Nicky Hayden has played down talk of major Ducati upgrades for the US MotoGP at Laguna Seca.

Earlier this year Ducati Corse general manager Filippo Preziosi indicated that the complete range of updates planned for the Desmosedici GP12 would only be ready for the end-of-July event, due to the engine change restrictions in MotoGP.

That gave the impression of a 'new engine', but Hayden has far less radical expectations for what will be his first home race of the year.

"Maybe we might have some upgrades for Laguna. But definitely a new bike, new engine for Laguna is not really in the plan," he said.

"Hopefully we'll test after Mugello [July 15] and maybe have some updates and stuff, but there won't be some radically new bike or anything [for Laguna Seca].

"We just got to keep working with what we've got and get the most potential out of it for now."

Hayden starts this weekend's Assen round ninth in the championship, but only nine points from team-mate Valentino Rossi (sixth).

Rossi gained ten points on Hayden with a wet podium in France and the pair are currently 3-3 in terms of the highest finishing factory Ducati rider in the races so far.

Hayden confessed the gap Ducati faces to the front of the grid hasn't changed much since the start of the year, due to the ongoing gains of others, although his confidence has been boosted by his early race performance last time at Silverstone.

"Every now and then we feel like we're getting momentum and making a few gains," he said of Ducati's quest to get on terms with the leading Hondas and Yamahas. "But these guys are not sitting still. Truthfully the gap now is pretty similar to the start of the season.

"But Silverstone, the first five or eight laps in the race was probably as quick as I've been on the Ducati in a long time. I quite enjoyed it. The track big, wide and open. The bike working good. But we need the grip and when the grip goes away we suffer maybe more than the others.

"We've got few of ideas to try this weekend to try and help the tyre last a bit longer. I'm quite excited for the weekend," concluded the 2006 Assen winner.