Steven Stamkos won't play for Canada in Sochi

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Steven Stamkos won't play for Canada in Sochi

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos will not play for Canada in the Sochi Olympics.

Steve Yzerman, the Lightning's general manager and Team Canada's executive director, said Wednesday that doctors ruled out Stamkos because he hasn't recovered sufficiently from a broken right leg.

Stamkos underwent a CT scan and met with team officials Wednesday. He was injured Nov. 11 and had surgery to have a titanium rod inserted into the tibia.

"Today is obviously very disappointing for me," Stamkos said in a statement. "I honestly believe that we did everything possible in order to have my injured leg ready in time for the Olympics, but I realize you can't force healing. I know, in the best interest of my long term health, I cannot represent Canada in Sochi, as much as I would like to. I look forward to returning to the Lightning once cleared by the medical team."

The center will be evaluated again in two to three weeks.

"Although the doctor was very pleased to this point with the healing process, he explained that the callus surrounding the fracture site is not 100 percent consolidated, and Steven will not be cleared to play in a game until that happens," Yzerman said. "It was a pretty clear cut decision, no gray areas at all."

Stamkos has been practicing with the team and hoped to play Saturday night against Detroit, which is Tampa Bay's final game before the Olympic break. He had increased contact drills during practice this week.

In 17 games this season, he has 14 goals and nine assists.

Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh star and Canadian captain, was disappointed.

"It's tough to see. I think we all figured if there's anyone that's going to find a way back, it would be him," Crosby said, after scoring a goal and adding an assist in Pittsburgh's 5-1 win at Buffalo. "That being said, it's probably more difficult for him than anyone else. You feel for him, but we obviously have to move forward."

Crosby declined to suggest who he might favor as a candidate to replace Stamkos.

"With different guys in the mix, I think it's a good problem to have," Crosby said. "But nonetheless, I don't think it's an easy decision at all."

Among those in line to fill the roster spot are Stamkos' teammate, Martin St. Louis, and Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux and Pittsburgh's James Neal.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who will be coaching the U.S. team, said Neal would be a good choice.

"I don't know what they're looking for, there's not a better shot release and a pure goal-scorer than James," Bylsma said. "I know they have some other good players and some tough choices to make, but James would be one who I wouldn't want to see with the puck on his stick over there."

Neal has 19 goals and 24 assists this season.

AP Sports writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Sixers have hurdles to clear with draft picks before summer league

Sixers have hurdles to clear with draft picks before summer league

Summer league action begins on July 4 and the Sixers are working through constructing their roster for both Utah and Las Vegas. 

The Sixers expect first overall pick Ben Simmons to participate, but formalities have to be taken care of first. First-round picks cannot sign their NBA contract until July 1. After the paperwork is finalized, he can take the court for his new team.

“We just need to work out all the details and try to get that all taken care of,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday. “Once that is addressed and discussed and taken care of, there shouldn’t be anything that would hold that process up. We’ll get the ink on paper as soon as possible. I think it’ll be a clear path at that point.”

Simmons deferred to his agent, Rich Paul, when asked about his participation. 

“You would like for a guy to step in there, but obviously there are some things that, me personally, I’m going to have to protect him with,” Paul said. “If everything is good, then we look forward to it. Until then, we’ll see what happens.” 

Paul added, “I think we’ll be OK, but you just never know.”

The Sixers will compete in summer leagues in both Utah and Las Vegas. They will begin practicing in Utah on July 1 and play games July 4-7. The team will then travel to Las Vegas for the Samsung NBA Summer League, where their first game is July 9 against the Los Angeles Lakers and No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram. The summer league in Las Vegas is tournament-style, with the championship game on July 18. 

There is more work involved for the Sixers’ 24th pick, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, because of his international contract with Mega Leks in Serbia. 

“I believe Luwawu is subject to playing,” Colangelo said. “The only thing that would stop him from being available and able to sign a contract is that process of the three-party agreement, the buyout and the FIBA clearance before he can sign a contract.”

Furkan Korkmaz, the 26th overall pick, is not expected to play as he is participating with the Turkish national team. 

“I would just put that as a no, highly unlikely because of the circumstances,” Colangelo said. 

Dario Saric has until July 17 to notify his team in Turkey if he will play for them next season or join the Sixers. Even if Saric makes his decision during the summer league period, Colangelo said it would be “highly or not likely” that he participates because he recently completed his season. There is no new update on Saric’s impending decision. 

The Sixers will round out their summer league rosters with current players and free-agent signings. T.J. McConnell, Richaun Holmes and Christian Wood are expected to play. James Webb III, who participated in a pre-draft workout for the Sixers, signed a deal with the team following the draft and is expected to participate in summer league (see story)

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts for 4th straight game, Andres Blanco gets night off

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts for 4th straight game, Andres Blanco gets night off

Following a 15-hit, seven-run effort from his team on Thursday afternoon that ended its nine-game losing streak, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made three changes to his lineup for the series opener against the Giants in San Francisco on Friday night.

One of Mackanin's changes is enforced; with the Phillies shifting back to National League play, starter Zach Eflin hits ninth.

Ryan Howard, who filled the DH spot in Minnesota, plays first base and receives another start versus a righty, one in which he has nine career at-bats against (see game notes).

It marks Howard's fourth straight start. He's 3 for 9 over his last two games with a homer and two RBIs. Tommy Joseph is not in the lineup. He was a late scratch Thursday because of illness.

After starting in six straight games, Andres Blanco gets the night off. The extremely versatile Blanco was the Phillies' first baseman on Thursday.

Cameron Rupp, one of the Phillies' more productive hitters over their recent abysmal stretch, with two homers in his last two starts, comes back into the lineup for Carlos Ruiz.

Phillies lineup
1
. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Zach Eflin, P

Giants lineup
1
. Denard Span, CF
2. Joe Panik, 2B
3. Brandon Belt, 1B
4. Brandon Crawford, SS
5. Angel Pagan, LF
6. Gregor Blanco, LF
7. Conor Gillaspie, 3B
8. Trevor Brown, C
9. Jake Peavy, P

Brandon Brooks hooks up Ben Simmons and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with Eagles jerseys

Brandon Brooks hooks up Ben Simmons and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with Eagles jerseys

Luwawu-Cabarrot isn't exactly the easiest fit on the back of a shirt. Still, Eagles' guard Brandon Brooks presented the French swingman and No. 1 pick Ben Simmons with their own Birds jerseys. He's pictured in this Sixers Instagram post along with Christian Crosby, the team's in-arena host, who's posing between the two draft picks. Apparently we'll have to wait a little longer to get a glimpse of Turkish sharpshooter extraordinaire Furkan Korkmaz.

Brooks helped show the duo the best Philly has to offer, as he gave the Sixers' newest additions a tour around the city.

You've got to be a big fan of the nickname Brooks bestowed on the 24th pick — who doesn't love a little TLC? It's definitely preferable to trying to choke out Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot in an impeccable French accent. Ben Simmons, however, remains nickname-less. The Awesome Aussie?