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Tverdovsky Sits This One Out

Hockey: Ducks open training camp with Gauthier declaring news blackout on contract talks with free agent defenseman.

September 10, 2000|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There weren't many surprises as the Mighty Ducks opened their eighth NHL training camp Saturday in front of a packed crowd of about 750 fans at the team's Anaheim training facility.

Unsigned free agent defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky did not participate, and given the lack of progress toward a new multimillion-dollar contract in recent days even that figured.

Pierre Gauthier, team president and general manager, said he has imposed a news blackout on the negotiations, which wasn't much of a shock either.

Gauthier was optimistic early last week Tverdovsky would be signed by the start of camp. But he sounded upset after the team's first workout.

"I don't want to talk about the Oleg situation," Gauthier told reporters before departing the rink. "Nothing. And I won't say anything even when he comes back. You can figure out why."

Tverdovsky was the NHL's ninth-leading scorer among defensemen with 51 points, including a career-high 15 goals, last season.

The Ducks managed to soldier on without Tverdovsky, showing off their increased depth and speed--a result of several key off-season moves by Gauthier.

"The biggest thing we learned is the guys are in unbelievable shape," Coach Craig Hartsburg said. "It's The best since I've been here. It shows the guys are excited about the season and ready to go."

Hartsburg handed out two new awards after Friday's physical testing, which included a timed run, body fat measurements and a bench-press competition. Winger Jim Cummins was judged to be the fittest veteran and center Andy McDonald the fittest rookie.

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Right wing Teemu Selanne finally acknowledged being troubled last season by a nagging back injury, which limited him to 33 goals and 85 points--down from 47 goals and 107 points in 1998-99. He denied several times last season that anything was bothering him, although he was often seen with a postgame ice pack strapped to his lower back.

"My back is better than it's been in a long time," he said. "It's not 100%, but it's getting there. I have a special [rehab] program I'm on with [trainer] Chris Phillips. I hope I can play all year without injuries."

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Left wing Alexei Smirnov, the Ducks' first-round draft pick, was impressive in his first NHL practice. At 6 feet 3, 211 pounds, Smirnov was difficult to miss. He was particularly strong on the puck in front of the net and in the corners.

"He's only 18 and he didn't look out of place at all," Hartsburg said. "It was pretty exciting to see him. He's not out of place in a practice with [Paul] Kariya and Selanne on the ice."

Smirnov is expected to remain in training camp for a week to 10 days to gain experience before returning to play with his Russian club team.

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