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THINGS CLOSER TO NORMAL AS DEVILS DEFEAT ISLANDERS

Now this seemed normal. Or at least as normal as things are going to get these days.

There were, of course, reminders of the World Trade Center attack all around Continental Arena on Thursday night, but there wasn't so much of the heavy emotion that punctuated Wednesday night's preseason opener at Madison Square Garden. And maybe that was to be expected.

"I really don't think it will be so much (emotion)," coach Larry Robinson said before the Devils beat the Islanders, 4-3. "We're here, across the river, not at the heart of everything like we were (Wednesday night). We're kind of next door, and we're at home. There'll be emotion, but it will be a little different."

One other thing was normal for the Devils: They had a rookie turn in an eye-opening effort. Winger Brian Gionta, a Rochester native who played at Boston College, scored his first goal in the second period to give the Devils a 3-1 lead, and added an assist on the Jim McKenzie goal that made it 4-2.

Right wing Valeri Bure came into training camp eight days late after agreeing to terms on a three-year contract with the Panthers late Wednesday night, skated with the team Thursday morning, then the whole bunch was late to Dallas when their Miami Air charter flight was delayed at the Airport.

After a police escort from Love Field through the end of rush hour traffic, the Panthers arrived at American Airlines Center at 6:55 p.m. Dallas time. Thursday's game, won by the Stars, 4-2, started a half-hour late.

Donald Audette scored two power play goals for the Stars.

In other news: Former Maple Leafs forward Bill Harris, who won three Stanley Cups with Toronto, has died of leukemia. He was 66.

Price takes early lead
in Pennsylvania Classic

Nick Price put his mind back on golf and looked like the guy who dominated the PGA Tour in the days before Tiger Woods.

Price made three birdie putts of at least 25 feet on Laurel Valley's soft greens and finished with a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead in the rain-delayed Pennsylvania Classic in Ligonier, Pa.

Per-Ulrik Johansson overcame a double bogey to shoot a 67, while Charles Howell III was another stroke back.

Only half the field completed the first round because of rains that suspended play for more than four hours.

In North Augusta, S.C., Marianne Morris, Vickie Odegard and Laura Diaz shot 5-under-par 67s for a share of the first-round lead in the LPGA Asahi Ryokuken International.

Rookie Beth Bader shot a 5-under 31 on the front and was through 11 holes before late afternoon rain washed out the rest of the first round.

Bettor's Delight gives
Lachance fifth Jug victory

Bettor's Delight held off Real Desire over the final quarter-mile to give driver Michel Lachance a record-tying fifth victory in the Little Brown Jug in Delaware, Ohio.

The victory, worth $256,481 from a Jug-record purse of $646,050, was Bettor's Delight's eighth of the year -- with four second-place finishes -- in 12 moneyed starts. His time was 1:51 4/5 in the second of the Triple Crown events for 3-year-old pacers.

Four Starzzz Shark, the winner of the opening-leg Cane Pace, finished third, spoiling his triple crown hopes. Bettor's Delight did not run in the Cane Pace.

The final leg of the triple crown will be the Messenger Pace on Oct. 27, at The Meadows.

Zanardi wakes up
from induced coma

Two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi came out of an induced coma in Berlin, signaling a faster-than-expected recovery from a gruesome crash that forced the amputation of both legs.

The 34-year-old Italian faces another exploratory operation today to check his progress.

CART official Mike Zizzo said Zanardi, upon regaining his speech and learning his legs had been amputated, first spoke to his wife, Daniela, and expressed gratitude the crash hadn't killed him.

NBA opts to cancel
international exhibitions

The NBA canceled all six of its preseason games scheduled outside the United States and Canada.

Eliminated were games in Cologne, Germany; Pesaro, Italy; Tokyo; and Mexico City.

The teams involved were the Toronto Raptors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and the Orlando Magic.

Around & About

Andrew Pinnock ran for 97 yards and a touchdown as No. 18 South Carolina (3-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) took a 16-14 victory over No. 17 Mississippi State (1-1, 0-1).

Eric Crouch threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as No. 4 Nebraska (4-0) rolled to a 48-3 win against Rice (2-1). Sandro DeAngelis (St. Joe's) kicked five extra points for Nebraska.

Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga finished fourth in the Professional Women's Bowling Association Storm Challenge in Cape Coral, Fla. Johnson lost in the playoffs to champion Leanne Barrette of Pleasanton, Calif., 255-198. Johnson took home $3,700. Barrette beat Cara Honeychurch of Australia, 224-156, in the title match.

Mary Helak (St. Mary's) had 19 assists and Erika Felicetta (Cheektowaga) had eight kills and 11 digs as Medaille (9-3) beat D'Youville, 3-0, in a Northeastern Athletic Conference women's volleyball match. Elsewhere, Alison Conley (Alden) had 10 kills and Kelli Dempsey (Sweet Home) had nine blocks for Erie Community College in a 3-0 loss to Alfred. . . . In men's soccer, Paul Johnson scored for Niagara County Community College in a 1-1 tie with Genesee CC.

Muhammad Ali made a morale-boosting visit to rescue workers in the rubble of the World Trade Center. "We appreciate his coming," said Richard Sheirer, director of the city Office of Emergency Management. "I can't tell you how much we appreciate his coming."

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