St. Cloud State goalie

Mike Lee

made 13 saves last night to help the United States open the world junior hockey championship with a 7-3 victory over Slovakia in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

John Carlson, Jeremy Morin, Derek Stepan, Matt Donovan, Danny Kristo, Jordan Schroeder, and Jerry D'Amigo scored for the Americans.

Today, the United States will play Switzerland.

Five-time defending champion Canada beat Latvia, 16-0, in its opener.

WINTER SPORTS: Daisuke Takahashi won the Japan national figure-skating championships in Osaka to secure a place in the Vancouver Olympics.

He was first after the short program, but made several mistakes in yesterday's free skate. He was still good enough to finish first with 261.13 points.

Nobunari Oda, who already has a spot in Vancouver, was second with 244.30 points.

Takahiko Kozuka was third with 236.16 points. He is likely to be added to the Olympic team when the Japan Skating Federation announces the squad today.

In the women's short program, Mao Asada, 19, was first with 69.12 points to enhance her chances of going to the Olympics.

Miki Ando, who already had qualified for Vancouver, was third behind Yukari Nakano, who had 68.90 points.

BASEBALL: Veteran lefthanded reliever Eddie Guardado, 39, and the Washington Nationals agreed to terms on a minor-league deal.

Guardado is fourth among active pitchers with 908 appearances in a 17-year career with the Rangers, Twins, Mariners, and Reds. The two-time all-star has 187 career saves.

Guardado was 1-2 with a 4.46 ERA in 48 relief appearance last season with the Rangers.

Kelvim Escobar, a righthander formerly with the Los Angeles Angels, agreed to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1.25 million with the New York Mets, pending a physical examination.

He has not pitched much the last two seasons because of a shoulder injury.

BOXING: Some movement occurred in the dispute between the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao camps over how to handle drug testing for their tentative March 13 fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, reported.

Mayweather moved away from his rigid stance on using the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as the testing agency.

But the sides remained deadlocked involving the HBO pay-per-view welterweight title bout that many say would be the highest-grossing bout ever.

Pacquiao and his team want assurances that testing would be cut off at a predetermined time before the fight, according to

AUTO RACING: Donald "DJ" Richardson, 37, a crew member for Richard Childress Racing and tire changer for Kevin Harvick, died Friday of complications from the H1N1 virus.

He was hospitalized in Leominster, Mass., for acute respiratory distress syndrome after he contracted the swine flu during a Thanksgiving visit to his home state. - Staff and wire reports