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Hawks want Czech back on their ice

The Portland Winter Hawks' prospects for next year got better this week, as skilled center Jakub Klepis appears to be coming back to the team.

Klepis, the 16th pick in the 2002 NHL Draft, played with the Winter Hawks as a rookie in 2001-02 but stayed in his native Czech Republic last season. Klepis' agent, Petr Svoboda, told the Winter Hawks the player would like to come back to get ready to play in the NHL Ñ his rights have been traded from Ottawa to Buffalo, N.Y. Ñ and that getting released from his Czech team wouldn't be difficult.

Klepis, now 19, had 14 goals and 50 assists as a WHL rookie.

The Winter Hawks made room on their list by dropping Czech forward Roman Prazak. The team can carry only two Europeans; Klepis and another player to be selected in the Import Draft on June 27 likely will be on the roster.

Ñ Jason Vondersmith