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Torres ready to return

by Mike G. Morreale

Some random thoughts while Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik works to return from a quad injury, maybe Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Raffi set for return -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward Raffi Torres, who hasn't played since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Dec. 15, is expected to suit up Monday when Columbus hosts to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Expect Torres to see time on the club's third line with Michael Peca and Jared Boll. Torres scored 5 goals and 6 assists in 32 games with the Edmonton Oilers last season before suffering his injury. He was traded to the Blue Jackets on July 1 for forward Gilbert Brule.

The contest also will mark the preseason debut for Peca, who had 8 goals and 26 assists in 2007-08. Additionally, rookie center Nikita Filatov, the team's 2008 first-round draft choice, has resumed skating after suffering a hairline fracture of his right fibula earlier this month. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Filatov was playing left wing on a line with center Jiri Novotny and right wing Andrew Murray during practice.

Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team is 1-3 this preseason, likely will have Derick Brassard centering for Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius on the top unit and R.J. Umberger between left wing Fredrik Modin and right wing Jakub Voracek. Pascal Leclaire will start in goal.

Of the Blue Jackets' initial nine first-round draft picks, seven are in training camp -- defenseman Rostislav Klesla (No. 4, 2000), Leclaire (No. 8, 2001), Nash (No. 1, 2002) left wing Alexandre Picard (No. 8, 2005), Brassard (No. 6, 2006), Voracek (No. 7, 2007) and Filatov (No. 6, 2008).

Rest for Brodeur -- Don't expect New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur to be in the lineup when the club hosts the Washington Capitals Monday.

According to Devils coach Brent Sutter, Kevin Weekes will play a full 60 minutes in goal as the Devils prepare for their Oct. 10 opener against the Islanders at the Prudential Center.

"I know what to expect by now. Now it's just a matter of getting into the right mental frame of mind. The physical part is already there." -- Martin Brodeur

"I know what to expect by now," Brodeur, 36, told the New York Post following practice Sunday. "Now it's just a matter of getting into the right mental frame of mind. The physical part is already there."

Brodeur has seen action in one game this preseason, stopping eight of nine shots over two periods in a 3-2 victory against the Rangers on Sept. 24. He was relieved by Scott Clemmensen in the third period.

"For Marty, it's how he structures it for practices, for exhibitions, to the start of the season," Sutter said. "Getting two full games down the stretch is going to be good for him. It's something he wants to do to."

Schenn impresses -- Toronto rookie defenseman Luke Schenn, despite scoring his first goal this preseason in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday, likely will be returned to his Western Hockey League team at the conclusion of training camp.

According to, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson has admitted that while the 18-year-old Schenn, the fifth pick of the 2008 Entry Draft has done everything asked of him, the Leafs are deep on the back end, with 10 defensemen fighting for seven spots. Among that group, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina and Jeff Finger appear to be locks.

"It has been good so far, I'm really enjoying myself and I just want to keep progressing," Schenn said. "You love being put in key situations and being out there in the last few minutes of the game."

Schenn, who scored 28 points in 57 games with the Kelowna Rockets last season, has posted 100-plus penalty minutes in consecutive seasons with the club. He'll look to continue his impressive camp against the St. Louis Blues on Monday at Air Canada Centre.

Young Coyotes -- Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky has been experimenting with Kyle Turris, the third pick of the 2007 Entry Draft, and Mikkel Boedker, the eighth pick of the 2008 draft, on the same line throughout the preseason.

Gretzky has filled out the line with tough guys Todd Fedoruk or Daniel Carcillo to keep the opposition honest.

"It's good to have the tough guys there," Gretzky said. "It reminds players not to take liberties with these young guys, but on the other hand, the guy out there has to be able to play, and Fedoruk can play and Danny can play, so they're a nice fit for those two kids."

Carcillo led the League with 324 penalty minutes last season in Phoenix, while Fedoruk racked up 139 penalty minutes during stints with Dallas and Minnesota.

The Coyotes hope all their lines click Monday when they host San Jose and look for their first preseason win after four straight losses.

In addition to matching the two youngsters, Gretzky's top line of Shane Doan, Olli Jokinen and Peter Mueller has been improving, and left wing Viktor Tikhonov, the No. 28 pick in June, has impressed.

"(Tikhonov) looks like he's ready to play in the NHL," Gretzky said.

Power punch -- Don't adjust your television sets St. Louis Blues fans, coach Andy Murray has indeed altered his power-play combinations following the season-ending knee injury to defenseman Erik Johnson.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Blues' power-play unit, which has connected at an 18.9-percent efficiency this preseason, has been led by five forwards on the ice during the man advantage -- Paul Kariya, Lee Stempniak, Keith Tkachuk, Brad Boyes and Andy McDonald. Last season, those five combined for 34 power-play goals.

Murray also has been impressed with defenseman Roman Polak, who also might see power-play time this season. Polak had 7 assists in 34 games with Peoria of the American Hockey League last season.

"I don't think I'm good like (Johnson) on the power-play," Polak told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "I have a big shot and I have to use it, but E.J. is something else."

"I think (Polak) is a possibility," Murray said. "He's got to first stabilize himself as one of our six defensemen, and be good moving the puck and playing well defensively. We don't want to burden him with too much right now."

Contact Mike Morreale at

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