Yzerman should return Thursday

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:26 PM ET

C Steve Yzerman (groin) is getting ready to fly again with the Red Wings. Though it's doubtful the 40-year-old Yzerman will be ready for today's game against the Flames, it's believed that Thursday -- vs. the Kings -- is the target date for his return ... Riddle me this: The Thrashers signed W Ilya Kovalchuk to a five-year, $32.5-million (all terms US) deal on Friday -- leaving them about $275,000 shy of reaching the NHL's $39-million salary cap. But there are raised eyebrows around the league because the Thrashers have had a difficult time drawing fans to Philips Arena, meaning they'll likely qualify for revenue sharing. "This kind of spending is what put us into a lockout in the first place and how could it be fair if people have to pay into a fund to help the Thrashers have one of the highest payrolls in the league?" an NHL source asked. Atlanta is also paying former Senators RW Marian Hossa $5 million and C Bobby Holik $4.25 million this season ... A classy guy named Curtis Leschyshyn -- a former Senators assistant captain -- quietly retired from the NHL last week. He didn't want to be put on waivers by the Avalanche, even though the Lightning would have picked him up. Instead, he wants to stay at his home in Boulder, Colo. He will meet with the Avs this week about joining their front-office staff.

AROUND THE BOARDS: Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky is taking heat for filling up a lineup card incorrectly Thursday in Los Angeles, then having to play the game a player a short. Freddie Sjostrom played one shift and was ruled ineligible, but associate coach Barry Smith insisted it was not the Great One's fault. "What happened was a mistake made by the assistant coaches," said Smith. "It's our job to make the roster and check it thoroughly and make sure we check off the names, and we didn't do that. It's inexcusable. It was our fault, not Wayne's." ... Florida G Roberto Luongo got off to a 2-0 start, but there are people in the Panthers organization who are going to put heat on him to stay hot all year. After turning down a five-year, $25-million deal from the Panthers in the off-season and losing in arbitration, it's believed GM Mike Keenan has told Luongo he'd better have a big year if he wants to cash in at the end of this season. And, though there's talk Luongo would like to be dealt to the Canadiens, Keenan has no intention of sending him anywhere. Just remember: Iron Mike can still rule with an iron fist even if he has mellowed a bit ... Not everybody is speaking negatively about former Senators C Alexei Yashin taking over as captain of the Islanders. In fact, his teammates have been impressed. "There is an ease about him. He feels comfortable and it is carrying over onto the ice," said Islanders F Mark Parrish.

RUMOURS DU JOUR: Okay, before throwing out the latest gossip, here's a disclaimer from one NHL GM: "There's not going to be many deals this year and if there are, they will be dollar-for-dollar deals because not many teams can afford to take on any more money." Now, here's the latest: The Avs are trying to move D Bob Boughner and the word is they've held talks with a couple of teams, including Tampa Bay, Detroit and Calgary ... After failing in a tryout with the Maple Leafs, there's talk D Bryan Marchment could join the Flames. He has a solid relationship with coach Darryl Sutter ... Former Detroit coach Dave Lewis is waiting in the wings for work after being fired in favour of Mike Babcock. Columbus coach Gerard Gallant and Los Angeles coach Andy Murray are considered top candidates to be let go if their respective clubs get off to slow starts ... With Gs Ryan Miller and Martin Biron firmly ensconced between the pipes, the Sabres are trying to move G Mika Noronen. There is talk the Thrashers could be interested with G Kari Lehtonen out with a serious groin injury ... Columbus G Martin Prusek could be dealt. Edmonton, Detroit, Vancouver and Atlanta may be interested.

Have a nice Sunday and a Happy Thanksgiving.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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