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Veteran Lemieux makes comeback

VETERAN forward Claude Lemieux has returned to the National Hockey League at age 43, joining the San Jose Sharks on Monday, more than five years after his last league game.

"It's a dream come true again," Lemieux told the Sharks Website after his first practice. "The excitement is probably about the same (as my first game)."

The four-time Stanley Cup winner was recalled from the Sharks' minor league affiliate in Worcester, Massachusetts, and could play his first game against Vancouver in San Jose.

"Claude will get a chance to play on the fourth line tomorrow and we expect him to provide a little energy," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told reporters. "We'll see how he feels and where he can contribute."

Lemieux participated in his last NHL game on May 5, 2003, with the Dallas Stars.

During his 20-year NHL career, he played for the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas. He won Stanley Cups with Montreal, New Jersey twice, and Colorado.

Despite his long absence from the league, Lemieux will not be the oldest player in the NHL. Detroit Red wings defenseman Chris Chelios will be 47 on January 25.

Lemieux, who played briefly in Switzerland in 2004, launched his latest comeback in September with the Central Hockey League's Arizona Sundogs.

He later played with the China Sharks in the Asian Hockey League before joining Worcester in November.

He had three goals and eight assists in 23 games with Worcester of the American Hockey League.

Asked why he decided to give the NHL another try, Lemieux said on Monday: "Why not? It's the best job in the world."

Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said the decision to call up Lemieux was based on merit. "Take a look at how the team was playing when he was there."

"It's a no lose, no risk scenario," Wilson added. "If he can make us a better hockey team, great. It's very simple."

In the NHL on Monday, it was: Wild 4, Blackhawks 1; Blues 5, Bruins 4 (in a shootout); Capitals 2, Islanders 1 (in overtime); Lightning 4, Stars 2; Sabres 3, Panthers 2 (in SO); Hurricanes 2, Maple Leafs 0; and Devils 3, Predators 1.

In Chicago, Marek Zidlicky scored two powerplay goals to spark Minnesota to a 4-1 victory over the Blackhawks on Monday.

Mikki Koivu scored the Wild's opening goal and assisted on both of Zidlicky's efforts, while Niklas Backstrom made 40 saves for the winners, who are locked in a tight battle for a Western Conference playoff spot.

Victorious in only four of 14 games in December, the Wild have already exceeded that total in January, winning five times in nine outings to improve to 23-19-3.


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