Three days before an NHL deadline, the Nashville Predators sold their 12,000th season ticket Saturday.
That should ensure that the NHL’s newest expansion team begins play in October. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will make the formal announcement in midApril.
The Predators had other requirements to meet by March 31, including the sale of 75 percent of luxury suites and club seats. Most have been met.
The worrisome one had been the season-ticket requirement.
The Predators’ franchise was awarded last June. The team will compete in the Central Division.
Gretzky to stay put
Wayne Gretzky will return to the New York Rangers next season, although he said the team will need to make personnel changes to improve on a disappointing 1997-98 season.
Despite published reports that he may want to finish his career outside New York as the Rangers try to rebuild their team, Gretzky told Fox’s John Davidson that he will be at Rangers’ training camp next season.
“I’ve said it before and many times after, this is my last stop, and I won’t play for another hockey team in this league,” Gretzky said in an interview that aired before New York’s 2-2 tie with Pittsburgh on Saturday.
“I’m sure the Rangers are going to make the necessary changes that will help improve this team and I plan on being front and center with that team next year.”
The Rangers, who have the highest payroll in hockey, are currently in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, six points behind Ottawa for the last playoff spot with nine games remaining.
Gretzky, who has one year left in a contract that will pay him $5 million next season, is fourth in the league in scoring this season with 81 points. For his career, he has 882 goals and 1,904 assists, best in NHL history.
Detroit’s Sergei Fedorov has been suspended for at least two games by the NHL for checking Anaheim’s Jason Marshall from behind.
Fedorov, who will have a hearing Monday, missed Saturday’s game at St. Louis and also will miss today’s home game against Buffalo.
The hit came during the first period Thursday night when Fedorov, playing his 13th game since ending a long holdout, delivered a blind-side hit that sent Marshall head-first into the boards.
On the ice
Kelly Hrudey maintained his mastery over the Stars’ franchise with a 36-save performance as the San Jose Sharks moved closer to a playoff berth with a 4-1 victory over Dallas Saturday in Dallas.
Tony Granato scored twice and Jeff Friesen and Shawn Burr added goals to help the Sharks move within a point of eighth-place Edmonton in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Jason Arnott and Denis Pederson scored for New Jersey, and Martin Brodeur made the goals stand up with 26 saves for a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in Phoenix.
Lyle Odelein added an empty-net goal with 10.9 seconds to play.
Jason Wiemer scored the game-winning goal for the second consecutive game, leading the host Calgary Flames to a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
Calgary’s first win over Los Angeles this season after four losses moved the Flames within five points of the Edmonton Oilers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
At Denver, newly acquired Tom Fitzgerald scored two goals and Adam Deadmarsh had two goals and two assists as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 5-3.
Both playing in their 800th NHL career game, Grant Fuhr made 33 saves and Pierre Turgeon scored a goal as the St. Louis Blues ended the Detroit Red Wings’ five-game unbeaten streak with a 3-2 win in St. Louis.
Defenseman Sylvain Cote scored with 4 seconds left in overtime, giving the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders in Toronto.
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