Chicago Blackhawks left wing Ben Eager was suspended for three games without pay by the NHL yesterday for swinging his stick at Dallas Stars left wing Sean Avery during a game last week.

Eager, a former Flyer, was sitting on the bench in the third period last Thursday when he tried to swing his stick in the direction of Avery, who was on the ice.

Eager was assessed a match penalty for attempt to injure and will miss the Blackhawks' first three regular-season games, beginning tomorrow night against the New York Rangers. He will be eligible to return Oct. 15 against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Eager's $9,667.43 salary deduction will go to the NHL players' emergency assistance fund.

Noteworthy

* Veteran Vancouver Canucks forwards Matt Pettinger, Jeff Cowan and Jason Krog were sent down to the American Hockey League after clearing waivers. Pettinger, who has played 354 NHL games over seven seasons and is making $1.1 million this season and Krog were both sent to Vancouver's AHL affiliate in Manitoba. Cowan, a tough guy who has played more than 400 NHL games since 2000, was sent to Peoria, the affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.

* Columbus forwards Derek Dorsett, Nikita Filatov, Craig MacDonald and Derek MacKenzie were assigned to the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate in Syracuse. Defenseman Aaron Rome also was sent down and left wing Raffi Torres was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Sept. 29. Torres dislocated his shoulder in a fight during a preseason game and is expected to miss up to 6 weeks. The 19-year-old Filatov, the sixth overall pick in the entry draft, made a strong push to make the club with a goal and a game-winning shootout goal in the last preseason game against Toronto.

* The New York Islanders claimed center Nate Thompson off waivers from Boston and reassigned defenseman Brett Skinner to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. The 24-year-old Thompson spent the last three seasons with Providence in the AHL, playing for new Islanders coach Scott Gordon. *