Conference semifinals get underway in NHL
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 24 (UPI) -- The NHL playoffs move into the second round Thursday night, with two teams playing in unknown waters.
Tampa and Anaheim seek their first conference semifinal victories when they begin their respective series against a couple of teams loaded with postseason experience.
In the playoffs for the second time in franchise history, third-seeded Tampa Bay visits the second-seeded New Jersey Devils in Game One of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Anaheim, the seventh seed in the Western Conference, is on the road against the top-seeded Dallas Stars.
Tampa Bay appeared headed to an early postseason exit, as it was outscored, 9-3, in losing two home games to the Washington Capitals in the quarterfinals. After those two losses, Coach John Tortorella shuffled his lines, and the club responded with four straight wins.
That trio will face a tough challenge from New Jersey's checking line of John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, and Turner Stevenson, who held the No. 1 line of the Boston Bruins to just two goals in winning their quarterfinal series in five games.
The Devils are trying to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2001, when they lost in seven games to the Colorado Avalanche.
The Stars last were in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2000, when they lost in six games to the Devils. Dallas, the 1999 Stanley Cup champions, made five straight postseason appearances before finishing fourth in the Pacific Division last year.
Under Coach Dave Lewis, who is in his first year, the Stars finished one point ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings for the top spot in the West.
While the Stars are the only remaining division champion in the West, they face perhaps the hottest goaltender in Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who led the Mighty Ducks to a stunning sweep of the Red Wings, turning away 165 of 171 shots.
Giguere set a team record with 34 wins during the season, and is capable of riding a hot streak as he just over 237 minutes without allowing a goal in December. It was the longest scoreless streak in the NHL in more than a half-century.
However, he was not at his best against the Stars in the regular season, and was pulled twice during the season after surrendering seven goals in just over four periods.
Dallas also has a standout goalie in Marty Turco, who set a modern era record with a 1.72 goals-against average. In his first career postseason series, Turco had a 1.84 goals-against average as the Stars eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in six games.
Anaheim, which was swept by Detroit in 1997 in its only prior appearance in the conference semifinals, is just 5-18-1 all-time at Dallas.
The other two series begin Friday.
The Ottawa Senators, the top seed in the East, host fourth-seeded Philadelphia, and Minnesota, which finished sixth in the West in its third season in the NHL, visits the fourth-seeded Vancouver Canucks.
MLB to get tips about SARS
NEW YORK, April 24 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball is making plans to advise players visiting Toronto about how to protect themselves from SARS.
The World Health Organization has issued an advisory about traveling to Toronto because of the SARS epidemic. Eleven teams will travel to Toronto through the July 14 All-Star break.
"It's a government warning," said Rob Manfred, the Executive Vice President of Labor Relations and Human Resources of Major League Baseball "All we're doing is a little education for the players. Traveling there by our players is still permitted."
Dr. Elliot Pellman, MLB's new Medical Advisor, is planning to hold conference calls Thursday and Monday with all 11 teams to provide information and take questions about SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a highly contagious disease that attacks the lungs with possible fatal results.
Pellman plans to advise players to protect themselves by refraining from mingling with fans to sign autographs, visiting hospitals, using public transportation and staying out of the middle of large crowds.
The Blue Jays open a nine-game homestand Friday with a three-game series against Kansas City, followed by three games each against both Texas and Anaheim. In all, the Blue Jays play 38 games at Skydome during the course of six homestands before the All-Star break.
The World Health Organization is advising people to postpone unnecessary travel to Toronto and certain provinces of China because of the SARS outbreak.
The organization previously had warned against travel to Hong Kong because of the disease.
Report: Bengals reach terms with Palmer
BRISTOL, Conn., April 24 (UPI) -- It appears quarterback Carson Palmer of Southern California will be playing in Cincinnati.
The Bengals reportedly are close to ending the suspense surrounding the first pick in Saturday's NFL draft.
ESPN is reporting that they have agreed in principle on a deal with Palmer, all but guaranteeing that he will be the No. 1 overall selection.
ESPN did not disclose contract terms, and reported that the two sides "have a few minor deals to complete." The network said there was no indication if the Bengals would announce the deal prior to Saturday.
Last year's top pick, quarterback David Carr, agreed to a seven-year contract with Houston Texans. That deal has a base value of $21.5 million, but could be worth $58 million if every incentive is reached.
The Detroit Lions, who own the second pick in the draft, would be able to finalize a contract with a prospective selection once the Bengals' deal is approved by the NFL.
Palmer would be the first Heisman Trophy winner to be selected first overall since fellow quarterback Vinny Testaverde went to Tampa Bay in 1987.
The last player from Southern California to go first overall was wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.
Palmer, 23, threw 72 touchdown passes and had 49 interceptions in 45 games at USC. He completed 288-of-458 passes for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in his breakout senior season.
He capped the year by throwing for 303 yards and a touchdown in an Orange Bowl victory over Iowa.
Henderson signs with Newark
NEWARK, N.J., April 24 (UPI) -- Rickey Henderson, arguably the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, has agreed to terms with the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League.
Henderson, 44, is the all-time leader in stolen bases, runs scored, and walks in Major League Baseball, but had no takers at that level this spring. After a 2002 season in which he batted just .223 with five homers and 16 RBI in 72 games, Henderson went unsigned over the offseason.
Despite repeated attempts to rejoin the Oakland Athletics, the team he broke in with in 1979, Henderson is hoping a strong performance with the non-affiliated independent league team will make him more attractive to major league executives.
The 1990 American League MVP stole a major league record 130 bases for the A's in 1982, and joined the 3,000-hit club while with the San Diego Padres in October 2001.
"Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest players of all time," said Newark General Manager Chris Bryan. "There's no doubt that he will attract tremendous amounts of attention to our organization. We are fully prepared to welcome him with open arms and treat him like the legend that he is."
Henderson has played for eight teams, including four stints with Oakland, tenures with both New York teams, and stops in Toronto, Anaheim, Seattle, and Boston, as well as San Diego.
A career .279 hitter, Henderson has appeared in 3,051 games. He has appeared in three world series, winning titles with Oakland in 1989 and Toronto in '93. In addition to his 2,288 runs scored, 1,403 stolen bases, and 2,179 walks, Henderson also has hit more leadoff homers (80) than any other player ever.
Raymond, Kidd named to Hall of Fame
SOUTH BEND, Ind., April 24 (UPI) -- Harold "Tubby" Raymond was among nine individuals added Thursday to the College Football Hall of Fame Class for 2003.
The Hall of Fame announced its players and coaches chosen from NCAA Division I-AA, II, III, and NAIA on Thursday.
Raymond won three national titles in 36 years as coach at Delaware. He was named in the coaching category along with Roy Kidd of Eastern Kentucky and Marino Casem, who guided Alabama State, Alcorn State, and Southern.
Raymond, who retired after the 2001 season, led the Fightin' Blue Hens to 300 total victories, good for ninth on the all-time list and third on the Division I-AA level. Delaware won 14 Lambert Cup trophies, and made 16 NCAA playoff appearances during his tenure.
Kidd won national titles at Eastern Kentucky in 1979 and '82, and won 315 games, second only to Eddie Robinson on the I-AA list.
Casem coached at Alcorn State from 1964-85, and was named Black College National Coach of the Year and SWAC Conference Coach of the Year seven times.
East Central (Okla.) quarterback Brad Calip, who played from 1981-84, was one of six players named.
The others are Texas A&M-Kingsville tight end Dwayne Nix (1965-68), Lawrence running back Scott Reppert (1979-82), Jackson State end Willie Richardson (1959-62), Gustavus Adolphos tackle Calvin Roberts (1949-52), and Tuskegee running back Ben Stevenson (1924-30).
Running back Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State and quarterback Joe Theismann of Notre Dame were part of the Division I-A Hall of Fame class named earlier this year.
Induction ceremonies will take place at the Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., Aug. 8 and 9.
Devil Rays put Grieve on DL
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 24 (UPI) -- Tampa Bay outfielder Ben Grieve has been put on the 15-day disabled list, and will have exploratory surgery on his left hand Thursday.
He is expected to miss 3-6 weeks.
Grieve developed an infection at the base of his left thumb last weekend in Baltimore. He had the same problem last year at this time, but the condition improved with antibiotics, and he didn't miss much time. This year, the infection spread, and Grieve spent two nights in a Baltimore hospital.
"We thought it was the prudent thing to go ahead and get it taken care of," said Manager Lou Piniella. "No one is sure what causes the infection, and Grieve said he would be happy to get the problem solved."
"It doesn't hurt now," Grieve said. "But it will end up being the right thing to do in the long run if it stops it from happening again."
Grieve was put on the DL retroactive to April 18. It was one of five roster moves made by the Rays on Wednesday afternoon.
They put outfielder Damian Rolls on the 15-day DL with a dislocated right thumb, suffered in the outfield on Tuesday night, and selected third baseman Chris Truby from Triple-A Durham of the International League.
To make room for Truby on the 40-man roster, the Devils Rays designated pitcher Luis De Los Santos, who was at Durham, for assignment. They also announced that pitcher Delvin James, who was designated for assignment on Saturday, has cleared waivers and been assigned to Durham.
The Rays have lost three players in the last 10 days. In addition to Grieve and Rolls, Travis Lee went on the DL with a ribcage muscle strain. Lee is progressing nicely and is in line to return to action when the Rays go to Minnesota next Tuesday.
Rolls is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.
Phillies put Polanco on DL
PHILADELPHIA, April 24 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Phillies have placed second baseman Placido Polanco on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 16.
He has a contusion of his right ring finger.
Polanco suffered the injury on April 15 when he was hit by a pitch from Florida Marlins righthander Josh Beckett. He took batting practice before Wednesday's game against Colorado, and was placed on the DL following the contest.
"It's worse than yesterday," Polanco said after batting practice. "It stiffened because I hit and threw. It really hurts. I didn't want to (go on the DL). I was thinking about playing this weekend, then I hit (Tuesday) and it feels worse today. If I keep pushing, it's gonna get worse."
Complicating things for the second baseman is the fact that his elbow and shoulder began to hurt because he has been overcompensating his throwing motion to favor the tip of his right ring finger.
"We told him to shut it down until he was ready to throw and hit," said Philadelphia Manager Larry Bowa. "It's only April. He wants to play, but when you're talking about your hand and baseball, you do everything with that."
Polanco, acquired last season in the deal that sent Scott Rolen to St. Louis, shifted from third base to second base this season. He is batting .321 with one home run and five RBI in 14 games.
To fill Polanco's roster spot, the Phillies recalled second baseman Chase Utley from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League.
He struck out as a pinch hitter in his only at-bat with the Phillies earlier this season before being sent to the minor leagues. On Wednesday, he went 0-for-4 against Buffalo, then boarded a plane to Philadelphia.
Utley was hitting .302 with one home run in 16 game with Scranton.