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Sports briefs for Feb. 21

By Wire Service Reports, Special to the BDN

Duluth hockey fans warned after racist chants

DULUTH, Minn. — Students who own season tickets to Minnesota-Duluth’s men’s hockey games are being warned to shape up after reports of racist chants during recent games against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

Athletic Director Bob Nielson sent students a letter warning that inappropriate comments directed at officials or other teams could get them tossed from the arena, or cost them their tickets.

The Duluth News-Tribune reports students began chanting “smallpox blankets” and other phases at the North Dakota mascot during the Feb. 10-11 series.

North Dakota has resumed using the Fighting Sioux nickname despite threats from the NCAA that it would harm the school’s chances at hosting postseason events.

Duluth is in the midst of an anti-racism campaign. Billboards and posters throughout the city are aiming to create dialogue about racism.

Weight to fill in for ill Isles coach Capuano

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Doug Weight will fill in as the New York Islanders interim coach for their game at Buffalo on Tuesday night, filling in for Jack Capuano who is sick with the flu.

Capuano traveled with the team to Buffalo following the Islanders’ 6-0 home loss to Ottawa on Monday afternoon. He was too ill to attend the Islanders skate Tuesday morning, and remained at the team hotel for the game.

Weight is in his first year serving as Islanders’ senior adviser to general manager Garth Snow and an assistant coach. A four-time NHL All-Star, Weight retired in May after playing three of his 19 NHL seasons with the Isles.

Capuano is a former UMaine standout hockey player who lives in Bangor.

Lightning, Avalanche, Red Wings make 3-team deal

TAMPA, Fla. — The Detroit Red Wings acquired defenseman Kyle Quincey on Tuesday in a three-team deal that sent forward Steve Downie from Tampa Bay to Colorado.

The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired a first-round pick in the 2012 draft and minor league defenseman Sebastien Piche after exchanging Downie for Quincey with the Avalanche. The Lightning then dealt Quincey to the Red Wings for a first-round pick and Piche.

Quincey was drafted by Detroit in 2003, and played a role as the Red Wings reached the Western Conference finals in 2007. He appeared in 13 playoff games, helping fill a void left by injured defenseman Mathieu Schneider.

The Central Division-leading Red Wings have been looking to add defensive depth before the tradeline on Feb. 27.

Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman, whose team is well outside playoff position as the season heads into its final month and a half, has made a series of trades over the past week.

The Lightning also sent defenseman Pavel Kubina to Philadelphia for a pair of draft picks and a minor leaguer, and obtained a 2012 second-round pick from San Jose for center Dominic Moore and a seventh-round draft pick this year.

Mariners move Suzuki out of leadoff spot

PEORIA, Ariz. — The lineup change Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge hinted at during the offseason is going to become permanent.

It won’t be Ichiro Suzuki at the top of the Mariners batting order to begin the 2012 season.

Wedge announced Tuesday that he will move Suzuki from his traditional leadoff spot down to No. 3 in the Mariners batting order. It’s not a simple spring training experiment; Wedge is set to make Suzuki’s move permanent and he will figure out who is Seattle’s best option to take over in the leadoff role.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking about it this winter. … Bottom line, it’s for us to have the best lineup 1 through 9 out there,” Wedge said. “I want our lineup to be extended. I think our best opportunity is for Ichiro to be hitting third for us.”

It’ll be the first time in his career that Suzuki will be somewhere permanently other than the leadoff spot. He’s had only a handful of games at other spots in the lineup through his 11-year career in Seattle. He’s coming off the worst year of his career in the U.S., hitting .272, the first time he’s failed to hit at least .300. Suzuki’s 184 hits were also a career low.

The first option to replace Suzuki will be Chone Figgins, although Wedge said he’s not set on his Nos. 1 and 2. Figgins has struggled since coming over from the Los Angeles Angels and signing a $36 million, four-year deal. After thriving in the leadoff spot with the Angels, Figgins has hit just .236 in his two seasons in Seattle, including .188 in an injury-shortened 2011 season.

Indians send LHP De La Cruz to Rangers

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Cleveland Indians have traded minor league left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations.

The Indians had designated the 23-year-old for assignment on Feb. 14 to make room for free agent first baseman Casey Kotchman, who signed with Cleveland earlier this month. De La Cruz spent last season at Double-A Akron, where he went 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 23 games. He had been with the organization since 2004.

De La Cruz will report to the Rangers’ training camp in Surprise, Ariz.

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