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THRASHERS CAN COACH: Bob Hartley was fired Wednesday as coach of the Atlanta Thrashers, who have lost their first six games and are the only NHL team without a victory.

General manager Don Waddell will be the coach until a replacement is found. He has no timetable for a hiring.

"We felt after six games the direction we were going was not the direction we wanted to go," Waddell said at a news conference in announcing the first coaching change of the NHL season. "We couldn't let it go any further."

Waddell already has one stint as an interim coach, following his firing of Curt Fraser during the 2002-03 season.

Hartley, who won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, was in his fifth season with Atlanta.


NADAL WINS: Rafael Nadal showed no signs of the bum knees that hampered him earlier this year, beating Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 6-4 Wednesday in his opening match at the Madrid Masters.

The second-ranked Spaniard, who hasn't played since the U.S. Open due to injuries to his knees, broke Baghdatis' serve on consecutive occasions in the first set. He then served out the win after breaking Baghdatis for the final time in the ninth game of the second set.

Arena football

REALIGNMENTS: With the relocation of the Las Vegas franchise to Cleveland, the Arena Football League has realigned its division.

The National Conference East will have five teams in 2008 because the Las Vegas franchise now in Cleveland has been switched to the American Conference West.

Cleveland joins Columbus, Dallas, Philadelphia and New York in the National East. The National South has Georgia, New Orleans, Orlando and Tampa Bay.

With Las Vegas leaving the American West, that division has Arizona, Los Angeles, Utah and AFL champion San Jose. In the American Central are Chicago, Colorado, Grand Rapids and Kansas City.

Two teams will not return next season. The Nashville Kats were disbanded, and the Austin Wranglers moved to afl2, the AFL's minor league.


BECKHAM AVAILABLE: David Beckham will be available to play in the Los Angeles Galaxy's game against New York tonight.

Beckham trained Tuesday and Wednesday, the first time he has practiced with the team on consecutive days since Oct. 2.

Coach Frank Yallop said Beckham would play as a substitute if called upon in the team's final home game against the Red Bulls.


WNBA ADDS ATLANTA: It was more like a pep rally than an official announcement that Atlanta was being awarded a WNBA expansion team for the 2008 season.

The day after word broke that Atlanta businessman J. Ronald Terwilliger would own and operate the yet-to-be-named team, the formalities were taken care of at a news conference Wednesday in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park.

"My hope is by the sixth year we'll be in the championship game," said Terwilliger.