Ill YHE SALINA JOURNAL SPORTS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 1996 CB V PRO HOCKEY Colorado excited about start of NHL season By The Associated Press ., After putting it all together in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche ;are just trying to keep it together when •they open the 1996-97 NHL season tonight at St. Louis. ., "It's been a funny training camp with a ,few injuries to key people and a couple of people not here due to contract situations, so we really haven't had the whole group together," coach Marc Crawford said. "But .we're ready to get started." So is the rest of the NHL as the league begins its 80th season with three games tonight: Colorado at St. Louis, Buffalo at Edmonton and the New York Islanders at Los Angeles. The Avalanche will be missing some important pieces as they begin their quest for a second straight Stanley Cup — not the least of which is contract holdout Valeri Kamensky, who was the third leading scorer on the team last season with 38 goals. Crawford said Rene Corbet will play left wing on the line with Peter Forsberg and Claude Lemieux for as long as Kamensky is absent. "I think Corbet is going to show himself very well," Crawford said. "He's been a player who's been able to jump into any role for us." Although Forsberg didn't practice Tuesday because of a bruised left thigh, Crawford said the center will be ready for tonight's opener. Center Mike Ricci will be a no-show, though. An integral player in the Avalanche's playoff run last season, Ricci is recuperating from arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 14. Crawford said he doesn't expect Ricci to be able to play until Tuesday against San Jose, at the earliest. The Blues, meanwhile, could start the season with a younger lineup than last year's — particularly if veterans Al Macln- nis and Igor Kravchuk aren't ready to go. Maclnnis has an infected elbow and Kravchuk is recuperating from knee surgery. The Blues signed Joe Murphy during the off-season in an attempt to fill some of the void left by the loss of free agent Wayne Gretzky. As of Thursday, the Blues' roster featured six newcomers — an anomaly for a team coached by Mike Keenan, who usually goes heavily with veterans. The Sabres will start their season with a three-game road trip. "Going on the road early in the season can only help," said Pat LaFontaine, fresh off the United States' victory in the World Cup tournament. "Everybody's hungry to play. If you're going to take a western road trip, now is the time to do it, when everybody's feisty and hungry. It also gives the guys an opportunity to have some team dinners and spend some time together. It's a plus." He isn't the only Sabre excited about the opener. "In my mind, it's been a 25-day plan to get ready for Oct. 4," Brad May said. "I've been focused on getting there. It's getting to be that time of the year." TNFL IRVIN Cowboys hope Irvin Brings lift Dallas receiver returns to team for first time isince drug conviction ,By The Associated Press » IRVING, Texas — Michael Irvin ^returned to the Dallas Cowboys on 'Thursday, providing the listless Su: per Bowl champions with some of 'the spark they've been missing fmuch of this season. * The Cowboys have struggled to jgo 2-3 in their star receiver's ab- Jsence caused by violation of the •league's drug policy. Dallas also has ..lacked some of the Irvin-inspired Swagger that 3na.de the Cow•boys loved or hat- led but not ig- IJiored. * "The guys were Chappy to see me, vbut I was more JJaappy to see IJhem," Irvin said jfoliowing his first (.practice with the team since train- Sing camp. "When I came in, we did J£ome laughing and joking." «• Irvin has vowed to clean up his sunage since pleading no-contest to Selpny cocaine possession charges JJn July, ending a trial that exposed Jfeveral other scandals, including a •murder-for-hire plot that was fund•ed-by a Dallas policeman and targeted Irvin. He maintained a solemn tone in an. impromptu news conference fmirsday. But teammates assured fhat, in the locker room, Irvin is stilj "The Playmaker." ""He's the same flamboyant, loving! guy. He's not going to change that," Troy Aikman said. S, The most unique insight came Jjrom often thoughtful offensive -•Mneman Nate Newton, whose de- Scription of his greeting of Irvin Seemed to summarize the twin per- gbnas he's trying to balance. *' "I walked up to him, hugged him land kissed him," Newton said. "I told him how he's helped us dig this J^ole that we're in and now he's got Jb help bring us out of it. «J "His answer was, 'I know I 4pessed up by not being there for Sj-ou guys.' We started crying and Exchanging Kleenex and every- jgiing was all right." •»• So Irvin was really humbled? £ "Oh, he was flashy about it," jfjewton said. "He used gold jileenex." *>' Irvin has remained in good shape S(ur,ing his time off, making him a lock to start a week from Sunday JUrhen the Cowboys play host to the •Arizona Cardinals. Dallas has a bye Shis weekend. * His return should help awaken Jhe Cowboys' once-dominant jcheme that has slipped greatly •without him, tight e~nd Jay Novacek 5md, most recently, Kevin Williams. at flyplen now an Eagle * PHILADELPHIA — Mark Rypi- «n,.feeling as good as he has in Sre'ars, became the Philadelphia Ea- iglfis' backup quarterback on Thurs- glay, and indicated he can live with jthat role — for now. « "I'm not 1 _; here to cause any controversy," Rypien said after agree- $ng to a one-year contract that, with ;$ncentives, could earn him $1 million this season. "I'm here to be Available if called upon." " The call won't come immediately. *poach Ray Rhodes has said Ty Det- •iner will be the Eagles' starter now Jhat Rodney Peete has been put on She injured reserve list after a sea- $otf-ending knee injury in Monday •flight's 23-19 loss to Dallas. 5 How long Rhodes will stay with Sbetmer if the 1990 Heisman Trophy Dinner struggles in his first stint as $n.NFL starter is another matter. « Rookie Bobby Hoying, whom the jfcagles believe is their quarterback 3>f Jhe future, is still too green to 3>lay. The Eagles were unwilling to Jake on the headaches that come with Jeff George's talent, so they JHidn't make a bid for the suspended Atlanta Falcon, who is on the trading block. « ^nter Rypien, whom Eagles fans fcame to hate when he was running gkgC East rival Washington from §987-93, taking the Redskins to the tdayoffs from 1990-92. THELM All In Stock TREES and SHRUBS NOW IS THE VERY BEST TIME TO PLANT TREES. ROOTS GROW ALL WINTER! ROSE BUSHES In 2 gallon container. 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