Weekend Watch List: Plenty of NHL, NBA to see in new year’s first days

Chris Bosh (left) is back on the court for the Heat, Treon Harris (center) and the Gators are looking to end their season with a bowl victory, and Ryan Callahan (right) and the Lightning look to keep rolling on their road trip.

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Now that we’ve all said a proper celebratory farewell to 2014, it’s time to take a couple days of rest before we attempt to tackle those tedious New Year’s resolutions.

The good news is that college football is here for you … and so are some NBA and NHL games for that matter. Here’s a closer look at why crafting the ‘new you’ can wait until Monday …

FRIDAY

CFB — Taxslayer Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee, 3:20 p.m.

NBA — Nets at Magic, 7 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida)

NHL — Panthers at Sabres, 7 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida)

NHL — Lightning at Penguins, 7 p.m. (Sun Sports)

CBK — FSU at Mississippi State, 8 p.m.

Stories of the year

Spotlight: The Lightning ended 2014 with a dominating 5-1 victory in Buffalo. Tampa Bay has been far better at home (14-4-1) than they have been on the road (9-7-3) this season, so a thrilling New Year’s win over the Sabres could be just what they needed to spark them back into success on the road. The Lighting play the second game of their four-game road trip Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

SATURDAY

CFB — Birmingham Bowl: Florida vs. East Carolina, noon

CBK — UConn at Florida, 2 p.m.

CBK — Virginia at Miami, 5:30 p.m.

NBA — Hornets at Magic, 7 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida)

NBA — Heat at Rockets, 8 p.m. (Sun Sports)

Spotlight: The Florida Gators will be taking on the East Carolina Pirates for only the second time in history in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on Saturday. Although the Gators’ bumpy 6-5 record ultimately cost head coach Will Muschamp his job, Florida came close in a 24-19 loss to Florida State in the season finale. The Gators are looking toward big changes with new head coach Jim McElwain just warming up, but before he takes control, interim coach D.J. Durkin leads the team Saturday.

SUNDAY

NHL — Panthers at Capitals, 3 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida)

NHL — Lightning at Senators, 7 p.m. (Sun Sports)

NBA — Nets at Heat, 6 p.m. (Sun Sports)

Spotlight: The Miami Heat are on a three-game losing streak after falling to the Indiana Pacers on New Year’s Eve. The team continues to rely heavily on Dwyane Wade for points, but with Chris Bosh getting back into the groove after his return from a calf injury, the pressure could ease up.

NEWS OF NOTES

— The Florida Panthers announced Wednesday that they have agreed to a six-year deal with center Nick Bjugstad. He was scheduled to be a restricted free agent following this season and now will reportedly make $4.1 million per season with the Panthers.

— The Jacksonville Jaguars fired offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on Monday. The Jaguars finished 31st out of 32 NFL teams in total offense for the past two years. Fisch was the first hire made by head coach Gus Bradley in January 2013.

— On Tuesday night, the Florida Panthers had their biggest crowd of the year with 19,614 fans at the BB&T Center. Unfortunately, the Panthers had the three-game winning streak snapped when Montreal’s Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored the only goal in a shootout to lift the Canadiens to a 2-1 for victory. Tuesday night drew the biggest crowd since the Canadiens visited the Panthers in 2013 with 19,891 fans.

— The University of Florida announced Wednesday that the Gators will enter the Birmingham Bowl game without kick returner Andre Debose and defensive tackle Darious Cummings. Interim coach D.J. Durkin said that Debose has a "mutual agreement" with coach and is "moving on with his career." Debose, a sixth-year senior, was one of the nation’s top kick returners.

— According to FOX Sports NFL insider Alex Marvez, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is planning to interview with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the same position. Former offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford left the Bucs to become head coach for the CFL’s B.C. Lions. Koetter has served as the Falcons offensive coordinator for three years.

TWEET(S) OF THE WEEK

This New Year’s Eve, some of Florida’s athletes shared their greetings and well wishes with fans through social media.

Be responsible and party at the house..#comeasyouarecomfortable #TheWades

A photo posted by dwyanewade (@dwyanewade) on

When the Panthers signed Bjudtsad to a six-year contract, fans took to Twitter to share their welcome.