SUN Hockey Pool

NHL notes: Trickle of NHLers returning from Europe starts

Stars defenceman Stephane Robidas decided not to extend his contract with Finland's HIFK Helsinki....

Stars defenceman Stephane Robidas decided not to extend his contract with Finland's HIFK Helsinki. (DAN RIEDLHUBER/Reuters)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:35 PM ET

Optimists might take it as a sign the NHL lockout will soon be over.

Others might look at like a chance to get in an extra-long Christmas vacation.

Whatever the case, a trio of NHLers playing in Europe left their teams Wednesday to return to North America. Not exactly a flood of players coming back across the pond but lately it seems more are leaving European teams than signing with them.

Defenceman Stephane Robidas of the Dallas Stars didn't extend his contract with Finland's HIFK Helsinki, according to the team website, and exits after playing 15 games. He had two goals and three assists and was minus-11.

St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart bolted from Crimmitschau of the German second division, according to that team. A press release announcing that Stewart had left the team said is was because he had received a call from the Blues to prepare for the start of the NHL season.

And according to a Swedish hockey website, San Jose Sharks defenceman Douglas Murray has left Djurgardens after playing 14 games. Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog left the Swedish club earlier this week.

A handful of other NHL players, including Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers, recently skated away their European teams to return home.

HEDMAN HAPPY IN KHL

Kazakhstan isn't your typical tourist destination but Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman is happy he visited during the NHL lockout.

Of course, Hedman spent his time in Borat's homeland playing for Barys Astana of the KHL, not schlepping around the country. The only negative, he told the Tampa Bay Times, is that he tried horse meat, a local delicacy in restaurants he said is "disgusting" and should be avoided.

"(It's been) a great experience," Hedman said. "I've been playing a lot and developing my game. I'm very happy I chose to come here, and I'm very eager to get back to Tampa and prove I've gotten better as a player."

Hedman hasn't scored in his 22-game stint with Astana but has 18 assists, making him the team point leader among defencemen.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

Montreal Canadiens forward Colby Armstrong will join his brother with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL.

Armstrong signed a lockout contract with the Grizzlies Wednesday and will meet up with the team on its current road trip. The 30-year-old ex-Maple Leaf's brother Riley, a former San Jose Shark, is a co-captain with the Utah squad.

"Colby is another experienced veteran leader that we've been interested in," Grizzlies coach Kevin Colley said in a press release. "You can't explain how valuable a player like this is coming into our room at this level. We are very excited to have him. He'll be another great example and leader to our team of talented prospects."

Armstrong was bought out by the Leafs after the 2011-12 season -- he had one goal and two assists in 29 games -- before signing a one-year deal with the Canadiens in July.


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