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Ducks Stuck on Empty in 3-0 Loss

Hockey: Anaheim looking for answers after falling to Colorado, extending its winless streak to eight games. Roy gets 50th shutout.

November 16, 2000|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pierre Gauthier isn't given to making sweeping changes when he's angry or disappointed. That isn't to say he's a stoic, but it simply hasn't been the Mighty Duck president and general manager's nature to fire and hire and wheel and deal when times are tough.

Clearly, things can't get much worse for the Ducks, whose 3-0 loss Wednesday to the Colorado Avalanche at the Arrowhead Pond extended their winless streak to 0-6-2.

A loss or a tie Saturday against the Coyotes at Phoenix will match the franchise-record nine-game streak (0-8-1) set in October, 1996, when captain Paul Kariya was sidelined by an abdominal injury.

"The solutions have to come from within," Gauthier said after the Ducks' fifth consecutive loss. "If it were a situation where we've been stinking up the joint, I would be more concerned. But we've been competitive.

"It's frustrating right now."

Compounding matters Wednesday, top-line center Steve Rucchin was forced from the game after Teemu Selanne's slap shot struck him in the face late in the second period. Rucchin, launched into the air by Colorado defenseman Ray Bourque's cross check in the back, suffered a broken nose and a broken cheekbone and will sidelined indefinitely.

Judging by the Ducks' effort against the league-leading Avalanche, the players haven't quit on Coach Craig Hartsburg. They outshot Colorado, 41-20, but failed to get a puck by goalie Patrick Roy. Adam Foote, Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic scored for the Avalanche, which has a league-leading 31 points.

After 20 games, many of the Ducks simply haven't clicked as anticipated. If the losing continues and the Ducks continue to fade from contention in the NHL's hyper-competitive Western Conference, Hartsburg could be out of a job sooner rather than later. It's a fact not lost on the Ducks.

"Any time you go eight games without a win, you've got to be concerned because Pierre is not going to stand for this," Kariya said. "And we shouldn't stand for it as a team."

Kariya and Selanne were blanked for the third consecutive game. Kariya has one goal and three points during the Ducks' eight-game winless streak and Selanne has two goals and four points.

Among the other struggling players are several Gauthier brought in during a summer of changes after the team failed to advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, including center German Titov (two goals and 11 shots on goal in 16 games).

Two others, winger Andrei Nazarov (one goal) and defenseman Patrick Traverse (one goal), were healthy scratches Wednesday. A third, forward Jonas Ronnqvist, is in the minors.

Hartsburg is in the third season of his contract, but was given a two-year extension last summer. It's believed, however, to be a two-season club option rather than a guaranteed two years.

It certainly would be easier for Gauthier to dump Hartsburg instead of trying to unload 23 players.

It's also possible Gauthier could deal one of his two marquee wingers. In fact, he was rumored to be close to doing it last January. Gauthier at the time denied reports from Toronto and New York that he would deal Selanne to the New Jersey Devils for several players.

However, a league source said recently that Gauthier had a trade all but completed that would have sent Selanne to the Carolina Hurricanes for center Keith Primeau. Primeau ended up in Philadelphia instead.

"I think everyone realizes that this can't go on like this anymore," Selanne said. "If it does big things are going to happen. We don't want to see those big things happen. You saw that with another team earlier this year [when the Boston Bruins replaced Pat Burns with Mike Keenan], and no player likes that.

"I still think we have a good team, one that can do a lot of damage. That is what is so frustrating."

Kariya put much of the blame for the winless streak on himself and his linemates.

"Our line is not producing and I'm not producing and that is costing us games here," Kariya said. "When we play teams like Detroit and Colorado, we have to produce. That's what has to happen if we're going to win."

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