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Rocket Set Loose; Hoffman Stays in Calif. (AP)
Houston Astros pitcher Roger Clemens throws against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning in this Aug. 18, 2005 photo in Houston. The Astros said Wednesday they will not offer arbitration to pitcher Roger Clemens, which means he cannot re-sign with the team until May 1.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)AP - On a day when the winter meetings came to life like the swap sessions of old, Trevor Hoffman decided to stay at home. If Roger Clemens wants to keep pitching, he won't have that chance — at least not on opening day.


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Nationals Acquire All-Star Soriano (AP)
Texas Rangers' Alfonso Soriano is shown in this 2005 file photo. Soriano was traded by the Rangers to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night, Dec. 7, 2005 for Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and a minor league pitcher.(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)AP - All-Star second baseman Alfonso Soriano was traded by the Texas Rangers to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night for Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and a minor league pitcher.


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Lemieux Hospitalized With Heart Condition (AP)
Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemieux skates in a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders in this Nov. 14, 2005 file photo  in Pittsburgh. Lemieux was hospitalized Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2005 for observation of an irregular heartbeat, general manager Craig Patrick said. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)AP - Mario Lemieux has a new health problem to contend with. The Pittsburgh Penguins owner-player was hospitalized Wednesday for observation of an irregular heartbeat. Lemieux was monitored overnight in an undisclosed hospital and won't play Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild.


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Alex Tanguay Scores in Third Straight Game (AP)
Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic, left, and left winger Alex Tanguay (18) celebrate with right winger Milan Hejduk, of the Czech Republic, after Hejduk scored against the Boston Bruins in the first period in Denver, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2005. (AP Photo/Bill Ross)AP - Alex Tanguay waited and waited, holding the puck as he skated across the crease. Boston goalie Andrew Raycroft stayed with the Colorado forward as he dragged the puck along, seemingly ready to stuff his shot — just as he had a few minutes earlier.


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Texas Is Next As Duke Dispatches Penn (AP)
Duke's Shelden Williams, left, pressures Penn's Ibrahim Jaaber during Duke's 72-59 win over Penn in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2005.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)AP - Almost nothing went right for Duke. Except for winning, of course.


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Parcells Alters Cowboys' Practice Routine (AP)
AP - Bill Parcells put the Dallas Cowboys through a practice that was structured differently from all the other midweek workouts they've had this season.

Heat Missing Shaq's Presence on the Court (AP)
San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) drives to the basket as  Miami Heat defenders Antoine Walker (8) and Wayne Simien (25), center, look on during the fourth quarter, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2005, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)AP - The San Antonio Spurs seem to have everything a title contender needs. The Miami Heat don't, as long as Shaquille O'Neal is on the bench — and they were reminded of that by the defending champions.


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Rocket Among 121 Not Offered Arbitration (AP)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Roger Clemens throws to the plate against Colorado Rockies during the first inning at Coors Field in Denver, in this June 28, 2005 photo. The Astros said Wednesday they will not offer arbitration to pitcher Roger Clemens, which means he cannot re-sign with the team until May 1. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)AP - Roger Clemens isn't sure whether he will pitch again or retire again. The Houston Astros are moving on without waiting for him to decide.


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Manchester United Exits Champions League (AP)
Manchester United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson watches as his side looses 2-1 to Benfica in their Champion's League group D soccer match at the Luz Stadium, Lisbon, Portugal, Wednesday Dec. 7, 2005. (AP Photo/Jon Super)AP - Manchester United is out of Europe for the first time in a decade, and coach Alex Ferguson may soon be out of a job.


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Hockey Today (AP)
AP - N.Y. Islanders at Columbus (7 p.m. EST). The Islanders will try for their first five-game road winning streak since a six-game run to start the 2001-02 season.

The People's Voice is caught in a perfect storm
Should the '72 Dolphins root against the Colts' bid for history? The readers debate.

Steel Curtain architect Bud Carson dies (AP)
Bud Carson, the innovative architect of Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense who later coached the Cleveland Browns, died Wednesday. He was 75. Carson, who had been ill with emphysema, died at his home. Carson was the Steelers' defensive coordinator from 1972-77, and shaped a defense led by Joe Greene, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert into one of the best in NFL history.

Moulds not at practice, status uncertain (AP)
Eric Moulds was excused from practice Wednesday and Thursday after reports that the star wide receiver would be suspended, making his status uncertain for this weekend's game against New England. Coach Mike Mularkey declined to say why he excused the team's leading pass catcher, but denied reports that he had any intention of suspending Moulds.

Ray Lewis has season-ending surgery (AP)
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis underwent season-ending surgery on his torn right hamstring Wednesday, concluding a frustrating year in which he played in only six games. Lewis has been sidelined since Oct. 23, when he left in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Chicago Bears. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year worked hard to return from the injury, but finally decided surgery was...

Raiders bench QB Collins against Jets (AP)
Marques Tuiasosopo will start at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, who benched regular Kerry Collins. With no postseason to play for, the Raiders (4-8) are casting an eye toward the future. Oakland coach Norv Turner gave Tuiasosopo the nod on Wednesday and announced that he will start Sunday on the road against the New York Jets.

Roethlisberger plans to play out season (AP)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plans to play out the rest of the season despite a thumb injury so severe it may need surgery, partly because "it's not over for us yet" despite three consecutive losses. The injury is causing last year's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year visible pain and is affecting his ability to throw some passes, but Roethlisberger said a protective splint he...

Jags ready for hyped rematch with Colts (AP)
Most of the Jacksonville Jaguars have downplayed their matchup against the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, saying it's merely the next one on the schedule and it's important mostly because it's a division game. Defensive end Paul Spicer was refreshingly more candid. "It's going to be a game for the ages around here," he said Wednesday.

Union files grievance for Owens (AP)
The NFL Players Association filed a grievance against the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, claiming the team breached Terrell Owens' contract by trying to get back part of the wide receiver's signing bonus and by leaving him inactive for the rest of the season. The union said the team was breaching the maximum discipline clause in its agreement with the NFL.

Seahawks WR Jackson may play (AP)
Seattle leading receiver Darrell Jackson may play his first game since Oct. 2 when his Seahawks host San Francisco on Sunday. Jackson had surgery Oct. 12 to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. "The plan is to practice him Friday a little bit, legitimately practice him Friday, and just see how he reacts to that, with the hope of playing him Sunday," coach Mike Holmgren said.

Green trying to repair knee and marriage (AP)
Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green is rehabbing both his surgically repaired right knee and his marriage in hopes of salvaging his football career and his role as a family man. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press at the couple's home outside Green Bay on Wednesday, Green and his wife, Heather, announced they were reconciling their marriage.

The Hot-lanta seat
Sooner or later, a NBA head coach will be axed. Standing at the front of the firing line is Atlanta's Mike Woodson.

Duncan, Spurs dominate Heat inside (AP)
With Shaquille O'Neal dressed in a white suit and sitting on the bench, the Miami Heat had nobody to stop Tim Duncan inside. Duncan had 28 points and 16 rebounds, Manu Ginobili added 27 points, and the Spurs dominated in the paint in a 98-84 victory over the Heat on Wednesday night. "We have to attack down low, especially with Shaq out," Duncan said.

Nash, Marion keep Suns streak alive (AP)
Even when Phoenix blew an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter at a raucous road arena, Shawn Marion wasn't worried. The Suns have been honing their teamwork and poise longer than the Golden State Warriors -- and that growing tenacity showed in Phoenix's impressive finish. Steve Nash had 28 points and 14 assists, and Marion added 27 points and 14 rebounds as the Suns ended their eighth straight...

Brand, Clippers rally past Knicks (AP)
The Los Angeles Clippers turned up the defense in the fourth quarter and kept the New York Knicks 0-for-Staples Center against them. Elton Brand had 24 points and 11 rebounds, Cuttino Mobley scored eight of his 24 points in the final 2 minutes and the Clippers beat the Knicks 84-79 on Wednesday night.

Three charged in Richardson shooting (AP)
Three Chicago men were charged Wednesday in the shooting death of the brother of New York Knicks guard Quentin Richardson. Lee Richardson Jr., 31, was shot outside the family's Chicago home Monday during a robbery, police said. His father, Lee Richardson, Sr., 62, was with him at the time but was not injured, family members said.

Carter plays through pain for Nets (AP)
Vince Carter didn't have a miraculous recovery from the sore ankle and knee that hobbled him last time out. His reason for a better performance was much simpler than that. "They took the lid off the basket," he quipped. Carter showed no signs of his injuries Wednesday night, scoring 23 points to lead the New Jersey Nets over the Charlotte Bobcats 97-84.

Lakers don't need Kobe to beat Raptors (AP)
The Los Angeles Lakers didn't even need Kobe Bryant or Lamar Odom to play in the fourth quarter to beat the woeful Toronto Raptors. Odom scored 19 points, and Los Angeles beat Toronto 102-91 Wednesday night despite Bryant's lowest-scoring game of the season. Bryant sat out the fourth quarter and finished with 11 points for the Lakers, who put the game out of reach by outscoring Toronto 31-18 in the...

Pargo, Deng pace Bulls (AP)
The Chicago Bulls watch Jannero Pargo in practice, so it didn't surprise them when the seldom-used guard came off the bench to spark a victory over the Orlando Magic. "He's done it before, so we have experience with him sitting over there for long periods of time and coming in and getting hot," coach Scott Skiles said after the third-year pro scored a season-high 23 points in a 102-93 win...

Pierce leads Celtics past Hornets (AP)
If the New Orleans Hornets are content with their unexpectedly strong start, coach Byron Scott thinks their three-game losing streak could become much longer. Paul Pierce scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Ricky Davis added 26 points, and the Boston Celtics never trailed in a 101-87 victory over the Hornets on Wednesday night.

Garnett lifts T-Wolves over Blazers (AP)
Wally Szczerbiak wishes the Minnesota Timberwolves could start their games the way they have been finishing them lately. Szczerbiak scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, when the Timberwolves erased a 14-point deficit to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 84-74 Wednesday night. The Timberwolves scored 33 points in the fourth quarter after a 39-point final period against the Lakers last...

Power rankings
Will the arrival of Joe Thornton in San Jose rescue the Sharks from the bottom third of the Power Rankings?

Lemieux hospitalized with heart problem (AP)
Mario Lemieux has a new health problem to contend with. The Pittsburgh Penguins owner-player was hospitalized Wednesday for observation of an irregular heartbeat. Lemieux was monitored overnight in an undisclosed hospital and won't play Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild. The team said the playing status of the Hall of Famer, who has missed the equivalent of five full seasons due to illness...

Senators' Havlat out until playoffs (AP)
Senators forward Martin Havlat will have surgery on his dislocated right shoulder and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season. Havlat was examined at the Cleveland Clinic and decided Wednesday to have surgery on the recommendation of specialist Dr. Anthony Miniaci. "It's really disappointing," Havlat said in a conference call from Cleveland.

Iginla nets two, Flames defeat Devils (AP)
After a frustrating night in Philadelphia, the power-play goals flowed for the Calgary Flames in New Jersey. Jarome Iginla scored two goals and had an assist Wednesday night to lead Flames to a 4-1 victory over the Devils one night after a 1-0 shootout loss to the Flyers. "It was a good feeling," Iginla said.

Blackhawks win on Arnason's OT goal (AP)
Nikolai Khabibulin lived up to his big contract against the New York Rangers. Khabibulin, the NHL's highest-paid goalie, stopped 30 shots and Tyler Arnason scored a power-play goal 1:20 into overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. "The first star of the game was Khabibulin," Arnason said.

Three PP goals lead Predators over Caps (AP)
The Nashville Predators are in a good groove and they have their potent power play to thank. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky had two power-play goals in the first period, and Scott Sullivan added one in the third to lift the Predators to a 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. Sullivan also scored in the second period, assisted by Zidlicky, and was stopped on a penalty shot as the...

Lehtinen goal lifts Stars past Panthers (AP)
After squandering a three-goal lead and failing to connect on four third-period power plays, the Dallas Stars turned to top goal scorer Jere Lehtinen for the winner. Lehtinen scored twice, including the tiebreaker with 15.8 seconds left, and the Stars handed the Florida Panthers their 10th straight road loss, 4-3 Wednesday night.

G Kolesnik wins debut, Avs top Bruins (AP)
Vitaly Kolesnik had the kind of game that could lead to a shakeup for the Colorado Avalanche. Kolesnik stopped 20 shots in his NHL debut, and Alex Tanguay had a goal for the third straight game and added two assists to lift the Avalanche to a 4-1 victory over the struggling Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

Flyers D Desjardins out 8-10 weeks (AP)
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Eric Desjardins is expected to miss eight-to-10 weeks because of a dislocated right shoulder that will require surgery to fix. Desjardins, 36, was injured Tuesday night in a collision with Calgary's Darren McCarty during the first period of the Flyers' 1-0 win in a shootout.

Sharks improve to 3-0 with Joe Thornton (AP)
If Joe Thornton keeps this up, he will quickly shed any lingering disappointment about being traded. He certainly made a memorable first splash in the Shark Tank. Thornton assisted on his new team's first goal, then scored later in the opening period to lead the San Jose Sharks to their third straight victory in his home debut, 5-3 over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night.

Looking sporty
Don't think for a minute that NASCAR racing is just about stock cars and trucks.

NASCAR agrees to eight-year television package with five networks (AP)
When no one else wanted NASCAR on its networks, ESPN was thrilled to air everything it could as an eager partner in the grass-roots effort to build stock car racing into a major sport.

NASCAR signs deals with ABC, ESPN, FOX, TNT, SPEED (SportsTicker)
BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) - NASCAR soon will be all over the dial.

Toro Rosso makes Speed first US F1 racer since 1993 (AFP)
Scott Speed will become the first American to race in Formula One since Michael Andretti's ill-fated 1993 flop when he takes the wheel in 2006 for Scuderia Toro Rosso, the team confirmed.

NASCAR annoyed with drivers who skipped New York ceremonies (AP)
NASCAR officials are ``extremely disappointed'' in Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other drivers who failed to attend the season-ending awards ceremonies.

Stewart cashes in on record year (AP)
Tony Stewart's best year in NASCAR's Nextel Cup series reached the bottom line Friday, with the two-time champion setting a record for single-season earnings.

Earnhardt named most popular once again (AP)
Dale Earnhardt slipped this season in the points standings, but not in the popularity department.

Humbled Busch on hand for season-ending ceremonies (AP)
It took two quiet weekends out of a race car for Kurt Busch to realize he needed an attitude adjustment.

NASCAR champion ready to get in shape (AP)
Tony Stewart went on a shopping spree last week that he hopes will lead to a new and improved Nextel Cup champion.

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