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Thrashers send Chelios back to AHL

by Mike G. Morreale
Atlanta Thrashers veteran defenseman Chris Chelios is headed back to the minors.

For Chelios, 48, being returned to the AHL's Chicago Wolves is no surprise after he appeared in seven games with Atlanta after being recalled March 10. During his brief stint with the Thrashers, Chelios had no points and a minus-2 rating in just over 11 minutes of ice time per game.

"The plan was for me to go back and they were going to bring up one of the younger guys depending on what happened (Tuesday)," Chelios told Ben Wright of Atlanta's Blueland Blog.

Chelios made no mention of retirement, or if he would come back for another season.

The Thrashers were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday after suffering a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils at Philips Arena. The Thrashers have made the playoffs just once in their 10 years.

"I've been in this situation before and there's a fine line between winning or not," Chelios said. "That's why every game means so much from the beginning of the year. That's why you need that sense of urgency. You learn, and these guys will learn. They played hard the last two or three weeks. They could have deserved better but that's just the way it goes when things aren't going your way."

Prior to his recall, Chelios had 5 goals and 22 points in 46 games with the Wolves. He was fourth the league with a plus-34 rating at the time of his NHL promotion. In 26 NHL seasons, Chelios ranks fourth in games played (1,651), eighth all-time in assists by a defenseman (763), and 10th among defenders in points (948). Among U.S.-born players, he ranks first in games played, second in plus/minus rating (plus-352) and third in points by a defenseman.

Chelios told Wright how impressed he was with the number of talented young players Atlanta has in its system.

"It's a good group of kids that want to learn and they're looking for some direction," he said. "I've known (Atlanta) coach John Anderson for a long time and it takes time. I just joined the team three weeks ago, but it seems to be kind of a streaky team. They could win a bunch in a row. Like the rest of the teams fighting to make the playoffs, the consistency is the big issue. It's not necessarily the winning or the losing; it's putting the same game on the ice every night."
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