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Dallas Stars move on minus Sean Avery

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts while the Dallas Stars finish shaking their heads:

How long? -- Now that Dallas Stars forward Sean Avery has been suspended following his remarks Tuesday morning in Calgary, the only question remaining is, how long will he be forced to sit?

Avery was slated to be sent home Wednesday morning by the Stars, who earned a 3-1 victory in Calgary on Tuesday night. Dallas will visit Edmonton on Wednesday sans Avery, who will meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in the near future.

The League said the suspension was issued in accordance with the provisions of By-Law 17 and Article 6 of the NHL Constitution for conduct "detrimental to the League or game of hockey." The suspension was imposed following inappropriate public comments about the personal lives of opposing players, and not pertaining to the game, made by Avery earlier in the day.

Once the length of the suspension is determined, Avery's next order of business will be to clear the air with coaches, teammates and the Stars' front office. Right now, it's safe to say there aren't too many people within the organization who are pleased with No. 16.

"Maybe they decided that this one crossed the line further than all the others," said Stars co-general manager Brett Hull, who played with Avery in Detroit several years ago and was the front man for signing him this summer. "More than anything, he's let his teammates down. That's the worst part of it. It's basically a fundamental -- you don't embarrass the team and you carry yourself with class and good character. I've told him before, there's more to the game than just lacing up the skates. There are things you have to be accountable for."

Stars coach Dave Tippett agreed.

"I think everyone in our room believes there is an integrity that has to go along with the game, respect for the game and respect for your opponents and Sean crossed that line," Tippett told reporters in Calgary prior to the game. "I think the words, the words and disrespect for an opponent like that is something ... there's lots of trash talking that goes on on the ice. But then to announce something like that for everybody to hear, to me that crosses the line and the League -- and our ownership felt that, too."

Indeed it did. So much so that Stars owner Tom Hicks released a statement Tuesday that fully supported Bettman's decision to sit Avery. And if Bettman didn't, Hicks was prepared to do it himself.

"I completely support the League's decision to suspend Sean Avery," Hicks said. "Had the League not have suspended him, the Dallas Stars would have. This organization will not tolerate such behavior, especially from a member of our hockey team. We hold our team to a higher standard and will continue to do so."

One thing is certain: With three years still left on his contract after this season, there won't be many dull moments in Dallas anytime soon. 

They're better for it
-- The San Jose Sharks failed to win a Stanley Cup under coach Ron Wilson, but that doesn't mean the franchise isn't grateful for what he accomplished during his five seasons there behind the bench.


"So the Sharks are the best in the league for a reason..."


"Won 21 out of 25? I think that’s Stanley Cup material..."

Wilson returned to San Jose for the first time since being fired during the offseason, and the result wasn't what he was hoping for. Wilson, now coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, saw the Sharks roll over his new team in a 5-2 victory at HP Pavilion.

"He left his mark on the organization for a number of years," new Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of his predecessor. "He developed a lot of young players. As a result, we're reaping some of those benefits now. As an organization, as a coaching staff, we have a ton of respect for him, and I think he deserves it."

Wilson returned the compliments, which the Sharks deserve plenty of. Tuesday's win allowed them to match the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens for the greatest 25-game start in NHL history. Despite the fact that it's only Dec. 2, the Sharks already have 43 points. Not even "Home Alone" had an opening like this.

"From what I've seen, easily the best team in the League," Wilson said.

Even though he was shown the door after another disappointing postseason, Wilson has nothing but fond memories of his time in San Jose.

"I made a lot of friends," Wilson said. "It's a great staff and great people to work with. (But) you have to move on."

What are the chances? -- The Atlanta Thrashers scored three times in less than a minute Tuesday night.

And lost.

The Thrashers rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period to tie the game, but Andrei Kostitsyn scored with 5:11 remaining to lift the Montreal Canadiens to a 5-4 decision at the Bell Centre.

Ron Hainsey had two of Atlanta's tallies, helping the Thrashers break two franchise records for fastest goals. They scored three times within 59 seconds, including two just seven seconds apart, by Hainsey and Chris Thorburn.

Still, the Thrashers came away with no points in the standings. They've now lost four in a row (0-3-1) and six of seven.

''It just breaks your heart, more than anything,'' Atlanta coach John Anderson said. ''It's hard on the team.''

Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau was pleased to see his team rebound after watching it quickly surrender a 3-0 lead.

''After the game, I was happy,'' Carbonneau said. ''I wasn't too happy after that minute. We had a brain cramp.''

It was bound to happen -- As talented as they are, the Washington Capitals were going to lose in regulation on home ice sooner or later.

A poor effort led to just that.

After going 15-0-1 in their previous 16 regular-season games at the Verizon Center, the Caps came out flat and dropped a 5-3 decision to the Florida Panthers. Radek Dvorak, Ville Peltonen and Gregory Campbell each had a goal and an assist.

While the Capitals weren't about to go all season with such a streak, coach Bruce Boudreau won't stand for a lack of effort in any rink.

''It was the least energy we've had all year, and I talked about us having a lot of energy tonight,'' Boudreau said. ''We didn't play with a lot of life, and everybody's accountable.''

"It was the least energy we've had all year, and I talked about us having a lot of energy tonight.  We didn't play with a lot of life, and everybody's accountable."    -- Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau
Nicklas Backstrom tried to wake his teammates up with a goal and an assist, but he couldn't argue with his coach's post-game comments.

''We did a terrible job,'' Backstrom said. ''We have to be ready to play from the beginning, and that's what we didn't do.''

No end in sight -- Eight games into his tenure as interim coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Rick Tocchet has just one victory.


"They outshot the Flyers and keep shots against down..."


"The positives: Jeff Carter can’t stop scoring..."


"So yeah, Hartnell throws his glove at Malone..."

Tampa Bay's woes continued in Philadelphia as the Lightning rallied from a 3-1 deficit only to lose to the Flyers in overtime, 4-3. Ryan Malone had a golden opportunity late in regulation, but was denied on a penalty shot by Martin Biron with just 16.3 seconds left.

Malone then was whistled for goalie interference in overtime, which led to the game-winning tally by Mike Richards.

''It's frustrating, but it's a fine line,'' said Tocchet, who replaced Barry Melrose as coach Nov. 14. ''When you're losing it gets a little contagious, so you need some kind of break to get some kind of winning streak.''

Instead, though, the Lightning are in the midst of a downward spiral. Tuesday's loss was their 10th defeat in 11 games. They'll look to right the ship Thursday night against the Boston Bruins at the St. Pete Times Forum.

''We played a good game,'' rookie forward Steven Stamkos said. ''We showed some character coming back from 3-1, but when things aren't going well, they really aren't going well. It's really tough right now with the way things are going.''

At this rate, Stamkos and John Tavares could be teammates next season.

"We played a good game.  We showed some character coming back from 3-1, but when things aren't going well, they really aren't going well. It's really tough right now with the way things are going." -- Steven Stamkos

Happy to be back -- It appears as if a trip to the American Hockey League is exactly what Phoenix Coyotes forward Enver Lisin needed to get on the right track.

Lisin responded to an 11-game demotion to San Antonio by scoring twice in a 4:02 span, leading Phoenix to a 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Arena.

''For sure, when you get sent down it's not the greatest thing in your life,'' said Lisin, who went to San Antonio at the end of October and was recalled Nov. 21. ''When you get back, you're so excited. It's very big for me.''

Lisin's performance helped the Coyotes win for the third time in their last four games. His second goal of the night came with 11:52 remaining, as he took a pass from Derek Morris and fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Kings goalie Erik Ersberg to give Phoenix a 3-2 lead.

''That was a beautiful shot," Morris said. "You want to get him in a foot race with their defenseman, because I don't think many guys in the League know what kind of speed he's got yet.'' 

Contact Brian Compton at:

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report

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