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March 25, 2013 at 11:00 PM
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Lightning promote Cooper to head coach

TAMPA, Fla., March 25 (UPI) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning Monday promoted Jon Cooper from its Syracuse, N.Y., minor league affiliate to become the eighth head coach in Bolts' history.

Cooper, 45, compiled a 133-62-26 record over three seasons while guiding the Lightning's American Hockey League club.

He takes over from Guy Boucher, who was fired Sunday.

Assistant coaches Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix handled the coaching duties Sunday in the Bolts' 3-2 road loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

"[Cooper] has had success at every level he has coached and is extremely familiar with our organization, as well as our players," General Manager Steve Yzerman said. "He has a tremendous record at all levels and we feel he is ready to make the move to the NHL."

Cooper takes over as the Lightning are in danger of missing the post-season after compiling a 13-18-1 mark. They are six points out of a playoff spot.

Hurricanes ink Semin to 5-year extension

RALEIGH, N.C., March 25 (UPI) -- High-scoring forward Alexander Semin and the Carolina Hurricanes have agreed on a five-year contract extension, General Manager Jim Rutherford said Monday.

Semin will get $7 million per season through 2017-18 after logging a breakout current campaign -- his first with Carolina -- during which he has racked up eight goals and 22 assists over 30 contests.

"We're very happy to retain Alex," Rutherford said. "Alex is an elite player and has been a major contributor to the Hurricanes having a very strong top line."

The 29-year-old Semin, who was labeled as talented but underachieving while playing with Washington, has amassed 205 goals and 233 assists through 499 career games with the Capitals and Hurricanes.

He also has registered 15 goals and 19 assists in 51 career Stanley Cup playoff games.

Brewers sign pitcher Lohse to 3-year deal

PHOENIX, March 25 (UPI) -- The Milwaukee Brewers announced Monday they have signed free-agent, right-handed starter Kyle Lohse to a three-year contract.

Terms of the deal weren't released, but MLB.com reported it guarantees $33 million in base salary over the three-year period.

Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said the deal is a good one because Lohse is "coming off two very good years [with the St. Louis Cardinals] and his experience and competitiveness will be welcomed by the club.

"This signing makes us a better club today than we were yesterday."

The 34-year-old Lohse has gone 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA in 63 starts over the last two seasons in St. Louis, where he produced his best MLB season in 2012 with a 16-3 record and a sparkling 2.86 ERA in 33 starts.

Lohse led the National League in winning percentage (.842) and was one of the NL's workhorses in number of starts.

His addition will give Milwaukee a second experienced starter behind ace Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers are mainly counting on younger hurlers such as Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Chris Narveson and Mike Fiers.

NASCAR's Hamlin has compression fracture

FONTANA, Calif., March 25 (UPI) -- NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin has a compression fracture in his spine from a final-lap crash with Joey Logano at Fontana, Calif., Hamlin's team said Monday.

Joe Gibbs Racing officials announced Hamlin will meet with a specialist this week after sustaining an L1 vertebrae compression fracture, NASCAR.com reported.

The driver of the No. 11 Toyota was jockeying with Logano for the lead down the stretch of Sunday's Auto Club 400 when the two made contact and crashed, allowing Kyle Busch to sneak through for the victory.

Hamlin is listed as uncertain for the upcoming Martinsville race, which is in two weeks.

After the crash, Hamlin collapsed to the track and had to be carted away on a stretcher, while Logano, who ended up in sixth, got into a fight with fellow driver Tony Stewart on pit road.

Stewart was upset that Logano blocked him during a late-race restart.

NASCAR officials said they separated the combatants, cleared pit road and will review videotapes to determine if penalties will be assessed.

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