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MINNESOTA SPORTS BRIEFS: Wild sign Ballard to contract

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild have agreed to terms with former Golden Gopher star defenseman Keith Ballard of Baudette.

The two-year deal is reportedly worth around three-million-dollars and returns Ballard to his homestate from Vancouver. The Wild, meanwhile, will not extend an offer to another native son. Moorhead native Matt Cullen will be allowed to hit the open market today. 

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The NHL offseason is about to go into full swing. Free agency is set to begin on Friday. The Penguins could potentially lose unrestricted free agents Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow. Goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Tim Thomas are on the market. Veteran forwards Daniel Alfredsson, Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne are available. Centers Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Ribeiro and Tim Connolly will be looking for teams. 

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New York's Vernon Wells drove in three runs to lead a 13-hit attack as the Yankees outslugged the Twins 9-5 at Target Field yesterday in Minneapolis. Ichiro Suzuki went 3-for-5 with a two-run triple for New York, which swept the four-game series. David Phelps pitched six-and-a-third innings of four-run ball for his sixth win of the season. Rookie Kyle Gibson was hammered for 11 hits and eight runs in five-and-a-third frames to take the loss in his second career start for Minnesota. Justin Morneau hit a pair of solo homers to highlight the Twins' attack. The Twins are now in Toronto to begin a three-game series tonight. 

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The Minnesota Twins activated starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey off of the disabled list and designated right-hander P.J. Walters for assignment. Walters was the losing pitcher in Wednesday's game against the Yankees and could be assigned a Class AAA roster spot in Rochester if he clears waivers. Pelfrey has been nursing a back sprain and made a minor league start at Class A Cedar Rapids, where he worked six inning and allowed two runs. Pelfrey is scheduled to start tomorrow in Toronto.

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The Boston Celtics will formally introduce new head coach Brad Stevens with a press conference today. The Celtics hired the 36-year-old away from Butler University to replace Doc Rivers, who was let out of his contract to become head coach of the Clippers. Stevens spent the last six seasons with the Bulldogs, leading them to two NCAA championship games.

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Former Minnesota Timberwolves star Al Jefferson is making the move from Salt Lake City to Charlotte. "Big Al" and the Bobcats have agreed on a three-year deal. The contract is worth about 41-million-dollars and the third year is a player option. The 28-year old center averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season for the Utah Jazz.

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The Minnesota Lynx return to action on Sunday as they host Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury at Target Center. The Lynx are coming off a 96-66 rout by the Sparks in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Minnesota is now 7-and-3 on the season. Phoenix has won five in-a-row to improve to 8-4.

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Minnesota Lynx standout Maya Moore currently sits in third-place in the annual WNBA All-Star voting, which is being conducted on line. Moore trails Los Angeles star Candace Parker and Chicago's Elena Delle Donne. Lynx players Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen rank second and fourth in the WNBA Western Conference voting among guards, while Rebekkah Brunson is sixth among forwards. Fans can continue to vote on-line at the WNBA Webpage. The WNBA All-Star Game will be played in Connecticut July 27th. 

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"Badge of Glory" was the winning horse in yesterday's Frances Genter Stakes at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. Jockey Scott Stevens piloted the three-year-old Minnesota-bred filly to the win by swinging the horse wide out of the turn, passing several thoroughbreds down the stretch. "Sultry Queen" was second, while wagering-favorite "Bleu Moon Magic" came home third.

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The Sprint Cup Series heads back to Daytona International Speedway this weekend for the Coke Zero 400. Drivers will go under the lights on Saturday night in Florida with the green flag set to drop at 7:30 p.m. local time. Jimmie Johnson still holds the lead in the Sprint Cup standings by 38 points over Carl Edwards. Clint Bowyer is third and 41 points back of Johnson while Kevin Harvick sits in fourth place, 66 points back of the leader. 

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