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MINNESOTA SPORTS ROUNDUP: Twins continue workouts in Fort Myers

Twins pitchers and catchers continue workouts today in Fort Myers. Position players are scheduled to report by Friday with the first full squad workout on Saturday. First baseman Joe Mauer is already at camp and working on his new position. Mauer says former manager Tom Kelly will be a key tutor for him learning things at first base. The Twins open spring training play on February 28th against the Boston Red Sox.


The U-S men's Olympic hockey team takes to the ice today in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic. A win would match Team USA up with Canada or Latvia in the semifinals. The puck drops at 11 a.m. today. Team USA has ten players with Minnesota ties, including Minneapolis native and current Wild forward Zach Parise. Parise is the team captain.


Despite the Men's Olympic Hockey Tournament still going on, vacation time is over for the Minnesota Wild. The team returns to practice this afternoon in preparation for their February 27th game at Edmonton. Today's workout is scheduled for a rink in Edina. The Wild are currently 31-21-and-7 and sit in sixth place in the NHL Western Conference standings.


Former Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano will start on Opening Day for the Pirates this season. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle made the announcement yesterday. The 30-year-old Liriano went 16-and-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts last season, his first with the Bucs. The Pirates continue workouts today in Bradenton, Florida.


The Minnesota Timberwolves start the second half of the season tonight as they host the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers at the Target Center. The T'wolves will then head out on a five-game west coast road trip beginning Saturday in Utah. Minnesota sits at 25-and-28 on the season. Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman says he'd like to see his team get healthy and go on a nice run. Indiana is 41-and-12 after a 12-point win over Atlanta last night.


The Minnesota Golden Gophers host the Illinois Fighting Illini tonight at Williams Arena. The Gophers have won two-of-three following Sunday's 54-48 victory at Northwestern. Illinois has lost 10 of its last 11 games going into tonight's game. The Fighting Illini are 14-and-12 and 3-and-10 in the Big Ten. Gopher head coach Richard Pitino says his team must not overlook Illinois because they have good athletes and are capable of beating anyone in the league. The Golden Gophers are 17-and-9 and 6-and-7. Tip time at the Barn is set for 8 p.m.


Minnesota Golden Gophers guard Wally Ellenson is leaving the basketball program to focus on track and field, the school announced yesterday. Ellenson hasn't played in a Big Ten game this season. He is averaging just 1.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 6.9 minutes in nine non-conference games. He is an all-America candidate at a high jumper. Ellenson is a sophomore from Rice Lake, Wisconsin.


NCAA Football Rules Committee chairman Troy Calhoun is backing down on earlier proclamations of rule changes that would slow down up-tempo offenses. Calhoun is backtracking on the issue saying that the change to "enhance student-athlete safety by guaranteeing a small window for both teams to substitute" may not be necessary. He adds that he wants to see hard evidence that the rule is a safety concern and that the up-tempo offenses cause issues for players. The proposed rule would prevent offenses from snapping the ball within the first ten seconds of the 40-second play clock.


Today marks the start of the NFL Combine from Indianapolis. Vikings officials are on hand to observe players, conduct interviews and make evaluations as they prepare for the NFL Draft. The Vikes currently hold the eighth overall pick in the first round of May's NFL Draft. Today's events include arrivals for kickers, special teams, offensive lineman and tight ends. There will be an orientation and interviews along with some medical work done.


The National Football League's policy banning off-duty police officers from being armed inside stadiums is being challenged in Hennepin County District Court. Two Minnesota police groups are suing the NFL, arguing the policy cannot be enforced and violates state law. State law has allowed officers to carry in private venues since 2003, even if there are signs indicating weapons are not allowed. The NFL changed its rules last fall and now only allows on-duty police and private security officers to have a gun in a stadium.


Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker, who grew up in Cold Spring, says money isn't the only factor he'll look at when deciding whether to re-sign with the Broncos. Speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Decker explained that he wants to enjoy his job too. The free agent market opens up March 11th. Decker is a former Golden Gopher standout in both football and baseball.


Carleton sophomore Erik Johnson of Grand Forks is this week's MIAC men's tennis Athlete of the Week. St. Catherine senior Victoria Bravo of Tucson, Arizona is the MIAC women's tennis Athlete of the Week. Carleton sophomore Jonah Barry of Madison, Wisconsin is this week's MIAC men's indoor track Athlete of the Week. Hamline junior Mark Volker of Cambridge is the MIAC men's indoor field Athlete of the Week. Saint Benedict freshman Allison Kosobud of Brainerd is the MIAC women's indoor track Athlete of the Week. Concordia-Moorhead junior Cherae Reeves of West Fargo is the MIAC indoor field Athlete of the Week.


The D-N-R is hosting a public meeting in Lake City tonight (Wed 630pm) to discuss deer population goals for southeastern Minnesota. Big game coordinator Leslie McInenly (MAC'-in-en-lee) says they want the public to weigh in before an advisory team comes up with a management plan. She says they have pretty high deer density in the southeast relative to the rest of the state. A second meeting is next Tuesday (2/25) in Saint Charles.