Although they didn't defend Avery, a couple of ex-teammates offer words of support ... Injuries fail to slow Bruins, Caps

TERRY KOSHAN

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

He might not believe it himself, but Sean Avery has some friends in the National Hockey League.

And, not surprisingly, Avery got some words of support from a couple of players who might know him better than most.

Now, neither Detroit Red Wings grandfather Chris Chelios nor Eric Belanger of the Minnesota Wild defended what Avery said earlier this week, but their words didn't contain "moron" and "dummy," a couple of newspaper-printable labels that were thrown Avery's way after he waxed poetic on other NHL players and some of his ex-girlfriends.

A few years ago, when Avery verbally dressed down then-Phoenix Coyotes defenceman Denis Gauthier for being "typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and not backing anything up" Belanger was a teammate of Avery with the Los Angeles Kings. Belanger is French and wears a visor.

"That afternoon, he kept calling me and calling me," Belanger said. "I finally answered the phone and he apologized a million times. I told him: 'Sean, you've got to be careful what you say.'

"That's the thing. A lot of times he thinks after he says things. A lot of things he does is to get the attention of other teams. He tries to get guys rattled so they go after him and take stupid penalties."

Belanger used to hang out with Avery a bit.

"The thing is, he's not a bad person," Belanger said. "He is a nice person when he is by himself."

During the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, Avery lived for three weeks with Chelios, another former teammate, until Chelios' patience wore thin.

"He turned my house upside down," Chelios said. "It was funny, but after a while ..."

Avery broke into the NHL with the Red Wings in the 2001-02 season.

"He was never a problem here," Chelios said. "He's not a bad kid, he has just had bad judgment once in a while."

It's somewhat curious that Avery is going for anger management, since a lot of what he does is meticulously planned in advance. He has said that he often researches opponents to verbally hit them in the weak spot. Acting out in a rage without notice usually has not been Avery's approach. You might say Avery has managed his anger quite well.

BIG HURTS, NO PAIN

Sitting in first place in their respective divisions is not all the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins have in common. Both teams have gutted it out through numerous injuries.

The Caps have played five games in a row without seven regulars, including Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Sergei Fedorov, going 3-2 in that span.

"There is a lot of pride and character," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I don't want to hear excuses about injuries."

The Bruins, easily one of the league's large surprises through 25 games, were missing three of their top four defencemen -- Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward and Dennis Wideman -- on Thursday night when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston is 12-1-1 in its past 14 games. Youngsters Matt Lashoff, Johnny Boychuk and Matt Hunwick held their own against Vincent Lecavalier and Co., which, admittedly, has not been a major challenge this season.

"There was something about them that made you feel confidence," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "The confidence the rest of the team has just filtered down to them."

LEGEIN COMING BACK

Stefan Legein has decided to start playing hockey again, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are taking a wait-and-see attitude with the 20-year-old. Legein, the Jackets' second-round pick in 2007, informed the Jackets before the season started that he was done with hockey. But he has started working out and probably will meet with Jackets management in about a month.

"Stef has some bridges to build back up with his teammates," Jackets general manager Scott Howson said. "Unless you're 100% into it, it's not going to work out."

Legein developed into a fine two-way player during his Ontario Hockey League career and helped Canada win gold at the world junior last winter. He is slated to start skating with the OHL's Brampton Battalion next week.

NOT PITHY PENGUINS

Thank goodness Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin do their talking on the ice, because off the ice, wow.

Malkin and Crosby are first and second, respectively, in NHL scoring.

This was Malkin after the Penguins' victory in Carolina on Thursday: "Sid is good."

Not to be outdone, Crosby weighed in with: "I think we bring out a different side in each other's game."

Crosby and Malkin undoubtedly are two of the best young skaters the game has seen in a long time. But unlike many players who have gone before them, it's doubtful either has a future in broadcasting.

ICE CHIPS

After compiling just four points in his first 17 NHL games, Lightning rookie Steve Stamkos, the first pick overall last June, has seven points in his past eight games. Looks like the coaching change has done him well ... When the Nashville Predators' Wade Belak assisted on a goal by Vernon Fiddler against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, it marked Belak's first point in exactly one year. On Dec, 4, 2007, when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Belak scored a goal against Nashville ... The Chicago Blackhawks had their 12th sellout on Wednesday, matching their total for the entire 2007-08 season ... Brent Burns, the Wild's best defenceman, has been playing forward since Oct. 30. With Marian Gaborik injured, the Wild needs as much offensive punch it can get. "This is more of a need right now, and we've told Burnzie that," Wild general manager Doug Risebrough said.


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