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NEW YORK — Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel was suspended for two games without pay by the NHL on Sunday for an illegal check to the head of Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg.

Eichel was assessed a minor penalty for the illegal check in the second period of the Sabres’ 3-0 loss at Colorado on Saturday. The suspension will cost him $107,527.

The 22-year-old center has 25 goals and 47 assists in 65 games this season.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins played his best game of the season in a 121-110 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night, but it was a technical foul he received in the fourth quarter for tossing a shoe off the court that left him frustrated following the win.

The play in question came with 4 minutes, 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter when Hornets guard Jeremy Lamb’s shoe came off near the foul line. Cousins, who was defending in the area, picked the shoe up with his right hand and tossed it to the sideline. He was whistled for a technical foul by official Brian Forte right after the shoe flew out of bounds. Cousins, who missed almost a year of play after tearing his left Achilles last season, could not believe the call and went over to Forte a couple times to plead his case.

“Next time I’ll just step on the shoe and roll my ankle, break it, tear an Achilles,” Cousins said after the game. “Just leave it out there next time. I guess that’s what they want. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Cousins said the expiation he got was simple: “Basically, you can’t throw a shoe.”

Cousins’ teammates were also surprised the call was made, but Warriors forward Draymond Green made it a point to say he thought Forte officiated a solid game.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that,” Green said. “But that’s crazy. It’s sitting in the middle of the floor. I don’t know. We have all these rules for player safety. You can barely contest a shot without getting a foul, but you’re supposed to leave a shoe sitting there. It’s just kind of crazy to me, but it is what it is. I thought Brian Forte reffed a great game tonight, so that’s one call that’s a little questionable. But he was spot on with some calls, so I thought he reffed a great game.”

“Next time I’ll just step on the shoe and roll my ankle, break it, tear an Achilles. Just leave it out there next time. I guess that’s what they want.”
DeMarcus Cousins
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr also said he hadn’t seen the rule enforced, acknowledging that it must be the letter of the law now.

“I don’t know what the rule is,” Kerr said. “I don’t know if there’s an automatic rule that if you toss another guy’s shoe out of the bounds — on the other hand it’s right in the way, somebody could get injured. So I wasn’t really aware of what the rule was. He got the technical, so I guess that’s the rule.”

Warriors guard Stephen Curry said he had seen the rule enforced “plenty of times,” playfully noting that Cousins just needs to toss it slower next time.

“He’s got to be a little bit more delicate throwing it to the sideline — like horseshoes,” Curry said, “Just got to touch the line and sit down, not throw it in the stands. He’s too strong, that’s all. Too strong.”

The good news for Cousins and the Warriors is that after struggling to find a rhythm the past couple of weeks, he had his best performance since returning to the lineup on Jan. 18, finishing the night with 24 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks.


Dubs’ Cousins on recent struggles: ‘Frustrating’
Golden State center DeMarcus Cousins has had some “bad days” over his past four games, calling his recent performance “frustrating.”

Warriors lift Cousins minutes cap in new ‘phase’
Steve Kerr says DeMarcus Cousins is expected to start playing for longer stretches after being capped at around 25 minutes per game since returning.

“This was the happiest he’s looked,” Kerr said. “He looked the most comfortable tonight. And he made a couple moves around the hoop where he showed great agility — this is the best he’s looked.”

Cousins has been getting encouragement from many of his teammates for weeks now, but he singled out Kevin Durant and assistant coach Jarron Collins for their recent pep talks.

“K’s been preaching to me; can’t say preaching. K’s been cussing me out, just about stop thinking about it, just go play my game. J.C.’s also been on my head about just going out and being aggressive, picking my spots to be aggressive in the open floor. And I found some spots and made some plays, so it was good to get a good one under my belt.”

The biggest positive number for Cousins and the Warriors was that he played a season-high 31 minutes after being capped at about 25 minutes prior to the All-Star break.

“I think he’s been hoping to up his minutes. He’s told me that,” Kerr said. “I’m well aware of that. And he played really well tonight.”

Cousins admitted the 31-minute mark was the highlight of his night.

“I’m more happy about that than the actual game,” Cousins said. “I made sure to give Steve a big hug after this.”

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San Diego Padres reliever Brad Wieck said Wednesday that he underwent surgery for testicular cancer last month and his goal “is to be ready by the break of spring training for wherever they want to send me.”

Wieck, 27, made his MLB debut with the Padres last September, striking out 10 in seven innings while compiling a 1.29 ERA.

A 6-foot-9 lefty, Wieck was working out at Petco Park when he told the team’s medical staff during a checkup that he wasn’t feeling right, leading to the discovery of a cancerous tumor. Surgery was performed three days later.

“At first it was tough,” Wieck told reporters, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. “I didn’t know why it happened. I’m a young kid. Usually you think of that later in life that people get cancer. It’s tough to deal with it. But we’re dealing with it. All we can do is move forward. There’s no reason to sit around pondering why this or why that. It’s something we deal with and move on.”

Padres reliever Brad Wieck said Wednesday that he had surgery for testicular cancer last month but his goal is to be ready for the start of the season. AP Photo/Gregory Bull
Manager Andy Green said it’s reasonable to expect Wieck to be ready for the start of the season. Wieck is playing catch from 105 feet and said he’s feeling good and will do as much as the medical staff allows.

“For most of spring training, he’s just going to be recovering,” Green said, according to MLB.com. “For all of us, we’re just glad that he’s healthy.”

“I feel strong,” Wieck said. “I’m just moving along with the recovery process and rolling with the punches for now. … They did say we caught it early. Thank God we did. Cancer is a scary thing. It spreads very rapidly. … They said we caught it early and it’s contained.”

Wieck said he was grateful to hear from Green, general manager A.J. Preller and two of his coaches, considering he was worried about not just his health, but his future in the sport.

“They made sure I knew they were thinking about me and the organization was thinking about me,” Wieck said, according to the Union-Tribune. “That was huge, because I’m 27, I just broke into the big leagues, and I get smacked with this news. I was like, ‘Man, where is my career going to go from here?’ They definitely gave me peace of mind that they’re here with me and they do support me.”

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens and coach John Harbaugh have an agreement in principle on a long-term contract extension, which is the one coaching decision this offseason that makes the most sense.

This is a reward for turning a spiraling Ravens team into AFC North champions and giving a vision for what to expect from new franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson. This is a strong vote of confidence for the best coach in team history and for a leader who has the NFL’s best postseason track record over the past 11 years aside from Bill Belichick.

John Harbaugh overhauled the offense, changed the Ravens’ fortunes and earned another contract extension. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The biggest reason this was a no-brainer resolution comes in the form of a question: Whom would the Ravens replace him with?

Kliff Kingsbury? He went 35-40 in six years at Texas Tech — which included two seasons with Patrick Mahomes as his starter — before being dismissed in November.

Matt LaFleur? He was the playcaller for the NFL’s No. 25 offense and got shut out by the Ravens in October.

Bruce Arians? The 66-year-old has previously had health issues and retired a year ago, saying, “I wasn’t enjoying the game as much as I had in the past.”

While no one knows how any of these surprising hires will pan out, Harbaugh has proven to be as sure of a bet as there is in today’s coaching landscape. He ranks second with 10 playoff wins since 2008, behind Belichick. Harbaugh has led Baltimore to the playoffs seven times in the past 11 seasons and has had one losing record over that span. The other coaches who can boast that achievement are Belichick, Mike Tomlin and Pete Carroll.

Harbaugh is at a different level than these other candidates, which is why he presumably would have been at the top of the list for any team looking for a new head coach. He has a Super Bowl ring, 114 victories (including playoffs) and a reputation for getting the most out of his team despite injuries, the lack of game-changing playmakers and uneven quarterback play.

If a team had offered draft picks in a trade for Harbaugh, that would have been an intriguing proposition for Baltimore. But an argument can be made that Harbaugh has kept the Ravens in the playoff race at the end of the season nearly every year despite some disappointing drafts.

Under Harbaugh, Baltimore has repeatedly overcome missing on some high draft picks. Since 2009, the Ravens have drafted two players (linebacker C.J. Mosley and fullback Kyle Juszczyk) who made the Pro Bowl during their time in Baltimore. Over that time, Harbaugh led the Ravens to the playoffs six times, including winning the Super Bowl in 2012.

Harbaugh is coming off what arguably was his best season. He helped turn around the Ravens from wallowing at 4-5 at the bye to playing host to a postseason game, and he did so with a rookie quarterback. Jackson went 6-1 as a starter in the regular season because of an offensive system constructed by Harbaugh and his staff.

With Harbaugh, there is a confidence level Jackson can develop because of how the past two months played out. With a new coach, there’s more uncertainty as to whether Jackson’s unique skill set will be maximized.

NFL history has shown an extended run of success comes when teams have cornerstones in place at head coach and quarterback. The Ravens are hoping they have their franchise quarterback in Jackson. But Baltimore already knows the commodity it has in Harbaugh, which is why a recommitment to him is the best move the Ravens will make this offseason.