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MIGHTY DUCK NOTEBOOK / ROBYN NORWOOD : Carnback Agrees to Come Back From Sweden

It has been nine months since the Mighty Ducks last played a game, and that’s all the more reason the team is relieved Patrik Carnback is supposed to be on his way back to the team from Sweden today.

“We’ve agreed on a deal, he just has to get here to sign it,” said General Manager Jack Ferreira, who gave Carnback a raise and a contract extension to return from Goteborg, where he played during the NHL lockout. (Carnback even faced Wayne Gretzky’s team of all-stars on its European tour.) Carnback should have been able to reach Edmonton Wednesday, but Ferreira said he missed his plane.

Nine months. That’s time enough to have a baby--and the wives of Bob Corkum and Tom Kurvers did. It’s also longer than the organization took to put together the team from scratch between the day its debut was announced and the first game last season.

With just a week to prepare for a shortened season, the Ducks need game-ready bodies for the opener against the Oilers Friday.

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Rookies Valeri Karpov, who played for Chelyabinsk in Russia during the lockout, and Paul Kariya--who remains sharp despite the layoff--appear to be among the most ready to play, and Coach Ron Wilson is generally pleased with his team’s condition. But what really worries him are injuries--the ones they already have and the ones that are to be expected as they face five games in eight days with players not in top condition.

Besides agreeing to terms with Carnback, Ferreira formally signed center Steve Rucchin, 23, to a four-year contract, completing Rucchin’s rise from little-known Western Ontario pre-med student to NHL player. Rucchin is ready, too. He had been playing with San Diego, where he had 11 goals and 15 assists in 39 games. Terms of the deal weren’t released, but the team earlier discussed a contract that would give him a $225,000 signing bonus and pay him $250,000 to $350,000 a year in the NHL or $60,000-$100,000 a year in the minors.

Carnback, 26, had 12 goals and 11 assists last season and though management likes his finesse skills, he was the fifth center during the exhibition season, destined for press box duty. His contract would have expired at the end of this season, and he gambled by going to Sweden shortly after the lockout began--committing to stay the entire season. To come back, he received a two-year contract and a raise from the $200,000 he was to make this season.

Whether he’ll be able to recover from his transatlantic journey in time to play against the Oilers on Friday isn’t clear--and the Ducks were getting a little antsy after he didn’t arrive Wednesday.

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“If he isn’t here (Thursday), he won’t play Friday, I can tell you that,” Wilson said. “He’s under contract. We have every right to expect him. I think we’ve bent over backward for him right now.”

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Despite announcing that left wing Garry Valk was doubtful for the first trip, the team once was concerned he might be out a month or two--a huge chunk of the shortened 48-game season. However, his prognosis is considerably improved after a re-examination on Wednesday and Ferreira said, “we’re keeping our fingers crossed” that he might be back within a much shorter time.

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The team neither added nor lost players in Wednesday’s waiver draft.


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