WEST VALLEY CITY — Starting tonight, there are just 13 home games left in the 2003-2004 season for the Utah Grizzlies, who are 9-14-1-3 in the E Center and need to make a move soon if they are to qualify for the AHL playoffs.

At 16-29-4-3, the Grizzlies are entrenched in last place in the West Division as they open a four-game homestand tonight at 7 against a Cleveland Barons club that has won four of its last five games and stands second in the North at 25-17-4-5.

The Barons boast the AHL's leading scorer in right wing Miroslav Zalesak, an all-star who has 27 goals and 60 points, and No. 5 scorer Brad Boyes, a center who has 50 points. It also has former rookie of the month and all-star defenseman Garrett Stafford. They are third in the league in power-play percentage but also third-worst in penalty killing.

The Grizzlies have different personnel from the last time Utahns watched them play — Jan. 31. This week they sent defenseman Regan Darby to the Idaho Steelheads, their ECHL affiliate in Boise, while recalling defenseman David Cornacchia from the same club. They released winger Charles Linglet from a pro tryout contract.

Also, goalie Dan Ellis was called up to the NHL Dallas Stars, and veteran NHL star goaltender Ron Tugnutt was activated from the injured list by the Stars and put on the Grizzlies' roster for conditioning. Utah also has Mike Smith and Jason Bacashihua, with whom they started the season.

Tugnutt, who has played only five games for the Stars this season due to injuries, was sent to Utah for conditioning in January but injured a groin during a Jan. 12 home game with Milwaukee. He was on the injured list until earlier this week.

According to a Dallas Morning News story Thursday, Tugnutt practiced 45 minutes with the Stars on Wednesday and was eager to return to Utah. "I would personally like to go to Utah. I've worked hard, and I would like to test it to see if I'm ready," he told Dallas Morning News writer Mike Heika, adding he's anticipating a quick comeback to spell Stars goalie Marty Turco, who's played more than any other NHL goalie this seasonBefore his first stint with the Grizzlies, Tugnutt said he wasn't thrilled at the prospect but changed his mind.

"I didn't want to have Utah on my resume at the end of my career, you know, on the back of my hockey card," he said. "But now that I've done it, I've enjoyed it and I can see the value in it."


E-mail: lham@desnews.com