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Three Veterans Left Off List

September 17, 2002|Chris Foster

Mighty Duck Coach Mike Babcock's plan to break the team into two groups shocked three veteran players Monday when defenseman Jason York, left wing German Titov and left wing Denny Lambert found they were to work out with the minor league Cincinnati group beginning today.

Also left off the NHL list was highly touted rookie Stanislav Chistov, the fifth overall pick in the 2001 draft.

"There is going to be movement between the two groups," Babcock said. "This is not set in stone."

Still it hit like a rock to York, Titov and Lambert, each of whom spent all of last season with the Ducks. The players learned of their assignments by reading a list posted after practice Monday, which included a surprise scrimmage.

"I'm just reacting off what I read, but why doesn't he come talk to me?" Lambert asked.

York is owed $4 million over the next two seasons. Titov has one year left on a three-year $4.5-million contract. Lambert has a one-year, $550,000 contract.

The Ducks had not been scheduled to scrimmage, but Babcock added it with the veteran players in mind.

"I didn't want anyone to think they were blind-sided," Babcock said. "I want them to feel they had every opportunity."

Babcock expects some movement between the two groups, but York, Titov and Lambert seem expendable.

York was the Ducks' marquee free-agent signing last summer. He was supposed to improve scoring from the blue line, but was bothered by a sore shoulder and finished with five goals and 20 points.

"I understand when a team has the season we had, changes are going to happen," said York, the only one of the three who spoke with Babcock after practice. "He told me he picked the eight best [defensemen]. I realize I have to play a little better. You can look at this two ways, either you can pout or you can try to be a team leader."

Titov was brought in to provide scoring on the second line, but suffered through the deaths of his father and brother and had a difficult 2000-2001 season. He played well in the second half of last season and finished with 13 goals and 27 points.

"I don't know what happened," Titov said. "This really surprised me. He has not told me anything. Maybe I need to work extra hard."

Of the three, Lambert had the best season a year ago, finishing with five goals and 213 penalty minutes.

However, his enforcer role with the team is also filled by left wing Kevin Sawyer.

"I skate hard and I fight," Lambert said. "We have had two scrimmages and I have had two fights. I don't have to fight in a scrimmage. My job is to protect Paul [Kariya] and Adam [Oates]. But I have had two fights because I wanted to show what I can do."


The scrimmage ended in a 3-3 tie, but the winners were defenseman Mike Commodore and left wing Alexei Smirnov, each of whom were listed with the NHL group.

Smirnov, a 6-foot-3, 211-pound rookie, was active around the net and chipped in a goal off a rebound.

He was the Ducks' first-round pick in the 2000 draft.

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