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Rowdies open first USL season with 1-0 victory over Orlando City B

Now, that’s the way a team should begin a journey.

The stadium was packed. The evening was perfect. And the team – the Tampa Bay Rowdies, in this case – dispatched a brand new rival in a new league with a 1-0 victory.

Playing in front of 7,710 fans, the Rowdies beat the Orlando City team of the USL.

Georgi Hristov scored on a penalty kick in the 57th minute for the only goal to lead his team to the victory.

It was a big game with a big atmosphere and my players came good tonight,” Rowdies’  coach Stuart Campbell said. “I’m delighted for Georgi because he worked his absolute socks off and if anyone deserved a goal tonight, it’s him.”

Hristov, who had missed much of the preseason with an injury, admitted he could have scored two other goals. But he calmly knocked home the penalty kick for the winner.

It was an unbelievable atmosphere,” Hristov said. “I think everyone realizes that out organization is trying to do something big for Tampa Bay, so I appreciate everyone coming out to support us.

I’m happy to have scored the goal on an important night for the Rowdies,” Hristov said. “We played really well tonight and should’ve won by more, so I’m proud of the way all my teammates played. There’s things we can do better, but this is a good start.”

Said Campbell: “He’s a cool customer, isn’t he? He’s never too high. Never to low. When it comes to penalty kicks, I let the players sort it out. Sometimes, it’s whoever gets the ball first.”

Orlando City goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. had a good night, making four saves.

For the Rowdies, goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald had a clean sheet. He had found out only Thursday that he was starting because of neck injury to regular Matt Pickens.

I’ve been in the league six or seven years,” he said, “so the night before wasn’t too bad. The team played great defense in front of me.”

Said Campell: “He’s done well. We’ve known he was starting for a while, but we kept our cards close to our vest. He’s calm. Very assured.”

The Rowdies are home on Saturday night against Toronto.

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Bucs place three players on under-25 offensive football team

Does tomorrow belong to the Tampa Bay Bucs?

Tampa Bay placed three players on the recent 25-and-under team as picked by NFL.com, all on offense.

Leading the way was quarterback Jameis Winston, who was selected over Dallas’ Dak Prescott and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota.

Also picked was Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans, who led the NFL in being targeted last year.

The third member of the Bucs to be picked was guard Ali Marpet, who has started every game since coming out of tiny Hobart College.

No Bucs’ defensive players were picked, despite the presence of linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

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Politicos celebrate at Tampa Pride

Ybor City was the site of Tampa’s Pride celebration Saturday, the biggest event since organizers revived it in 2015.

“When Carrie (West) said we want to bring the Pride Parade to Tampa, I said let’s roll!” yelled an exuberant Bob Buckhorn in kicking off the festivities.

West and longtime partner Mark Bias are founding members of Tampa Pride and helped create the GaYBOR District Coalition in the aughts. He was inspired to bring the event back to Tampa after the Hillsborough County Commission repealed their infamous ban on gay pride events back in June of 2013.

Over the past decade, the St. Petersburg LGBT Pride parade has become one of the biggest celebrations in the entire Southeast, generating crowds of over 150,000. While Tampa’s event is nowhere near that scale, this year’s event featured 80 percent more booths than in 2016, with additional stages added as well.

The day featured a tribute to the survivors first responders and bar staff from last year’s shooting tragedy at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, which killed 49 people, the deadliest mass shooting in the United States and the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11.

“Pulse was our home. It was our safe place, but in mere moments, the place that we knew as our sanctuary had been taken from us,” Neema Bahrami, the entertainment manager of Pulse, told the crowd. “It was easy to feel defeated, empty, exhausted and hopeless, but through our tragedy comes strength, a strength as a community to come together in time of crisis, a strength to be resilient in the face of adversity, a strength to love one another in spite of our differences.”

A few local politicians were in attendance.

While Senator Bill Nelson was not there, Digna Alvarez, his Tampa aide, read a statement from her boss. “Although I’m unable to attend, I thank you for your leadership and support in the aftermath of last year’s Pulse shooting tragedy,” Alvarez read. “I hope that the festivities serve not only as a celebration of past triumph but also as an inspiration for future ones.”

Luis Viera, the newest member of the Tampa City Council, said he looks at the issue of LGBT rights as a father.

“I’ve got a ten-year-old son, and you know what? If I ever had a son or daughter who was gay or lesbian, I wouldn’t want anybody to tell that they’re a second-class citizen, because of how God made them as. That’s how I see this issue,” he said.

Councilman Guido Maniscalco was also there; he had recently introduced an ordinance banning conversion therapy in Tampa. That’s the controversial practice used to try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

As voted on by the Council earlier this month, state-licensed therapists and counselors would be fined $1,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for repeat offenses.

“In 2012, the previous Council moved forward to make a domestic partner registry, and this just builds along the lines of that community support, the support for human rights,” said Maniscalco. He told the crowd he decided to bring the issue to the forefront after speaking with his friends in the gay community about how similar ordinances has been passed in Miami Beach and West Palm Beach.

“Tampa has been so forward thinking and progressive, we should do it here. Hopefully, we can continue inspiring other cities or if they take it to the state level, then great,” he says. “I just want to maintain that reputation where people are welcome, we want you here. Tampa is stronger together.”

A second hearing on the ban on conversion therapy is set for the council’s April 6 meeting.

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Chris Chiozza, Christian Laettner and the forgotten supporting actors

Christian Laettner, meet Chris Chiozza. Your contributions to March Madness lore may be 25 years apart, but the memories will go on for far longer.

Laettner, who was already well-known, made “The Shot,” in 1992 that kept Duke’s hopes alive for a repeat championship, which they won. Chiozza, a popular figure on the Florida campus, but relatively unknown elsewhere, sent the Gators to the Elite 8 on Friday with “The Shot 2.”

One should be careful before making comparisons between that legendary game between the Blue Devils and Kentucky, but Friday’s game can be compared favorably. It should be remembered that a quarter century ago, Duke was no more a dominant power than Florida is today.

At the time of Laettner’s heroics, the Blue Devils possessed one national title, accomplished the previous year. He gave them the chance to repeat, which they did. Florida has two titles and Chiozza’s running three-pointer kept the Gators hopes alive for winning a third.

Quick quiz: who is the last school to win back-to-back national titles? For those outside of Gainesville, the answer is the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007. Those teams were the first to accomplish the feat since Laettner’s teams.

Friday’s game may not have matched the level of talent and execution of two teams playing at the very top of their games in 1992, but it was EVERY BIT as compelling. For example, Florida overcame a double-digit first half deficit to take the lead by halftime.

Not to be outdone, the Badgers also overcame a 10-point, second-half deficit to regain the lead. Twice.

“What a wonderful college basketball game to be a part of,” said Gators Coach Mike White. “I’m so proud of our guys; I can’t even put it into words.”

Such history-making shots understandably dwarf everything else that happened during the game or other contributors to the victory.

Who remembers Grant Hill as the one making the length-of-the-court pass to Laettner, or Laettner stomping on Kentucky’s Aminu Timberlake while the latter was on his back under the Duke basket?

From Friday night, who remembers that KeVaughn Allen set an all-time tournament scoring record for a Gator with 35 points? Who needs a reminder about “The Block” by Canyon Barry on Khalil Iverson with only 34 seconds remaining in overtime?

Allen’s offense was desperately needed. If Barry does not do what he did, the Badgers go up by four points and make Chiozza’s moment in history a highly unlikely event.

What about poor Zak Showalter of Wisconsin? After sending the game to overtime, he breaks into the “Discount Double-Check” gesture while pointing at its creator, Aaron Rodgers, sitting in the stands.

Or perhaps Showalter’s teammate Nigel Hayes? After struggling mightily at the free throw line all night, Hayes hit the two that seemingly won the game for the Badgers with four seconds left.

The headlines were already being written until Chiozza blew up the story.

Yes, this was unquestionably a legendary game, but not enough saw it. While it was still early evening in March 1992 when Laettner broke Kentucky hearts, it was almost 1 a.m. when Chiozza’s dagger had the same effect in cheese country.

If you were still awake, you saw something special. The best news is you get to see them play for a trip to the Final Four on Sunday against conference foe South Carolina.

Friday’s game will be tough to top.

 

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5 things to keep your eye on as Rowdies open their USL era

Five things to look for in tonight’s home opener for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

1. The crowd: Sure, most teams look for a big gate in their opening game. For the Rowdies, who have been pushing their attendance to make the MLS notice, it’s even more important. Tampa Bay has to establish itself as a solid market.

2. New surroundings: The USL isn’t where the Rowdies were, and it isn’t where they want to be long-term. But it’s a stable league, which pulled the Rowdies from the NASL, where they had played for years. The opponent, Orlando B, could be the birth of a new rivalry.

3. Joe Cole: Someday, Cole will get old. Not yet, though. Cole has looked as frisky as ever in the Rowdies’ training camp, and he’s still capable of taking your breath away with a key goal. At this stage of his career, Cole is also a calming influence for a young team.

4. Marcel Shafer: The Rowdies hope Shafer, too, can have a bit impact on their roster. He spent 10 seasons playing for German Bundesliga’s VfL Wolfsburg.

5. Georgi Hristov: Hristov, last season’s leading scorer for the Rowdies, leads an attack the team hopes will be more productive. Speed gives the Rowdies’ fans reason to hope.

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Belleair attorney Katie Cole named to district board of trustees for St. Pete College

Katherine “Katie” Cole is the newest member of the St. Petersburg College District board of trustees.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the appointment in a statement Friday.

Cole is an attorney with the Tampa-based law firm Hill Ward Henderson.

According to her Hill Ward Henderson bio, the 42-year-old Belleair resident specializes in real estate and land use issues on the local and state level. Working with clients in Pinellas and Pasco counties, Cole also serves as Chair-Elect for the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and is a past member of the City of Clearwater Business Task Force. She also served on the Charter Review Committees for both the City of Clearwater and Pinellas County.

A University of Tennessee graduate who received her law degree from Stetson University, Cole serves on the board of directors for Morton Plant Mease Hospital, and was the 2013 co-chair of the Omelette Party Committee, a fundraising event for ARC of Tampa Bay, the Clearwater-based service provider for developmentally challenged individuals.

Cole will fill a vacant seat for a term ending May 31, 2017.

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Florida politicians react to failure of the GOP health bill

As U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was gathering his conference and then announcing the failure of the Republican health care plan, many Florida Democrats were swiftly calling for bipartisan work to improve the Affordable Care Act instead.

Republicans who opposed the bill also responded swiftly, calling for a better bill to be crafted, and some even called for some bipartisan work but showed but showing no interest in using the Affordable Care Act as a starting point.

But Democrats, recognizing the ACA remains in trouble, are offering to work across the aisle on it — after criticizing the Republican bill.

Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz — Florida’s 1st Congressional District:

“We did so in the most cowardly, craven way possible — by failing to vote on the repeal of Obamacare. I share the frustration and disappointment of Northwest Floridians who expected and deserved action. We should know who was willing to stand with President Trump and who wasn’t. Now we never will.

“In the weeks and months ahead the Republican party must demonstrate the competence to govern. It is possible.

“I plan to redouble my efforts to bring a renewed sense of urgency to this corrupt and disconnected town. In the face of this setback, we need bold, conservative reform more than ever. The fate of our nation is at stake,”

Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn — Florida’s 2nd Congressional District:

“Obamacare will continue to harm Americans with higher costs, lost coverage, and fewer choices. That’s unacceptable. We were sent here with orders to end this law and replace it with a patient-centered approach that actually lowers the cost of care. Today’s events will not deter or discourage us from honoring the commitment we made to the voters that elected us.”

Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford — Florida’s 4th Congressional District:

“Maintaining a status quo is not an option. There is a widespread consensus that President Obama’s signature health care law is broken and unsustainable. I remain committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare to improve and protect Americans’ access to quality, affordable health coverage.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis — Florida’s 6th Congressional District:

“The House health care bill is a flawed piece of legislation produced by a hasty process and it shows: by leaving the core architecture of Obamacare in place, it does very little to address the core problems of rising health insurance premiums and lack of consumer choice that have harmed so many Americans,” DeSantis declared. “In fact, it very well may have caused insurance premiums to increase 15-20 percent over and above the anticipated Obamacare increases over the next several years, which is unacceptable.”

“There was no reason to rush this bill through the House to begin with,” DeSantis added. “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals Obamacare, puts a downward pressure on insurance premiums and expands competition in the marketplace. Failure is not an option.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy — Florida’s 7th Congressional District:

“I believe every American should have access to quality, affordable health care, which is why I’m pleased House leadership pulled this bill from consideration,” stated Murphy of Orlando. We must reform the Affordable Care Act, but it should be done in a transparent, bipartisan way that lowers costs and strengthens coverage for all.”

“What we must do now is come together to work to improve the Affordable Care Act,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee said in a statement. “It took us centuries to get to where we are now with our health care, and we’ve already helped 20 million people get the health care they need. Let’s improve the ACA to see how we can help even more people get the health care they need and deserve.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings — Florida’s 10th Congressional District:

The “voices of the American people were heard.”

“Republicans have been promising to replace the Affordable Care Act with something better for seven years, but the destructive bill that they proposed would force people to pay more for less coverage, erase protections for pre-existing conditions, deny veterans additional benefits, force seniors to pay more for care and prescriptions, and shorten the life of Medicare,” Demings said. “I will continue to stand strong for my constituents in my fight to protect the Affordable Care Act.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster — Florida’s 11th Congressional District:

“For six years, I have advocated for repealing the [un]Affordable Care Act and replacing it with real healthcare reform. Obamacare is collapsing across the country – currently 4.7 million people are without an insurer. This failed policy is raising costs for patients and forcing insurers out of the marketplace, which leaves patients and families with nowhere to go.”

“As I have said, I have concerns with the bill that was to come up for a vote today. In particular, it does not provide the dollars needed for the Medicaid-funded nursing home beds that many of our seniors rely on. I have expressed these concerns to House leadership and the administration.”

“It is my hope that House and Senate leadership and the administration will work together and bring to the floor the conservative, common-sense healthcare reform that Americans deserve.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis — Florida’s 12th Congressional District:

“My main concern has been, and will continue to be, making sure my constituents have access to the best possible health care. Our efforts do not stop here to ensure our nation’s health care system is stronger, more affordable, and truly patient-centered. That is my goal, and I will keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to accomplish it.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist — Florida’s 13th Congressional District:

“This is a win for the American people,” stated Crist of St. Petersburg. “It was a bad bill, plain and simple. It would have harmed our seniors, and particularly those who often don’t have a voice in the debate — ‘the least among us’ if you will, the poor and the disabled. We have the opportunity now to drop the rhetoric, roll up our sleeves, and work together to fix what needs fixing to bring down costs, expand access, and protect the most vulnerable in our society. I’m an optimist, this was a teachable moment, and I think the lesson will be learned. Work together, put people above politics.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor — Florida’s 14th Congressional District:

“Today, my neighbors in Florida and hardworking families across America can breathe a sigh of relief that the Republican TrumpCare bill failed thanks to the outpouring of opposition from citizens, doctors, nurses, hospitals and advocates. They knew it would rip coverage away, raise costs and provide a massive tax break to wealthy special interests.”

“Although we must remain vigilant about future Republican attempts to weaken health care in America, the failure of the Republican bill will allow millions of families to keep their health care and peace of mind. Hopefully we can work together to build on the success of the Affordable Care Act that has dropped the number of uninsured Americans to its lowest in history and ended discrimination against our neighbors with pre-existing conditions.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast — Florida’s 18th Congressional District:

“Over the last several months, one of my top priorities has been listening to people in our community about how they will be impacted by health care reform.  I’ve heard over and over again about the incredible burden that Obamacare has placed on 18th District families.  Because of Obamacare, two of our counties now have only one insurer on the individual exchange, while premiums and deductibles have become beyond unaffordable.

“During my more than 12 years in the Army, I never went into one battle that was finished with one shot and I never went in with the perfect plan either, but what I learned is that when we went in unified and we worked together, we never lost.  Our broken healthcare system will not be fixed overnight. As I have said from the beginning, the only way we can fix the failures of Obamacare is through a fully transparent process that engages voices all across the country.  Moving forward, I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in working to improve our nation’s healthcare system to ensure that everyone has the liberty to choose the health care that is best for their life.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings — Florida’s 20th Congressional District:

“House Republicans and President Trump tried to takeaway healthcare from millions of Americans and they failed. Today’s defeat of TrumpCare is a victory for seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, families, children, women, and every one of the 24 million people who would have had their health coverage stripped from them under the Republican plan.

“When Congress reconvenes next week, Democrats will continue to stand up for the most vulnerable among us. There are many aspects where healthcare in America can be improved. For many of my constituents, the cost of care remains far too high, while for others, access to care remains a challenge. I, like all Democrats, want to make healthcare better for all Americans. If Republicans are willing to join this process in good faith, I would welcome the conversation and work to make improvements that benefit all Americans.”

“President Trump’s plan failed today because his legislation did not prioritize the American people. It prioritized a select few – the millionaires and billionaires that President Trump has surrounded himself with – and ripped coverage away from millions of hard working and working poor Americans,” Hastings continued. “I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all Americans have access to the healthcare they need. I hope Republicans learn from this experience and begin the process of working Democrats moving forward.”

Democratic U.S. Ted Deutch — Florida’s 22nd Congressional District:

“President Trump and Speaker Ryan should be ashamed of themselves for trying to force through a disastrous bill that would have ripped away health coverage from tens of millions of Americans, dramatically increased premiums, and severely cut Medicare and Medicaid,” Deutch of Margate declared. “The American people spoke loud and clear; they do not support gutting their own health benefits in order to give massive tax cuts to health insurance companies. House Republicans need to start working with Democrats on real policy solutions that will benefit the American people.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz — Florida’s 23rd Congressional District:

“America’s seniors, women, children and families scored a major victory today. Trumpcare was a horrible bill from the start, and was only made worse the more it was amended. The lack of transparency, hearings and proper vetting was appalling. President Trump obviously didn’t do his homework, and Republicans are clearly at war with themselves. This defeat was earned and well deserved.

“More importantly, for millions of individual Americans, Trumpcare would have been devastating. It reduced coverage for millions, gutted benefits and massively increased costs, and added what amounted to an “age tax” for older Americans. It was the worst bill for women’s health in a generation. In fact, for the entire health care system, it would have been a nightmare. The solvency of Medicare would have been weakened, Medicaid would have been gutted, and safety-net hospitals would have been further burdened to truly distressing levels. Doctors, nurses, hospitals and nearly every major medical or health advocacy group opposed it, with good reason.

“Hopefully, Republicans will now reach out to Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act in a serious, meaningful way. We’re more than ready to participate if it means truly improving our health care system.”

 

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Joe Henderson: GOP’s only option now on health care could be to work with Democrats

Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives is in a position that must have seemed unthinkable after November’s election mandate. The only way they’re going to make good now on their 7-year crusade to repeal and replace Obamacare is if Democrats help them.

For that to happen, Republicans will have surrender any notion of gutting the current health care law and actually work with the opposition party to craft something that makes people happy on both sides of the political divide. Otherwise, it’s status quo.

If it wasn’t clear before Friday afternoon when the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act collapsed, it should be now. This what happens when the party in power can’t reach consensus and gets its butt kicked on a high-profile issue.

Republicans are a house divided on this issue and it won’t be bridged without help from Democrats. Good luck with that, right? Minority leader Nancy Pelosi was smirking and giddy in remarks after Speaker Paul Ryan admitted this was “a setback, no two ways about it.”

President Trump, even with his art of the deal skills, couldn’t convince members of the Freedom Caucus to stop drinking the tea of an all-or-nothing, no-compromise bill. And guess what? That won’t change. The Freedom folk don’t believe in compromise, especially on something like this.

And when polls showed Americans were getting extremely concerned about the proposed bill would to gut benefits they have come to rely upon, Ryan realized he had to make some concessions to keep the public from full revolt.

The problem for him is, the Freedom Caucus doesn’t concede, no matter the political cost. It wanted to get rid of Obamacare taxes and let states run their own Medicaid programs. In some places that could have included requiring work in exchange for Medicaid benefits.

Equally damaging was a widely-held belief that rooms filled with white Republican men were deciding what women’s health care would look like under the new plan.

It was a colossal mess and the plan died an ugly death.

So now what?

Short of allowing Obamacare to continue indefinitely, thus failing to deliver on a central campaign promise to repeal/replace it, Republicans need reach across the aisle. Democrats have to be involved, and that means compromise on multiple issues.

Why?

Because as tough as it might be to negotiate with Democrats on changes to President Obama’s signature achievement, there’s probably a better chance of reaching consensus there between moderate Republicans and the Freedom Caucus.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland seemed to offer that olive branch to the GOP leadership.

“I hope we can work with the administration and with the other side and not just abandon this effort,” he said, “and not make an effort (going forward) to destroy indirectly what we did not destroy directly today.

“That’s our responsibility as Republicans, as Democrats, sent here by our people to make their lives better.”

It’s an opening if Ryan and GOP leaders are willing to take it. That could be humiliating, but it may be the only move they have left.

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Nikita Kucherov’s overtime goal leads Lightning to another win

The Tampa Bay Lightning continues to be contrarians.

Following a three-game losing streak that looked as if it was going to finish the team, the Bolts responded with a two-game winning streak on the road that might end up saving them.

The Lightning beat the Detroit Red Wings Friday night, 2-1 in overtime, to pull within one point of the Bruins and Islanders for the final wild-card spot. The Bruins and Islanders play each other today.

The Lightning now has at least a point in 11 of its last 12 road games (8-1-3).

Nikita Kucherov won the game for the Bolts with a goal in overtime. It was his 38th goal of the season, and his seventh in the last four games. Earlier, Ondrej Palat had scored to tie the game at 1.

It just feels good to win this game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “We had a tough little stretch there where we lost three in a row at home, and you sit here and say every game’s a must win, but let’s be honest, we don’t come out with four points in this, we’re in trouble. To come in on the back-to-back and be down in the third and to gut one out, pretty proud of the guys.

Losing would have been devastating for us, and that’s the way it is. When you’re not just trying to catch one team, you’re catching multiple teams, that’s why it’s hard to do. Really, you’ve just got to sit here and say the only destiny you can control is your own. That was the big conversation going into the third period. We had the one-goal lead against Arizona the other night and let it slip away, now we’re down a goal, what are we going to do here? The guys just talked about what needed to be done to win a hockey game, and they found a way.”

Cooper talked about the ascension of Kucherov, who has carried the Bolts as of late.

The biggest thing for me, what I think what’s really changed for him and it actually didn’t look like it tonight, but he’s been shooting the puck,” Cooper said. “And probably a month and a half ago, he’d show up on the sheet with one or zero shots, and I thought a big turning point was in Colorado, he didn’t score but I think he had eight or nine shots on goal that night. And the next night he had seven and scored, and it’s just taken off ever since. He got the big one tonight, but he passed up a couple really good looks where he can score. When Kuch is getting into that three to six shot a night range, pucks go in for guys like him. That’s what he’s doing, he’s creating space for himself, he’s fighting through stuff and, as I said, your best players got to be your best players and he’s a big reason why we’re back in this race.”

Tampa Bay is off until Monday when it plays Chicago.

  

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Tampa Bay Bucs might have interest in Miami tight end David Njoku

Could the Tampa Bay Bucs‘ Plan B for their upcoming draft be a tight end?

The Bucs have recently been linked to Miami tight end David Njoku, the second-best tight end in the upcoming draft. Njoku has special burst that could add something to the Bucs’ receiving corps, something more than incumbent Cameron Brate offers.

I know, I know. It’s hard to see the Bucs drafting Njoku over FSU’s Dalvin Cook, no matter what the mocks say. As a tight end, Njoku figures to touch the ball 5-6 times a game. As a running back, Cook figures to touch it about 20 times.

Ah, but if the Bucs are committed to Cook, and he goes off the board, say, 17th in the first round, Tampa Bay has to have an alternate plan.

Taking a player from Miami, a year after taking one from Florida and two years after one from FSU, sounds plausible.

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