Update on the latest in sports:
Second round begins
UNDATED (AP) – The second round of the NHL playoffs starts Thursday night with two games.
The Boston Bruins will have home-ice advantage as long as they last in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They have Columbus to thank for that. The Blue Jackets swept the Presidents Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. Now Columbus and Boston meet for the first time ever in the postseason.
The Dallas Stars face the Blues in St. Louis. Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars will now be the goalie trying to beat St. Louis in the playoffs after growing up rooting for the Blues. Bishop was drafted by the Blues and made his NHL debut with them. The Stars and Blues both advanced to the Western Conference semifinals by beating higher-seeded teams.
Spurs seek a Game 7 while Nuggets look to advance
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich goes to the playoffs every season, and he usually sticks around for a while. The Spurs have never gone back-to-back years without a trip to the second round of the playoffs during the Popovich era. But the Denver Nuggets are one win away from changing that. They take a 3-2 lead into San Antonio for Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round series on Thursday night.
The second-seeded Nuggets are looking to advance to a West semifinals matchup against third-seeded Portland, while the seventh-seeded Spurs are trying to send this series back to Denver for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Saturday night.
The Spurs-Nuggets matchup is the only game on Thursday’s NBA schedule.
Blue Jays ready to debut promising slugger
UNDATED (AP) – Vladimir Guerrero (guh-REHR’-oh) Jr. is set to make his much-anticipated major league debut. The Toronto Blue Jays will promote their promising slugger before Friday’s game against the Oakland Athletics. The 20-year-old son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero was the consensus top-ranked prospect in baseball entering this season. He missed the start of the season after an oblique injury in spring training and played eight games for Triple-A Buffalo, batting .367 with three homers and eight RBIs.
In other baseball news:
– The defending the National League Central champions are turning to a familiar face. Milwaukee has agreed to a one-year contract that will guarantee left-hander Gio Gonzalez $2 million, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The 33-year-old Gonzalez was 10-11 with a 4.21 ERA last season for Washington and Milwaukee, which acquired him on Aug. 31. Milwaukee starters have gone 8-7 with a 5.84 ERA this season, and it’s the only team in the National League whose starters average less than five innings per game.
– Shohei Ohtani (SHOH’-hay oh-TAH’-nee) won’t be a two-way player this year, but he’s on track to get back in the Angels lineup soon. Last year’s American League Rookie of the Year, who’s coming off Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch again until 2020, made four plate appearances Wednesday in a simulated game. Ohtani is expected to face about a week of live pitching before he rejoins the Angels. The Angels have long projected that he would return as their designated hitter in early May.
Tonight in MLB action
UNDATED (AP) – Cleveland begins a four-game series at Houston on Thursday night, the Indians’ first crack at the Astros since Houston’s three-game sweep in last year’s American League Division Series.
Trevor Bauer starts for Cleveland in the opener. Gerrit Cole, who got tagged for nine runs, eight earned, in 4 1/3 innings in his previous start, takes the mound for Houston.
The Astros won 10 consecutive games earlier this month to get back near the top of the American League West, and Cleveland ended a three-game losing streak – and got four RBIs from slumping leadoff man Jose Ramirez – with a victory over Miami on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Cubs ace left-hander Jon Lester gets the start against the Dodgers Thursday at Wrigley Field, returning to the lineup after being sidelined due to a strained left hamstring. Chicago manager Joe Maddon says Lester will be limited to about 75-80 pitches in his first outing since April 8, when he was hurt running the bases in the home opener against Pittsburgh. Lester is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in three starts. Right-hander Ross Stripling starts for Los Angeles.
Draft starts in Music City
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The NFL draft gets underway in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, Thursday night.
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, who won the Heisman Trophy, is considered likely to go to Arizona as the top overall pick.
The early selections are expected to be dominated by defensive players such as Nick Bosa of Ohio State, Quinnen Williams of Alabama, Josh Allen of Kentucky and Devin White of LSU. Both are expected to be gone in the top 20 or so.
Not long ago, drafting a tight end in the first round was taboo for NFL teams. But this year, two might go very high – and they come from the same school. T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant of Iowa are projected to go early.
With the emphasis on more passing and a shift toward more open offenses, the tight end spot has become a critical component of NFL attacks. Every team is eager to find the next Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce (KEL’-see) or Zach Ertz. And colleges are putting more emphasis on using the tight end as a weapon, not just as a glorified tackle.
Penn St. ex-president’s case in US court as jail term looms
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Former Penn State president Graham Spanier (SPAN’-yur) will argue before a federal judge Thursday that his conviction should be thrown out, a week before he’s due to report to jail. Spanier says he was wrongly convicted in Pennsylvania state court for mishandling a 2001 complaint about Jerry Sandusky under a version of the law that wasn’t actually in place at that time.
The 70-year-old Spanier was forced out as president shortly after Sandusky was arrested for child molestation in 2011 and was convicted in 2017 of child endangerment.
He’s scheduled to report to a county jail on Wednesday to begin serving two months.
Spanier remains a tenured faculty member on administrative leave, and the school doesn’t release his salary.