A day after their dressing room was cleaned and disinfected as a precaution, the flu-ridden Columbus Blue Jackets returned to the ice yesterday on wobbly legs.

About three-quarters of the 39-man roster complained of fever, aches and pains, headache, dizziness and upset stomachs last weekend. Because of the number of sick players, the dressing room was closed Monday.

The Blue Jackets were expected to be near full strength for last night's exhibition game at Pittsburgh.

"We found it a little bit odd," team spokesman Todd Sharrock said. "The flu always seems to hit during the course of a year, but never this way. We had people come in and clean and disinfect the dressing room as a precaution. Monday was an off day, so it was a good day to do it."

The Blue Jackets played in Chicago on Sunday night, getting by with 11 forwards and five defensemen -- one fewer of each than would normally be used. Pascal Leclaire started in goal but came out after the first period because he wasn't feeling well.

Columbus President and General Manager Doug MacLean said doctors had run tests on the players but there were no indications it was anything more than the flu. . . .

The Carolina Hurricanes signed 19-year-old rookie forward Andrew Ladd, the team's 2004 first-round pick, to a three-year entry-level contract. He was the fourth overall pick.

* SOCCER: Ruud van Nistelrooy's goal in the 85th minute gave Manchester United a 2-1 victory over visiting Benfica in the European Champions League.

Van Nistelrooy's winning score from a corner kick came three days after United players and Manager Alex Ferguson were booed by their home fans in a 2-1 loss to Blackburn in the English Premiership.

Ryan Giggs scored for United in the 38th minute when his free kick from about 30 yards hit a Benfica player and went into the net. Sabrosa Simao tied it in the 59th with a free kick into the top corner.

In other games, Ronaldinho had three goals as Barcelona beat Udinese, 4-1; Arsenal, missing three forwards, won at Ajax, 2-1; Bayern Munich edged Brugge, 1-0; Juventus routed Rapid Vienna, 3-0; Panathinaikos beat Werder Bremen, 2-1; FC Thun beat Sparta Prague, 1-0; and Villarreal drew, 0-0, at Lille. . . .

Senior forward Jason Garey became the leading goal scorer in Maryland history during the Terrapins' 1-0 victory over visiting William & Mary. The victory was the 200th for Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski. Garey scored his 46th career goal in the 83rd minute to lift the 17th-ranked Terps (6-3) over the Tribe (2-4).

* AUTO RACING: NASCAR fined Nextel Cup crew chief Joe Garone and Busch Series crew chief Charlie Lewis $1,000 each for violations last weekend at Dover International Speedway. Garone, crew chief for Kenny Wallace, was penalized for using an unapproved fuel cell, while Lewis, crew chief for Ashton Lewis Jr., was fined for using an unapproved steering idler arm.

* COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Second-year Missouri Southern coach John Ware, 46, died of an apparent heart attack after collapsing at his desk. The cause of death was not immediately known, but the Jasper County coroner told the Joplin Globe that Ware died of apparent heart failure. . . .

Kansas State running back Thomas Clayton was charged with almost hitting a university official with his car while driving away to avoid having a boot put on the vehicle for parking violations. Clayton, a junior, was charged with misdemeanor battery. He was arrested Sept. 16 on a complaint of aggravated battery.

* PRO BASKETBALL: The Charlotte Bobcats re-signed forward Gerald Wallace to a three-year contract. Wallace averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds last season while starting 68 of the 70 games he played.

* WRESTLING: Russia's Buvaaysa Saitiev won his sixth world title, capturing the gold medal in the 163-pound freestyle class at the world championships in Budapest. Joe Williams of the United States defeated Alexandru Burca of Moldova to win the bronze.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports

Barcelona's Ronaldinho celebrates after scoring one of his three goals during a 4-1 victory over Udinese.