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Saturday, July 26
Forward set Atlanta record with 49 assists

Associated Press

Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers re-signed forward Vyacheslav Kozlov on Saturday, an important step for the 5-year-old franchise coming off its best season.

Kozlov set a team record last season with 49 assists. His 70 points were second on the Thrashers behind All-Star MVP Dany Heatley.

The 31-year-old Russian made it clear after the season that he wanted to stay with the Thrashers, who acquired him from Buffalo in 2002 on the day of the entry draft. He provided a steadying influence on youngsters Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk while helping Atlanta become the fourth highest-scoring team in the Eastern Conference.

"Kozlov was a big part of our team last year and he's a big part of our future,"general manager Don Waddell told The Associated Press. "It was important to get him signed. It's a good message.

"We have a guy who played well with Heatley and was a good influence on Kovalchuk. It was important to keep him."

The Thrashers had 31 wins and 74 points last season -- both franchise records -- and greatly improved after Bob Hartley took over as coach in January. Atlanta finished nine points out of the playoffs.

Kozlov, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward, has scored 20 goals seven times in his 12-year NHL career. He scored a career-high 36 for Detroit in the 1995-96 season, and helped the Red Wings win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1997 and 1998.

Waddell said the deal was approved by both AOL-Time Warner, the team's current owner, and David McDavid -- in negotiations to buy the team.

"I talked to both groups on Wednesday, and I got the OK to get it done,'' he said. "It was never a problem at all."

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