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DUCK-KING REPORT

Making a Rookie Decision

September 25, 2003|Chris Foster; Mike Bresnahan | From Staff Reports

There appears to be only one decision left for the Mighty Ducks' hierarchy to make: Which rookie to keep?

With the defense apparently set and the goaltending in sure hands, the only job available is up front, where rookies Joffrey Lupul and Ryan Getzlaf seem to be competing for the one spot.

Lupul, Getzlaf, Michael Holmqvist, Garrett Burnett, Cam Severson and Mark Popovic, all first-year players, met with the coaching staff Wednesday to go over on-ice procedure.

"We want them to understand the system so they are not thinking what to do out there," Coach Mike Babcock said. "I don't want them thinking on the ice; that makes them slower. I want them to play."

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There is little else Popovic, a defenseman, needs to show coaches. He is a good skater who handles the puck well and does not shy away from physical play.

Trouble is, there probably is no spot for him. The Ducks' top six defensemen are back, plus Lance Ward has moved to the blue line.

"Pop just needs to battle every single day," Babcock said. "He has a real tough job. As a player reaches a certain age, they aren't interested in a young guy taking their job. They take that personally."

Popovic would have to beat iut one of the top six to make the team. Duck officials would rather he played every game in the minor leagues than play occasionally as the team's seventh defenseman.

-- Chris Foster

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One question will be answered soon enough -- how will Roman Cechmanek fare as a King? -- but another might never be answered: Exactly what technique does he employ?

Cechmanek, 32, is neither a butterfly nor a stand-up goaltender, preferring his own often-unpredictable style instead of the traditional templates.

"You don't know what he's going to do to try and stop the puck," King Coach Andy Murray said. "He's a little bit like [Dominik] Hasek that way, whether he'll dive at you or stand up on you or charge you."

Acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers for a second-round draft choice, Cechmanek is constantly questioned about his technique.

"Everybody asks me about it," he said. "My job is to stop the puck, not to declare my style, but to stop the puck."

Fine with Murray ... as long as Cechmanek does his job.

"I don't care if the guy stands backward and faces the puck, as long as it doesn't go in," Murray said.

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The Kings spent Wednesday night in Colorado at the 1,000-acre ranch of billionaire King owner Philip Anschutz. The Kings' next exhibition game is Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche in Las Vegas.

-- Mike Bresnahan

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