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Kane leads Blackhawks past Blues, 4-3 in OT

CHICAGO (AP) Patrick Kane scored his second goal of the game at 11:17 of overtime, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3 on Wednesday night to even their first-round playoff series at two games apiece. Kane carried the puck down the left side as teammates Ben Smith and Brandon Saad rushed toward the net, and beat Ryan Miller with a well-placed wrist shot for his 32nd career postseason goal. Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell also scored for defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, which blew a 2-0 second-period lead. Jonathan Toews had two assists and Corey Crawford made 30 saves. Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night in St. Louis.

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 04:57:00 +0000
Stars even with Ducks after 4-2 win in Game 4

DALLAS (AP) The young Dallas Stars keep overcoming early 2-0 deficits. With their latest comeback in Game 4, they are now even with the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks. Down in the series after losing the first two games in Anaheim, the Stars trailed by two goals in the first period Wednesday night before captain Jaime Benn started the comeback with an unassisted goal off a faceoff. Cody Eakin and Alex Goligoski later scored on Dallas' first two shots in the third period for a 4-2 victory. "We've done that a lot and it's not something we like to do. Whether it's the start of games or obviously the start of the series," Eakin said. "Our captain kind of ignited us. And we started skating and playing the way we wanted to." While the Stars overcame a two-goal deficit to win a playoff game for the first time in 10 years, Anaheim heads home for Game 5 with uncertainty about captain Ryan Getzlaf and questions about who will be in net Friday night. Eakin skated the length of the ice, got around a sliding defender, closed his eyes and shot just before his stick got ripped out of his hands. His go-ahead goal with 13:38 left came before Goligoski scored on the Stars' next shot only 1:22 later, making it 4-2 and prompting the Ducks to pull rookie goalie Frederik Andersen. "When you get the one goal and people start going crazy, it makes it easier to get the next one and the next one and just keep battling," said Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 21 shots. "And we were lucky to get those goals. It's not easy to score four straight against that team." Getzlaf was a surprise late scratch for Game 4 with an unspecified upper-body injury, and coach Bruce Boudreau would only say it was "a previous injury aggravated." What the coach refused to say was if it was related to the puck Getzlaf took the face in the series opener before playing Games 2 and 3 with a half-cage to protect the stitches just below his mouth. Even without Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, the 43-year-old franchise playoff leader who was a healthy scratch, the Ducks led 2-0 in the first period. Bryan Allen scored on a shot from just inside the blue line, and Patrick Maroon knocked in the puck shot by Matthieu Perreault that hit Lehtonen's glove and fell over the goalie's shoulder behind him. But only 27 seconds into the second period, Benn scored when he gathered the puck after a faceoff and quickly shot. About 6 minutes later, Vernon Fiddler managed to get the puck in a small gap between the post and Andersen to tie it at 2. Just like Game 3, after which the Ducks insisted that the Stars went over their line with their over-aggressive approach, there were plenty of scrums Wednesday night. With 2:10 left, Anaheim's Corey Perry and Antoine Roussel got in some big blows before being separated and given 5-minute majors for fighting. It was Roussel who punched Getzlaf in the previous game. There were also five 10-minute misconduct penalties in that closing stretch, and referees had to separate several groups of players when the game ended. "That's the type of stuff that's their pushback, it's our pushback," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I really feel like we're in a playoff series now." Andersen was pulled in favor of Jonas Hiller, the veteran who won 29 games during the Ducks' best regular season in franchise history before a late slump that left him on the bench. Hiller faced only one shot in his 10 1/2 minutes, and Boudreau said he would discuss the goalie situation with his assistants before deciding who starts Friday night. "I felt a little bit off. It was a shock on the first one, and the second one snuck by me. I was expecting (Fiddler) to pass," Andersen said. "They came out of nowhere in the second. We weren't ready for their push." NOTES: The series returns Sunday to the American Airlines Center for Game 6. ... Benn and Fiddler each had a goal and an assist. Benn has three goals and two assists in the series, and has scored in every game. ... Lehtonen was 0-4 in postseason games before the Stars won 3-0 Monday, and stopped 58 of 60 shots in the two home games.

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 07:13:00 +0000
Dubinsky, Foligno lift CBJ to 1st home playoff win

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Brandon Dubinsky scored with 22.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Nick Foligno's wrist shot just inside the blue line 2:49 into the extra session gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. The Blue Jackets overcame a 3-0 deficit for their first home playoff victory in the franchise's 13 seasons, sending the series back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Saturday night tied 2-2. Craig Adams, Chris Kunitz, James Neal scored in a span of 5:01 of the first period to stake the Penguins to a 3-0 lead. But Ryan Johansen and Dubinsky each had a goal and an assist and Boone Jenner also scored for Columbus, making only its second postseason trip. It was the fourth time in the series that the team that scored first - and also went on to hold a 3-1 lead - lost. With the Penguins hanging on to a 3-2 lead in the third period, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made a big save on Matt Calvert's second shot in a flurry. Calvert later got behind Brooks Orpik on a breakaway and his forehand clanged off the crossbar, setting off a loud groan in the arena. But Fleury was the culprit when he went behind the cage to handle Jack Johnson's pass around the boards in the final minute. He whiffed trying to handle the puck and was stuck out of position, allowing Johansen to slide a centering pass through the crease where Dubinsky netted it with 22.5 seconds left. What followed was the loudest sound heard in the Blue Jackets' mostly dismal 13 seasons. In the overtime, the Blue Jackets had the best of it - as they had for all but the start. Foligno carried the puck through the neutral zone and was just across the blue line when he fired a low wrister that he tucked under Fleury's glove. As the players piled on top of Foligno, the crowd went crazy. Fleury had been brilliant throughout the third period, finishing with 42 saves. His Columbus counterpart, Sergei Bobrovsky, also was spectacular at times with 22 saves. The Penguins rolled to a quick 3-0 lead and ended up with a dreaded 3-1 lead after a period - and once again it vanished. Just 11 seconds after Jussi Jokinen was called for hooking, the Penguins took advantage of a James Wisniewski turnover near the blue line with Brandon Sutter carrying the puck through the neutral zone on a 2-on-1 break with Adams. Sutter flipped a backhander to Adams, whose rising shot from the right circle beat Bobrovsky high on the stick side at the 6:09 mark. Pittsburgh quieted a loud capacity crowd with two goals in the span of 33 seconds in the middle of the opening period. While on the power play after Derek MacKenzie went off for roughing, Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Niskanen's rocket from the right point was redirected by Kunitz. Before the details of that goal could be announced, the Penguins won another faceoff in the offensive zone and Jokinen then beat the Blue Jackets' R.J. Umberger to a loose puck. He tapped the puck with his outstretched stick toward the right hash mark where Neal unloaded a hard one-timer past Bobrovsky. It was the first goals of the series for Adams, Kunitz and Neal, who combined for 67 goals in the regular season. The Blue Jackets played well to close out the period. Their kill unit held off the Penguins on just over a minute of 5 on 3 and killed off two more penalties. Then at the 16:39 mark, former Penguin Mark Letestu's shot from the high slot was tipped in by Jenner, who had his back to Fleury as he muscled the puck past him. Columbus dominated the second period, scoring the only goal and outshooting the Penguins 18-6. A double-minor penalty on Lee Stempniak for high sticking eventually led to the Blue Jackets scoring again, this time with a two-man advantage. The Penguins killed the first 2 minutes of the 4-minute penalty, but picked up another minor penalty when Sutter was called for delay of game. From low on the right wing, Brandon Dubinsky slid a centering pass that Artem Anisimov was able to deflect toward the goal line, with Johansen jamming in the loose puck at the 14:20 mark. On yet another power play with just 5 seconds left in the period, the Blue Jackets almost got the tying goal but the puck bounced over Cam Atkinson's stick when he had a wide open net. From the time the Penguins built their 3-0 lead until the end of the second period, they were outshot 25-8. Notes: The NHL announced earlier Wednesday that Game 5 will start at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Pittsburgh. ... Columbus was without rookie D Ryan Murray, who was wearing a boot after being hit with a puck in practice. Veteran Nick Schultz took his spot. ... Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said he was hopeful C Marcel Goc (ankle) may be able to play in the series. ... Likely NHL MVP Crosby has not scored a goal in his last nine playoff games and Evgeni Malkin hasn't found the net in his last eight. --- Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 02:16:00 +0000
Heat go up 2-0, hold off Bobcats 101-97

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James scored 32 points and added eight assists, Chris Bosh scored 20 points and the Miami Heat held on to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 101-97 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series. Dwyane Wade scored 15 points, and had a steal in the final seconds to help seal the win for Miami. Mario Chalmers added 11 for the Heat. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 22 points for Charlotte, which got 18 points and 13 rebounds from Al Jefferson, who played through a left plantar fascia strain and shot 9 for 23 from the floor. Kemba Walker added 16 and Gerald Henderson scored 15 for the Bobcats. Game 3 is Saturday night in Charlotte. The Bobcats were down three with 10 seconds left, but never got a tying shot off. Wade stole the ball from Chris Douglas-Roberts with 3 seconds left, made a free throw and that was enough for the Heat - who wasted a big first-half lead, then saw another one in the fourth quarter get whittled down to nearly nothing. It's hard to find any good news for Charlotte, between this two-game hole and the ongoing injury concerns revolving around their best player. Not only have the Bobcats lost 18 straight games to Miami, but the Heat have never dropped any of the previous 11 postseason series in which they've grabbed a 2-0 series lead. James, between his time in Cleveland and Miami, is 11-0 in such situations. Wade has been part of nine previous 2-0 leads with the Heat, and six of those series ended in no more than five games. Miami's lead was 91-77 midway through the fourth, and after blowing a big first-half lead it appeared as though the Heat finally had some breathing room. A few minutes later, it looked a whole lot different. Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Douglas-Roberts combined for all the damage in a 10-0 run, getting the Bobcats within 91-87. But Bosh hit a jumper to stop Miami's scoreless drought, the Heat followed that with a stop, and Bosh struck again on the ensuing possession with a drive that pushed the Heat's lead back to eight with 3:36 remaining. With that, it was Charlotte's turn - five straight points, with Jefferson scoring with 1:42 left to make it 97-94. And Douglas-Roberts had a chance to tie it with 1:09 left, but his 3-pointer bounced off the rim. After a free throw by James, Walker hit a 3 with 11.9 seconds left to get Charlotte within one. But James swished a pair of free throws moments later, Wade came up with the steal, and Miami escaped. Miami led 57-47 at the half, and the Bobcats - who missed 17 of their first 22 shots - were fortunate not to be in bigger trouble. Jefferson was obviously laboring in the early going and missed seven of his first eight shots, part of the reason why the Heat were able to run out to a 36-21 lead with 9:50 left in the half. Chalmers - whose availability was in doubt until about an hour before game time because of a bruised shin - scored 11 of those points, and the Heat seemed to be rolling. Charlotte thought otherwise. A 14-2 run got the Bobcats right back into it, with Jefferson getting consecutive baskets and Kidd-Gilchrist scoring seven points to help the Bobcats close the gap to 38-35. But James Jones, who came up big off the bench for Miami in Game 1, hit a 3-pointer to stop the run and the Heat's lead was quickly back to 16, before late 3's by Gary Neal and Walker got Charlotte within 10 again. Things tightened more in the third. The Heat led by as much as 11 during the period, before Charlotte got within four twice. Miami led 79-72 entering the fourth. NOTES: James has signed a deal with William Morris, which will represent him in entertainment-related projects. "It's been in the works," said James, who added that his management team was handling the deal so he could focus on the playoffs. ... Game 3 will be Charlotte's first playoff home game since April 26, 2010, against Orlando. No current Bobcats appeared in that game - but Heat F Rashard Lewis did, playing for Orlando.

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 01:53:00 +0000
Aldridge's 43 lifts Blazers over Rockets 112-105

HOUSTON (AP) LaMarcus Aldridge scored 43 points and Damian Lillard made six free throws down the stretch to give the Portland Trail Blazers a 112-105 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night and a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series. James Harden knocked down a 3-pointer with about 30 seconds left to get the Rockets within three. Lillard made two free throws before Harden fouled out about 10 seconds later. Mo Williams and Lillard both made a pair of free throws after that to secure the win. Aldridge became the first player with consecutive 40-point games in the playoffs since LeBron James did it in May of 2009 after scoring a career-high and franchise playoff-record 46 in an overtime win in Game 1. Dwight Howard was unstoppable early and scored 25 points in the first half, but managed just seven in the second half.

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 04:44:00 +0000
Mavs roll past Spurs 113-92, even series at 1-1

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Monta Ellis scored 21 points and the Dallas Mavericks rolled to a 113-92 victory over San Antonio on Wednesday night, snapping a 10-game skid against the Spurs and evening their first-round series at a game apiece. Shawn Marion scored 20 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 16, Devin Harris had 18 and Jose Calderon 12 for Dallas, which never trailed after the opening minutes of the second quarter. Manu Ginobili had 27 points, Tony Parker added 12 and Tim Duncan 11 for the Spurs. Dallas didn't relent in Game 2 after blowing a 10-point lead in the final eight minutes of the series opener. San Antonio's ineptness had as much to do with tying the series, however. The Spurs averaged 14.4 turnovers during the regular season, but had 15 with 3 minutes left in the first half. They finished with 22 turnovers, which resulted in 33 points for the Mavericks. Dallas was extremely physical in the first half whenever Parker and Ginobili drove the lane, much to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich's dismay when no fouls were called - not that it mattered when they were. San Antonio finished 18 for 29 on free throws. The Mavericks attacked the basket with the same intensity, finishing with 44 points. San Antonio pulled within 61-56 with 8:38 remaining in the third quarter when Kawhi Leonard made two of three free throws, but it was the closest it would get in the second half. Nowitzki finished 7 for 19 after missing his first six attempts. NOTES: Popovich received a standing ovation before the game after being recognized as the NBA Coach of the Year. Spurs owner Peter Holt presented Popovich with the Red Auerbach trophy, which he has won three times. ... After assigning Spurs nemesis Joey Crawford to officiate Game 1, the league had Danny Crawford on hand for Game 2 to the chagrin of the Mavericks' fans. But just as in the opener, both officials reserved most calls and non-calls for the opposition. Crawford's lack of calls led Popovich to scream at Crawford throughout the first half. ... Academy Award-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones sat courtside beside Holt. ... Nowitzki was assessed a technical foul with 1:38 remaining in the first half after Ginobili was fouled by Marion on a 3-point attempt. Marion touched Ginobili's hip as he released the ball, but the Argentian appeared to exaggerate the contact when he fell to the floor. ... After scrambling to capture a loose ball under the basket, Tiago Splitter flung an overhead, two-handed no-look pass to an open Ginobili for a 3-pointer with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter.

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 02:51:00 +0000
Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

NEW YORK (AP) Mike McCarthy promises there won't be any bad memories plaguing his Green Bay Packers when they open the NFL season on Sept. 4 at Super Bowl champion Seattle. The last time Green Bay visited CenturyLink Field was in Week 3 of the 2012 season, a 14-12 Seahawks victory clinched on what now is often dubbed the "Fail Mary." Russell Wilson's desperation pass on the final play was called a touchdown reception for Golden Tate by the replacement officials. A few days later, the lockout of the regular officials ended. "This game won't be about the past," he said. "It will be about the 2014 Green Bay Packers. It's the third straight season the Packers have traveled to face the defending Super Bowl champions. "It's a tremendous opportunity for our football team," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We have experience playing in the kickoff opener three years ago, and we will draw on that. Obviously, being the visiting team this time presents new challenges. It will help sharpen our focus even more during training camp and the preseason." That Thursday game is the first of four prime-time games on opening weekend. Also at night will be a Sunday matchup of AFC champion Denver and Peyton Manning hosting his former team, Indianapolis; and a Monday night doubleheader with the New York Giants at Detroit, followed by San Diego at Arizona. The NFL will play three games in London: Dolphins-Raiders on Sept. 28; Lions-Falcons on Oct. 26; and Cowboys-Jaguars on Nov. 9. The Detroit-Atlanta game will kick off at 9:30 a.m. ET in an experiment to test the NFL's audience draw on a Sunday morning. A Saturday doubleheader in Week 16 has San Diego at San Francisco and Philadelphia at Washington. For the first time, games in Weeks 5 through 10 can be flexed from Sunday afternoon to night, with a limit of two. Beginning with Week 11, a Sunday game can be moved to prime time each week. Also, a select number of Sunday afternoon games are being "cross-flexed," moving between CBS and Fox to potentially draw more viewers. The Thanksgiving tripleheader features three strong division rivalries: Chicago at Detroit, Philadelphia at Dallas, and Seattle at San Francisco, a rematch of the memorable NFC title game last January. That game will be played in 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., which opens in Week 2 when they host Chicago in a Sunday night match. Looking for the latest installment of Manning vs. Tom Brady? The Patriots host it on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 2. And for those looking for the rematch of the Super Bowl, Seattle's 43-8 rout of Denver, it's on Sept. 21 at Seattle. Denver opens the season against three 2013 playoff teams: Indianapolis and Kansas City at home, then at the Seahawks. "I think when you look at it, we have to start fast," Broncos general manager John Elway said. "We knew it was going to be a tough schedule playing the NFC West, and when we finish first in our division like we have the past three years, it is always going to be a tough schedule with a lot of good football teams on it." Bye weeks begin in Week 4 when Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Seattle and St. Louis are off. They end in Week 12 when Carolina and Pittsburgh are idle. The season ends Dec. 28 with all divisional games. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 01:32:00 +0000
Pineda tossed for pine tar; Red Sox beat Yanks 5-1

BOSTON (AP) Michael Pineda was ejected for using a foreign substance less than two weeks after appearing to get away with it in another game against Boston, and the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 5-1 on Wednesday night. The right-hander was thrown out in the second inning when plate umpire Gerry Davis found a shiny substance on the right side of Pineda's neck after Red Sox manager John Farrell asked him to check. Pineda walked from the mound without protest. "When it's that obvious, something has got to be said," Farrell explained after the game. "Our awareness was heightened, given what we had seen in the past." Pineda (2-2) had nothing on the right side of his neck in a photo of him on the mound in his tough first inning, when four of the first six batters reached on hits. Another photo taken in the second showed a shiny horizontal substance on his upper neck below his right ear. After Pineda struck out the first two batters and had a 1-2 count on Grady Sizemore, Farrell talked to Davis. The umpire went to the mound, looked at the ball then touched the substance on Pineda's neck with his right index finger. Then he gestured with that same finger, indicating Pineda's ejection. Rule 8.02(b) says a pitcher shall not "have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game. In addition, the pitcher shall be suspended automatically." "We will talk to the umpires tomorrow and review their report before taking any action," Major League Baseball spokesman Michael Teevan said. In recent suspensions of pitchers for pine tar, Tampa Bay's Joel Peralta was penalized eight games in 2012, the Los Angeles Angels' Brendan Donnelly 10 days in 2005 and St. Louis' Julian Tavarez 10 days in 2004. The suspensions of Donnelly and Tavarez were cut to eight days after they asked the players' association to appeal, and Peralta dropped his challenge with no reduction. In Pineda's previous start against the Red Sox, a 4-1 Yankees win in New York on April 10, television cameras caught Pineda with what appeared to be sticky pine tar on his hand on a cool night. Farrell didn't see a photograph of Pineda's hand until the fourth inning; when Pineda came out to warm up for the fifth, his hand was clean. Pineda said the dark substance was dirt but it sparked debate about pitchers' use of sticky substances to get a better grip on cool nights. On Wednesday, with the game time temperature at 50 degrees, Sizemore started the first with a triple and scored on Dustin Pedroia's single. With one out, Mike Napoli singled Pedroia to third. After Mike Carp flied to left, A.J. Pierzynski singled up the middle, scoring Pedroia. After Pineda's ejection, David Phelps came in and completed the strikeout of Sizemore. John Lackey (3-2) allowed one run and seven hits in eight innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks. Koji Uehara struck out three in the ninth in a non-save situation. The previous time Lackey faced the Yankees he allowed four homers in a 7-2 loss on April 12. On Wednesday, he struck out the side in the third then had two strikeouts in each of the next two innings. Mike Napoli had three hits and Boston scored two runs in the first and two more in the third. The Yankees scored on Alfonso Soriano's sacrifice fly in the sixth. NOTES: Boston Marathon men's champion Meb Keflezighi threw out the ceremonial first pitch wearing a Red Sox jersey with the name "MEB" and the number "26.2" on the back, the mileage distance of the race. ... Ortiz played in his 1,643rd game as a designated hitter, matching Harold Baines' major-league record. ... Boston sent OF Daniel Nava to Triple-A Pawtucket and recalled RHP Alex Wilson. ... In the finale of the three-game series Thursday night, New York's CC Sabathia (2-2) pitches against Felix Doubront (1-2).

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 02:38:00 +0000
Wild's Matt Cooke gets 7-game suspension from NHL

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The NHL cracked down hard on Matt Cooke, suspending the Minnesota Wild left wing for seven games Wednesday for his knee-to-knee hit that injured Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie. Cooke was at the league office in New York for a hearing about the incident, and his punishment finally was announced more than eight hours later. The Avalanche lead the Wild 2-1 with Game 4 looming Thursday, so Cooke will be out for this first-round series and more. If the term of the ban isn't finished during the playoffs, Cooke must complete it at the beginning of the next regular season. He played a key part for the Wild in Game 3 in quieting Avalanche stars Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny and Gabe Landeskog, matching up against that line often. Cooke was all over the ice Monday, colliding with almost every white Colorado jersey he could get close enough to and providing Minnesota plenty of energy in a game it had to win. But Cooke crossed the line, the league ruled, by sticking out his knee to clip Barrie in open ice early in the second period. Barrie, who ducked to his right in attempt to avoid the collision, tumbled over in immediate pain. He suffered a medial collateral ligament injury to his left knee and will need four to six weeks to recover. "I think everyone is pretty informed on what he does out there and what he's done in the past, and I think that speaks for itself," Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson said Wednesday before the punishment was levied. "There's no place for that in the game. Look at the guy who he hit: one of our top `D.' He's going to be out for the foreseeable future." Added Johnson: "I don't even know if there's a place for him in this game. It's disgusting what he's done to guys' careers." This is Cooke's sixth career suspension for various player safety violations, bringing his total of games banned to 34, including playoffs. He has also been fined four times. Four of his suspensions came between 2008 and 2011, his first three years with Pittsburgh, but since vowing to change his style his penalty minutes have dropped sharply. This was his first banishment in more than three years, meaning he wasn't considered a repeat offender according to the collective bargaining agreement. That didn't mean the NHL couldn't account for that past pattern, however. In an explanatory video posted on the league website, it cited Cooke's history in determining the punishment in addition to the position of his knee, his intent to make contact, the amount of force he applied and the significance of the injury to Barrie. Cooke began striding toward Barrie well before they collided and had the play entirely in front of him. Cooke further extended his knee after Barrie released the puck. Though the NHL acknowledged Barrie's attempt to evade contact might have worsened his injury, it said that "should have been entirely predictable to Cooke." The Wild will replace Cooke on the third line centered by Erik Haula and flanked by Justin Fontaine with Nino Niederreiter, whose place on the fourth line will be taken by Kyle Brodziak, a healthy scratch in Game 3. "As the year's gone on, we've lost some guys here and there and we've always had guys step up so that's been the strength of our team," Haula said after practice Wednesday in anticipation of Cooke's absence. "I don't have any doubt that it'll happen again." Said captain Mikko Koivu of Cooke: "He's a big piece of this team. The way he plays, he gives confidence to the whole team. But we're going to support him whatever happens. Now it's a chance for somebody else to come into the lineup and do that job for us . in a different way." --- Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 02:06:00 +0000
Pacers say practice got physical before Game 1

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner were unified on three points Wednesday. Yes, they scrapped during a practice before Game 1 of their first-round series against Atlanta. No, they didn't throw any punches. And, for now, everything seems to be OK. Pacers players and coaches all described the physical confrontation between Stephenson and Turner through their own prisms, but nobody - including Stephenson and Turner - called it a fight. "We got in a little scuffle, but it was just practice related," Stephenson said. "No blows, just hard playing and getting ready for the playoffs. I mean I've got no problem with him." The descriptions varied about what happened in the lead up to the first game against Atlanta. While Stephenson called it a "scuffle," Turner and Vogel both said the players got "tangled up." Paul George explained it as two guys "bumping heads." Yahoo! Sports, which first reported the encounter, said fists were involved. Whatever happened, Turner had two visibly large scratch marks on the side of his neck when he entered Saturday night's game, which the Pacers lost. But the only thing that seemed to matter to the Pacers on Wednesday was getting back to work. They tied the series with a Game 2 win Tuesday night, then headed to Atlanta following practice. "Every team goes through that," All-Star center Roy Hibbert said. "Sometimes, you've got to get things off your chest instead of letting things fester." For the Pacers, it's just the latest distraction in a postseason that has been full of them. Critics have questioned their toughness, their penchant for turnovers, their lineup choices, even whether they're worthy of being the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed after a second-half swoon. Losing Game 1 only amplified those voices. Winning Game 2 didn't quiet the chorus, either. Hours after the reported spat between Stephenson and Turner leaked, ESPN.com cited an unidentified source who said Vogel was "coaching for his job." Vogel did spend 25 minutes, more than usual, talking to Larry Bird, the Pacers' president of basketball operations, after practice. But Vogel sure didn't sound like a man who was overly concerned. "It's the NBA, we're all coaching for our jobs," Vogel said, smiling. "All I know is that I've got incredible support from Larry and we're trying to win games." Nor did he seem worried about the encounter between Stephenson and Turner, who acknowledged there was nothing personal about it. "I think if a team is struggling and guys don't get scrappy, that's bad," Vogel said.

Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:58:00 +0000