Bettman: NHL growing despite declining economy



The NHL is "still in growth mode" despite the economic downturn, commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday, noting that ticket sales have increased this season. "We're acutely aware of what's going on out there, but it hasn't yet impacted us," Bettman said before attending last night's game between the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks. "I have no doubt that, over time, if it's long enough and bad enough, it will have some impact, but based on what we're seeing right now, our business seems to be strong." Season-ticket sales are 4 percent higher than a year ago, and single-game tickets were up nearly 13 percent as of a week ago, Bettman noted, calling that data "remarkable - if not startling - numbers." Bettman's comments came on the same day the NBA confirmed it would eliminate about 80 jobs in the United States, the first major American sports league to announce layoffs because of the global economic situation.

Capitals 5, Canucks 1: : Alexander Semin scored twice, Michael Nylander netted a penalty shot, and host Washington limited Vancouver to 10 shots on goal to earn a victory. The Capitals broke a franchise record for shots by an opponent, having not before allowed fewer than 11 in a game. Vancouver avoided breaking its franchise low of eight. The Canucks scored a total of 11 goals in their previous two games, both wins over Calgary. But they managed only two shots against Capitals goalie Brent Johnson in the first period, one in the second and seven in the third. The Capitals again allowed an opponent to score on its first shot of the night. But for the second consecutive game, Washington's high-powered offense made up for that early miscue - taking a 5-1 lead on Nylander's goal with 3:24 left in the second period.


Other results:: Thomas Vanek scored twice and Ales Kotalik and Jason Pominville each added a goal and two assists as the visiting Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Islanders, 7-1. ... Roman Hamrlik and Michael Komisarek scored goals 44 seconds apart in the third period, helping the Montreal Canadiens rally to beat the host Philadelphia Flyers, 5-3. ... Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom each scored goals to lift the visiting Detroit Red Wings past the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-1. ... Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and two assists, and linemate Aaron Voros had two goals and three points in the New York Rangers' 4-1 victory over the visiting New Jersey Devils. ... Rich Peverley and J.P. Dumont scored in the shootout to lift the visiting Nashville Predators over the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-2. ... Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes scored in a shootout as the visiting St. Louis Blues stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-4.

Rangers: : Alexei Cherepanov, a 19-year-old first-round draft pick, died during a Continental Hockey League game in Russia. Former Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr played a shift with Cherepanov and was talking to his Avangard Omsk teammate on the bench shortly after they left the ice when Cherepanov collapsed. Jay Grossman, Cherepanov's North American agent, said he believed the cause was a heart ailment.

Armstrong says he'll race in Giro d'Italia for 1st time


Lance Armstrong agreed to ride in next year's Giro d'Italia and suggested the Italian race - not the Tour de France - will be the main target in his comeback season. The American has not competed in the three-week Giro, considered the sport's most prestigious stage race after the Tour. Winning both the Giro and the Tour in the same year after more than three years away from the sport would be an unprecedented challenge for someone of Armstrong's age. Armstrong, 37, announced last month that he is returning to cycling after three years in retirement and hoped to win the Tour for an eighth time. The 100th anniversary edition of the Giro is scheduled for May 9-31. The Tour de France starts July 4.

More cycling: : Third-place Tour de France finisher Bernhard Kohl tested positive for a banned blood booster when his race samples were checked for the new drug. French anti-doping agency director Pierre Bordry told the Associated Press that he informed Austrian anti-doping authorities, who confirmed the doping case. The Austrian cyclist is the fourth rider to be caught using CERA, an advanced version of EPO. He faces a two-year suspension.

Lewis joins track panel to review performance



Carl Lewis, winner of nine Olympic gold medals, has been selected as a member of USA Track and Field's seven-person audit panel, CEO Doug Logan announced on his blog. The committee will analyze the selection process for the team, coaching and preparation for international competitions. Members will also study the performance of the Beijing team, in particular national relay team preparation and training. The U.S. contingent won 23 medals - the most of any country - but will be remembered more for dropping the baton in both the men's and women's 400-meter preliminaries.

Basketball: : Former Seattle SuperSonic James Donaldson said he met with Gary Payton last week but says he isn't interested in becoming an NBA owner and disagrees with Payton about a team returning to Seattle by 2011. On Sunday, Payton said he was teaming with Donaldson, who is running for Seattle City Council in 2009, to bring a team to Seattle.

Jurisprudence: : A third defendant in the killing of former Villanova basketball standout Howard Porter has been sentenced to 45 years in prison. Fredquinzo King was sentenced in District Court in Minneapolis. He had pleaded guilty earlier. Porter, a 58-year-old probation officer, was beaten to death in May 2007.