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Sacco Keeping Ducks in Hunt Without Kariya

March 05, 1994|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Maybe the Mighty Ducks will sign Paul Kariya next week, maybe they won't sign him until August.

Meanwhile, Joe Sacco will keep firing the puck on net, taking on the role as the Ducks' hottest goal-scorer gladly and without reservation.

There's no sense worrying about what might happen with Kariya, the Ducks' No. 1 draft pick, Sacco said after a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday at Anaheim Arena.

He knows the Ducks could use the extra offensive punch Kariya could provide down the stretch. After all, Sacco had a keen interest in the Olympic Games, what with his brother, David, playing on the U.S. team.

"I've heard he's a great player and I'm sure if he comes he would help our team," Sacco said of the high-scoring Canadian Olympian. "But we can't get caught up in that. We can't worry about it. It's management's decision."

So Sacco keeps plugging away, doing his part to keep generating goals for the grinding Ducks in their hunt for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff berth.

His third-period, power-play goal on a pretty feed from defenseman Mark Ferner put Friday's game out of reach. It also was Sacco's seventh goal and 10th point in the past nine games. He has been held pointless only four times in that span.

If he's feeling the pressure of the playoff chase, it's not showing.

In practice Thursday, Coach Ron Wilson tried to hammer one thought into his players' heads: Enjoy the moment.

"I don't think we should feel the pressure, but we do," Sacco said after scoring his 14th goal of the season. "We have to approach it as if we don't have to win."

Not that that's an easy task at this time of the season.

"It's so close," Sacco said of a playoff berth. "At the end of the year, there is pressure (to make the playoffs). It's attainable. It's reachable. The coach is trying to take the pressure off by saying we don't have to do it."

Sure, first-year teams aren't supposed to make the playoffs, but what would it mean if the Ducks did?

"It would be unbelievable," Sacco said. "A great feeling."

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