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Associated Press

Posted on December 13, 2013 at 4:32 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 13 at 4:32 AM

MAPLE LEAFS-BLUES

Backes scores twice as Blues beat Maple Leafs

ST. LOUIS (AP) — David Backes scored twice and Jaden Schwartz added a goal and two assists to lead the St. Louis Blues over the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Thursday night.

St. Louis has eight of 11 overall. At 13-2-2, the Blues tied with Boston, Pittsburgh and Minnesota for most home-ice wins.

Toronto lost its third in a row.

Alexander Steen, Derek Roy and Chris Stewart scored for St. Louis, which has points in its last six games against Toronto. The teams met for the first time since Nov. 10, 2011.

RAMS-AUSTIN

Rams WR Austin misses 2nd day of practice

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Tavon Austin sat out his second straight practice on Thursday, and his availability for the St. Louis Rams' game on Sunday is in question.

Despite his small stature, the wide receiver from West Virginia — who was the Rams' No. 1 pick — never missed a practice in college.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher had no update on the condition of Austin, who injured his left ankle in Sunday's 30-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It was unknown if he will rejoin practice on Friday.

"We did our test and he'll be day-to-day this week," Fisher said.

Given that the Saints (10-3) and Drew Brees figure to put up a high number of points, having Austin available would certainly help the Rams. St. Louis (5-8), which is out of the NFC playoff picture, would also like to get its younger players some more experience.

After a slow start, Austin had been coming on. He has 40 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns, and he ran nine timed for 151 yards and another score. He also has 18 kickoff returns for 398 yards, and 33 punt returns for 280.

One of those punt returns was a 98-yarder for a touchdown. That came in a 38-8 win on Nov. 10 over the Indianapolis Colts, a game in which Austin finally showed why the Rams selected him with the No. 8 pick in this year's draft.

In addition to the punt return, Austin had three catches for 138 yards and two other touchdowns in that game.

Since then, the Rams have been trying to find more ways to get Austin involved. Fisher said that isn't as simple as it may seem.

CHIEFS-FEELING SPECIAL

Chiefs' special teams becoming difference maker

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The most accurate description of Dave Toub may be that he's a special teams savant.

He's able to make the rudimentary plays in a football game, kickoffs and punts, seem downright exhilarating. He's able to get guys who'd rather be playing offense or defense to volunteer for kick coverage or a field-goal unit. He's able to coax points out of places they shouldn't be scored.

In fact, what he's helped Kansas City accomplish through its first 13 games has only been matched or exceeded seven times since 1941, and two of those were by units that Toub coached in Chicago: The Chiefs already have two punt return touchdowns and two kickoff return touchdowns.

"He loves special teams," explained wide receiver Dexter McCluster, who has both of the Chiefs' punt return touchdowns. "He probably wakes up and watches film in his bathroom."

It's hard to find guys with that kind of zeal for special teams.

The job usually comes under the microscope only when an important field goal is missed, or when an opponent springs a big return of its own. It's a thankless task. And not surprisingly, coaches tend to gravitate toward sexier positions on offense or defense as soon as they can.

But for Toub, who tried and failed to make it in the NFL as an offensive lineman out of UTEP, the position is also a passion. He spent time as a defensive line coach in the college ranks, but has been coaching special teams since joining Andy Reid's staff in Philadelphia in 2001.

MARLINS-CUBS TRADE

Cubs send Bogusevic to Marlins for Ruggiano

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Chicago Cubs obtained the right-handed outfield bat they needed, acquiring Justin Ruggiano from the Miami Marlins for lefty swinging Brian Bogusevic.

The deal was announced at baseball's winter meetings Thursday.

Ruggiano, who turns 32 in April, has played parts of five big league seasons with Tampa Bay (2007-08, 2011) and Miami (2012-13). He hit a career-high 18 homers in 472 at-bats for Miami last year. He's a .251 hitter for his career. In 317 games, he has 37 homers and 109 RBIs.

The Cubs had left-handers Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney in the outfield, making Bogusevic available for trades.

Bogusevic, who turns 30 in February, hit .273 with six homers and 16 RBI in 47 games last year. In 299 games over four years — the first three in Houston — Bogusevic has 17 homers and 62 RBIs with a .273 average.

He could help fill the hole created by lefty Logan Morrison, who was dealt to Seattle on Wednesday for reliever relief pitcher Carter Capps.

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