Pens creep closer to Caps
UNDATED (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to cut into the Washington Capitals’ lead in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division.
Newly-acquired forward Jason Zucker notched his first two goals as a Penguin to lead a 4-1 win over the Canadiens. Zucker scored his 15th and 16th of the season in a 1:42 span late in the second period, with Montreal's Brendan Gallagher getting a goal in between.
Kris Letang (leh-TANG’) scored a power-play goal and Zach Aston-Reese added an empty-netter as the Pens pulled within three points of the division-leading Capitals. Sidney Crosby had three assists, giving him points in nine of 11 games since returning from core muscle surgery.
Elsewhere on NHL ice:
— Nino Niedereitter (NEE’-dur-eye-tur) and Martin Necas (NAY’-chas) each had a goal and an assist in the Hurricanes’ third win in four games, 5-2 over the Devils. Andrei Svechnikov (SVEHCH’-nih-kahv) scored on a perfectly executed rush in the second period to push his point streak to six games. Petr Mrazek finished with 35 saves as Carolina climbed within two points of Philadelphia and Columbus in the battle for the two Eastern Conference wild-card slots.
— The Blue Jackets absorbed a 3-1 loss to the Rangers as Chris Kreider broke a 1-1 tie with 3:12 remaining. Alexandar Georgiev (GUR’-gee-ehv) had 36 saves in the Rangers’ fourth straight win and seventh in their last nine games. Elvis Merzlikins had 25 saves for the injury-ravaged Jackets, who are 0-2-2 in their last four since a 10-game point streak.
— San Jose trailed 2-1 until Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier tallied 1:29 apart in the third period of the Sharks’ 3-2 comeback over the Jets. Marcus Sorensen also scored and Aaron Dell stopped 30 shots as the Sharks kept Winnipeg one point behind Arizona for the last Western Conference wild-card spot. Blake Wheeler had a goal and an assist for the Jets, who have dropped two straight since a three-game winning streak and are 4-7-1 in their last 12.
Wild fires Boudreau
UNDATED (AP) — Bruce Boudreau (boo-DROH’) has become the eighth NHL coach to be dismissed this season, and the sixth let go for performance reasons.
The Minnesota Wild fired the longtime NHL head coach with the team three points out of a Western Conference playoff position. The Wild are 7-3-1 over their last 11 games after falling to 20-20-6. The dismissal follows Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers in which Minnesota blew a 3-1 lead in the last nine minutes of the third period.
Assistant Dean Evason (EV’-ah-suhn) was named the Wild's interim coach and will make his NHL debut behind the bench Saturday against San Jose.
Boudreau was 158-110-35 in three-plus seasons with Minnesota, reaching the playoffs in his first two years with the team.
In other NHL news:
— The Blues say Jay Bouwmeester (BOH’-mees-tur) has undergone surgery to insert a defibrillator to restore his heart's normal rhythm. The veteran defenseman collapsed on the bench during a game in Anaheim this week. General manager Doug Armstrong says the procedure was performed at the UC Irvine Medical Center.
— Oilers forward Zack Kassian was suspended seven games by the league for kicking an opponent in the chest. Kassian swung his right leg and kicked Tampa Bay forward Erik Cernak in the chest during a game Thursday night.
— The Sabres have placed defenseman Zach Bogosian on waivers. The move comes months after Bogosian asked to be traded and opens a spot on Buffalo's blue line for young players. Bogosian has five points in 19 games this season and is in the final year of his contract.
Kuchar 2 up on Varner, McIlroy, Clark
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matt Kuchar (KOO’-chur) remains the leader after completing the second round of the PGA’s Genesis Invitational at Riviera.
Kuchar followed Thursday’s 64 with a 2-under 69 that leaves him 9 under for the tournament. He’s two shots ahead of Harold Varner III, Rory McIlroy and Wyndham Clark.
Varner and Clark stayed close by shooting 68s, while McIlroy fired a 67. They are one ahead of a host of players that includes Adam Scott, who shot a 64.
Vaughn Taylor, Russell Henley and Sung Kang join Scott in a group at minus-6. That group doesn’t include Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka (KEHP’-kuh) or Jordan Spieth (speeth), each of whom barely made the cut at even par.
Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Justin Thomas and Francesco Molinari are among those who missed the cut. Day imploded on Friday, carding a 76 that left him 2 over.
Kemp chose not to be part of Astros' 2017 sign-stealing
UNDATED (AP) — Tony Kemp says he wasn’t among the Houston Astros who partook in the team’s sign-stealing setup during the team’s run to the 2017 World Series.
Kemp says he was asked by teammates whether he wanted to be part of the scheme following his recall in September 2017, but he declined and says he didn’t feel further pressure to do it. He says he tried to keep his head down and play hard without really concerning himself with it.
He said what Houston did was wrong, and when asked whether the ‘17 World Series title is tainted, noted: “That’s a good question, everyone's going to have their own speculations about it, everyone's going to have their own opinions about it, everyone's going to have their own opinions about it. I'm not sure.”
In other MLB news:
— Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger isn’t likely to take the field anytime soon following his second surgery in less than a month. The Mariners say the 2018 All-Star had a lower back procedure Thursday that followed core surgery in January. Both are related to a ruptured testicle sustained in a game last June.
— All-Star closer Josh Hader lost his salary arbitration case against the Brewers, dropping players to 1-6 in hearings this year. Hader will earn $4.1 million rather than his $6.4 million request. Hader earned $687,600 last year. He had 37 saves in 44 chances and went 3-5 with a 2.62 ERA in his second straight All-Star season. He failed to hold a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning of the NL wild-card game.
— Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger (KLEH'-vihn-jur) tore cartilage in his left knee during a workout Wednesday in Arizona and will have surgery. Clevinger was outstanding at times for Cleveland last season, going 13-4 with a 2.71 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 126 innings over 21 starts.
— The Braves have signed first baseman Yonder Alonso to a minor league contract with an invitation to the major league spring training. The 32-year-old Alonso gives the Braves depth behind Freddie Freeman, who had right elbow surgery in October.
— Nationals general Mike Rizzo is not satisfied with the way the Astros attempted to apologize for their sign-stealing scandal. Rizzo's Nationals beat the Astros in last season's World Series. Rizzo says he would like to hear members of Houston's organization use the word “cheated” to describe what they did.
— Phillies president Andy MacPhail says team ownership is willing to go over the luxury tax threshold to make the playoffs. The Phillies have made several high-profile free-agent signings over the past few seasons, including a 13-year, $330 million deal for outfielder Bryce Harper last year. Philadelphia signed pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract this offseason.
— Major League Baseball is raising the minimum salary for minor league players in 2021, according to a memo sent Friday from the commissioner’s office to all 30 teams and obtained by The Associated Press. Two years after successfully lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from federal minimum wage laws, MLB opted to give those players a wage increase between 38% and 72%.
Ravens lineman suspended 4 games for PED use
UNDATED (AP) — Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman James Hurst has been suspended for the first four games of the 2020 season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancers.
Hurst is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games. He will be allowed to return to his team’s active roster on the Monday following the team’s fourth game.
Signed as a rookie free agent in 2014, Hurst played in all 16 regular-season games for the Ravens last season, with two starts at left tackle. He was part of an offensive line that paved the way for an NFL-record 3,296 yards rushing in 2019.
In other NFL news:
— The Redskins have released cornerback Josh Norman, who struggled to live up to the $75 million, five-year contract he signed in 2016 after an All-Pro season in Carolina. The release comes with one year left on Norman’s contract and frees up $12.5 million in salary-cap space. The team also cut wide receiver Paul Richardson after two disappointing, injury-plagued seasons.
—The Bills aren't renewing the contract of chief administrative officer Dave Wheat. No reason was provided. Statement released by Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula thanked Wheat for nearly 20 years of work.
Ticketing plan for Kobe Bryant public memorial released
UNDATED (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers have announced that fans seeking to attend the Feb. 24 memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, at Staples Center must register to purchase tickets and there will be no outside overflow areas.
Tickets will be priced at $224 each, two for $224 and $24.02 each — combinations of numbers that like the date, 2/24, represent the No. 24 worn by Bryant and the No. 2 worn by Gianna on her girls basketball team.
Proceeds from the ticket sales will benefit the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.
In other NBA news:
— Kobe Bryant was one of eight finalists announced as candidates for enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, a decision that came as absolutely no surprise in his first year of eligibility. Joining Bryant as first-time finalists for the Hall: 15-time All-Star Tim Duncan, fellow 15-time All-Star Kevin Garnett and 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings. The other finalists have all been to this point previously.
— Former President Barack Obama — a huge basketball fan, officially the game’s First Fan during his eight years in office — made an unannounced appearance at an NBA Cares event during All-Star weekend in his hometown of Chicago. The event was for volunteers to fill several backpacks with school supplies.
No 'Plan B' for Olympics; questions over Chinese presence
TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee said Friday there is no “Plan B” for the 2020 Games, which open in just over five months and have been jolted by the outbreak of a virus in neighboring China.
The coronavirus has infected almost 64,000 people globally with almost 1,400 deaths in China, but only one in Japan, where fear is rising with so much attention focused on the outbreak.