Unexpected Groupings Create Success on Ice

Times Staff Writer

Mighty Duck Coach Mike Babcock has had to change lines nearly every game this season, mixing and matching, looking for combinations that produce consistently.

That search has ended, for now. The Ducks seem to have groups that work and play well together, at least in the last two games.

The groupings are somewhat unexpected. Petr Sykora, the team's leading goal scorer last season, is not on a line with Sergei Fedorov, the team's top offensive player. Rookie Joffrey Lupul has worked himself onto a line with team captain Steve Rucchin. Samuel Pahlsson, the team's checking-line center much of last season, is sandwiched between Sykora and Vaclav Prospal.

"There is no formula to why a line works," Rucchin said. "That's why chemistry is chemistry."

There seemed to be plenty of that in a 5-1 victory over Toronto on Wednesday.

Fedorov, Andy McDonald and Stanislav Chistov produced three goals as a line. Sykora also scored, with Prospal assisting. Rob Niedermayer, Rucchin and Lupul were effective checking the Maple Leafs' top line and also created scoring opportunities.

"I think it's important to have guys with different styles together," McDonald said. "If you have three guys who are identical, then they are going to play the same way. That's not the best chemistry."

Added Babcock: "I think Rooch is feeling better and I thought Fedorov played his best. Vinny and Pete seem to have something going. That allows you the opportunity not to change your lines every day. Ideally, we'll be able to go this way for a bit."


Fedorov sat out Friday's practice with what Duck officials said were flulike symptoms.... Defenseman Kurt Sauer, out the last week because of a sprained ankle, skated Friday, but Babcock said he would not play Sunday against St. Louis.

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