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After slipping to fourth place, Canadiens fire coach Claude Julien

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, gesturing to a referee during the third period of a 2019 game against the visiting Boston Bruins, was fired Wednesday along with assistant coach Kirk Muller.
Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, gesturing to a referee during the third period of a 2019 game against the visiting Boston Bruins, was fired Wednesday along with assistant coach Kirk Muller.Ryan Remiorz/Associated Press

The struggling Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller Wednesday following a three-game skid. Assistant coach Dominique Ducharme was appointed interim coach, and Alex Burrows was added to the coaching staff. After taking a one-week break in their schedule, the Canadiens lost three in a row, and six of eight since a strong start. A 5-4 shootout loss in Ottawa against the Senators Tuesday night marked the end of the line for Julien, who returned for his second go-round as Montreal’s coach midway through the 2016-17 season. The Canadiens were battling the Toronto Maple Leafs for the top spot in the North Division earlier in the season but have since dropped into fourth. Julien had to leave the team during the first round of the playoffs last year in Toronto when he had a stent installed in a coronary artery. Muller took over the head coaching duties and the Habs extended the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers to six games before bowing out. The Habs were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team postseason last year and then upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round. Julien coached the Bruins for 10 seasons (2007-17), winning a Stanley Cup in 2011. Ducharme joined the coaching staff in April 2018 after 10 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He won the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2012-13 and has twice been Canada’s head coach at the world junior championship, winning silver in 2017 and gold in 2018 . . . San Jose’s game against Vegas scheduled for Thursday night was postponed after a Sharks player entered the NHL’s COVID protocol. It’s the 36th NHL game this season to be postponed for virus-related issues and 40th counting the Texas snowstorm that affected Dallas.

NFL

Buccaneers inclined to extend Brady

Could Tom Brady land a contract extension?
Could Tom Brady land a contract extension?Steve Luciano/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are open to giving Tom Brady a contract extension. General manager Jason Licht reiterated during a video conference call that the Super Bowl champions would like to keep the 43-year-old quarterback in uniform for as long as Brady wants to play. Licht declined to characterize any conversations the team’s had about that prospect . . . The Pittsburgh Steelers plan on having quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back for an 18th season. Team president Art Rooney II released a statement saying he and Roethlisberger have met to figure out a way to ease the financial pressure caused by Roethlisberger’s contract. Roethlisberger, who turns 39 next month, carries a $41 million salary cap number for 2021 and is due a $15 million roster bonus March 20, shortly after the new league year begins . . . The Las Vegas Raiders released receiver Tyrell Williams, 29, who signed a four-year, $44.3 million deal as a free agent in 2019. Williams, however, had two injury-plagued seasons with the team, suffering injuries to his feet the first season and a torn labrum that forced him to miss all last season.

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MLB

White Sox’ Abreu tests positive

American League MVP José Abreu tested positive for COVID-19 and will remain away from the Chicago White Sox for at least the next few days. General manager Rick Hahn said in a statement the Cuban slugger is “completely asymptomatic.” Hahn said testing also showed the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, and Abreu believes he had a mild case of the virus in January. “Other than being frustrated, José feels great and, like the rest of us, is looking forward to when he rejoins the club in the not too distant future,” Hahn said. Manager Tony La Russa said Abreu will likely join the team by Monday, perhaps as soon as Friday. Abreu powered the White Sox back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The three-time All-Star hit .317 with 19 home runs and a major league-leading 60 RBIs in the pandemic-shortened season. He joined Nellie Fox (1959), Dick Allen (1972), and Frank Thomas (1993, 1994) as the franchise’s MVP winners . . . Yankees pitcher Domingo Germán, 28, gave a public tearful apology for actions that led to his lengthy suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, a day after he spoke with his New York teammates and admitted he had engaged in dangerous conduct. Germán was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 19, 2019, while MLB investigated an alleged domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend, with whom he has at least one child. Germán missed the final nine games of the 2019 regular season and all nine of New York’s postseason games, then on Jan. 2, 2020, was suspended for 63 games. He missed the entire pandemic-shortened 2020 season and the playoffs. He returned to the Yankees last week for the start of spring training.

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Tennis

‘Original 9′ of the women’s tour get Hall call

The Original 9, including Billie Jean King (far left), will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The Original 9, including Billie Jean King (far left), will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.MIC SMITH/Associated Press

Billie Jean King and the other members of the Original 9 — Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Judy Dalton, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville Reid, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, and Valerie Ziegenfuss — who laid the groundwork for the women’s professional tour are the first group elected together to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, joining Lleyton Hewitt and the late Dennis Van der Meer, who died in 2019, in the Class of 2021. The induction ceremony is scheduled for July 17 at the Hall in Newport, R.I., and will also honor the former players voted in as the Class of 2020, Goran Ivanisevic and Conchita Martinez, after last year’s festivities were called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Miscellany

Rockets release Cousins

The Houston Rockets released DeMarcus Cousins after just 25 games. Cousins was waived this week after signing a $2.3 million contract with Houston in the offseason. The 30-year-old returned to the court this season after missing all of last season while recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon. He averaged 9.6 points and 7.6 rebounds this season playing in a reserve role . . . Backup guard Quinn Cook was waived by the Los Angeles Lakers, shortly before his contract would have been guaranteed . . . The IOC warned weightlifting’s troubled governing body again Wednesday that the sport faces being dropped from the 2024 Paris Olympics if doping and leadership issues are not dealt with. The situation at the International Weightlifting Federation “is becoming increasingly serious,” the Olympic body said, citing a failure to follow its previous advice about how to improve anti-doping efforts . . . The West Coast Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be held March 4-9 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas without fans. The WCC has played its conference tournament the last 13 years in Las Vegas, selling out the event each time. Clark County (Nev.) officials would have allowed a limited number of fans, but the conference decided it would be safer for athletes and staff with no one else in the arena.

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