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Babcock Trying to Line Them Up

September 18, 2002|Chris Foster

During the Paul Kariya-Steve Rucchin-Teemu Selanne years, the Mighty Ducks searched long and hard for a second line combination to assume a portion of the scoring burden, with limited success.

The latest such effort may be taking shape.

The last two days, Kariya, center Adam Oates and winger Mike Leclerc have skated on the top line, and Rucchin, left wing Andy McDonald and Petr Sykora, acquired from New Jersey in a trade, have formed the second line.

"It's all about balance," Leclerc said.

"You want to find the right chemistry, with guys who go to the net, playmakers and shooters.

"You have to spread your talent around."

Trouble was, there was never enough talent to go around.

Other than Kariya, Selanne and Rucchin, the Ducks have never had a forward who scored more than 52 points.

Coach Mike Babcock plans to team two players consistently on a line and mix and match with the third. He said Oates and Kariya would be linked but is undecided on the other sets. Rucchin and Sykora, who has averaged 28 goals the last four seasons, seem a likely pair. Rucchin has missed 108 of 162 games the last two seasons because of injuries.

"Andy and Mike are the keys to having two offensive lines," Rucchin said.

"They have developed into good offensive players, and if they continue we will have some production."

Leclerc, after struggling through injuries for two seasons, had a breakthrough year last season with 20 goals and 44 points. McDonald had seven goals and 28 points in 53 games after he was called up from minor league Cincinnati.


The Ducks, after splitting into an NHL group and a minor league group, went to work on the power play Tuesday.

Oates, Kariya, Rucchin, Sykora and defenseman Fredrik Olausson formed the No. 1 power-play unit. Oates and Olausson, both free-agent signings, were brought in specifically to bolster the power play, which ranked last during the 2001-02 season.

Veterans Jason York, German Titov and Denny Lambert worked with the minor league group. Also in that group was prospect Stanislav Chistov, the team's No. 1 pick in 2001. Babcock said there would probably be movement between the two groups Monday, after the Ducks have played three weekend exhibition games.


Joffrey Lupul, the Ducks' top draft pick in June, will undergo medical tests today to determine if he can begin practicing with the team. He has been limited to skating because of a hairline fracture in a lower vertebra, which required him to spend five weeks in a cast this summer.

If cleared to play, Lupul will begin drills but will be held out of scrimmages and games until next week, Babcock said.

The late start has lessened Lupul's chance of making the team.

He has missed rookie camp and the first six days of training camp.

"It's going to be tough, but making the team is my goal," Lupul said.


Joel Stepp, a third-round draft pick in 2001, has undergone surgery to repair a broken left wrist.

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