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Cullimore plans his return

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 21, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Head medical trainer Tom Mulligan said defenseman Jassen Cullimore could be ready by the end of the month or early April. That gives Cullimore at least three games before a potential playoff series.

"The more games I can get in the better," Cullimore said. "But it's a Catch-22. If I come back too early it could make it worse."

Cullimore has been out since Nov.29 with a torn left rotator cuff that was repaired by surgery Dec.9. Mulligan said it usually takes four to six months for such injuries to heal. Cullimore's recovery will be at four months April9. The regular season ends April6 at Atlanta.

Mulligan said he will be cautious.

"We've come so far, you don't want to take a step back," he said.

Cullimore's return will create an interesting dilemma for coach John Tortorella, who, unless he breaks his pattern and goes with seven defenseman, will have to sit one of the six who have played the bulk of games in Cullimore's absence.

"I'm not sure what's going to happen there," Tortorella said. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

OLVESTAD GETS A CHANCE: Jimmie Olvestad played his first game since Jan.24 against the Stars, breaking a stretch of 24 consecutive scratches that included a two-week conditioning assignment with AHL Springfield.

"It's tough," said Olvestad, whose chance came thanks to Ben Clymer's groin strain. "It's not fun to watch hockey. I want to play it and that's the bottom line. I have to play my game but with a little more edge to show I deserve to be in the lineup."

"It's up to Jimmie," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure where it's all going to fall into place as we go through the next few games, but this is an opportunity for him."

SOME PERSPECTIVE: Clymer, a Bloomington, Minn., native, spoke in hushed tones of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"People can have their opinions, but people have to realize we're trying to do good even though, maybe, other countries and people might not view it as a worthy cause," he said. "People have to weigh this versus another 9/11, I think.

"I guess sports, in the big picture, is fairly minute, especially when we're trying so hard to win every last game right now, and those guys are fighting for their lives over there."

ODDS AND ENDS: Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin sat a second game because of lingering effects of a stomach virus, Tortorella said. "Nik just doesn't have his full strength," the coach said. "Just being careful there." ... Left wing Andre Roy and defensemen Marc Bergevin, Darren Rumble and Janne Laukkanen were scratched.

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