Jackman can't get a break

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Former Leaf Ric Jackman thought his quest to be a regular defenceman in the National Hockey League had been realized when Toronto traded him to Pittsburgh for Drake Berehowsky in February of 2004. Jackman had 24 points in 25 games when the Pens' 2003-04 season ended.

But Jackman, who failed to catch on with Dallas and Boston before coming to the Leafs, has been a healthy scratch here eight times, six under fired head coach Ed Olczyk and two under replacement Michel Therrien, appearing in his first game for the new man on Dec. 23.

"I hope I can start a good relationship with him," said Jackman, who has still managed 19 points in 26 games and a minus eight this year. "I don't want anything given to me, I want to earn a spot."

MARIO ON THE MEND

The Penguins are being very cautious about Mario Lemieux's return to action after he had a second episode with an irregular heartbeat this month, just before Christmas.

"My personal opinion is he came back too soon (last time) so why rush it?," general manager Craig Patrick told reporters recently. "Let's do it the right way and make sure he's ready when he comes back. The one thing we have to be careful of is him feeling the pressure (to return), putting it on himself to get back on the ice. We've got to not listen to him this time and say, 'No Mario, not until we say you're ready.' "

Doctors are now trying to find the right measure of medication to correct the problem and allow Lemieux to begin off-ice training.

THE CROSBY SHOW

Pat Quinn -- the hockey fan -- was looking forward to seeing Sidney Crosby at ice level for the first time last night.

"There were a lot of terrific reports about him, including when we were discussing Team Canada," the coach said. "I did see him play in the Memorial Cup last year and I watched pretty closely, but to step in and put up the kind of numbers he has in a frustrating situation for his team, is pretty good. It looks like along with his skill, he has maturity."

Quinn steered clear of the debate as to whether an 18-year-old should be named an alternate captain.

"I'm sure these people know what they're doing," Quinn said. "They did it for a good reason."


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