Bad Back Has Rucchin Doubtful


Steve Rucchin, the center on the Paul Kariya-Teemu Selanne line, is doubtful for the Mighty Ducks’ first playoff game tonight because of back spasms.

“If he’s like he is today, he won’t play tomorrow,” General Manager Jack Ferreira said Tuesday. “We’ll wait until game time.”

Rucchin, the Ducks’ third-leading scorer, had difficulty even walking Tuesday when he visited practice for treatment. Jari Kurri skated on the first line.


“It would be a big loss for our team,” Kariya said. “He does a lot of things out there, penalty-killing, playing on the power play, centering our line. But it’s like anything else. You play with what you’ve got.”

If Kurri takes Rucchin’s place, the Ducks lose youth and strength, but they couldn’t ask for a better playoff resume. Kurri has played on five Stanley Cup-winning teams and in 185 postseason games.

“Jari has so much experience,” Selanne said. “Jari knows how Paul and I play, and he knows exactly what his role is.”

Kurri, 36, was the only Duck to play in all 82 games this season. He finished with 13 goals and 35 points, both career lows for a full season.

Rucchin, 25, had 19 goals and a career-high 67 points.

“I’m anticipating him being ready to play,” Coach Ron Wilson said of Rucchin. “I don’t worry about that. Other people will have to be ready if he isn’t. I’m preparing as if he’ll be ready to play.”

Rucchin didn’t suffer an obvious injury but said his back tightened at the end of Monday’s practice. An MRI exam Tuesday revealed no injury, Ferreira said.


“It’s a very individual thing,” trainer Paddy Jarit said. “Lower back spasms are something that can go one or two ways. It can affect you a whole series or go away as quickly as it came.”


Are the Ducks longshots in the Stanley Cup playoffs?

Maybe not so long: They finished with the ninth-best record in the NHL after losing only three times in their final 23 games. Phoenix finished tied for the 11th-best record.

“Any team that finishes in the top 10 can win the Cup,” said Wilson, whose team won home-ice advantage by finishing fourth in the Western Conference. “Florida finished four in its conference last year and went to the finals.”


Phoenix players are being careful not to provide any more bulletin-board material after former Duck defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky said the Ducks didn’t have much talent except on the first line and he wanted to “beat their butts.”

“They finished ahead of us in the standings and they’re one of the hottest teams in the league,” winger Darrin Shannon, was quoted as saying in the Mesa (Ariz.) Tribune. “We beat them three times, but that was months ago. We’d better be ready because they will be coming after us.”