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MINNESOTA SPORTS ROUNDUP: Avalanche edge Wild, 5-4

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DENVER -- Colorado's John Mitchell, Paul Stastny and Maxime Talbot all scored during a three-goal second period as the Avalanche held on to beat the Wild 5-4 in Denver last night. Ryan O'Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon also scored for the Avs, who have won three-of-four. Minnesota star Zach Parise tallied two goals and two assists, while Mikael Granlund added a goal and two helpers for Minnesota, which has alternated wins and losses over its last six games. Darcy Kuemper stopped just 19-of-23 shots in 36-plus minutes of action before being pulled while trailing 4-1. Niklas Backstrom denied eight-of-nine shots the rest of the way. Minnesota closes out this four-game road trip with a game tomorrow night in Calgary.

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The Minnesota Timberwolves wrap up their brief two-game homestand tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Target Center. Minnesota will head to Atlanta to take on the Hawks tomorrow before returning home to host the Lakers on Tuesday. The T'wolves have won five-of-six to improve to 23-and-22 on the season. The Grizzlies have won four in-a-row to improve to 24-and-20. Memphis is coached by Staples native Dave Joerger. Tipoff tonight is 7 p.m.

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The Minnesota Golden Gophers are back in action tomorrow as they host the Northwestern Wildcats in a Big Ten showdown at Williams Arena. The Gophers have alternated wins and losses over their last six games following Sunday's 82-78 setback at Nebraska. Minnesota sits at 15-and-6 on the year and 4-and-4 in conference play. Northwestern is 11-and-11 and 4-and-5 after defeating Wisconsin on Wednesday night in Madison. Tomorrow's game begins at 1 p.m. at the Barn.

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Todd Hoffner is the new head coach of Minot State football. Hoffner had been a successful coach at Minnesota State-Mankato from 2008-2012, compiling a 34-and-13 record and winning three NSIC championships. But, he was fired at Minnesota State-Makato in 2012 in the midst of a child pornography investigation. He was cleared of all wrong-doing in the case, which never went to court. Hoffner becomes the 19th head coach for the Beavers. He went 34-and-13 while coaching the Mavericks and won three Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference South Division championships. Hoffner replaces Paul Rudolph, who left to become the offensive coordinator at North Dakota.

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One of 51 dogs confiscated in 2007 from NFL player Michael Vick is being treated today at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in Eden Prairie (Fri10:30am). Spokesman James Judge says eight-year-old American pit bull terrier Hector was rescued by a local family, Andrew and Clara Yori of Rochester, and since then he's become a certified therapy dog. Hector helps to teach children compassion towards animals and how children can safely act around dogs. Judge says Hector did have a blood infection that is often transmitted through dog fighting. He's having bone marrow taken today and may need to have his spleen removed depending on test results -- but is expected to fully recover.

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Fifteen finalists are hoping to hear their name called Saturday for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This year's finalists include former Golden Gopher player Tony Dungy, who once was an assistant coach with the Minnesota Vikings. Dungy went on to coach the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl title. Also in the running are defensive end Michael Strahan, wide receivers Tim Brown, Andre Reed and Marvin Harrison, kicker Morten Andersen, running back Jerome Bettis, linebackers Derrick Brooks, Kevin Greene and Charles Haley, tackle Walter Jones, guard Will Shields, defensive backs John Lynch and Aeneas Williams, and former Niners owner Eddie DeBartolo Junior. The 2014 Class will be revealed at Radio City Music Hall during a televised special on Fox at 7 p.m. tomorrow night. Enshrinement ceremonies are set for Saturday, August 2nd in Canton, Ohio.

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The Minnesota Twins released left-handed pitcher Andrew Albers yesterday, for the purpose of allowing him to play the 2014 season in Korea. The 28-year-old Albers made ten starts for the Twins last year, compiling a 2-and-5 record with a 4.05 earned run average. He pitched eight-and-two-thirds-innings of shutout ball in his Major League debut last season. He asked for his release because the Hanwha Eagles were going to pay him more money than the Twins.

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NASCAR is making changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Starting this season, the field of drivers/teams is expanding from 12 to 16 and will include a series of elimination rounds to determine the champion. The new format will be called the "NASCAR Chase Grid" and will begin following the regular-season finale at Richmond on September 6th. The number of drivers will decrease after every three Chase races and will eventually be down to just four drivers/teams when the series concludes its season November 16th at Homestead. The highest finishing driver among the final four at Homestead will win the Sprint Cup championship. The 2014 season begins with the Daytona 500 on February 23rd.

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