As much as the Mighty Ducks have improved their talent base the last two seasons, center Steve Rucchin and defenseman Keith Carney remain the foundation. That both have struggled with injuries underscores that point.
Carney missed the first 10 games because of a broken bone in his right foot, returning Saturday.
Rucchin reluctantly admitted Monday that his right knee, on which he had arthroscopic surgery before training camp, has been bothering him.
Rucchin skipped practice, a day of "R and R," he said. But he also spent time in a bio-compression system, a device resembling a moon boot that reduces swelling.
"You know what I'm going to say, everything is fine," said Rucchin, who also has a broken finger on his right hand. "But it's not really that big of a deal. Let's just say it has been pretty frustrating up to this point.
"It's definitely better now than at the start of the season, but I don't want to use any kind of excuse for the way I've been playing. It's really not much of an issue."
Actually, not having Rucchin and Carney at 100% is an issue. The Ducks went 3-10-2-2 without them during a 17-game stretch two seasons ago. This season, they are 4-7-1-1 heading into tonight's game against St. Louis.
"We're trying to get Rooch's knee the way it's supposed to be," Coach Mike Babcock said. "We expect him to be a leader for us. When you're hurting, you can't."
As for Carney, Babcock said, "He's trying to get his game back."
Rucchin said that he did not expect another surgery and that his knee would improve as the season went on.
"Yeah, of course, I thought it would be better," Rucchin said. "But there have been other minor complications which have been the issue and not so much [surgery].
"Like I keep saying, it really isn't much of a factor," he said. "I'm not using anything as an excuse. This team is not playing well, and a big part of it is the way I've been playing."
The Ducks sent Alexei Smirnov, the disappointing second-year forward, to minor league Cincinnati.
"He needs to play," Babcock said. "We weren't giving him that opportunity here. If he was helping us, he wouldn't be there."
at St. Louis, 5 PST,
Fox Sports Net 2
Site -- Savvis Center.
Radio -- XTRA (690), XTRA (1150).
Records -- Ducks 4-7-1-1, Blues 6-3-0-1.
Record vs. Blues (2002-03) -- 3-0-0-1.
Update -- The Blues will be without defensemen Al MacInnis (eye surgery), Barret Jackman (shoulder injury), Christian Laflamme (foot injury) and Bryce Salvador (wrist surgery), and forwards Scott Mellanby (concussion), Eric Boguniecki (shoulder injury) and Petr Cajanek (bruised ribs).