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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings

The 2008-09 season essentially is over for Dallas captain Brenden Morrow.

Morrow tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the final minutes of Thursday's 6-3 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. An MRI the next day revealed the injury, and he'll miss at least six months.

"It's disappointing," he said. "I am a little bit shocked and I don't really feel that bad. Before we found out, I was expecting maybe a game or two, but now it's six months recovery, and that hit me pretty hard."

Especially frustrating was that the injury came on an innocent-looking play.

"It was really a nothing play," he said. "I tried to make a check and I am not sure if it happened when I hit the guy or when I kind of lost balance and I kicked the boards. I got up and didn't feel right. I had injured my MCL a few years ago and I thought that I might have finished it off, torn it completely. I didn't find out it was my ACL until (Friday) with the MRI."

Morrow led the Stars last season with 32 goals, and he had 5 goals and 15 points in 18 games before being injured. His absence puts a major hole in the Stars' already-struggling offense -- and in the dressing room.

"As our captain he will obviously be missed, but we have every assurance that he can and will come back from this injury at 100 percent," co-General Manager Les Jackson said. "There is a lot of hockey left to be played this season, and we are confident our team will rally together and keep pushing." "Pepe" is back ... -- The San Jose Sharks weren't even a glint in the NHL's eye when Claude Lemieux began his career. Now, the 43-year-old hopes to make it back into the League with San Jose.
Lemieux, who's been retired for five seasons, signed a tryout contract with the Sharks on Monday and will report to the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Worcester Sharks, this week.

"Pepe" is back - San Jose GM Doug Wilson is a friend of Lemieux's and has had success with bringing in veteran players -- most notably Jeremy Roenick, who was ready to retire before joining the Sharks last season and has been a productive third-liner.

Lemieux won four Stanley Cup titles during 20 NHL seasons with five clubs while earning a reputation as one of hockey's biggest agitators. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1995 with New Jersey and owns four Stanley Cup rings -- two with the Devils (1995, 2000) and one each with Montreal (1986) and Colorado (1996). His 80 career playoff goals are ninth in League history.

Lemieux, however, hasn't played in the NHL since the 2002-03 season, which he spent with Dallas and Phoenix, where he was a teammate of Roenick. Earlier this month, Lemieux played a two-game stint with the China Sharks, San Jose's affiliate in Shanghai, while testing the waters for a full comeback.

No. 2, Not so Bad - The Los Angeles Kings had to settle for the second pick in the Entry Draft last June, meaning they couldn't get consensus top choice Steven Stamkos. But given the play of No. 2 pick Drew Doughty, no one is complaining.

Doughty has stepped into the Kings' lineup and played like a veteran -- and he's getting the ice time that goes along with his production. He played a season-high 29:04 in Saturday night's 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado, and through 19 games had 3 goals and 7 points while going an impressive plus-7 -- the best mark on the Kings. He also leads the team and all rookies with an average ice time of 23:11 per game.

Though it's early, Doughty already is the subject of talk that he's the front-runner for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. It's something he's not concerned about right now.

"I try not to think about that at all," he said after the Colorado game. "It's so early in the season. It would obviously be awesome to win that award, but there are so many good rookies in this League and all I'm focused on is the L.A. Kings and just playing my best every night."

Coach Terry Murray is thrilled with the way Doughty has stepped right into the NHL.

"He's played well and he's improved his game since the start of training camp," Murray said. "He does play a lot of minutes on our team, but I think the Calder Trophy is a long way away. He's playing good, he's an 18-year-old that's playing an important part of our hockey club, and we have a team now that's been playing some pretty good hockey."

 Nabby is Back-- While Lemieux plays in the minors to see if he's capable of returning to the NHL, Evgeni Nabokov is ready to get back in the Sharks' net after missing seven games with a lower-body injury.

"It's been how many, three weeks?" Nabokov said after taking part in a full practice Monday. "You've got to get back in it and make sure everything is the way it was. I'm looking forward to it."

Nabokov won his fifth-consecutive game when he beat St. Louis in a shootout Nov. 6. But he was injured while making the final save and has watched Brian Boucher go 5-1-1 in his absence.

Because of Boucher's presence, Sharks coach Todd McLellan felt he didn't have to use Nabokov until his was fully healed -- unlike last season, when Nabokov started 77 of San Jose's 82 games.

"He was chomping on the bit last week," McLellan said. "He's got to get back into the groove, and we're going to give him the opportunity to do that."

Big Apple Blues -- Coach Wayne Gretzky wasn't happy after the Phoenix Coyotes' sixth-consecutive loss, 4-1 to the Rangers in New York on Monday night. The last three losses came on the team's current Eastern swing -- at Carolina, Philadelphia and New York.

It's a tough scenario for our young guys to go through because I can see they're getting a little bit frustrated," said Gretzky, whose team has scored just 10 goals during the losing streak. "We can't find ways to score goals right now."

Despite the loss, the trip back to the city and the arena in which he concluded his career was still special for "The Great One."

"I always love it," Gretzky said of coming back to the Big Apple and Madison Square Garden. "It was three of the greatest years I've had in my life, and I have a lot of great friends and a lot of great memories and I played with a lot of great players here. It's always nice to come back to the Garden."

Four of the Coyotes were rookies getting their first look at the Garden. Gretzky made sure they knew they were entering a special place.

"It's not just another arena,” Gretzky said. "The atmosphere here is pretty special and the high that you can get and the excitement you can get from walking in this building can be extremely positive. I've just tried to encourage them to take it in and enjoy it, and ride the wave."

An unwanted night off --
One of the Anaheim Ducks' problems has been secondary scoring, and one of the biggest disappointments has been the lack of production from center Brendan Morrison, who was signed to a two-year deal last summer with the idea that he'd take some of the heat off No. 1 center Ryan Getzlaf's unit.

That wasn't happening, and on Nov. 22, Morrison spent the night watching from the press box -- the first time he sat while healthy since 2000, when he was a member of the New Jersey Devils.

"I have to be better," admitted Morrison, who has seemed a half-step slow while trying to return to form following knee surgery. "It's been a long time since I've been a healthy scratch. ... It doesn't sit well. I'm sad about it. The day you're not upset that you're not in the lineup then you shouldn't be playing the game. It's a long season, but I need to get going here."

Coach Randy Carlyle said he thought Morrison has been "a half-step off right now," and decided Ryan Carter and Todd Marchant were better options. Neither player scored, but the Ducks did win 2-1 at Dallas in a shootout. Morrison was back in the lineup for Monday's home game against Colorado and assisted on Chris Kunitz' first-period goal. It was only his third assist and fifth point in 22 games.

Ice chips --
Dallas lost Steve Ott, one of the NHL's best agitators, with a broken right hand during Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim. He had surgery and will miss at least a month, giving call-up Chris Conner a chance to show the Stars' coaching staff what he can do. ... Scott White, now Dallas' director of minor league hockey operations, was named as GM of the Texas Stars, which the parent club hopes will be ready to join the American Hockey League in 2009-10 -- if their new building in Cedar Park, Texas, is ready. ... Dallas debuted a white third jersey Nov. 20 in its home game against Chicago. Like their regular home jersey, this one has "Dallas" on the front, with the player's number underneath. ...  The Kings debuted their third jersey Nov. 22, wearing black sweaters with a new crest in a 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado in front of a sellout crowd at the Staples Center. ... Jonathan Bernier, the Kings' top pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, is off to a good start with Manchester of the AHL. He's 4-1-2 in seven games, including a 27-save, 1-0 shootout victory over Lake Erie on Sunday. ... San Jose now owns an 11-game winning streak over Washington after demolishing the Capitals 7-2 Saturday night. The Caps haven't won at San Jose since 1993, going 0-8-1 after winning their first three visits. Overall, the Caps haven't beaten the Sharks since a 3-1 victory at Washington on Feb. 20, 1999. ... Like the Kings, the Sharks debuted a black alternate jersey Saturday night. It's trimmed in teal and white with the logo of a shark chomping on a hockey stick. ... Phoenix will wear its new third jersey for the first time on the day after Thanksgiving, when Colorado comes to Arena for an afternoon game. Like the Kings and Sharks, Phoenix's third jersey is black, but has red trim and a full-body leaping coyote. ... Coyotes center Olli Jokinen played in his 396th consecutive game in Monday night's loss to the Rangers. Among active players, only Andrew Brunette (472) has played more. ... Bobby Ryan, Anaheim's first-round pick (No. 2) in the 2005 Entry Draft, scored twice in his second game with the Ducks after being recalled from Iowa of the AHL. He also added an assist in the 6-4 home loss to Washington. "I think the confidence that I took from Iowa coming up has really just translated," Ryan said. "Individually it's nice to put up points and it's nice to get your feet under you. All that doesn't mean a whole lot when you're losing a game you should have won." ... The Ducks won't mind if the schedule-maker doesn't bring the Caps to the Honda Center next season. In his two visits, Alex Ovechkin has 4 goals and 3 assists, meaning he's been in on seven of Washington's nine goals in the two games -- and Anaheim has lost both.

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.

Author: John Kreiser | Columnist

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