Kovalchuk speaks on Kozlov's lack of playing time

When Ilya Kovalchuk returned to Atlanta last week, he didn't mince words about the lack of playing time for fellow Russian Slava Kozlov.

Kozlov was a healthy scratch in 26 of 30 games down the stretch.

"I don't know what is going on," Kovalchuk said. "I think a guy like Kozzy, they need him real bad right now with his experience. I think the guy has played over 100 playoff games. Some personal reasons don't have to go against the team. Especially now with all those injuries, and he's still not playing. I don't think it's right to treat guys like that. They did it to [Alexei] Zhitnik first, now Kozzy. He's just too professional. You can't say any bad word against him. They just sit him down and all the guys are disappointed, too."

Kozlov, who is an unrestricted free agent, asked to be traded at the deadline but was not moved.

Around the Thrashers

*Tim Stapleton's stay was short, but he left an impression. The forward played in six games for the Thrashers before being re-assigned to AHL Chicago on Wednesday after the Thrashers were eliminated from the playoffs.

Stapleton, acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Pavel Kubina trade, scored a goal in two consecutive games in his brief stint. Stapleton appeared in four games with the Maple Leafs last season.

Asked if he was treating his time with the Thrashers as an audition, Stapleton said: “Absolutely, it’s for my career. I’m a free agent this summer. I never really had a chance. Last year I had a few games. But to be thrown in the mix like this on a team trying to make the playoffs in the National Hockey League, I couldn’t write it any better. It’s been happening so fast. Hopefully, I keep doing what I’m doing and this summer get a contract some where and get a shot in the NHL next year, too.”

*Along with Stapleton, Chris Chelios returned to AHL Chicago on Wednesday to play in the Calder Cup playoffs. The 26-year NHL veteran was not quite ready to call it a career after a seven-game season with the Thrashers.

“I don’t know,” Chelios told the team’s Web site when asked if he had played his final NHL game. “I’ve never liked to say. I like to sit back and see. Family has always had a lot to do with it, being away, so we’ll see. I’m going to go back with the Wolves and see if I can win a championship with the Wolves and go from there.”

Around the NHL

  • On Thursday, the NHL awarded the 2011 All Star game. The Carolina Hurricanes will play host at the RBC Center. "I had made a promise and I adhere to promises, but there was an extensive bidding war," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters about the 14 applications for the game. "This organization had to do the things we required them to do for an All Star Game. This community had to do the things that were required. So even on its own merits, without the promise I had made a couple of years ago, this franchise deserved the All Star Game."
  • Keith Tkachuk, who played 18 regular-season and four playoff games with the Thrashers in 2007, announced his retirement Wednesday after a 19-year career.
  • Tyler Seguin, who plays for Plymouth in the Ontario Hockey League, was listed as the top prospect for the 2010 draft in rankings released by NHL Central Scouting on Wednesday. The NHL draft is June 25 in Los Angeles. The draft lottery will be held Tuesday to determine the draft order.

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