Claude Lemieux is back in the NHL after a 5½-year absence, joining the San Jose Sharks at age 43 in hopes of one more run at the Stanley Cup.
The NHL-leading Sharks recalled the four-time Cup winner Monday
from their minor league affiliate in Worcester, Mass. Lemieux
practiced in San Jose, and he's likely to play Tuesday night
against Vancouver in the Sharks' final game before the All-Star
Lemieux once was hockey's archetypal agitating forward, beloved
by his teammates and despised by everybody else during his parts of
20 seasons with five NHL clubs. He also was among the best playoff
performers of his generation, with 80 postseason goals that are
still ninth-most in league history.
Lemieux, who will wear No. 32 in teal, won titles with Montreal
(1986), New Jersey (1995, 2000) and Colorado (1996), earning the
Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP for the Devils in 1995.
He hasn't played in the NHL since his career petered out after
32 games with the Dallas Stars in 2003, but he joined the Worcester
Sharks in late November in hopes of a comeback. San Jose then
signed him to a two-way contract in late December, and he
apparently looked good enough to persuade general manager Doug
Wilson to put him on the roster.
Lemieux had three goals and eight assists in 23 games with
Worcester, racking up 24 penalty minutes and a plus-2 rating.
The Sharks also sent young forwards Brad Staubitz and Tom
Cavanagh back to Worcester before the All-Star break.
Although the Sharks led the overall NHL standings with 71 points
entering Monday's games, their fourth line hasn't been impressive
or productive since Jeremy Roenick was sidelined last month with a
shoulder injury. If Lemieux sticks and Roenick returns soon, the
Sharks could match Roenick and Lemieux with enforcer Jody Shelley
on a line that would be among the NHL's most entertaining, if no
longer its most talented.
The Sharks also placed defenseman Brad Lukowich on injured
reserve retroactive to Jan. 6. Lukowich has been out for five games
after sports hernia surgery.