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Lemieux rushing to buy NHL's Penguins

With several deadlines approaching, Mario Lemieux's advisers are rushing to preserve the retired star's purchase of the NHL's bankrupt Pittsburgh Penguins and are considering adding more investors.

Lemieux twice failed to meet deadlines set by a federal bankruptcy judge to close on the sale, apparently because he does not have signed agreements from all his investors. An Allegheny County commissioner also balked at freeing the Penguins from debt owed for Civic Arena improvements.

Lemieux's aides insist they have raised the $55-million in cash needed to complete the purchase, which was approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Bernard Markovitz on June 24.

"All the investors are solid and are ready to close next week," Lemieux spokesman John Brabender said Thursday.

But Team Lemieux has spent part of this week talking to additional investors, creating speculation that more cash must be raised.

The Lemieux advisers say they merely are exploring whether to raise additional capital so they can field a competitive team once Lemieux takes over.

That search led the Lemieux group to again talk with Mark Cuban, a Pittsburgh native and the Web site founder who originally discussed an investment last spring but failed to formalize an agreement.

Meanwhile, the team signed defenseman Ian Moran to a two-year contract worth $1.5-million. Right wing Matthew Barnaby signed for one year at $1-million.

MORE HOCKEY: Devils center Bob Carpenter retired after 18 years in the league to stay with the franchise as an assistant with its top minor-league affiliate, the AHL's Albany River Rats. Left wing Brian Rolston was awarded a two-year deal worth $2.7-million after arbitration. Four months after surgery on his right knee, Panthers center Pavel Bure is skating without equipment. Forward Denny Lambert was awarded a one-year, $465,000 contract after arbitration. Highly touted twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the second and third picks in the draft by the Canucks, will remain in Sweden this season. Sabres forward Dixon Ward was awarded a one-year, $1.2-million contract in arbitration. The Senators signed goaltender Patrick Lalime to a multiyear contract. The Stars re-signed center Derek Plante to a one-year, $750,000 contract. The Thrashers signed defenseman Geordie Kinnear and forward Sean Ritchlin. The Blues re-signed defensemen Chris McAlpine and Jamie Rivers. Tony Twist, one of the league's tough guys, will need surgery because of a broken pelvis and other injuries from a motorcycle accident, but his agent said he will be able to play again. Ben Smith, coach of the U.S. women's Olympic team, agreed to a contract extension through 2002.

TENNIS: Steffi Graf scheduled a news conference for today in Heidelberg, Germany, where she was to discuss her future, Deutsche Press Agency reported. A month ago Graf, 30, said she had played the French Open and Wimbledon for the last time. Pete Sampras celebrated his 28th birthday with a 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) victory over Rainer Schuttler in the third round of the ATP Championship at Mason, Ohio. "I raised my level when I had to," Sampras said. "I think he was feeling the pressure a little bit. I knew eventually I was going to come around." Patrick Rafter, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Tim Henman and Gustavo Kuerten advanced. Top seed Lindsay Davenport defeated Anke Huber 6-2, 6-2 in her first match in the Acura Classic at Manhattan Beach, Calif. Barbara Schett lost the first set 6-2 and was leading 4-2 with a break point against her in the second when Natasha Zvereva retired with a twisted ankle. Schett faces Martina Hingis, who beat former University of Florida standout Lisa Raymond late Wednesday, in today's quarterfinals. Conchita Martinez defeated Corina Morariu 7-5, 6-2.

SOCCER: Host New England lost to San Jose 2-1, keeping the Mutiny in the fourth and final MLS playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

TRACK: Bernard Barmasai, one of the contenders to share in the $1-million Golden League jackpot, could lose his 3,000-meter steeplechase victory in Wednesday's Weltklasse meet after admitting he asked a fellow Kenyan to slow down so he could win. The IAAF said it would investigate.

COLLEGES: Coming off its third straight volleyball semifinal, Florida is ranked eighth in the preseason coaches' poll.

HORSES: Cyrillic covered 1 mile on turf in 1 minute, 35.4 seconds in beating Ecudienne by 2 lengths in the $73,500 Golden Arches at Del Mar, Calif. Hambletonian Oaks winner Oolong will run in Sunday's Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial Trot at the Syracuse Mile. Trainer Pat Byrne settled a lawsuit that charged owner Frank Stronach with fraud and breach of contract. Byrne will receive most of the $84,000 in unpaid training fees he sought, lawyer Laura D'Angelo said.

SOFTBALL: Marty Laudato homered as the visiting FireStix beat Carolina 3-1 to split a doubleheader. Carolina won the first game 1-0.

_ Compiled from Times wires.