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Report: Gretzky Set to Rejoin Coyotes

December 28, 2005

PHOENIX (AP) _ Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky, who took a leave of absence on Dec. 17 to return to Canada and be with his dying mother, is expected to rejoin the team Wednesday.

The Arizona Republic reported on its Web site that Gretzky flew to San Jose late Tuesday night and could be back coaching in Wednesday night’s game against the Sharks.

``I am excited to be back behind the bench,″ Gretzky told the newspaper. ``I am very fortunate to have a great coaching staff and would like to thank Rick Tocchet, Barry Smith and Rick Bowness for all their help while I was away with my family.″

Calls to the Coyotes for confirmation were not immediately returned.

Phyllis Gretzky, 64, died Dec. 19 in a hospital in Brantford, Ontario, surrounded by family members, including her famous son and his four siblings, after a yearlong battle with lung cancer.

Phoenix lost three of the five games it played during Gretzky’s absence.

Tocchet, one of three associate coaches on the Coyotes’ staff, assumed the head coaching duties while Gretzky was away.

Gretzky, the NHL’s career scoring leader, also is the executive director of Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team. He’s expected to resume his duties with the team in January, according to Hockey Canada officials.

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