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National Sports Briefs

Associated Press
AUBURN, Ala. ó Tommy Tuberville stepped down Wednesday after 10 years as Auburn’s coach, a reign that included a perfect season and a string of overachieving teams but ended with the worst record of his tenure.
Tuberville was 85-40 in his decade with Auburn, including a 13-0 season in 2004 when the Tigers finished No. 2 in the nation and won the Southeastern Conference title for the first time in 15 years. But Auburn went 5-7 this year and was routed 36-0 at the end by rival Alabama, currently ranked No. 1.
“The last 10 years have been a great time in my life, both professionally and personally,” Tuberville said in a statement. “It’s been a great place to coach and live, and we’ve had a lot of success along the way. I’m going to remain in Auburn and help the Auburn family however I can. I’m very appreciative of the coaches, players, staff and Auburn fans over the last decade.”
– ATLANTA ó Georgia Tech has been selected as the ACC representative in the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech is 9-3 following a 45-42 win over Georgia last Saturday and will receive its first invitation since 2000 to its hometown Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome.
– RALEIGH ó The Atlantic Coast Conference has named Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer its player of the year and its top offensive player.
In voting results released by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association on Wednesday, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich was named the league’s defensive player of the year.
– LUBBOCK, Texas ó Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers says the school is negotiating a contract extension with Mike Leach, amid reports that the Red Raiders coach has met with the University of Washington about the Huskies’ top job.
GOLF
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ó With little fanfare and even less to say, Michelle Wie took an important first step Wednesday toward earning an LPGA Tour card by opening with a 3-under 69 in the 90-hole qualifying tournament.
It was her first competitive round since Sept. 19, when she advanced out of the first stage of Q-school in California.
NHL
NEW YORK ó Petr Prucha returned from exile to score his first goal of the season late in the third period and the New York Rangers went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in a shootout Wednesday night.
Scott Gomez, who assisted on both Rangers goals, fired wide of the net but the rebound bounced off the end boards to Prucha for the putback at the right post that beat sprawling goalie Dany Sabourin with 5:57 left.
Senators 5, Thrashers 1
OTTAWA ó Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists, and Ottawa got first-period goals from each member of the Pizza Line.
Heatley opened the scoring with his 13th goal 1:18 in, and set up goals by linemates Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson later in the period.
Wild 4, Blues 0
ST. PAUL, Minn. ó Niklas Backstrom made 22 saves for his third shutout of the season and 12th in three seasons with Minnesota.
Andrew Brunette and Marek Zidlicky scored power-play goals to help Minnesota take the Northwest Division lead with its third victory in four games.
Blackhawks 4, Ducks 2
CHICAGO ó Jonathan Toews broke a tie with 1:35 left in regulation for Chicago, beating goalie Jonas Hiller. Martin Havlat and Patrick Sharp also scored.
SUSPENDED
DALLAS ó Suspended Dallas Stars agitator Sean Avery flew to New York on Wednesday for a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and gave a likely sample of what he’ll say by apologizing for comments about his former girlfriends.
“I would like to sincerely apologize for my off-color remarks to the press yesterday from Calgary,” Avery said. “I should not have made those comments and I recognize that they were inappropriate.
“It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game, but I am now acutely aware of how hurtful my actions were. I caused unnecessary embarrassment to my peers as well as people I have been close with in the past.”
Avery got himself in trouble Tuesday when he used a crude expression to describe former girlfriends now dating other hockey players while speaking to reporters.
FIRED
RALEIGH ó The Carolina Hurricanes fired coach Peter Laviolette on Wednesday and replaced him with Paul Maurice, the winningest coach in franchise history.
Hall of Fame player Ron Francis, the team’s assistant general manager, moved from the front office and will be Maurice’s associate coach.
“We have a team that right now that, in my opinion, is not playing with the kind of confidence it needs,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “We’ve lost that confidence.”

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