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Leclerc Better, but Wants More

April 09, 2002|Chris Foster

Mighty Duck right wing Mike Leclerc had perfect timing in chipping a shot past Dallas goalie Ed Belfour Sunday for his 20th goal. Matt Cullen was equally on the ball, scurrying to retrieve the puck from the net.

It was a moment to savor, considering that only six other Duck players have reached the 20-goal mark in a season. Yet, for Leclerc it was hardly a time to be satisfied.

"I haven't reached any of my expectations yet," Leclerc said. "The team is not in the playoff race and I haven't put up the numbers I think I'm capable of putting up."

Still, it is a marked improvement. Leclerc has remained healthy for the first time in three seasons.

He has 12 goals and 30 points in 46 games since Dec. 18. He also has improved on defense, dropping his plus-minus from what was a league-high minus-18 in December to minus-11. Leclerc not only has a career high in goals, but in points with 44.

His play has improved since being switched to the right wing on a line with Cullen and German Titov.

"I have never played right wing in my life," Leclerc said. "I kind of like it. I see the ice better on break outs."

That line has been productive the last two weeks. Titov has four goals and eight points and Cullen has six assists in the last eight games.

"They're quick, they're moving the puck and they're really supporting each other," Coach Bryan Murray said. "They have been our best line. They get points and they make good plays. They are a threat fairly regularly."

That review is good news for Titov, who was Exhibit A in the Duck collapse last season after signing a three-year, $4.5-million contract. His play improved earlier this season when he was a serviceable third-line player.

In the last month, he seems worth the money. Titov has six goals and 12 points in the last 15 games.

"He is tough on the puck," Leclerc said. "That makes him easy to play with. We have good chemistry on the line."


Duck players won't be completely shut out of the playoffs this season. Defenseman Aris Brimanis and right wing Timo Parssinen were sent back to minor league Cincinnati, which begins the American Hockey League playoffs this week.

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