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Kovalchuk disputes notion he planned to stay in KHL

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NEWARK, N.J. -- Superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk always planned to play for the New Jersey Devils if there was an NHL season.

On his first day back with the Eastern Conference champions, the high-scoring Russian shot down rumours that he either considered playing in Russia after the NHL reached a new collective bargaining agreement or that he was pressured by the Russian government to stay and finish the KHL season.

The 29-year-old even laughed Wednesday after a scrimmage when asked if President Vladimir Putin offered him a lot of money to stay in Russia.

"That's not true," Kovalchuk said. "I'm sure he's got some other stuff to take care of. I had a great time there, we have a good team, but I have a contract here and I'm happy I'm back because I think the lockout's ended and it's great for all hockey, especially for the guys who weren't able to play and waiting and practising here. I'm happy we're all back and it will be an exciting season."

Lombardi dealt to Coyotes

TORONTO -- Davis Nonis has made his first trade as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, sending Matthew Lombardi to the Phoenix Coyotes ahead of the impending NHL season.

In return Wednesday, the Leafs acquired a conditional third-round pick in the 2014 draft from Phoenix.

The 5-11, 191-pound centre had eight goals and 10 assists in 62 games with Toronto last season.

Lombardi will make US$3.5 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Canucks promote Hansen

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks' second line may be in serious disarray, but at least they've managed to plug the hole in their top power-play unit.

The Canucks will put Danish right-wing Jannik Hansen on the top unit with twin Swedish stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin to start the season. Hansen will fill in for second-line winger David Booth, who is expected to miss four to six weeks because of a groin injury diagnosed during physical testing on Sunday.

Iginla ready for action

CALGARY -- Jarome Iginla practised at Flames training camp for the first time this season Wednesday. The captain believes he'll be ready to play in Sunday's season opener against the San Jose Sharks.

The 35-year-old right-winger missed the first three days of training camp because of a groin injury.

"Thankfully I felt really good out there today," Iginla said following practice. "I didn't feel it and it felt way better than last week. Last week, it didn't feel very good at all.

"It was a good pace out there as a group and a good amount of volume. I didn't feel it today so hopefully it's (an) issue that will never come up again."

Iginla played on a line with Alex Tanguay, who was converted to centre, and Curtis Glencross.

Iginla is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this lockout-shortened season. He's entering the final year of a five-year deal paying him US$7 million per season.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 17, 2013 D2

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