Habs mum on new captain; 'Hawks extend Quenneville

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

The Montreal Canadiens refused to confirm a published report that right-winger Brian Gionta will be named captain.

A report in Montreal's La Presse newspaper Thursday says Gionta, 31, will receive the title during training camp, which opens Friday.

Gionta would be the 28th captain in the Canadiens' 101-year history.

Canadiens coach Jacques Martin told reporters the report was just "speculation."

"The process is in place and we will announce it before the end of training camp," Martin said at the team's annual golf tournament north of Montreal. "The players will be the first to find out."

La Presse says defenceman Andrei Markov, a 10-year Habs veteran, is a front-runner to be Gionta's assistant and likely will be joined by fellow blueliner Hal Gill.

Longtime fan favourite Saku Koivu, who wore the "C" for 10 years, went to Anaheim as a free agent prior to last season. Gionta, Markov and Gill shared assistant duties in his absence but the team went without a captain during its run to the Eastern Conference final.

Gionta is in his second season with the Canadiens. He recorded 28 goals and 18 assists in 61 games last season.

MORE QUENNEVILLE

Winning the Stanley Cup has given Joel Quenneville more life ... behind the Chicago Blackhawks bench.

The Blackhawks signed Quenneville, who guided the 'Hawks to their first Cup win in 49 years last season, to a three-year contract extension Thursday.

The deal runs through the 2013-14 season.

"This is an exciting day for my family and I," Quenneville said. "Chicago is a place we are proud to call home and the Blackhawks organization is one we feel fortunate to be a part of. Winning the Stanley Cup was a special season for all of us involved and I am looking forward to more opportunities in the years to come."

Quenneville, the 37th coach in Blackhawks history, was hired after Denis Savard was fired four games into the 2008-09 season. He has put together a 97-44-19 regular-season record in his first two years in Chicago and is 535-327-137 in 13 years as a head coach in the NHL.

STARS SIGN TWO

The Dallas Stars have signed their final two restricted free agents.

Left winger James Neil and defenceman Matt Niskanen both inked two-year contracts Thursday.

Neal's deal pays him $5.75 million US -- $2.25 million the first year and $3.5 million the second -- while Niskanen will get $3 million over the life of the contract, including $1.25 million for the coming season.

Neal, 23, had 27 goals and 28 assists in 2009-10, his second season in the NHL. Niskanen, also 23, had three goals and 12 assists last season, his third with the Stars.

STAAL STALLED

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jordan Staal will be sidelined for the start of the season after undergoing surgery to his foot.

Staal is expected to be out of action for five to six weeks after infection flared in the foot he hurt during the playoffs last season. The 22-year-old lacerated a tendon during the Eastern Conference semifinals and had surgery during the summer but it became infected repeatedly, leading to Thursday's procedure.

"The original injury is intact, everything is fine there and healed," general manager Ray Shero said. "This infection that keeps recurring is the problem. Hopefully this is the end of it and he's on his way to recovery." The Penguins open the regular season Oct. 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

SEEING DOUBLE

Acute double vision will prevent defenceman Toni Lydman from opening training camp with the Anaheim Ducks.

Lydman, who signed as a free agent with the Ducks July 1 after five seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, has undergone tests that have ruled out "most major medical concerns" but the root of the problem has not been found.

The 32-year-old Finn will be held out of action until the problem is diagnosed.

"Our top priority is Toni's health," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. "Toni is feeling much better this week and we are encouraged by the results of his recent tests. However, we will proceed with caution until we can identify the source of the problem."

Lydman had four goals and 16 assists in 67 games with the Sabres last season.

The Ducks also signed defenceman Paul Mara to a one-year deal Thursday. The 11-year veteran had eight assists in 42 games with Montreal last season.

BACK IN VAN CITY

Brendan Morrison had his best NHL years with the Vancouver Canucks but that could only get him an invitation to training camp.

On Thursday the Canucks offered Morrison, a 35-year-old centre who established himself as a bonafide NHLer during his eight years in Vancouver, a chance to attend training camp on a professional tryout. The B.C. native had 393 points with the Canucks and is 11th in all-time franchise scoring.

Last season, Morrison had 12 goals and 42 points in 74 games with the Washington Capitals, his fifth NHL team.

SHARK BAIT

Ex-Detroit Red Wings defenceman Andreas Lilja has been invited to the San Jose Sharks training camp.

Lilja, 35, recorded 15 goals and 59 assists in 478 career games with Detroit, Florida and Los Angeles. He had one goal and one assist in 20 games with the Red Wings last season.

"He's going to make it a more competitive camp because he's a veteran player," said coach Todd McLellan. "He is familiar with the coaching staff and our system because it is similar to what he came from. Once camp starts, he is like any other player and his play will dictate whether he (gets a contract)."


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