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ed free agents, and the team is without a backup goalie aft

CINCINNATI -- Coach Marvin Lewis opened a notable week in the Bengals history by insisting that theyre not actually traveling to London for their next game. .Were not going to London, he said. Were playing the Redskins and it happens to be in London.Oh. OK then.Lewis also challenged a question about their 8-hour flight, emphasizing that they dont have an 8-hour flight. Thats technically true -- its slightly less than 8 hours. He told his players that their game at Wembley Stadium will be no different than if they were playing in the aisles of a local grocery store.I think Marvin said earlier today that whether were playing at Krogers or were playing in here or playing over there, we cant lose the task at hand and thats beating the Redskins, running back Jeremy Hill said.Lewis avoid-the-obvious comments show how much hes concerned that the Bengals (3-4) could get knocked out of whack by the franchises first trip to London. They play Washington (4-3) on Sunday in a game they desperately need to win.The defending AFC North champions got flattened in Dallas and New England before beating winless Cleveland 31-17 at home last week. Theyre only one game behind division-leading Pittsburgh, which is missing injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.A win over the team coached by former Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden would leave Cincinnati in the middle of the chase heading into its bye week. A loss would send the Bengals into their bye with more of that unsettled feeling theyve had this season.Its huge, which is why (Lewis) is trying to make this as much of a home game, as much of our normal schedule as possible, tight end C.J. Uzomah said. Its a huge week for us.The Bengals fly to London after practice Thursday. Their only soak-up-the-moment event will be a reception at the Tower Bridge on Friday night. Players will have a few free hours as well. Otherwise, its all about football.At the end of the day, were going down there not to eat fish and chips, not to see the queen, but were going down there to handle some business, defensive tackle Domata Peko said.The Bengals have another reason to wish they were staying home: Itll count as one of Cincinnatis home games, which means they lose one at Paul Brown Stadium.Several players are big fans of whats known as football in England, and theyre looking forward to playing in a place with such history as Wembley.Oh yeah, I think theres been a lot of great matches played on that pitch, and I think for us its going to be another good one for us to go there and play on Sunday, said Hill, whos a fan of Real Madrid.The coaching staff has told players to make sure they get plenty of rest leading up to the game, given how the time change will affect them. Also, theyve been told theres no wireless access on the flight, so theyll have to entertain themselves without the internet.I think this will be a good bonding experience for the team, Uzomah said. Were going to be on a plane together for 8 hours, cramped. Well get up and youll hear people say, `Ah, this sucks. Well be going through all that together, which will be nice.Game notes LT Andrew Whitworth watched practice in a shirt and sweatpants on Wednesday. He suffered a concussion in the win over Cleveland and hasnt been cleared to return. Lewis says he will be cleared for the game in London. ... G Clint Boling also was held out of practice with a sore shoulder. ... CB Dre Kirkpatrick was limited by a groin injury. TE Tyler Eifert had a full practice after getting into his first game of the season on Sunday.---Online:AP NFL website: and AP NFL Twitter feed: . Just as Montreal was settling into the first full working week of a new year, the Impact announced the appointment of their new head coach. . LOUIS -- Theres no telling how these wacky World Series games will end. . The Canadian squad, skipped by Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg, got on the board first with two in the second end, and followed that with two more apiece in the fourth and sixth ends. It is finally time to exhale after the long journey that is the NHL season.It started what seems like a million years ago with preparation for training camp back in September. And now, thanks to new wrinkles in the collective bargaining agreement that allow free agents to discuss potential new homes with teams before the opening of the free-agency bazaar, the 2015-16 season, for all intents and purposes, ended on July 1.Did we mention exhaling?There still isnt much of an offseason in the traditional sense of the word. And, to be sure, plenty of teams need to get their collective houses in order before training camp rolls around in two months. Several teams, however, already find themselves in a pretty darned comfortable position heading into next season, having -- at least on paper -- assembled the deck chairs in a pleasing manner. Heres a look at some of the clubs that fall into each category as summer, true and proper, is upon us.Teams that can take a breatherNew Jersey DevilsThis isnt to suggest that the Devils, who have missed the playoffs every season since surprisingly advancing to the 2012 Stanley Cup finals, are a lock to finish in the top eight in the Eastern Conference next season. But you have to admire the work done by general manager Ray Shero in wheeling and dealing and finessing his lineup into a position where a postseason berth is very much a possibility.First, Shero did what is so difficult to do in the NHL: add guaranteed offense via trade. By acquiring one of the NHLs top left wingers in Taylor Hall, the 2010 first-overall draft pick who should be pretty motivated to prove the Edmonton Oilers wrong, Shero has provided a critical scoring catalyst. The Devils were dead last in goals per game last season, yet they hung around the playoff fringes until March. So if you figure in 30 goals from Hall, all of a sudden New Jersey is a different team.The deal cost the Devils top young defenseman Adam Larsson?-- and they also lost the useful David Schlemko (see below) to San Jose -- but they brought in Ben Lovejoy, whom Shero knows from their days in Pittsburgh. Lovejoy was an important cog in the Penguins defensive machine, which helped spur them to a Stanley Cup championship in June. Add in a nice complementary player like Vernon Fiddler, and you have to like how the Devils are trending.San Jose SharksIts been quite the renaissance for San Jose GM Doug Wilson, who seemed to have lost control of the ship a couple of years ago after the Sharks choked up a 3-0 first-round series lead against the Los Angeles Kings and then missed the playoffs the following year.This season, however, the Sharks reached their first Stanley Cup finals, and Wilson isnt resting on his laurels. He signed the aforementioned Schlemko to bolster a defense that wasnt quite good enough against Pittsburgh -- and did so at an affordable $8.4 million over four years. The Sharks also added a healthy dose of speed up front by signing free-agent winger Mikkel Boedker to a four-year deal that will pay the 2008 eighth-overall draft pick $4 million annually. This is a calculated risk for Wilson, as Boedker has never hit the 20-goal mark. But the native of Denmark will play with a talented forward group in San Jose, which bodes well for his goal production.Boedker, 26, is also familiar with Sharks coach Pete DeBoer, having thrived while playing for DeBoer in the OHL. San Jose also locked up?Tomas Hertl, who was injured for most of the finals. The Sharks signed the 22-year-old to a two-year bridge deal worth $2.8 million in the first year and $3.2 million in the second year, for a team-friendly $3 million cap hit. Hertl had a strong postseason before his knee injury. If, as some believed, the Sharks were vulnerable to taking a step back after their memorable run to the finals, Wilson seems to have assured that wont be the case.Tampa Bay LightningThe Lightning werent among the team that waded into free-agent waters on Friday, but by the end of the day they might have accomplished as much, maybe more, than any other team in the league.After ending months of suspense -- and more than a little angst for Lighttning fans -- by signing captain Steven Stamkos to an eight-year deal worth $8. million annually on Wednesday, Steve Yzerman solidified his status as a GM deity by locking up defenseman Victor Hedman to an eight-year deal with a cap hit of $7.875 million per year on Friday. Both Stamkos and Hedman left millions of dollars on the table in terms of what they could have earned by becoming unrestricted free agents -- Stamkos could have hit the market on Friday, while Hedman would have become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But both committed long term to a team they believe is championship-caliber.Then, as if he hadnt already done enough, Yzerman locked up goalie of the future (or the now?),?Andrei Vasilevskiy, to a three-year extension at a very manageable $3.5 million annually. The contract does seem to suggest that the Lightning will be looking to move Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, who is entering the final year of his contract. But, regardless, the Lightning have secured the kind of building-block players that suggest more deep playoff runs are in the offing.No vacation for youNew York IslandersOn Friday, I took issue with the relative lack of activity by the New York Rangers as they enter a period of uncertainty regarding their lineup. Speaking of New York-area teams that dont seem to have a plan in place yet: The Islanders very early on indicated they werent interested in keeping winger?Kyle Okposo. So Okposo signed a seven-year deal worth $42 million with the Buffalo Sabres.Center?Frans Nielsen also departed, signing a six-year deal worth $5.25 million annually with the Detroit Red Wings, and forward?Matt Martin signed a four-year deal to serve as mentor and protector of some sort for the young Toronto Maple Leafs.Letting them escape was one thing, although you do hate to see your former guys stay in the same conference. Still, Im not sure how replacing those players with 30-year-old Andrew Ladd, at $5.5 million per year for seven years, and 37-year-old Jason Chimera, who signed?a two-year deal worth a total of $4.5 million, represents forward progress. I love Ladds dressing-room presence, but hes two years older than Okposo. So at the very best its a wash. I likewise love Chimeras ageless enthusiasm and durability, but given his advanced age, its hard not see this as a team thats tracking sideways at a most inopportune time, considering that the Islanders are coming off their first playoff-series win since 1993.Furthermore, are they content heading into next season with Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak as their goaltending tandem -- especially given that Greiss, who was stellar in the playoffs, has never been a full-time starter and Halak is perpetually one step away from the disabled list?Anaheim DucksJuly 1 was a very quiet day for the Ducks, who saw Jamie McGinn, David Perron and Chris Stewart depart the nest, as it were, for the?Arizona Coyotes and St. Louis Blues, respectively, but did little else.That doesnt mean that GM Bob Murray, who earlier this spring rehired Randy Carlyle for a second turn as Ducks head coach, wont be busier later this summer. In fact, theres lots left on Murrays plate as he tries to figure out what to do with his glut of NHL-caliber young defensemen and looks to fill a hole or two up front.I know that defenseman?Cam Fowler has been in play for some time now as he heads into the final season of his contract. Its possible the asking price for Fowler will come down as the summer progresses. But Murray is going to have to move assets to make this all work. Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell need new contracts as restricted free agents, and the team is without a backup goalie after trading Frederik Andersen to Toronto earlier this spring. That leaves youngster John Gibson as Anaheims lone, NHL-ready netminder.The Ducks remain a team that should be considered a Western Conference power but, unfortunately for Murray, he still has work to do before he can put his feet up and take a summer break. 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