New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the team after a Russian tabloid printed allegations from a former coach that he attacked a woman in Latvia almost a decade ago, which he denies. Andrei Nazarov, a former NHL enforcer who coached Panarin for Vityaz Chekhov from 2010-2012 in the Kontinental Hockey League, told Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda in a story published Saturday that Panarin attacked an 18-year-old Latvian woman in a hotel bar in the capital city of Riga following a game in December 2011. Nazarov told the tabloid that Panarin knocked the woman to the floor with “several powerful blows.” Nazarov added that he later heard the Latvian authorities looked into the incident but that no action was taken after “authoritative” locals negotiated with the police not to pursue the case, allegedly after money changed hands. Nazarov said he was motivated to speak about the alleged incident because he disagreed with Panarin’s repeated criticism of the Russian government. “Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story,” the Rangers said in a statement Monday. “This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations.” … Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe will miss the rest of the season with ligament and meniscus damage to his right knee sustained during Saturday’s win at New Jersey.
NU men have final regular-season games canceled
Northeastern’s final two regular-season men’s basketball games — scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at William & Mary — have been canceled by the Colonial Athletic Association because of COVID-19 protocols within the Huskies program. A positive test by a Huskies program member in late January led to the cancellation of four games against Drexel and Delaware. Northeastern also had two games vs. UNC Wilmington canceled this past weekend because of virus concerns within the Seahawks program. Northeastern (9-8, 8-2 CAA) is a half-game behind league-leading James Madison and locked into the No. 2 seed for the CAA Tournament, set for March 6-9.
Gonzaga men strengthen hold on No. 1
Gonzaga’s bid for a wire-to-wire run at No. 1 in the AP men’s basketball poll is alive with 60 first-place votes, one more than last week. The Bulldogs (22-0) are trying to become the first wire-to-wire No. 1 since Kentucky in 2014-15. Baylor got the other four first-place votes to maintain its season-long No. 2 spot. The Bears have not played since Feb. 2 and have had eight games postponed this season due to COVID-19 issues. Michigan, Ohio State, and Illinois rounded out the top five for the second straight week … UConn remained No. 1 in the AP women’s poll, receiving 28 of 30 first-place votes. North Carolina State returned to the No. 2 spot and Texas A&M climbed to third. Stanford moved up to No. 4, South Carolina fell from second to fifth, and Louisville dropped from No. 3 to No. 6.
Osaka jumps to No. 2 in WTA
Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open championship moved her up one spot to No. 2 in the WTA rankings. Osaka, who has four major titles, still trails No. 1 Ash Barty — who lost in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park after taking nearly a year off during the pandemic. Simona Halep went from No. 2 to No. 3 after losing to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Williams climbed four spots to No. 7 despite losing to Osaka in the semifinals. Jennifer Brady, the 25-year-old American who was the runner-up to Osaka, jumped 11 spots to No. 13, her Top 20 debut. Novak Djokovic, who beat Daniil Medvedev for his 18th Grand Slam title and ninth in Australia, is assured of remaining at No. 1 at least another two weeks, which will give him a career total of 311 weeks in that spot, breaking Roger Federer’s ATP record of 310. Rafael Nadal stayed at No. 2 after losing in the quarterfinals, while Medvedev jumped one spot to a career-best No. 3. Dominic Thiem, who dropped a spot to No. 4 after losing in the fourth round. Federer remained No. 5 despite not having competed in more than a year after having two knee operations. He is expected to return next month.
American Morris suffers torn ACL
American forward Jordan Morris tore his left anterior cruciate ligament while on loan for Swansea in an English League Championship loss at Huddersfield on Saturday, three years after rupturing his right ACL during a match for Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders. Swansea said Morris, 26, will miss the rest of the English season, and likely at least the first eight United States World Cup qualifiers, which start in September. There are three additional qualifiers in both January and March 2022. Morris has 10 goals in 39 international appearances … Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in the first half and American Weston McKenzie sealed it with a second-half strike as third-place Juventus beat last-place Crotone, 3-0, in Italy’s Serie A at Turin … Plans to ease England’s lockdown restrictions will see up to 10,000 supporters being allowed back into Premier League soccer stadiums for the final day of the season (May 23) ahead of Wembley Stadium hosting European Championship games.
Timberwolves hire Finch as coach
The Minnesota Timberwolves name Toronto assistant Chris Finch their new head coach, replacing Ryan Saunders, who was fired Sunday night with the team carrying the NBA’s worst record. President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas worked with Finch in Houston, where Finch was a Rockets assistant (2011-16) and Rosas was a basketball operations executive. Finch has 24 years of coaching experience, roughly half of that in Europe, including coaching Britain’s national team in the 2012 Olympics. After six seasons with Houston, Finch spent one year as an assistant for Denver and three with New Orleans … Four-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Mike Iupati says he’s retiring after 11 NFL seasons. Iupati made four straight Pro Bowls from 2012-15, the first three with San Francisco and the last with Arizona. He was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2012. Iupati started 139 of 140 regular-season games in his career, but injuries limited him to 10 games for Seattle in 2020 … Kaillie Humphries, the reigning world champion and presumed Olympic favorite in both women’s bobsled and monobob, has applied for an expedited process of obtaining United States citizenship so she can represent the country in the 2022 Beijing Games. Humphries, a two-time Olympic champion for Canada, is married to former American bobsledder Travis Armbruster. She holds a green card and has been racing for USA Bobsled since 2019 — teaming with Lolo Jones to win the world title earlier this month … NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi was fined $30,000 and suspended one race for bringing a guest into the pit area at Daytona International Speedway, a violation of COVID-19 guidelines.