ANAHEIM — The Mighty Ducks trimmed their roster to within two of the new 24-player NHL limit on Friday, with rookie center Chad Kilger and defenseman Oleg Mikulchik the only newcomers to survive the latest cut.
General Manager Jack Ferreira sent forwards J.F. Jomphe and Alex Hicks to Baltimore, saying both players were very close to making the team but need to play regularly. The Ducks also assigned defensemen Pavel Trnka and Darren Van Impe to Baltimore, which has replaced San Diego as their top minor-league affiliate.
"[Jomphe and Hicks] played as well if not better than some guys who are here," Coach Ron Wilson said. "But it's like a championship fight. A challenger has to clearly outpoint or knock down the champion to take the title away. We tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the veteran player. [Jomphe and Hicks] could easily play up here, and more than likely they'll still get a lot of ice time up here this year."
The Ducks' final cuts will depend on what happens in Monday's waiver draft, when NHL teams can pick up players or lose up to three. Though the Ducks had the option to leave only one player unprotected, Ferreira suggested additional players might be left available because of their diminishing roles.
Injuries also are a factor, and defenseman Don McSween, rehabilitating from nerve damage to his right wrist, will start the season on injured reserve, which excludes him from the 24-player limit.
Right wing Todd Ewen is on doctors' orders not to practice or even ride a bike for the next week because of a sore groin.
"We'd rather have him miss a week than have it be a chronic injury," Wilson said.
The Ducks and Kings meet for the only time this exhibition season at 7:30 tonight at the Forum.
The Ducks, 3-2-2 in exhibition play, will start Mikhail Shtalenkov in goal against the Kings, 2-4. The Kings will counter with Jamie Storr. No. 1 goaltender Kelly Hrudey has yet to play in the preseason because of a sprained left ankle.
Wayne Gretzky isn't expected to play either, and the Ducks might hold out defenseman David Karpa because of wrist soreness and his history as an agitator to the Kings.