Leclerc to Return to Lineup Tonight


Left wing Mike Leclerc will return to the lineup tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, moving the injury-riddled team closer to full strength.

Leclerc, the Ducks’ sixth-leading scorer with 30 points, has been sidelined since suffering damaged cartilage in his right knee Dec. 28. He underwent arthroscopic surgery Jan. 16.

“It’s good to get him back,” captain Paul Kariya said. “He’s been a big part of our offense all year. It was a huge loss to have that power forward-type player out of our lineup.”


Asked if the Ducks have lacked a physical presence in front of the net with Leclerc and top-line center Steve Rucchin sidelined, Coach Guy Charron said, “Absolutely. They’re strong on the puck and strong physically.”

Leclerc doesn’t expect to have the touch around the net he showed in scoring a career-best 12 goals in the first 40 games. But he feels no pain in his right knee and hopes to get by tonight on adrenaline.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he said of his six-week layoff. “I love the game. What are you supposed to do with yourself when you’re injured?”

Expect Leclerc to rejoin center Matt Cullen and right wing Marty McInnis to form a strong second line. Kariya would be teamed with center Tony Hrkac and right wing Teemu Selanne.

Rucchin remains sidelined because of post-concussion syndrome.


Charron expects to make a decision on whether to play defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski after this morning’s skate. Vishnevski suffered a strained muscle near his hip while throwing a check Jan. 27 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. . . . Defenseman Ruslan Salei will be sidelined for a seventh game because of a concussion.


vs. Chicago, 7:30, ESPN2

* Site--Arrowhead Pond.

* Radio--XTRA (690).

* Records--Ducks 16-29-6-4, Blackhawks 21-25-5-2.

* Record vs. Blackhawks--0-1.

* Update--A 4-2 loss Nov. 5 at the United Center ended the Ducks’ seven-game unbeaten streak against the Blackhawks. Chicago forward Alexei Zhamnov is sidelined because of a fractured larynx. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who had 36 saves in the Ducks’ 4-2 victory last Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes, will start in goal.


* Tickets--(714) 703-2545.