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DUCK REPORT

Leclerc Is Hoping for News on Knee

November 25, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Mighty Duck forward Mike Leclerc worked his way to Cleveland on Sunday and had his left knee examined by Dr. Tony Meniaci of the Cleveland Clinic.

Leclerc was there to see if the rehabilitation of the knee, operated on in June, has reached the point where he could increase his workouts. He is eyeing a January return.

"I really don't know what the next step will be," Leclerc said last week. "I'm just hoping for good news."

So are the Ducks, who have missed the 6-foot-2, 212-pound power forward.

"He's a big guy who skates well," General Manager Bryan Murray said. "If he comes back and plays like he did in the playoffs last season, he will be a capable guy who has a chance to score some points. He can help his linemates."

Leclerc, playing on a damaged left knee, had two goals -- both game winners -- and 11 points during the playoffs. He had nine goals and 19 points during the regular season.

"Getting him back would give us another top-six forward," Murray said. "It would be like making a trade for a top player and losing nothing in return."

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Defenseman Kurt Sauer, who has missed six games because of a sprained left ankle, said he thought that he would be ready to return against New Jersey on Wednesday. Sauer went through his second full practice with the team Monday and said he should be ready to play.

"The pain is nothing that I can't play with," Sauer said. "[Head athletic trainer] Chris Phillips said that these things don't completely heal for a couple months.

"It felt good out there today. It buckled on me once during a drill, but you notice the pain more in practice. You don't have the adrenalin going like you do in a game. It will just be a coach's decision on Wednesday."

Coach Mike Babcock seemed to have made that decision.

"We've missed him on the penalty kill and we missed him in match-up situations," Babcock said.

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The Ducks have a 3-5 record in one-goal games this season.

"Every night it has been a one-goal game, or it seems like every night," Babcock said. "What we have to learn is how to win those one-goal games. We learned to do that last year, and now we re-learned."

The Ducks won 24 one-goal games last season, tying New Jersey for tops in the NHL.

"Are we scoring enough goals? No," Babcock said. "When we practice every day, we're around the net, throwing pucks at the net. When you watch us play, do we do that? We got to get traffic, get rebounds, not just in practice because the coach is yelling at you."

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The coach yelling wasn't a Duck problem for two days. The team had Sunday off and Babcock missed Saturday's practice to attend funeral services for former major league pitcher Ken Brett, who died last Tuesday.

"Sometimes just getting away from the head coach for a couple days is a good thing," Babcock said. "They can take the coach repellent off."

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