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DUCK-KING REPORT

Loss on Defense Followed by Gain

October 04, 2003|Chris Foster and Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writers

The Mighty Ducks lost a key defenseman and then tried to fill that void Friday.

Assistant captain Keith Carney, the linchpin of the team's defense, will miss three to four weeks after sustaining a non-displaced fracture in his right foot during Thursday's exhibition game at Phoenix. Surgery was ruled out when Carney was reevaluated during the Ducks' 4-0 loss to the Kings in the preseason finale Friday at Anaheim.

The Ducks moved quickly to lessen the problem, claiming veteran defenseman Todd Simpson from Phoenix in Friday's waiver draft.

"Keith is a key guy, the fact that he wears the 'A' shows his leadership quality," General Manager Bryan Murray said. "It's disappointing for him and for us. It's a big loss, and guys are going have to step up and play better because of it."

The Ducks lost Carney for 17 games during the 2001-02 season after he sustained a broken hand. The Ducks were 3-10-2-2 during his absence, which coincided with an injury to center Steve Rucchin.

This Duck team is deeper on defense, especially after acquiring Simpson.

"I think we can overcome this," defenseman Ruslan Salei said. "Everyone is just going to have be a better player and a better leader."

Carney was injured blocking a Shane Doan shot on a power play during the Ducks' 3-1 victory over Phoenix. He left the game, then returned briefly but was unable to continue.

"Everyone gets hit like that from time to time, but I could just tell something was wrong," said Carney, who was wearing a moon-boot-type cast Friday morning. "I guess it just hit me in the right spot."

The Ducks picked up the rugged Simpson, Murray said, in part to plug the gap on the defense. Simpson, 30, is a seven-season veteran, the last two with Phoenix. He was team captain while with Calgary.

Simpson, who adds $1.5 million to the payroll, has averaged 163 penalty minutes per season.

Carney said he hoped to return sooner than the timetable laid out Friday. "If I can get my foot inside my skate, I'll try to play, as long as we make sure the bone will stay in place and heal," Carney said.

*

Lost among the concussions and whiplash injuries, buried beneath the broken wrists and severely bruised forearms, the Kings actually emerged from the preseason with a winning record.

Managing to avoid their first losing preseason since 1988 despite being depleted by injuries, the Kings outshot teams by a substantial margin on the way to a 5-2-1 record, including their victory over the Mighty Ducks onFriday.

"The way we play, we seem to be able to plug guys in and we can be competitive," King Coach Andy Murray said. "You miss certain guys, it's tougher to win. But we can always give ourselves a chance."

Then again, what does the preseason really predict? The Detroit Red Wings (2-5) and New Jersey Devils (3-4) opted to blow it off, while the New York Islanders (6-0) look like Stanley Cup contenders.

The real test for the Kings, who outshot opponents, 289-174, will be Thursday at Detroit, with injury concerns continuing to make the starting lineup a guessing game.

Defenseman Aaron Miller, who has a fractured wrist, center Jason Allison, who has whiplash, and left wing Adam Deadmarsh, with a concussion, could miss the opener. They are expected to skate today or Sunday without contact as the rest of the team takes a two-day break.

Making matters more unsettling for the Kings, left wing Luc Robitaille left the game in the second period after being slashed by the Mighty Ducks' Salei. Robitaille, the Kings' top scorer in the preseason, limped off the ice and did not return because of a bruised left knee.

Defensemen Denis Grebeshkov, who has a bruised forearm; Jaroslav Modry, who had off-season shoulder surgery, and Tomas Zizka, who has a broken finger, all played Friday for the first time this season.

*

Dustin Brown, the Kings' first-round pick, will sign a three-year contract this morning, Brown said. The 18-year-old right wing scored a goal against the Mighty Ducks, his fourth in six preseason games. "I wanted to come in and prove to everyone I could play," Brown said. "We'll see where we go from here."

Right wing Lubos Bartecko was offered a two-way contract after a solid training camp as a tryout invitee. Bartecko he had a goal and an assist in four preseason games with the Kings.... The Kings did not select any players in the annual waiver draft. None of the nine players left unprotected by the Kings were selected by other teams.

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