Rookie Duck Defenseman Tsulygin Will Return to His Russian Team

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As expected, rookie defenseman Nikolai Tsulygin will return to Russia to begin the season with the Central Red Army team, Mighty Duck General Manager Jack Ferreira said Tuesday.

The Ducks also assigned surprising center Steve Rucchin and veteran goaltender Allan Bester to San Diego.

Tsulygin, 19, will be the first Duck to play for the Central Red Army team since a joint operating agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins was announced last summer. Tsulygin, the Ducks' second-round pick in the 1993 draft, played in five exhibition games, scoring his first goal in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Rucchin signed with San Diego and is expected to sign with the Ducks when the current labor talks are resolved. He still would probably be assigned to play in San Diego, however.

Rucchin, selected in the 1994 supplemental draft, made a believer out of Coach Ron Wilson in training camp.

"Steve is going to go to San Diego, but we know he can play," Wilson said. "He's been a pleasant surprise."

Bester, who played 46 games for the Gulls and was the starter for the Western Conference in the IHL All-Star game last season, started in Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. He replaced Guy Hebert, who returned to Troy, N.Y., to attend to a family medical emergency.

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Tim Sweeney, the Ducks' fourth-leading scorer with 43 points last season, was one of five players left unprotected for today's waiver draft. The Ducks also left Bester, Dean Ewen, Mark Ferner and Jim Thomson unprotected.

Sweeney appears to be caught in a logjam at left wing, playing behind Paul Kariya, Garry Valk, Patrik Carnback and Stu Grimson. He had two assists in four exhibition games.

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The Ducks and Maple Leafs are involved in talks regarding forward David Sacco--a U.S. Olympian and the brother of Duck forward Joe Sacco--perhaps coming in a major deal that would send Terry Yake to Toronto, according to a source in Canada.

Yake was the Ducks' leading scorer last season with 52 points, but has fallen to fifth on the depth chart at right wing during camp. The Ducks' confidence in rookies Valeri Karpov and John Lilley could make Yake expendable. David Sacco, 24, played at Boston University and was recently assigned to St. John's (Newfoundland) in the American Hockey League.

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Defenseman Don McSween hopes to resume skating today after suffering a pulled groin in a 4-4 tie with Dallas Friday.

"I wanted to let it heal up," said McSween, who secured a spot on the roster with a solid performance in his first training camp with the Ducks. "I didn't want it to turn into a chronic thing."

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Todd Ewen on being named one of the 100 coolest people in L.A. by Buzz magazine:

"I'm on the same page as James Garner. That's pretty cool. I'm right there with 'The Rockford Files.' That's phenomenal. I'm basically a Popular Mechanics, Popular Science kind of guy."

Times staff writer Robyn Norwood contributed to this story.

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