Sean Avery can return to the NHL in less than two weeks. The Dallas Stars, however, seem much less forgiving than commissioner Gary Bettman.

Avery drew a six-game ban yesterday for a crude comment regarding his ex-girlfriends' dating other hockey players. It will take a lot longer to repair the damage he caused to the Stars organization and the coaches and teammates who don't appear to want him back.

"He's always on the edge, certainly, on the ice, which no one really has an issue with," forward Mike Modano said. "But when it becomes public and it becomes off-ice situations, that's when you have a problem with it."

Avery already has served two of the six games and will be eligible to return Dec. 16 against Phoenix.

"We needed to be clear that this was the type of conduct that we did not view was acceptable and not representative of what our players do," Bettman said.

Avery, who has twice led the NHL in penalty minutes and is second this season, also agreed to be evaluated for anger management, a requirement for his return.

Stars owner Tom Hicks said he would have banished Avery if the NHL hadn't.

Paul Kelly, executive director of the NHL Players Association, said the union does not condone Avery's comments. But he added that the "discipline imposed by the commissioner is unprecedented both in its severity as well as the process by which it was handed down."

Devils.

New Jersey waived Barry Tallackson just over two months after the right winger had surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat.