Claude Lemieux returns to NHL after five-year absence

Wed Jan 21, 2009 3:55am EST
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Four-time Stanley Cup winner Claude Lemieux returned to NHL ice after a five-year absence on Tuesday, playing a part in the San Jose Sharks' 2-1 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

The 43-year-old forward spent seven minutes on the ice, fired off three shots and delivered a solid bodycheck in his first league game since May 2003.

"I've been dreaming about this since I retired," Lemieux told reporters. "The fans gave me that salute on the first shift. That meant a lot to me."

The 20-year NHL veteran played 12 shifts but was not on the ice during the later minutes of regulation or the overtime session.

"It obviously exceeds my expectations for a first game," he said. "As we go along, my expectations will rise and I'm going to want to do more and play better. But it was a good start and a special night."

His coach, Todd McLellan, agreed.

"He wasn't a liability out there and he skated well, which is something we were looking for," McLellan told reporters. "I think he's got to feel good about himself after one game. We certainly do.

"We'll come back after the All-Star break and he'll be out there and we'll see what happens," McLellan added.

Lemieux decided last year he wanted to return to the NHL and launched his comeback in September with the Central Hockey League's Arizona Sundogs.   Continued...

<p>San Jose Sharks' Claude Lemieux (L) skates against Vancouver Canucks' Taylor Pyatt during the first period of their NHL game in San Jose, California January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>