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Kreider's 3rd-period goal gives Rangers 3-2 win over Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Chris Kreider scored with 3:46 left in the third period, and Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers rallied to beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Tuesday night. Lundqvist, playing for the second time since missing 25 games with a neck injury, stopped 32 shots and earned his first win in his return. Kreider beat defensemen Adam Pardy and Dustin Byfuglien near the blue line and sent a backhand deke past sprawling goalie Ondrej Pavelec to break a 2-2 tie. The playoff-bound Rangers (48-21-7) also got goals from Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard, snapped a two-game skid, and moved one point ahead of Montreal atop the Eastern Conference. Jim Slater and Lee Stempniak scored for Winnipeg (39-26-12). Pavelec made 21 saves in the loss.

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 02:56:00 +0000
Patriots owner: Aaron Hernandez told me he was innocent

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft testified Tuesday that his former star tight end Aaron Hernandez told him he was innocent when asked if he was involved in a 2013 killing. Kraft was called by the prosecution in Hernandez's murder trial over the June 17, 2013, slaying of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. He at times seemed uncomfortable on the stand, even when he was asked where he worked. He first said 1 Patriot Place, the address of Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots play. When asked what he did at work, he replied, "Whatever they ask me to do." Then, asked if he ran a business, he replied: "We're a packaging and paper business and private equity, and we have two sports teams." He first listed the New England Revolution soccer team, then the Patriots. Kraft was asked about the events of June 19, two days after the killing. By then, Kraft said, there was a strong media presence at Gillette Stadium, including helicopters, which were covering the investigation. Kraft said he found Hernandez in a weight room working out and pulled him into an adjacent office for a private talk. "I understood there was an incident that had transpired, and I wanted to know whether he was involved, and if he was, any player that comes into our system, I consider part of our extended family, and I wanted to get him help," he said. "What did he say?" prosecutor William McCauley asked. "He said he was not involved. That he was innocent and that he hoped that the time of the murder incident came out because he said he was in a club," Kraft said. Prosecutors have said Hernandez was at a bar earlier in the evening, then drove to Boston with two friends, picked up Lloyd and killed him in an industrial park. Kraft said his conversation with Hernandez lasted five to 10 minutes. Later, he saw him one last time at the stadium. "He hugged and kissed me and thanked me for my concern," Kraft said. Hernandez signed a $40 million contract with the Patriots in 2012, but as defense lawyer Michael Fee questioned him, Kraft said he couldn't remember whether it ran through the 2018 season. "I don't get into the details. I just knew we signed him," he said, adding that Hernandez was signed because he was "a very good player." Hernandez watched closely during Kraft's testimony, which lasted a little over 30 minutes. Next to the stand was the Patriots' director of security, Mark Briggs. He said he also had a conversation with Hernandez on June 19. "I asked him why he'd lawyered up," he said. The judge struck the comment from the record and instructed the jury that citizens do not have any obligation to speak with police. Briggs said Hernandez told him that he had been with Lloyd at a club and they went their separate ways, so Hernandez gave him keys to a vehicle. He told him those keys were found in Lloyd's pocket, Briggs said. Investigators did find keys to an SUV Hernandez rented in Lloyd's pocket. Briggs said he asked Hernandez if he was involved in Lloyd's killing, and Hernandez replied no. He said he then looked in his eyes and asked if he was telling the truth. "He swore on his baby's life that he was telling the truth," Briggs said. Briggs said the following day, Hernandez showed up at Gillette Stadium, and Briggs asked him to leave, which Hernandez did. "You asked him to leave the stadium because his presence there was bad for business?" Fee asked. "That is correct," Briggs replied. Hernandez was arrested June 26 in Lloyd's slaying. Less than two hours later, he was cut from the team. Also Tuesday, lawyers said they expect to wrap up their cases next week. McCauley named for the judge just a handful of additional witnesses to call and said he expected to rest Thursday. He did not name any other members of the Patriots organization or anyone affiliated with the NFL. That likely means that Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins player Mike Pouncey and others listed as potential witnesses will not be called. Hernandez lawyer James Sultan asked the judge to hear arguments on some pending issues Friday and said he expected to put on witnesses and finish Monday. Both sides will also deliver closing arguments, then deliberations will begin.

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:09:00 +0000
Curry and Thompson help Warriors beat Clippers 110-106

LOS ANGELES (AP) Stephen Curry scored 27 points, Klay Thompson added 25 and the Golden State Warriors held off the Los Angeles Clippers 110-106 Tuesday night for their 10th consecutive victory. The Clippers blew a 17-point lead and had their seven-game winning streak snapped. Blake Griffin scored 40 points, Chris Paul added 27 and J.J. Redick 14. Paul's layup drew the Clippers to 106-104 with 12 seconds left, but he was called for a backcourt violation when taking an inbounds pass from DeAndre Jordan with 9 seconds left. Thompson and Curry combined on four straight free throws to close out the win for the Pacific Division champions.

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 05:53:00 +0000
AP Newsbreak: AP study projects average MLB salary tops $4M

NEW YORK (AP) Even before the first pitch of the 2015 season is thrown, an eye-popping baseball record will be set. The average salary when opening-day rosters are finalized Sunday will break the $4 million benchmark for the first time, according to a study of all major league contracts by The Associated Press. Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw tops players at $31 million and Los Angeles projects to open the season with a payroll at about $270 million, easily a record. "We're enjoying a tremendously bountiful season in baseball," said Toronto pitcher R.A. Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner with the New York Mets. Fueled by the largest two-year growth in more than a decade, the average salary projects to be about $4.25 million, according to the AP study, with the final figure depending on how many players are put on the disabled list before the first pitch is thrown. That is up from $3.95 million on the first day of last season and $3.65 million when 2013 began. "MLB's revenues have grown in recent years, with the increase in national and local broadcast rights fees being a primary contributor," said Dan Halem, MLB's chief legal officer. "It is expected that player compensation will increase as club revenues increase." Baseball's average was approximately $50,000 in 1976, the last year before free agency. Back then, many players took offseason jobs to pay their bills. Now almost all of them do their heavy lifting in gyms, not warehouses. In a $9 billion industry propelled by ballpark luxury suites and premium tickets, regional sports networks and streaming video, more than half the major leaguers are millionaires. The average broke the $1 million mark in 1992, topped $2 million in 2001 and reached $3 million in 2008. By comparison, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers has risen slightly less than fourfold since the first class of free agents started negotiations in November 1976. And the average U.S. wage in 2013, the latest figure available, was $44,888, according to the Social Security Administration, up 1.28 percent from 2012. "It isn't just the TV deals," union head Tony Clark wrote in an email to the AP. "From the parity on the field to the fan support & business off it (including the national TV contracts), the industry has never been healthier." Last year, the Dodgers opened at $234 million and ended the New York Yankees' 15-year streak as baseball's biggest spenders. Still seeking their first World Series title since 1988, Los Angeles is No. 1 by a huge margin. The Yankees project to be second at about $215 million, followed by Boston at around $185 million. Detroit is fourth at roughly $170 million - about $100 million less than the Dodgers. Coming off its third World Series title in five years, San Francisco is fifth, about $1 million behind the Tigers. The low rollers are led by Miami (about $65 million), with Houston a few million dollars higher. The large-market Mets are right around $100 million, a mark they haven't reached since 2011. "The industry is doing very well," Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "The owners are making a lot of money and the salaries for the players are going up." Following Kershaw are Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander ($28 million), Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke ($27 million) and injured Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton ($25.4 million). Hamilton has a lengthy history of drug and alcohol abuse, and has been suspended in the past. The AP's figures include salaries and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income for players on active rosters, disabled lists and the restricted list. For some players, parts of deferred money are discounted to reflect current values. Payroll numbers factor in adjustments for cash transactions in trades, signing bonuses that are the responsibility of the club agreeing to the contract, option buyouts, and termination pay for released players. San Diego is receiving $18 million from the Dodgers to cover most of Matt Kemp's salary, and the Marlins are getting about $12.68 million from Los Angeles as part of the seven-player trade that sent Dan Haren to Miami. --- AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 02:11:00 +0000
Lucic's late goal helps Bruins beat Panthers, 3-2

BOSTON (AP) Milan Lucic scored the tiebreaking goal with 1:09 left as Boston rallied to beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 Tuesday night, giving the Bruins two valuable points as the try to hang on to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Tuukka Rask kept the puck out during a final scramble at the buzzer with Florida on a power play and an extra skater for goalie Roberto Luongo. David Pastrnak scored the tying goal midway through the third and had an assist on Lucic's winner. Loui Eriksson also scored and Rask had 22 saves for the Bruins, who moved six points ahead of the Panthers in the late playoff push and maintained at least a three-point lead over Ottawa for the No. 8 seed. Brandon Pirri and Brad Boyes scored in the second period for Forida and Luongo finished with 26 saves.

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 01:58:00 +0000
Saban kicks Alabama RB Tyren Jones off team after his arrest

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Nick Saban has kicked a second Alabama football player off the team, swiftly dismissing reserve running back Tyren Jones following his arrest for marijuana possession. Jones is the third player in Saban's program arrested in the last four days, and the second to be dismissed. Jones was charged Tuesday with possession of marijuana 2nd degree and released on $1,000 bond, Tuscaloosa police said in a news release. Saban announced his dismissal a few hours later. The coach had suspended Jones indefinitely on Feb. 10 "for conduct not to the standard of the Alabama football program." "Tyren Jones was indefinitely suspended from the football program early in the semester," Saban said in a statement. "He was given an opportunity academically and from a team rules standpoint, but he failed to do any of the things necessary to comply with the rules of the Alabama football program. He was dismissed from the team when he refused to follow the parameters given to him for reinstatement." The coach recently has had to deal with several off-field issues. Safety Geno Smith and since-dismissed defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor were arrested on Saturday. Smith was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol for the second time in his Alabama career. Taylor, who had been dismissed from the Georgia team in July following a domestic violence arrest, now faces similar charges stemming from a separate incident in Tuscaloosa. Saban steadfastly defended the January signing of Taylor, which had already drawn criticism, on Monday night. "We've created many opportunities for players through the years and sometimes those things have worked out extremely well," he said. "We're sad to say in this case it didn't and we all take responsibility for that. We have a good program here at Alabama and we have a lot of good players who have done a lot of good things in this community on our team." Not 24 hours later, Saban was forced to deal with another embarrassing incident. Police say Jones and 25-year-old Brandon Lee Hansberry were arrested after an officer stopped a white Dodge Challenger for speeding at 11:27 a.m. Monday. The officer smelled marijuana and found the drug and digital scales inside the vehicle, which belonged to Hansberry, according to the police news release. A small amount of marijuana was found in Jones's pocket. Jones ran for 224 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season. Two other passengers in the vehicle were released without being charged. Hansberry was charged with one count of marijuana 1st degree and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. He had an outstanding charge from Tuscaloosa police and was sent to the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $20,000 bond.

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 23:35:00 +0000
Still scoring after all these years, Ovechkin gets 50th goal

WASHINGTON (AP) Alex Ovechkin is 29, and his hair is flecked with gray nowadays. His coaches and linemates keep changing, as have the ways opponents try to stop him. After 10 years in the NHL, one thing that stays the same about the guy known as Alex the Great: He can get the puck in the net. Putting his name in the company of such past hockey superstars as Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux, Ovechkin is now one of only six players with at least a half-dozen 50-goal seasons. The Russian wing reached that milestone for the sixth time Tuesday night by scoring in the first period of the Washington Capitals' 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. "We're sort of immune to it now, really," Capitals defenseman Mike Green said with a chuckle. "We don't expect it, but it's amazing how he does it every year. It's one of the most difficult things to do, and he seems to find a way to accomplish that, season after season." As the rookie of the year in 2005-06, Ovechkin scored 52 goals. He had a career-best 65 two seasons later, followed by 56, then 50. After three seasons in a row with fewer than 40 goals, he regained his touch a year ago with 51. "Much different than my first year. They give more attention to where we are. They put the best guys, best defensive line, against us," Ovechkin said. "Obviously, if you have two or three shots on net, you have to score one." On Tuesday, he had four shots, and his goal was the 472nd of his career, pulling even with Peter Bondra for the most by a Capitals player. Later against Carolina, Ovechkin recorded his 419th career assist, passing Michal Pivonka for No. 2 in franchise history, three behind current teammate Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin and Backstrom have spent much of their time in the league as linemates, but with the season heading into its final two weeks, first-year Capitals coach Barry Trotz shook things up last weekend, separating his two best offensive threats. How did that work out? In two games alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Joel Ward, Ovechkin has three goals and one assist. Trotz also moved Ovechkin moved back to left wing, his primary position for most of his career. A year ago under previous coach Adam Oates, though, Ovechkin played mostly on the right side. When Oates became the fourth coach to depart the Capitals during Ovechkin's tenure, whispers resurfaced about whether the player was too tough to deal with. Trotz heard that talk - and says now it was unfounded. "It's way better than expectations coming in. All the things that people were telling me were false and untrue. It's been a joy to work with Alex and be a part of the same group that he's with," Trotz said. "It's been really enlightening to me, and I'm trying to make it enlightening to everybody else that this is a good hockey player that can do some special things." Only Gretzky and Bossy, with nine 50-goal seasons each, have reached the half-century mark more often than Ovechkin. Lemieux, Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafleur had six apiece. "I mean, the potential there to put up staggering numbers, all-time numbers, is incredible. He's almost at 500 before he's 30 years old," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "And his game has changed, too. Even defenses have changed. He's done it on the left side; he's done it on the right side. ... He's a treat to play beside." --- Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 06:44:00 +0000
Source: Mullin to replace Lavin at St. John's

NEW YORK (AP) St. John's has decided its basketball future rests with the best of its past. Chris Mullin, St. John's all-time leading scorer and still the face of its basketball program three decades after his career ended, has agreed to coach the Red Storm, a person with knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no formal announcement. Mullin, who led St. John's to the Final Four in 1985, has never coached at any level. He replaces Steve Lavin who agreed to leave last week, after five seasons during which the Red Storm reached the NCAA Tournament twice. Lavin had an 81-55 record at St. John's and the Red Storm went to the NCAA Tournament in his first and last seasons. His teams compiled a 2-9 postseason record in the Big East Tournament, NCAA and NIT. Lavin had one year left on his original six-year contract. Mullin, a New York native, was a five-time All-Star with Golden State, a member of the USA's gold-medal winning "Dream Team" in 1992 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. He was presented for induction by his coach at St. John's, Hall of Famer Lou Carnesecca. "This is a great day for St. John's, the whole university," Carnesecca said Monday. "He has always represented St. John's well and I'm sure he'll do a fine job as coach. People seem to be worried about his lack of coaching experience but how many people have had the basketball education he has?" It was during Mullin's years at St. John's that the program enjoyed its greatest days. Mullin and Georgetown's Patrick Ewing were the key parts of the early domination of the Big East Conference. In 1985 the Big East had three Final Four teams, St. John's, Georgetown and national champion Villanova. The Redmen and Hoyas were both ranked No. 1 during the season. Mullin and his sweet left-handed jumper became part of the lore of New York City basketball. The agreement was first reported by CBS Sports Network.

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:28:00 +0000
Bryant sent to minors by Cubs; union threatens litigation

MESA, Ariz. (AP) Third baseman Kris Bryant was reassigned by the Chicago Cubs to their minor league camp on Monday despite an outstanding spring training at the plate, triggering a threat of litigation from the players' association. Bryant hit .425 in the exhibition season with nine homers and 15 RBIs in 40 at-bats. If the 23-year-old spends 12 or more days in the minor leagues, Chicago would delay him from becoming eligible for free agency by one year, until after the 2021 season, according to baseball's collective bargaining agreement. "Today is a bad day for baseball," the Major League Baseball Players Association said in a statement. "I think we all know that even if Kris Bryant were a combination of the greatest players to play our game, and perhaps he will be before it's all said and done, the Cubs still would have made the decision they made today. This decision, and other similar decisions made by clubs will be addressed in litigation, bargaining or both." Major League Baseball defended the Cubs' decision. "In accordance with long established practice under the Basic Agreement, a club has an unfettered right to determine which players are part of its opening-day roster," MLB said in a statement. "This issue was discussed extensively in bargaining in 2011, and the principle was not changed. We do not believe that it is appropriate for the players' association to make the determination that Kris Bryant should be on the Cubs' 25-man roster while another player, who, unlike Bryant, is a member of its bargaining unit, should be cut or sent to the minor leagues." Bryant, who is not on the 40-man roster, was slowed defensively in the middle of camp by right shoulder soreness. "It's always difficult to send young players down because it is news they don't want to hear," Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said. "We entered camp with the presumptive move of sending him to Triple-A, and it is always the presumptive move for us with young players who haven't played in the big leagues yet. You see how camp develops and how the roster shapes up to see if there is grounds for an exception to the rule." Bryant was not available to discuss the move. His agent, Scott Boras, called it "Ersatz Baseball." "MLB is not the MLB without the best players," Boras said in a text message to The Associated Press. "Kris excelled at every level and earned the right of entry. The CBA is at the apogee of wrongs incentivizing clubs to create a product less than best. Bryant's situation is the badge for change to the CBA player service structure." Preparing for its first season under manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs selected the contract of left-hander Phil Coke from Triple-A Iowa, optioned second baseman Javy Baez to Iowa and reassigned shortstop Addison Russell were assigned to minor league camp. Coke gets a $2.25 million, one-year contract and the chance to earn $950,000 in performance bonuses based on games: $100,000 for 35 and each additional five through 55, and $150,000 each for 60, 65 and 70. The demotion of Bryant was expected. "In this case it was the right thing to do," Epstein said. "His performance really mattered, and he made a great first impression on Joe. It demonstrated clearly to everybody that he is really close to not just being in the big leagues but an important role on the team." Chicago is seeking its first World Series title since 1908. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you wouldn't like to have him in your lineup," Maddon said. "He's also 23. I'm looking forward to working with this guy for the next 15 years. He's a brilliant talent. I'm not going to sit here and say things that are disingenuous. This guy is good. He's going to be really good." Baez, 22, was competing for the starting second-base job. He entered Monday's game against San Francisco hitting .173 with 20 strikeouts in 52 at-bats "He is so close to getting it figured out in the batter's box and we feel like Triple-A is the right venue for him to continue making those adjustments and get locked in," Epstein said. "He does everything else so well on the baseball field, he is a winning baseball player. He just has to take that same mindset in the batter's box." Baez was originally in the lineup against the Giants at Sloan Park on Monday but was replaced by Jonathan Herrera at second base and No. 9 in the lineup shortly before first pitch. One of things Maddon has praised Baez for is how he has stayed focused defensively and on the base paths despite the struggles with the bat. "Whatever happens at the plate happens," Baez said Monday morning before learning his fate. "I don't take whatever happens at the plate to my defense because I have to play good defense for my pitcher and my whole team." Russell, 21, was acquired from Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija trade on July 5. He hit .324 in 37 at-bats during spring training. "I couldn't tell him what to work on," Maddon said. "He is that accomplished at that age. I asked to him keep doing what he is doing." Epstein and Maddon both said there were heated debates on the decisions when it came to Baez and Bryant. "In a healthy organization there should be different opinions expressed, bounce ideas off each other, talk about different aspects of the game and how you weigh different variables," Epstein said. "These players were new to Joe so he is seeing them for the first time and we couldn't have had a healthier debate about it and in the end we all agreed. I think I could probably be in this game for a long time and not send down three players that talented on the same day ever again. Those three are pretty good."

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:26:00 +0000
David Ortiz defends his reputation in column

Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is certain on this point: "I never knowingly took any steroids." And this, too: "I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame." The remarks by the 39-year-old designated hitter came in a column Thursday for The Players' Tribune, a website founded by Derek Jeter that gives professional athletes a platform. Ortiz also voiced his displeasure that he will "always be considered a cheater" to his detractors. He contends that nobody in baseball has been tested more often for performance-enhancing drugs - more than 80 times since 2004. "I have never failed a single one of those tests and I never will," Ortiz wrote. In 2009, the New York Times reported Ortiz was on a list of 104 players who allegedly tested positive during Major League Baseball's 2003 survey of steroid use - results that were supposed to be anonymous. Ortiz later said he wound up on the list because he used nutritional supplements and was careless about their contents. "Most guys were taking over-the-counter supplements then. Most guys are still taking over-the-counter supplements. If it's legal, ballplayers take it," Ortiz wrote. "Why? Because if you make it to the World Series, you play 180 games. Really think about that for a second. 180 games. Your kids could be sick, your wife could be yelling at you, your dad could be dying - nobody cares. "Nobody cares if you have a bone bruise in your wrist or if you have a pulled groin. You're an entertainer. The people want to see you hit a 95-mile-an-hour fastball over a damn 37-foot wall." Ortiz said he had two drug testers arrive early at his house in the Dominican Republic one day over the offseason. His kids are so used to them showing up, he said, they were laughing and taking pictures as the testers drew Ortiz's blood in the kitchen. Ortiz said to them: "Let me tell you something. The only thing you're going to find in my blood is rice and beans." Added Ortiz: "In some people's minds, I will always be considered a cheater," emphasizing his point with an expletive. Ortiz is a .285 hitter with 466 career homers and 1,533 RBIs. He believes his numbers are Hall of Fame worthy. "I've won three World Series since MLB introduced comprehensive drug testing. I've performed year after year after year. But if a bunch of writers who have never swung a bat want to tell me it's all for nothing, OK. Why do they write my legacy?" Ortiz wrote. "In 75 years, when I'm dead and gone, I won't care if I'm in the Hall of Fame. I won't care if a bunch of baseball writers know the truth about who I am in my soul and what I have done in this game. I care that my children know the truth." Big Papi said his mental preparation was one of his biggest attributes. "They're only going to remember my power," Ortiz wrote. "They're not going to remember the hours and hours and hours of work in the film room. They're not going to remember the BP. They're not going to remember me for my intelligence. "Despite all I've done in this game, I'm just the big DH from the Dominican. They turn you into a character, man."

Sat, 28 Mar 2015 01:07:00 +0000