Pass the torch, J.R.

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:41 PM ET

Jeremy Roenick can take a lesson from Steve Yzerman when it comes to growing old gracefully. Stevie Y quietly withdrew his name for Olympic consideration when it became obvious he could no longer summon his A game.

But Roenick, who's averaging fewer points per game than Yzerman, by the way, came across looking selfish when he demanded a free pass to the U.S. Olympic team because of seniority. He has 11 points in 25 games and is one of just three minus players on the high-flying Kings.

Roenick is one of several USA mainstays who might have played his last international major. Chris Chelios, who joked he'd be willing to serve as video coach in Turin if necessary, also looks done. John LeClair is on the bubble.

Team USA general manager Don Waddell says it's time to pass the torch. "I think it's ultimately important for the future of USA Hockey,'' he said. "We had such a good group of American players that were together for eight or 10 years. Now, as some of those guys are getting toward the late years in their careers, we have to start bringing these younger players in.''

If Roenick and Chelios make the team, Team Canada should remember to send Waddell a thank-you card.

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HEATLEY OWES THEM

Every time Dany Heatley looks at the standings or the scoring race, he should say a quiet thank you to Waddell.

Heatley was suffocating in Atlanta amidst the constant reminders of the car accident that killed his friend and teammate Dan Snyder. Waddell let the Calder trophy winner go, knowing that if he ever got his head straight it could come back and bite them.

"I will never look at it as a hockey trade," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley told reporters.

"If it was just that, we would have never traded him. The two GMs put their hockey hats aside and did what was right for Dany Heatley. As good as they are, Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries were just involved by association.

"Don Waddell wanted to give Dany a chance to start a new life. That's more important than a hockey career."

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RULE 99

Holy Double standard, Bettman! Wayne Gretzky walks away Scot-free after one of his players instigates a little payback in the final five minutes of a game (which is supposed to be an automatic $10,000 fine for the coach and one game suspension for the player), but Sens coach Bryan Murray and defenceman Zdeno Chara get the book thrown at them. Chara is an everyday player, averaging 27 minutes a game, not a goon, so the Sens should have been entitled to the same exemption Gretz and Shane Doan received.

Nice work, Colin Campbell, the new rule is two cases old and you've already made a mockery of it.

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HE'S NOT HEAVY

Keith Tkachuk could have sulked when the Blues sent him home from training camp for reporting 25 pounds overweight. Subsequent groin and rib injuries could have also derailed his head. But in five games back since the rib injury, he has 11 points.

"I wish it didn't happen that way,'' Tkachuk said of his suspension. "But I respect their decision. It changed my attitude. I maybe took things for granted. It was a fresh start for me.''

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NO GREEN FOR BLUES

In the old days St. Louis would have just pulled out its wallet and thrown money at its problems until they went away. Not now. With Christian Backman joining Eric Brewer on injured-reserve, the Blues' defence is a mess, and there's no buying their way out of it. So three of their six starting blueliners (Dennis Wideman, Kevin Dallman and Matt Walker) have a grand total of 76 NHL games under their belt.

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WILD GIVEAWAY

The Wild were giving the puck away so often against New York last week that coach Jacques Lemaire was scared to pull his goalie until there were just 30 seconds left, even though they had the puck in the New York zone with a minute to go. They gave up the empty netter anyway.

"Next time it'll be 15 seconds,'' snarled Lemaire. "And if they score again, next time it'll be five seconds. And after that, we'll keep him in the net.''

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YOU'RE NOT WELCOME

Avs goalie David Aebischer is always looking over his shoulder. First it was for the ghost of Patrick Roy, now it's Russian rookie Vitaly Kolesnik. Abby, 11-6-1 with a 3.37 goals-against average, wasn't happy to see a third goalie in camp. "I thought I rebounded pretty good the last four games. I thought I played awesome. But I guess I'm the only one thinking that.''

Kolesnik made 20 saves in his NHL debut, a 4-1 win victory over Bruins.

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BAD OMEN

Sharks rookie forward Grant Stevenson wore 55 to start the season because that's the number trainers gave him in camp. Once he started feeling more comfortable, he asked for the change. He scored seven points in six games wearing 55 and in his first morning skate as 37, he got clipped by the eye with a puck.

The Stars are tied for eighth overall, but don't have a single player in the top 35 in scoring. What they do have is nine guys with 16 points or more (only Colorado and Detroit have as many). Carolina and Nashville are 23rd and 27th in NHL attendance even though both teams are in the top 10 in points.

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BACK ON TRACK

Edmonton native Jamie Lundmark, who couldn't realize his potential (selected ninth overall in 1999) in New York, is fitting in in Phoenix. After originally being sent to the minors for conditioning, Lundmark has two goals and five assists in 12 games since being called up. "He's been a completely different player,'' Gretzky said.

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THIS AND THAT

The Red Wings are the last team in the NHL that hasn't been to a shootout yet ... Of the top 10 scorers in the NHL yesterday, nine are from the East. The only Westerner is Joe Thornton, who came over from Boston last week.

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BIG GAMES THIS WEEK

TODAY

Avs at Penguins: Team Canada's present, Joe Sakic, meets Team Canada's future, Sidney Crosby.

TUESDAY, DEC.13

Canucks at Rangers: Two high-flying teams meet for a rematch of their 1994 Stanley Cup final.

THURSDAY, DEC. 15

Canadiens at Oilers: An Original Six classic that might not be visiting Edmonton again for five years.

FRIDAY, DEC. 16

Kings at Ducks: Sean Avery should ask Petr Nedved how Todd Fedoruk deals with agitators who don't back it up.


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