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Panthers Fire Murrays and Trade Larionov

From Associated Press

Preparing for the team’s possible sale, the struggling Florida Panthers fired their coach and general manager Thursday and traded a veteran center who never lived up to a fat free-agent contract.

Coach Terry Murray and his brother, vice president and General Manager Bryan Murray, were dismissed by team President Bill Torrey after the Panthers won only six of their first 36 games.

Terry Murray is the fifth NHL coach fired this season, which is less than half over.

Duane Sutter, a scout for Florida the past three seasons, became the fifth head coach in team history. Torrey took over as interim GM.

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The Panthers also traded center Igor Larionov to Detroit for defenseman Yan Golubovsky, who will report to their Louisville affiliate. Larionov joined the Panthers in July after signing a one-year deal for $1.8 million.

“We will do whatever we feel we have to do to turn this thing around and give our fans something to cheer about,” Torrey said.

Even with Pavel Bure, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, Florida is 6-18-7-5 and has one win in the last 14 games.

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The NHL gave developer Steve Ellman and Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky until Feb. 15 to close their $87 million purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes.

But it remained unclear whether city officials in suburban Scottsdale would also grant Ellman’s group a 45-day extension past the Dec. 31 deadline to buy the team.

If they don’t, plans for a $575 million retail, residential and entertainment complex in Scottsdale--anchored by a 17,300-seat arena for the Coyotes--could be scrapped.

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Barely 12 hours after returning to the NHL on a memorable night in which the high drama he created was exceeded only by his high performance, Mario Lemieux was back at practice with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“It was a great night for everybody,” Lemieux said the morning after scoring a goal and two assists in his first game back after a 3 1/2-year layoff. “It was exciting to be back on the ice.

“I was a little bit surprised the way I played, the way I handled the puck and made pretty good decisions on the ice.”

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The New York Rangers acquired defenseman Alexei Gusarov, a member of Colorado’s 1996 Stanley Cup championship team, from the Avalanche for a fifth-round draft choice in 2001. . . . The Vancouver Canucks filled their need for an experienced penalty-killing forward with the acquisition of center Mike Stapleton from the New York Islanders for a ninth-round draft pick in 2001. . . . The St. Louis Blues traded defenseman Marc Bergevin, 35, to Pittsburgh for defenseman Dan Trebil, 26.


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