Islanders Coach Peter Laviolette apologized yesterday for holding a closed practice without media access.

The NHL fined the team $25,000 for the violation, which occurred during Tuesday's skate, hours before the Islanders' 2-2 tie against the Rangers.

"I didn't realize it was against league policy, and I'm sorry for what happened," Laviolette said.

* SUSPENSION: Sabres D Tim Connolly was suspended by the NHL for four games for high-sticking Thrashers D Garnet Exelby.

Connolly was assessed a minor penalty for high-sticking Exelby in the second period of the Sabres' 4-3 victory Wednesday night.

The suspension will cost Connolly $25,000 in lost pay. He also will miss the final two games this season and the first two next season.

* MODANO SKATES: Stars C Mike Modano didn't practice, but skated on his own and expects to be ready when the playoffs begin next week.

Modano suffered a lower body injury early in the second period of a 2-1 victory over the Mighty Ducks on Wednesday. The Stars have refused to elaborate on the injury.

Modano, an all-star, left the game after being shoved awkwardly to the ice by Adam Oates after a faceoff.

Coach Dave Tippett said Modano would have been able to return had it been a playoff game.

"It was a fluky thing," Modano said. "I don't think it's something that is going to hamper me down the road more than two days."

-- From News Services