, as are their names hammered onto it for good measure. CSI: Bettman can check all the facts.
Fact is, the current lockout has already canceled the first two weeks of this 2012-13 season — covering 82 total games, four of them Kings’ home contests. It was supposed to start Thursday with four games. Perhaps they’ll be reclaimed if things get settled sooner rather than later, and there’s a condensed schedule that looks something like what the NBA went through last year. Still, there’s that nagging feeling this distribution of money could drag things on longer — go back the 2004-05 season, which was canceled because they couldn’t get a Collective Bargaining Agreement done.
Could it happen again? “I am hopeful this all sorts out easily because labor peace is preferable to the alternative,” commissioner Gary Bettman said. Not recently. That was during a news conference on May 30 before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. The best alternative we can offer is the Kings planned a Stanley Cup tour around L.A. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and they’re still going to do it. That includes stops at Knotts Berry Farm, the ESPN Zone at L.A. Live, the Grove and the Americana center in Glendale. More info (at this link). For those who need some other sort of overseas hockey fix: ESPN will do some Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League games this season, starting Tuesday with Dynamo Moscow, featuring Washington Caps captain Alexander Ovechkin, playing host to Lev (10 a.m., ESPN3 website, replayed at 5 p.m. on ESPN2 with Steve Levy and Barry Melrose calling it).
AP Photo/The Canadian Press
Top: Kings scout Denis Fugere gets set to present the Stanley Cup during a charity street hockey game on Sept. 20 in Saint Jerome, Quebec. Fugere brought the cup to his hometown for the day. Below: Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier makes a save against Ottawa’s Guillaume Latendresse during first period of a charity hockey game in Chateauguay, Quebec on Sept. 27.
NFL Week 5: Houston at N.Y. Jets, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:
Wouldn’t this be the perfect stage for Jets coach Rex Ryan to unceremoniously pull Mark Sanchez in the middle of the game and watch the home crowd go nuts as he hands the keys to the offense to Tim Tebow (1 completion this season for 9 yards, 38 yards rushing)? Sanchez was just 13 of 29 passing for 103 yards, an interception, and a fumble in last week’s 34-0 loss to San Francisco, yet Ryan says the former USC star is still his money player. Why? ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell wrote last week that while “Ryan might say it’s not about the money, when you look at the numbers, the Jets most likely will give Sanchez the benefit of the doubt for a while.” Point of fact: Sanchez’ total cost to the Jets this year exceeds $9 million (including an $8 million signing bonus). That’s 8 1/2 times more what they’ve invested in Tebow. Going forward, Sanchez has $20.5 million guaranteed the next two years. Tebow’s total commitment: $3.63 million, including giving the Denver Broncos $2.53 million for his services — or five times less than what Sanchez costs them. Still, with a 2-2 record to date, the Jets still want to win, right? “I’ve been in situations like this before,” Sanchez said. “I’m confident I can handle it, and there’s only one way in my mind to go about it — and that’s really to attack it.” (By the way, Houston had the NFL’s best defense in net yards allowed per game at 237, and was second-best against the pass at 182.8.)
MLB playoffs: NLDS Game 2: Washington at St. Louis, 1:30 p.m., TBS:
Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann has had nine days off since his last regular-season start and this one. He went 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA over his last five starts.
Games 3-4-5 move to D.C. for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday if needed.
MLB playoffs: ALDS Game 2: N.Y. Yankees at Baltimore, 5 p.m., TBS:
With any luck, no more rain to deal with for this one, or Games 3-4-5 that are set for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in New York between these two AL East foes.
MLB playoffs: NLDS Game 3: San Francisco at Cincinnati, 2:30 p.m., TBS:
The Reds, with a 2-0 lead heading home, haven’t won a post-season series since 1995 — when they beat the Dodgers. The series continues, if needed, Wednesday and Thursday for Games 4 and 5 in Cincinnati.
MLB playoffs: ALDS Game 3: Detroit at Oakland, 6 p.m., TBS:
You counting the Athletics out just because they’re down 2-0 to the Tigers? Somehow, this feels a lot like when Texas took a 5-1 lead in the third inning over these same A’s in the final game of the regular season. And then the Rangers lost, 12-5, giving away the AL West title. These A’s are, for lack of a better term, too young and dumb to let the stress get to them. They aren’t paid enough to get stressed out. There’s also precedent for this kind of comeback — in 1995, the first year of the wildcard, the Mariners fell behind the first two games in New York to the Yankees but won three in a row at the Kingdome.
NBA exhibition: Lakers vs. Portland in Ontario, 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
The Citizens Business Bank Arena used to have tickets available as low as upper level $12 and as much as floor level $352, but both those options are gone. You know, it’s just a practice game, right?
NBA exhibition: Clippers vs. Miami in Beijing, China, 4:30 a.m., NBA TV:
When the Clippers made their exhibition debut against Denver in Las Vegas, Eric Bledsoe was sporting some new Nike LeBron X “Blue Diamond” shoes. LeBron can thank him in person when they pose for photo ops. Erik Spoelstra and Vinny Del Negro are likely to be mistaken for the team chapparones. These two also have a Sunday exhibition in Shanghai as well before returning home.
NFL Week 6: Pittsburgh at Tennessee, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:
The 2-2 Steelers have yet to win on the road, and the Titans may still be without QB Jake Locker.
College football: Arizona State at Colorado, 6 p.m., ESPN:
The 4-1 Sun Devils are the only unbeaten team in the Pac-12 South, with wins over Utah and Cal by a combined 64-24. The 1-4 Buffs haven’t played since the 42-14 loss at home against UCLA.
College football: Navy at Central Michigan, 5 p.m., ESPN2:
The Midshipmen’s 28-21 win at Air Force last week means they only have to beat Army on Dec. 8 to reclaim the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. As if Central Michigan cares.
College football: USC at Washington, 4 p.m., Channel 11:
Expect a Pete Carroll sighting somewhere at CenturyLink Field, home of his Seattle Seahawks and the Huskies’ temporary home field as their stadium is getting renovated. Because Carroll’s Seahawks are in town to play Sunday at home against New England, the former USC head coach can watch both his former top two assistants, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, go at each other. Sarkisian’s Huskies knocked off Trojans teams coached by Carroll and Kiffin in ’09 and ’10, but Kiffin got one back last November, as Marqise Lee caught a touchdown pass and returned the second-half kickoff 88 yards for a score, and Curtis McNeal had a 79-yard TD sprint among his career-high 148 yards rushing in a 40-17 victory at the Coliseum. Matt Barkley passed for 174 yards and one touchdown while running for an early score for the Trojans; Keith Price passed for just 125 yards for Washington, although he completed 12 of 16, but had no TDs. The Trojans are the fourth opponent in the Top 11 that the Huskies have played this season, and they’ve only manage to beat then-No. 8 Stanford, 17-13, on Sept. 27.
College football: UCLA vs. Utah, Rose Bowl, noon, Channel 11:
The Utes’ 31-6 win in Salt Lake City last November amidst snow and ice that brought the wind chill down to 19 degrees at kickoff was mostly the result of John White IV’s 167 yards rushing on 33 carries and three TDs (two rushing, one receiving), plus the Bruins’ 12 penalties for 91 yards. White ran for 68 yards on 13 carries against USC last week. Utah could pull a fast one and bench quarterback Jon Hayes for Travis Wilson, a freshman out of San Clemente who came on in relief last week and completed four of six passes for 49 yards against the Trojans.
Texas vs. Oklahoma in Dallas, 9 a.m., Channel 7
Oregon State at BYU, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7
Alabama at Missouri, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2
West Virginia at Texas Tech, 12:30 p.m., ESPN
Stanford at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4
South Carolina at LSU, 5 p.m., ESPN
Cal at Washington State, 7:30 p.m., Pac 12 Network
The annual Red River Rivalry between the Longhorns and Sooners at least has two teams ranked in the Top 15 — since 1945, one or both teams went into this game ranked in the Top 25 more than 90 percent of the time. It still seems strange that for the two strongest programs left in the 10-team Big 12, the conference’s only two unbeaten teams (in league play) is Kansas State and West Virginia.
NBA exhibition: Lakers vs. Utah, Staples Center, 7 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
After trips to Fresno and Ontario, a true home game makes the pretendness of the exhibition season feel more real.
NASCAR: Sprint Cup Bank of America 500 at Charlotte, N.C., 4 p.m., Channel 7:
Kasey Kahne won the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte on May 27 with a track record 155.687 mph. Matt Kenseth won last year’s BofA 500.
MLB playoffs: AL Championship Series Game 1: 5 p.m., TBS:
Game 2 is Sunday on TBS at 1 p.m.
NFL Week 6:
Green Bay at Houston, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4
N.Y. Giants at San Francisco, 1:25 p.m., Channel 11
Oakland at Atlanta, 10 a.m., Channel 2
Indianapolis at N.Y. Jets, 10 a.m.
Dallas at Baltimore, 10 a.m., Channel 11
New England at Seattle, 1:05 p.m.
The Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. Beat the Raiders here and they’re bowl eligible.
MLB playoffs: NL Championship Series Game 1: 5 p.m., Channel 11:
Somehow the Cardinals still have time to scratch their way back to this moment and keep their hopes alive for a World Series repeat. Hear that Pujols?