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Defenseman moving forward

Girard progressing in rehabilitation

Ever so slowly, Jonathan Girard continues to get better. The Bruins defenseman, who shattered his pelvis and broke his neck in a late July auto accident, moved to a rehabilitation facility in Laval, Quebec, early last week and could be headed home by the start of November.

"It will be at least another month before he walks for the first time," said Girard's agent, former NHL netminder Bob Sauve. "Getting to rehab is a big step forward."

The 23-year-old Girard, near death when he arrived at Hopital Sacre Coeur in Montreal, will have to return to the hospital in a couple of weeks, said Sauve, for followup surgery on his intestines. After initially being treated for the injuries to his pelvis, broken in four places, and the two neck fractures, Girard later had to have a portion of infected back muscle removed.

Girard finally was moved from his hospital bed to a wheelchair. According to Sauve, doctors will wait another 3-4 weeks before allowing Girard to get out of the chair to test the pelvis's ability to withstand weight and leg movement.

"He's out of bed. He's out of his neck brace," reported Sauve. "His spirits are good."

Senior competition

It didn't take long for Bobby Hull to find his skating stride in his new job. The aging face of the new World Hockey Association will be 65 in January, and the Golden Jet is trumpeting his belief that the NHL will shut down next September when the collective bargaining agreement expires. "They'll lock the doors," he says. To stay solvent, Hull figures, the NHL will need a salary cap, restructuring (contraction?), and profit-sharing. Other than that, hey, things are just fab for commissioner Gary Bettman and his buds. It's just a little bit ironic that all this comes from Hull, who bolted the Black Hawks for $1 million a year with the startup Winnipeg Jets in the original WHA -- signaling the start of salary explosion in hockey . . . Derek Sanderson, who recently shifted his career in finance to Boston Private Bank (Post Office Square), said last week that the $2.65 million he signed for with the WHA's Philadelphia Blazers in '72 would be the equivalent of someone getting about $13 million today. At the time, Sanderson was being offered $75,000 to return to the Bruins, an offer Boston promptly bumped up to $80,000 upon learning of the WHA bid. Within days, Sanderson was in Philly for his debut press conference, and by 5 p.m. that same day he drove a $68,000 Rolls Royce out of a downtown showroom. "I sat in the front, and I gotta tell ya, it wasn't all that comfortable," recalled Sanderson. "I said that to the salesman, and he turned to me and said, in this very British accent, `Sir, you must remember, most people who buy a Rolls sit in the back and have a driver.' I sat in the back, turned to the guy and said, `Good point -- I'll take it!' " Sanderson was out of Philly after eight games. Later wallowing in debt, he drove the Silver Shadow to his ranch in Fort Erie, Ontario, where, following an auction of the estate and its goods, he shoveled hay into the Rolls's trunk to feed his four horses . . . Sergei Samsonov, provided he stays healthy and productive, can dress up the $3.65 milion deal he just signed with the Bruins. To wit: 50 goals or 90 points will bring him an additional $300,000. A top 10 finish in league scoring will net him another $100,000, twice that if he finishes in the top five. If he finishes among the top three in voting for any major award, he can grab another $100,000-$300,000. However, any personal bonus will be cut in half if the Bruins don't make the playoffs . . . Clint Malarchuk, who nearly died when a skate blade severed an artery in his neck when he was playing goal for the Sabres, augments his post-career earnings with his duties as a horse dentist. According to the Miami Herald, he attended the Academy of Equine Dentistry in Idaho while coaching the Steelheads in the WCHL. Nowadays, he splits his time between Sunrise, Fla., where he coaches Panther netminders, and his home in Nevada.

No progress on work

Adam Oates, 41, who declined an offer of $2.5 million to return to the Ducks at the start of the summer, still hasn't found work for 2003-04. Fellow oldster Igor Larionov (43 in December) signed on with the Cup-winning Devils for one year at $1.5 million -- the same deal he had last season with the Red Wings. Detroit wanted him back, but for about a 33 percent pay cut, and the proud Russian icon opted instead to take the one-year, no-cut at 16W . . . A few weeks ago, ex-Russian great Slava Fetisov said he would like to see a Russian-owned NHL club stocked with -- what else? -- all Russians. Lo and behold, the Canucks last week were knocking down rampant reports that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is negotiating to buy the team (up for sale now for some three years). Abramovich has huge money (lavished of late on his Chelsea football club in Great Britain). If he really wants the Canucks, he'll get 'em. As an oil baron, his worth is widely estimated to be north of $12 billion. Just what current NHL owners need while pledging cost certainty: a Russian billionaire with a reputation for spending like a drunken sailor. No doubt the Players Association will hire the limo to pick him up at the airport. Abramovich owns Omsk, one of the top Russian clubs, and the club recently signed Oleg Tverdovsky, last seen winning the Cup with the Devils . . . Former Boston University center Chris Drury, now the cornerstone of the Sabres' rebuilding effort, will pocket $15 million over the next four years, the deal ranging from $3.45 million this year to $4.05 million in year No. 4 . . . While the Bruins search for a No. 2 center to take Jozef Stumpel's spot, the Leafs are five deep at pivot, with Mats Sundin, Nik Antropov, Robert Reichel, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Travis Green. Rather than shove five into four, the Leafs likely will shift Green to the wing, unless someone wants to take Reichel, at a gaudy $3.25 million, off their hands . . . Note to emailing pals: OK, it's spelled Hespeler, that's H-e-s-p-e-l-e-r. Sorry, my eyes are getting as old as the stick . . . The Blues bid adieu to the once-promising Daniel Tkaczuk last week, releasing him outright from camp, a little more than six years after the Flames made the 6-foot-1-inch, 200-pound winger the No. 6 pick in the '97 draft. How different things might look today in Calgary if the Flames instead had chosen Samsonov, who went to Boston at No. 8. Tkaczuk had the look and feel of potential captain material but ended up the same bust that Jason Bonsignore (No. 4 overall, '94) was with Edmonton.

Exter looking forward

All remains positive for Joe Exter, the former Merrimack netminder whose skull was fractured last spring in an on-ice collision with BC's Patrick Eaves. Exter received medical clearance earlier this month to go full steam ahead on the ice. "When the doctor told me I'd play again this year, I wanted to lift him up and carry him around like the Stanley Cup," Exter said. Both the Bruins and Canadiens have called about having him in for a look, said Exter, but he wants to work off all the rust with his old Merrimack pals before any auditions . . . Six years without a visit to the playoffs has the Rangers at least trying to act the part. "Now I'm rocking the boat," said team prez/GM/head coach Glen Sather to the New York Post last week. To wit: No cellphones on the team bus, suit jackets and ties required, neat hair (the Disney approach), and only English will be spoken during practices and games. No word yet whether players will be allowed to bring calculators on trips to the bank, or whether they'll be forced to make computations with pencil and paper (the indignity!) . . . It's hard enough for a conventional two-way deal to get pulled off, but last week began circulating this three-way dandy: 1. Detroit to send Curtis Joseph to Washington; the Capitals to send Olaf Kolzig to Colorado and Robert Lang to Detroit; the Avalanche to send Alex Tanguay to the Capitals . . . Late last week, Tom Laidlaw said he and the Bruins resumed talks in mid-September aimed at keeping Bryan Berard in a Boston uniform. It's clear Berard wants something closer to the $2.51 million arbitration figure Boston offered last month, which is some $800,000 more per season than what Mike O'Connell offered outside of the salary hearing. Based on last week's exhibition shellackings, it's a better bet that Boston first will increase its offer to Group 2 holdout Nick Boynton . . . Steve Lyons, son of former Bruins scout Joe Lyons, is scouting these days for the Coyotes after a five-year hitch with the Avalanche. He's also the hockey director at The Ponds of Norwood, a training facility tailored to younger players who work out on a downsized sheet (100 feet by 50 feet) to gain confidence and boost skills. There is also indoor turf for soccer and lacrosse players. For more info: 781-762-9055, or

Shot by Hasek a slap

As if the 9-0 shellacking at the hands of the Red Wings wasn't hard enough for Bruins fans to endure, how about Dominik Hasek's parting words that night: "I could see the Red Wings having a PeeWee goalie in net and they still could have won the game." . . . The Bruins haven't released all details, but there will be something akin to a block party for fans on opening night, Oct. 8, in the parking lot that once was the site of the old Garden. Festivities will kick off at 5 p.m., three hours before faceoff. Soon after signing Mike Sullivan as head coach, the club held a barbecue at the same spot and invited season ticket-holders to mingle with the coach and many of the players. It was a real hit with many of the longtime fans . . . Season ticket-holders began to receive their Bruins seats last week. One longtime seat-holder, with a pair of seats behind one of the nets, reports that the club tossed in a pair of free loge seats for the upcoming exhibition game against the Winged Wheels. They're not quite reading from the Red Sox fan-loving playbook on FleetStreet, but there are signs the Bruins finally understand that it's important to cultivate the loyal fan base . . . Martin Brodeur, his father once the Canadiens' official photographer, has a regular column in Journal de Montreal, penned by one of the tabloid's staffers. In his latest contribution, the Devils netminder nailed Wrentham's Garth Snow (Islanders) for his use of long pads and oversized shoulder pads: "Garth Snow keeps adding pieces to his pads, and his shoulder pads are so big he looks like Goldorak -- the robot I watched killing the bad guys when I was a kid." Rule changes this season will prohibit goalies from using pads longer than 38 inches. Brodeur seems to have done OK with his 34-inch pair . . . Jean-Sebastien Giguere cashed in on his big year with the Ducks and will earn a minimum $20 million over the next four years. His base salaries, starting this year: $4.5 million (two years) and $5.25 million (two years). If he hasn't reached incentive bonuses after four years, he picks up another $500,000 -- in other words, a bonus for no bonuses . . . Just a reminder: The waiver draft will be Friday at noon. If Felix Potvin's game doesn't show significant improvement over the next few days, Sean Burke could prove too enticing for the Bruins to say no again . . . Their juggernaut always in reload mode, the Devils may have their pick of three college defensemen to plug into the blue line equation: Paul Martin and Matt DeMarchi (each from the University of Minnesota) and David Hale (North Dakota). Martin, who tallied 97 points in three college seasons, is the most offensive-minded of the three . . . Paul Coffey, whose stellar career ended dismally here in the Hub of Hockey with a buyout after 18 games in the fall of 2000 (he was to be Ray Bourque's replacement at the point), is now helping out old pal Wayne Gretzky as a Coyotes special teams consultant. "I was disappointed I wasn't able to fulfill my commitment to the Bruins," he told Coffey, a shoo-in Hall of Famer, also has his name on a Toyota dealership.

Kevin Paul Dupont's e-mail address is; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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