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Pro Hockey | DUCK REPORT

Kariya, Rucchin Surge Near Top of the Charts

November 03, 2002|Chris Foster

A couple of Mighty Ducks popped up among the NHL leaders the last few days, which says a lot about the team's improvement.

Paul Kariya has seven goals, one behind league leaders Sergei Fedorov (Detroit) and Alexei Kovalev (Pittsburgh) through Friday's games. Steve Rucchin is tied for third with 10 assists and is tied for ninth with 13 points.

"If your team is going to be good, your best players have to be good," Coach Mike Babcock said. "I think Rucchin has been great. I was real happy with Paul's speed the last game. The guys who are quick, if they can get on the other team's defense, then the other team doesn't move the puck very good."

Rucchin, sidelined much of the last two seasons because of injuries, assisted on two of Kariya's three goals Thursday against Boston. Rucchin had scored more points than Fedorov, Colorado's Joe Sakic, Carolina's Rod Brind'amour and Philadelphia's Jeremy Roenick, some of the top centers in the NHL.

"Steve has been our best player," Kariya said. "It shows a big reason why we missed the playoffs the last two seasons was we didn't have him. Getting him back is like signing a restricted free agent who is still young."

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Kariya and Rucchin clicked in past seasons with Teemu Selanne. Patric Kjellberg, their current linemate, is a different type of player. He is known more for his defensive abilities and being a checker but has worked out well since being moved to the top line two games ago.

"[Kjellberg] is a veteran guy," Kariya said. "He plays well defensively. That's nice for me. I can take more chances out there."

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TONIGHT

vs. San Jose, 5, Fox Sports Net 2

Site -- Arrowhead Pond.

Radio -- KPLS (830).

Records -- Ducks 3-5-3-0, Sharks 3-6-0-1.

Record vs. Sharks (2001-02) -- 1-4-0-0.

Update -- Adam Oates, who suffered a broken hand against Vancouver on Oct. 24, will begin skating today but is still two weeks away from attempting to use a stick during practice. "After that, it will just be a matter of how much pain I can stand," Oates said.

Tickets -- (877) 945-3946.

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-- Chris Foster

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