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DUCK REPORT

Murray Proposes Get-Tough Policy

January 29, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

The first half of the Mighty Ducks' season has been a product of the work done over the summer.

The Ducks are better offensively and have retained defensive responsibility. Their power play, the worst in the NHL last season, now ranks seventh, and the penalty-killing units are fifth.

That has taken the Ducks to ninth in the Western Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.

Now comes the dirty work and the G-word was being thrown about Tuesday.

"The hardest part is becoming a grittier team," General Manager Bryan Murray said. "That's how you compete with the best teams. You watch Dallas and that's a big team that intimidates and kicks people around and still maintains a high skill level.

"In every other area, we're on the right track. Maybe that doesn't have to do with size, but just playing grittier every night."

That will have an impact on the playoff race. The Ducks are one of the smallest teams, relying mostly on speed and finesse.

"Our big guys have to step up and get a lot more physical," Coach Mike Babcock said. "It's important that we become grittier. I think we're better at that than we were earlier this season. Our toughness has improved."

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Murray indicated that outside help probably is not forthcoming.

Although he continues to poke about for trade possibilities, he is unwilling to part with a quality young player.

"Unless you're right there, ready to make the big step, you're better off not doing anything," he said. "The core players on this team are basically young guys."

That is not to say that if the right offer were made, Murray would turn a deaf ear. The Ducks could use a little more offensive production from the blue line, and a burly power forward would be a nice addition.

"I'll keep talking every day and see if something pops up that will help the team," Murray said.

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TONIGHT

vs. Ottawa, 7:30, Fox Sports Net 2

Site -- Arrowhead Pond.

Radio -- KPLS (830).

Records -- Ducks 20-18-7-4; Senators 32-12-6-1.

Record vs. Senators -- 0-1-0-0.

Update -- Duck center Andy McDonald, who has missed seven games with a concussion, returns to the lineup tonight.

Tickets -- (877) 945-3946.

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