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FANS PLAN 'SAVE THE THRASHERS' RALLY

Times wires

ATLANTA - Thrashers fans are planning to take advantage of possibly their last opportunity to demonstrate support for the team to remain in Atlanta.

They are planning a rally before the team's annual select-a-seat event for season-ticket holders at Philips Arena on Saturday. Team fan club president Lisa Lewis said Wednesday she expects a "pretty big turnout" in the rally she said is being organized by fan Jimmy Parks.

According to reports in Atlanta and Winnipeg, Thrashers owners are negotiating with a Winnipeg company that would relocate the team to the Canadian city.

Former Braves pitcher Tom Glavine is a high-profile Thrashers fan and former season-ticket holder who last month said he would like to be part of an ownership group that keeps the team in Atlanta.

Glavine said Wednesday he feared time is running out on the effort to save the team, especially after the financially troubled Coyotes last week won a one-year reprieve to remain in Arizona. That development shifted Winnipeg's focus to Atlanta.

"Based on the conversations I've had, off and on, I think there was always some sense that we had a little bit of time as long as Phoenix was still in the picture," Glavine said. "Now that Phoenix is out of the picture, that time has kind of gone away, and everything is on an accelerated path now. There seems to be a consensus there is going to be a team in Winnipeg. The question is who, and unfortunately the bulls-eye seems to be on the Thrashers' back."

The Thrashers' average attendance this season was 13,469 to rank 28th out of 30 teams. Attendance has declined as the Thrashers, who debuted as an expansion franchise in 1999, have made one playoff appearance and some fans have become impatient with team management.

Bruce Levenson, who leads the Atlanta ownership group, has said he has been unable to find a buyer to keep the team in Atlanta.

Canadiens: Outgoing team president Pierre Boivin said fans' demand for bilingual French-Canadian representatives on the roster and in the front office creates a competitive disadvantage for the team. "If it's a star (francophone player) ... that's all they need to feel the cultural and linguistic connection," he told the Montreal Gazette. "If they don't have the star, they want a whole bunch (of francophones) because one day they hate them, the other day they love them." Boivin said the pool of bilingual front-office and coaching candidates is so small, "that's a huge disadvantage when human capital is your most important asset."

Islanders: Goalie Al Montoya had surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee sustained while playing for the United States at the world championships in Slovakia this month. The team said he should be ready for training camp in September.

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