WEST VALLEY CITY The decision of the Utah Grizzlies and West Valley City native D.J. Jelitto to part ways less than two days before tonight's 7 p.m. 2007-08 home opener against the defending Kelly Cup-champion Idaho Steelheads was apparently mutual.
Jelitto wanted playing time that couldn't be guaranteed now that Utah has a working agreement with the NHL's New York Islanders, who've sent the Grizzlies 10 players to develop. So the third-year forward was released late Wednesday and was hoping to be claimed on waivers or sign in another league.
Third-year defenseman Eric Nelson was also released.
Utah coach Jason Christie said Jelitto plans to keep playing somewhere.
"He's made some big steps," Christie said. "We hope the best for D.J., no question."
In the past few days, Christie has added two free agents, defenseman Sean Offers and right wing Justin Johnson. Islanders goalie Mike Mole is back from a weekend with New York's AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Mole will likely make his Grizzly debut tonight or Saturday for the annual Pink in the Rink breast-cancer awareness game with pink ice, pucks, uniforms and sticks.
The game is also a contest between the team that finished 24th in a 25-team league last season and the league champion.
"It will be a good test for our guys," Christie. "Our days of excuses are over. The days of 'first-year' or 'young guys' and 'guys jelling together' (excuses) are over. We've got to throw that out the door and have a no-excuse policy and move forward."
"We need a big win desperately, and we're going to come with everything," said new Grizzly winger Scott Burt. "And so be it if they were the champions last year. Not taking nothing from them, but we're going to go out there and play them hard."
Burt spent seven seasons as a Steelhead and helped win two titles, but wasn't wanted back by the coach.
That sat so poorly with Steelhead faithful that last week on opening night during the championship ceremony, fans chanted, "Burtie, Burtie, Burtie," according to the Idaho Statesman.
"I tried to do everything I could for the city and the organization," Burt said. "Those guys are always my friends, and the city of Boise is my home. But when it comes down to a 60-minute game, I'll go play for my guys. After the game is a different story."It was a fun place to play," Burt added. "We're going to try to make Utah as fun as that."