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Inside the NHL | DUCK REPORT

Playoff Run Shadows First Eastern Swing

October 28, 2003|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The Mighty Ducks head East for the first time this season, opening a six-game trip against the New York Rangers tonight.

They also will be poked, analyzed, spindled and mutilated by those in the East who wish to write off the Ducks' run to the Stanley Cup finals last spring as a fluke. In effect, the playoff run dangles like an albatross from the Ducks' necks these days.

Others who have been there know the trappings of this road.

"I don't think we had quite the start they're having, but we had to run it up to make the playoffs," said Buffalo Coach Lindy Ruff, whose team started 0-5-2-0 the season after its appearance in the 1999 finals.

Duck Coach Mike Babcock, on the other hand, has heard enough about the Ducks' playoff run.

"Everybody is talking and writing about the playoff hangover," Babcock said. "You know what, let's put that thing on the shelf. This is this year, this is now, let's look at this year now."

That won't be the easiest task considering the Ducks' 2-5-1-1 start. Putting the Cup finals appearance in the scrapbook for good might have to wait until the Ducks win a few more games.

"We're not going to be able to do that until we get some things done here," Babcock said.

*

Lance Ward, who was moved to defense -- his more natural position -- this season, adjusted easily to moving back to forward against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

Ward, who played forward last season, started on defense the last two games.

"I thought he played well on the back," Babcock said.

"I'm was looking for a little more speed and bang up front, a little more grind from our third and fourth lines," Babcock said.

The move makes no difference to the 6-foot-3, 216-pound Ward.

"It means instead of skating backward, I'll be skating forward," Ward said. "I'm still going to be playing physical. That's what I do, even if I was playing in goal. I'm not going to change."

*

TONIGHT

at New York Rangers,

4:30 p.m. PST

ESPN2

Site -- Madison Square Garden.

Radio -- XTRA (690), XTRA (1150).

Records -- Ducks 2-5-1-1; Rangers 2-2-2-0

Record vs. Rangers (2002-03) -- 0-1-0-1.

Update -- Martin Gerber will start in goal for the Ducks. He has allowed one goal in his previous two starts. The Rangers are on a four-game unbeaten streak since losing their first two games. Center Eric Lindros is sidelined because of a shoulder injury.

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