RW Pavel Bure returned to the Rangers' lineup last night, just over two months after having arthroscopic surgery on both knees.

Bure, who missed 31 games, had torn cartilage in his left knee repaired on Dec. 16, 10 days after injuring his knee in New York's 4-1 loss at Buffalo. He also had exploratory surgery on his right knee at the same time.

Bure, who has played in six NHL all-star games, missed the first three games of the season because of illness. He also had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Sept. 26.

The league's leading goal scorer in 2000 and 2001, Bure has 21 points in 27 games this season.

* PREGAME INJURY: Atlanta G Byron Dafoe hurt his left groin during pregame warmups yesterday and was replaced by Frederic Cassivi for the Thrashers' game against the Sabres.

GM Don Waddell said Dafoe, who has missed 12 games with an injured groin, will be reevaluated today.

Cassivi, who made 24 saves in Atlanta's 4-3 win against Buffalo, was recalled Sunday from Chicago of the AHL.

* SAKIC EYES RETURN: C Joe Sakic could return to the Avalanche next week after being sidelined since Jan. 20 with a broken ankle.

Colorado begins a four-game homestand on Sunday against the Rangers.

"I don't know if it's going to be the first game, second, third or fourth, but I'm hoping it's somewhere in there," Sakic said. "We'll just see how it progresses."

-- From News Services