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Atlanta's Heatley returning tonight

Dany Heatley's quick return to the ice couldn't come at a better time for the Thrashers.

The star right wing plans to play tonight for the first time since surviving a car wreck in September that killed teammate Dan Snyder and left Heatley with serious injuries.

His scheduled return against St. Louis at home will cap a recovery from two torn knee ligaments and a broken jaw. He had surgery in October to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee.

"I met with the doctors Saturday for about the 17th time about his status," Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said Tuesday. "They assured us he was 100 percent."

After leading the Southeast Division much of the season, Atlanta has dropped to second place, eight points behind Tampa Bay.

"It's nice to help, but at the same time, that has no bearing on whether I was ready to play or I wasn't ready to play," Heatley said. "It's going to be fun to get going in the middle of a playoff run."

Heatley skated for the first time after surgery Dec. 23, then joined his teammates in a pregame skate about 10 days ago.

Heatley was charged with vehicular homicide after Snyder died from head injuries.

FLYERS: Right wing Tony Amonte could miss two weeks with a partly torn ligament in his right knee.

LABOR: The league would like to resume negotiations with the players' union on a collective bargaining agreement within two weeks. William Daly, the league's chief legal council, said he hopes the sides can reconvene at the end of next weekend's All-Star festivities in St. Paul, Minn.

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