Tony Amonte's knee injury is not as bad as first feared, and the Chicago Blackhawks' top scorer could return as early as tonight. Amonte, whose 26 goals rank fourth in the NHL, was hurt late in Wednesday's victory against Edmonton when he collided with Oiler goalie Bob Essensa.
New York Ranger right wing Alexei Kovalev, who suffered a torn knee ligament during Wednesday's game against Tampa Bay, could return to the lineup in six weeks if he wears a knee brace and postpones surgery. If Kovalev has the surgery, he will be out for the rest of the season and won't play until next fall. . . . Gov. John Rowland said the state will look into building a new arena for the Hartford Whalers so the team can stay in Connecticut. Rowland said he became convinced the Hartford Civic Center is inadequate after speaking with team owner Peter Karmanos and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.