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Gretzky Plans To Return Soon

March 22, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Wayne Gretzky could be back with the New York Rangers as early as this weekend.

``I’m hoping for Saturday or Monday next week,″ Gretzky told reporters after Sunday’s 2-2 tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins. ``I’ll shoot for Saturday (against the Philadelphia Flyers) ... Anything else is a surprise.″

Gretzky said he had received clearance ``to skate and work out hard on my own and with guys who weren’t playing.″

The Great One said he was feeling great and had ``tremendous mobility.″

``We didn’t do any MRIs,″ Gretzky said. ``(The team doctor) was really going at my discretion on how I feel. I have skated really hard the last few days with the coaches and the other guys.″

Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, was sidelined with a neck injury on Feb. 26 when he was in so much pain that he wasn’t able to turn his head. The Rangers have gone 6-3-3 in the 12 games that Gretzky has missed.

Gretzky said he didn’t expect to step right in and assume his accustomed position on the No. 1 line.

``Right now, the least of their concerns is getting me back into the lineup,″ Gretzky said. ``Nothing should be given to me. I will just practice and work hard, as I have all my career.″

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