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Pro Hockey | DUCK REPORT

Babcock Eager to Get Leclerc Back in Lineup

February 23, 2003|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

As the Mighty Ducks start a four-game trip today at Carolina, Coach Mike Babcock is concerned about his team's health. Forwards Andy McDonald and Kevin Sawyer are sidelined indefinitely because of post-concussion symptoms and Dan Bylsma has sat out 13 of the last 15 games because of a knee injury.

But the player Babcock may be most concerned about is winger Mike Leclerc, who did not play in the Ducks' 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Friday because of a nagging left knee injury.

"We know with Mike that it's going to be day-to-day," Babcock said about Leclerc, who has five goals and 22 points this season. "He's shown a lot of courage and a lot of battle. His knee is getting better, but it's not going to be right [until after the season]. But everybody at this time of the year is hurt. He's not the only guy. It's part of the stretch drive."

For the first month this season, Leclerc was one of the Ducks' best players because of his ability to play two-way hockey. But that changed when he injured a knee in mid-November, forcing him to sit out 11 games.

Leclerc returned in December and played 10 games before being sidelined again because of knee inflammation, which caused him to sit out 11 games in January. He was back in the lineup at the start of this month and played every game until Friday.

About Leclerc's status today, Babcock said, "He'll have three days off, so I think he'll be ready. I have to assume that he'll play."

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With 21 games remaining, the Ducks sit in sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race, seven points ahead of ninth-place Chicago. But instead of worrying about the teams chasing them, the Ducks are looking up at Colorado and Detroit, the fourth- and fifth-place teams.

"We want to reel some more teams in," Babcock said. "If we take that approach and just worry about getting better, we have a chance to keep improving. We're at the three-quarter pole now and we're turning into the stretch drive.

"We want to be hungry and absolutely relentless in our approach. That doesn't mean we can't enjoy ourselves. Attention to detail does not mean be cautious. Let's let it all hang out."

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TODAY

at Carolina, 10:30 a.m. PST, Channel 9

Site -- Entertainment and Sports Arena.

Radio -- KPLS (830).

Records -- Ducks 28-21-8-4, Hurricanes 18-29-9-6.

Record vs. Hurricanes -- 1-0-0.

Update -- The Ducks defeated Carolina, 2-1, earlier this month at home. After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last season, Carolina will not reach the playoffs this season. Carolina is 1-6-3-1 in its last 10 games. The Ducks are expected to start Martin Gerber, who hasn't played since winning at Dallas on Feb. 14, in goal.

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