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Defenseman Is Making an Impact

October 23, 1998|ELLIOTT TEAFORD

Defenseman Mike Crowley faced numerous questions about his size during his high school and college days in Minnesota. So answering them now that he's playing for the Ducks is nothing new for Crowley, generously listed at 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds in the media guide.

"I think that's always been a factor in high school, college and now in the pros," said Crowley, a native of Bloomington, Minn., who played at the University of Minnesota. "Obviously, the prototype defenseman around the league is 6-3 or 6-4. But smaller defensemen have found a way to play in this league. [As a smaller player] you have to feel you can play at this level, and I feel I can."

Crowley certainly did better than hold his own in his last two games, scoring a goal Oct. 15 in the Ducks' 5-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks and assisting on all three goals in a 3-0 victory Wednesday over the Boston Bruins.

When the Ducks ran short of defensemen after Ruslan Salei was suspended for five games and it appeared Jason Marshall might be seriously injured, the Ducks recalled Crowley from Cincinnati of the American Hockey League on Oct. 11.

On Wednesday, Salei served the final game of his suspension for tripping Daniel Briere of the Phoenix Coyotes in an exhibition game. Marshall has played well despite suffering a bruised left heel.

Coach Craig Hartsburg now faces a difficult decision: stick with Crowley or play Salei for the first time this season Sunday against the Coyotes at the Arrowhead Pond.

"I'm not sure right now," Hartsburg said. "Ruslan is going to help us, but it's hard because the six defensemen who have played have played very well."

Hartsburg acknowledged having concerns about Crowley's size, but said that's not why the Ducks sent him to the minors to begin the season.

"Everybody knew he had great numbers in college," said Hartsburg, a former NHL defenseman with the Minnesota North Stars. "The biggest question was his size. So far, we haven't noticed his size. There's still more he can do, but he's made some good strides."

Hartsburg said he has encouraged Crowley, who led the Golden Gophers in scoring with 56 points (nine goals, 47 assists) in 1996-97, to use his speed.

"If he gets in the right position, he's not going to get pushed around," Hartsburg said. "He's also used his quickness to jump up into the play."

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