Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
(AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Coyotes’ fans have their white-out shirts ready during the first period of Sunday’s Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference finals against the Kings in Glendale, Ariz.
NHL Western Conference finals: Kings vs. Phoenix:
Game 2 at Phoenix, Tuesday at 6 p.m., NBC Sports Network;
Game 3 at Staples Center, Thursday at 6 p.m., NBC Sports Network;
Game 4 at Staples Center, Sunday at noon, Channel 4:
The local Phoenicians are understandably proud of their Coyotes’ ability to fight and claw their way to the next-to-last round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The former Winnipeg Jets, once coached Wayne Gretzky and without an owner at the moment, could otherwise be a franchise wandering in the desert. This is no mirage. “It’s definitely getting crazy out here, especially after the games. Everyone’s rooting for them,” Aaron Hernandez, manager of McFadden’s restaurant and bar across from Jobing.com Arena, told the Associated Press this week. “It’s kind of like a Cinderella story. You don’t hear as much about them as some of the other teams, but they’re making up ground.” It’s a team ranking last in league attendance, but first in the Kings’ vision of a trip back to their first championship battle in 19 years, against either the New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils. As the Kings have a 1-0 series lead and having won nine of their 10 playoff games so far, they’re the fifth team in Stanley Cup history to win their first six games on the road. The heat will be turned up even more for Games 3 and 4 back at Staples Center that comes with another rare national TV appearance on Sunday afternoon amidst the crowd already there for the final stage of the Tour of California bike race.
NBA Western Conference semifinals: Lakers at Oklahoma City, Game 1: 6:30 p.m., TNT:
Metta World Peace is on another peace mission: Trying to quiet the OKC crowd who’ll welcome him back with open elbows for the first time since his elbow came thundering down up on the Thunders’ James Harden in the next-to-last regular-season game, leading to a seven-game suspension. Maybe Derek Fisher can be the peace-maker in all these negotiations? Meanwhile, Mike Brown is back on the clock, saving his job after that Game 7 win against Denver. Right, Magic? Game 2 is back at Oklahoma City on Wednesday (6:30 p.m., TNT), followed by a ridiculous back-to-back Games 3 and 4 at Staples Center (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN and Saturday, 7:30 p.m., TNT).
MLB: Dodgers vs. Arizona, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:
A matchup of the top-two vote-getters from last year’s NL Cy Young — Clayton Kershaw and former USC star Ian Kennedy — are brought together on the mound for the opener. The Dodgers then send out Orel Hershiser for Tuesday (7:10 p.m., Channel 9) for a game that’s more likely to be a sellout. Oh, it’s only a bobblehead version. That’s bulldog.
MLB: Angels vs. Oakland, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
Former Angels Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon, trying to keep his career alive in Oakland these days, faces his old team in Tuesday’s game (4:05 p.m., FSW).
Series: “Feherty,” Golf Channel, 7 p.m.:
David Feherty, with Bill Clinton. What’s off limits? “You obviously don’t have as many advisors as you had when you were in office,” Feherty says when greeting Clinton as he comes onto the set. “My first question is, ‘What the hell would possess you to do this (interview)?’”
NHL Eastern Conference finals Game 1: New Jersey at N.Y. Rangers, 5 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
This series have your attention now? Game 2 is back at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (5 p.m., NBC Sports Network), with Games 3 and 4 in New Jersey (Saturday, 10 a.m., Channel 4, and Monday, May 21).
NBA Western Conference semfinals: Clippers at San Antonio, Game 1, 6:30 p.m., TNT:
The battered Clippers have a short respite after a Game 7 win to escape the first round, playing their sixth game in 11 days. The Spurs, winners of 14 in a row, will have had eight days off before this one. “We earned ourselves this break,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said Sunday. “Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.” The Clippers lost two of three meetings in the regular season, but won their last meeting 120-108 on March 9 when Chris Paul had 36 points and 11 assists, but the Spurs were without Tony Parker. That win in San Antonio was also the Clippers’ first in a decade, ending a stretch of futility that spanned 18 games. Game 2 at San Antonio is set for Thursday (6:30 p.m., ESPN), but the Clippers got the short end of Games 3 and 4 back-to-backs at Staples Center. The first is crammed into the 12:30 p.m. slot Saturday for Channel 7 (while the Lakers get the prime-time slot) and the second is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday — unless the Kings-Coyotes playoff game doesn’t run long into overtime.
MLB: Dodgers at San Diego, 3:35 p.m., Channel 9:
Why bother? The Dodgers have already won six of seven against the Padres, which helped produce a 9-1 start to the season. Interestingly, Padres starter Clayton Ricard (1-5) has his only win of the season against the Dodgers — that single loss they suffered in their first 10 games — and he is back to start the first of this brief two-game series on a strange Wednesday afternoon first pitch. These early starts must be some kind of consilatory response to the players whose long fly balls almost always get knocked down by the heavy marine layer at night. That is an issue, although Padres third baseman Chase Headley has denied a report that he and former teammate Ryan Ludwick engaged in a clubhouse altercation with pitcher Mike Adams last season after Adams told them in a team meeting to quit complaining about the Petco Park dimensions. ESPN.com’s Tim Keown did a story last week about changing ballpark dimensions and said Adams “lashed out in a postgame rant” against Headley and Ludwick, with a scuffle resulting from it. Headley denied that any argument ensued, and San Diego manager Bud Black backed Headley’s account. Thursday, the Dodgers-Pads go back to a 7:05 p.m. first pitch (on Prime), as the Padres come into the week with the NL’s worst record (12-23), 11 1/2 games behidn the Dodgers in the West Division, a major-league worst 109 runs (barely more than three runs a game) and 29th in all of baseball with a team .221 batting average.
MLB: Angels vs. Chicago White Sox, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
A gorgeous Peter Bourjos bobblehead is offered up to those attending. And the center fielder may even be starting in this one. Or, could he be traded, according to the rumors? “We constantly field calls about players, but we are not actively shopping Peter Bourjos or looking for a fit for him,” Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said. “We believe he’s an asset to us.” The two-game set ends Thursday with a day game (12:35 p.m., FSW).
Golf: PGA Byron Nelson Championship, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
The tournament’s late host would have turned 100 a couple of months ago. A year ago, it was then-24-year-old Tour rookie Keegan Bradley who made a name for himself by winning this event in a playoff, foreshadowing his PGA Championship title four months later. Bradley’s top finish this season: Second at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera last February. CBS has the final two rounds.
Golf: LPGA Sybase Match Play Championship, Day 1, 3:30 p.m. (delayed), Golf Channel:
A year ago, Suzann Pettersen held off Cristie Kerr for a 1-up victory, sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Golf Channel has this whole coverage from the Hamilton Farm Golf Course in Gladstone, N.J., leading up to the final day (Sunday, 1 p.m.).
WNBA: Sparks at Seattle, 7 p.m., KDOC-Channel 56, NBA TV:
No need yet to stop wearing your jersey supporting Candace Parker (left) with one for rookie and next-biggest-thing Nneka Ogwumike. New free-agent guard and four-time All-Star Alana Beard might end up as the biggest off-season acquisition anyway, even thought she sat out the last two seasons with foot and ankle problems. The Sparks start their 16th season in the 12-team WNBA. Where has all the time gone? This marks the second consecutive year that the Sparks will play in the league’s only opening night contest, with other WNBA teams in action starting Saturday. The season starts earlier than usual so the top players can compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The WNBA takes a 33-day midseason break from July 14 through Aug. 15.
MLB: Angels at San Diego, 7:05 p.m., FSW:
Interleague already? It shapes up as an all-Valley battle, as Simi Valley native Jered Weaver faces former Crespi High standout Jeff Suppan (2-1, 1.69 ERA), who has revived his career at age 37 after 16 seasons with the Padres. Suppan was recalled from Triple-A Tucson on May 2, after signing a minor league deal during the offseason following a season with Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate in Omaha. Last week in Phiadelphia, Suppan made his 415th career start and ranks fourth among active pitchers behind Jamie Moyer (635), Livan Hernandez (474) and Kevin Millwood (421). Check in on the rest of the series Saturday (7:05 p.m., FSW) and Sunday (1:05 p.m., FSW)
MLB: Dodgers vs. St. Louis, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:
The only NL-vs.-NL matchup of the weekend, and something here makes no sense, these defending World Series champion Cardinals rid themselves of Albert Pujols, have manager Tony LaRussa retire, and then have one of the NL’s best starts to the 2012 season. Must be that reliable guy still playing shortstop — Rafael Furcal — plus Carlos Beltran filling in the void in the lineup. The Cards, 12-7 on the road, have outscored opponents by 65 runs coming into this week, more than 30 runs better than any other NL team. The series also goes Saturday (7:10 p.m., Channel 9) and Sunday (5 p.m., ESPN).
Horse racing: The 137th Preakness, 3 p.m., Channel 4:
New York Times horse racing reporter Joe Drape wrote about I’ll Have Another a day before the Kentucky Derby: “Santa Anita winner has overachieved but there won’t be any magic here.” Then I’ll Have Another won the race. d of I’ll Have Another, who of course went on to win the Derby. “I did hear about that particular prediction,” said owner J. Paul Reddam. “At first when you read what the pundits say it can kind of be a little bit unnerving because it will be different from your own opinion and you wonder how much bias you have. But if you go and you look, you’ll see that that particular writer had him last, but somebody else had him first.” Added trainer Doug O’Neal: “How do you win the Santa Anita Derby and not be one of the top five choices?” Here’s another chance for I’ll Have Another to take a Triple Crown victory at Pimlico in Baltimore, with Mario Gutierrez aboard — after he’s already been to Dodger Stadium to throw out a first pitch coming off a Kentucky Derby victory. Will Mike Smith and Bodemeister give up the lead this time?
MLS: Galaxy vs. Chivas, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2:
After their White House visit on Tuesday, the Galaxy limp home with a record that looks like a bad area code (3-5-2). Maybe David Beckham takes everyone out for real fruit smoothies and frappes at Burger King afterward?
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Peter Sagan celebrates his Stage 1 win next to second-place finisher Heinrich Haussler, left, during the Tour of California start in Santa Rosa.
Cycing: Amgen Tour of California, final stage, 10 a.m., Channel 4:
Stage eight of the annual bike ride across the state starts near Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, up Santa Monica Blvd., north on Doheney through West Hollywood, hang a right on Sunset, and then head past the entrance to Dodger Stadium over to Grand and Caesar Chavez avenues, where a five-mile circuit begins through Chinatown, past L.A. City Hall, the Biltmore Hotel, Disney Hall, the Music Center, and a finish at LA Live. Come early (8 to 9:30 a.m.) and you can pedal your own bikes on the course. For real. The winner will likely be treated to the Kings-Coyotes Game 4 across the street at Staples Center afterward, and maybe will hang around for the Clippers-Spurs Game 4.