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DUCKS REPORT

Niedermayer's return comes at a high price

December 16, 2007|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Scott Niedermayer realizes that his return to the Ducks came with a price and it turned out to be Andy McDonald, the club's productive playmaker and longest-tenured player, who paid it.

And Niedermayer isn't yet at peace with that.

"I guess it is the nature of the business and all those things, but it doesn't necessarily make it any easier, that's for sure," he said. "Now my job is to focus and be ready to play when I get on the ice. That's what I need to accomplish here."

Because of the dynamics of the NHL salary cap, Ducks General Manager Brian Burke traded McDonald, who had 65 goals and 179 points the last two-plus seasons, in order to activate Niedermayer and free up room in next season's budget to take a run at re-signing leading goal scorer Corey Perry.

It is up to Niedermayer to determine whether he is ready to play today against San Jose. "If he feels he's ready to play, I think that we would be very foolish to hold him out," Coach Randy Carlyle said.

Veteran center Doug Weight, who was acquired from the St. Louis Blues for McDonald, did not arrive in Southern California until late Saturday afternoon.

"It would have been nice to have him here practicing with his teammates for a day before playing the game," Carlyle said. "That wasn't possible in this situation. But you respect your veteran guys."

Niedermayer acknowledged that he wasn't aware of the cap's full impact when he mulled retirement the last five months. Because they had well over $50 million committed for next season before moving McDonald, the Ducks needed to trim about $900,000 to fit in the star defenseman's $6.75-million salary.

"I'm prepared to take my responsibility for that," said Niedermayer, who is signed through next season.

In trading McDonald, Burke moved to keep intact a defense corps that could rival some of the great units in league history.

Niedermayer, who was reinstated from his suspension Saturday, joins Chris Pronger, Mathieu Schneider, Sean O'Donnell and Francois Beauchemin to form a group that's as accomplished as any in the league.

But they weren't top notch in Friday night's 5-2 loss to Minnesota, which had Carlyle calling out some players through the media. Four Wild goals came on the power play, all in the second period.

"There's some guys that are playing on that defense that need to play to a higher level or they're not going to be playing," Carlyle said after Saturday's practice at Anaheim Ice. "And we're not expecting that one player coming back into the lineup is going to change that dramatically."

Niedermayer said it is up to them to fulfill their potential.

"Things on paper translate sometimes and sometimes they don't," he said. "Our job is to try and make that translate into good things on the ice. That really has to be our focus. It looks good, but let's get out there and play well and do our jobs."

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The Ducks are giving Bobby Ryan another shot as they recalled the onetime No. 2 overall pick from the Portland Pirates, their minor league team in Maine.

Ryan, 20, made the team out of training camp and scored his first NHL goal in the opener Sept. 29 against the Kings in London. He is the Pirates' second-leading scorer with 10 goals and 24 points.

"He's worked extremely hard," Carlyle said. "He's got a better understanding of the expectations of how we play."

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Left wing Brad May took a shot off his foot in practice and is questionable for today. . . . Center Brian Sutherby had a setback with his strained groin and could be out of action for an extended period. . . . After missing the last five games, Kent Huskins tested his bruised right knee and said it had improved greatly over the last two days.

TODAY

vs. San Jose, 5 p.m., FSN Prime Ticket

Site -- The Honda Center.

Radio -- 830.

Records -- Ducks 15-15-4, Sharks 17-10-4.

Record vs. Sharks -- 2-0-0.

Update -- To make room for Niedermayer and Ryan on the roster, the Ducks sent down winger Geoff Platt and defenseman Bruno St. Jacques to Portland.

Tickets -- (877) 945-3946.

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eric.stephens@latimes.com

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