NEW YORK - Sean Avery can return to the NHL in less than 2 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 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 agreed to be evaluated for anger management, a requirement for his return. The league cited his "pattern of unacceptable and anti-social behavior."

This is Avery's first league suspension in his seven seasons. Stars owner Tom Hicks said he would have banished Avery if the NHL hadn't.

Bettman deemed Avery's behavior "detrimental to the league or game of hockey," and said in a statement the 28-year-old player has "expressed remorse."

"I wanted it to be clear to the fans that this isn't something that we tolerate, particularly fans with children who might have to explain to them what this statement was," Bettman said.

NHL Players Association executive director Paul Kelly said the union does not condone Avery's comments, calling them "clearly inappropriate." He said the union will explore legal options should the Stars try to get out of Avery's contract. Avery signed a 4-year, $15.5 million deal with Dallas after leaving the New York Rangers last summer.

"We have to fix him," Hull said. "There were a lot of words thrown out - anger management, depression. He's going to use this time to figure things out."

In games last night:

* At St. Paul, Minn., Kevin Bieksa's power-play goal sparked Vancouver in the first period, and goalie Cory Schneider picked up his first career victory for the Canucks in a 2-1 decision over the Minnesota Wild.

* At St. Louis, Michael Cammalleri scored in overtime as the Calgary Flames overcame a pair of two-goal deficits to defeat the Blues, 4-3.

* At Dallas, Mike Modano scored in the fourth round of a shootout, and Marty Turco stopped Ryan Smyth's shot to give the Dallas Stars a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. *