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Ducks may get help on blue line

by Eric Stephens
Nearly five months after undergoing surgery on his left knee, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin could be back in the lineup this weekend for the club's final push for a playoff berth.

Beauchemin tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on Nov. 14 in a game against Nashville and underwent surgery soon after. The 28-year-old defenseman, in his fourth season in Anaheim, first began skating with the team on March 20 and has started practicing at full speed.

When asked if he's sees the light at the end of the tunnel, Beauchemin smiled and said, "Finally. I see it.

"I met with the doctor Sunday during the game [against San Jose]," Beauchemin said. "We came to the conclusion that I can go hard this week. If there's no soreness or setback, maybe there's a possibility that I play this weekend."

The Ducks entered Tuesday in seventh place in the Western Conference -- but do not play again until Friday, when they host Dallas. They are jockeying with Nashville and St. Louis for the final two spots in the West. Anaheim finishes its regular season Saturday night in Phoenix.

Beauchemin may not be the only addition to the blue line. Veteran Bret Hedican could also return after sitting out the last 17 games because of recurring back spasms.

"I think both of them have the ability to step into the lineup and play," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said after practice Tuesday. "I think it'll be a positive contribution. If we didn't think there were going to be able to make a positive, we wouldn't put them in the lineup.

"We feel it's a necessity for them to play and they can make a contribution. They're not going to play top-four minutes; bottom line, first game back after six months and the other [Hedican] is probably eight weeks. We're not going to put them in situations where they can't possibly have success."

Beauchemin had 4 goals and 1 assist in 18 games before the injury. In his four seasons with the Ducks, the native of Sorel, Quebec, has averaged more than 25 minutes of ice time as a top-four defender and has spent much of his time as captain Scott Niedermayer's partner.

Normally six months of recovery time are required for an ACL tear but Beauchemin is well ahead of schedule, according to Carlyle.

"That's a testament to his work ethic," Carlyle said. "Every barrier, he's burst by. That's a huge accomplishment."

Beauchemin said his knee feels better than he thought it would at this time and wanted to see how it responded after a regular-season game in order to prepare for the playoffs, if the Ducks reach the postseason.

"I don't have any expectations, actually," he said. "I just want to go out there and do my best. See how I feel and try to play my game again. Be physical. Like I said, I'm not going to know until I get out there how it's going to feel. Hopefully I'll feel good and play the physical game that I play."

Beauchemin said his status as a potential unrestricted free agent on July 1 had no bearing on any decision to get into the lineup before the regular season ends.

"That was not an issue at all," he said. "The most important thing for me was to get back healthy. You don't want to take any chances with that kind of injury, coming back too early and not ready, hurting yourself and going through another surgery.

"That's the worst-case scenario that can happen. Going out there so that teams can see you wasn't the plan at all."

The 38-year-old Hedican said he has taken his rehab more slowly following some setbacks but added that "as soon as I feel like this body can do it, I'm going to try to get back in there.

"The only thing I'm thinking about right now is trying to get back in there and trying to help where I can help at," Hedican said. "This team is playing some good hockey and obviously making the playoffs is our main goal right now. I hope we can do that. Give a guy like me a chance to hopefully get back in there and contribute."

Hedican was impressed with seeing Beauchemin back in action.

"Where'd he come from?" he joked. "The guy's making me look good out there. It's great to see a guy who's worked so hard get out there and practice with the guys. It's hard to be going through a tough injury like that for as long as you recover on it."



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