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These Ducks Manage to Skate Olympic Rings Around the Kings

March 17, 1994|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — The Man from Maine remains unsigned, unsealed and undelivered after Canada's run to the silver medal in Lillehammer.

Nothing changed on the Paul Kariya front Wednesday. There's still one Olympian at-large.

So the Mighty Ducks leaned on their other Olympians in a 5-2 victory over the Kings at Anaheim Arena.

There are four former U.S. Olympians in the Ducks' fold--Sean Hill (Albertville, 1992), Joe Sacco ('92), Tim Sweeney ('92) and John Lilley ('94). Each had an effect Wednesday, though Sweeney and Lilley seemed to stand out most of all.

Sweeney scored twice in the third period, although the second had to be reviewed by the video replay judge before it was allowed. Lilley created mayhem in his NHL debut. Sacco had a goal and an assist. And Hill assisted on Sweeney's first goal.

Quietly, Sweeney has moved among the Ducks' scoring leaders with 14 goals and 36 points, fourth-best on the team.

With Wayne Gretzky slowed by the flu and a swarming Duck defense, Sweeney wrested the offensive spotlight away from the Great One's quest of Gordie Howe's NHL record of 801 goals.

Well, Sweeney did his best to upstage Gretzky. He knew it was impossible, even on a night when Gretzky went pointless.

"I think Wayne has about 950 goals more than I do," Sweeney said. "I'm just glad to pot a couple for us tonight."

Lilley, on the other hand, made his NHL debut Wednesday and didn't let the moment pass without leaving his mark.

Mostly, that consisted of bumps and bruises to the Kings.

"He was excellent," Coach Ron Wilson said of Lilley, who was signed as a free agent last Wednesday. "He's our version of Tony Granato. He brings an element we've lacked at times. He's a small, fast, aggressive guy.

"He's got a future here."

Lilley seemed unfazed, fitting right in with the Ducks' feisty, rough-and-tumble play.

General Manager Jack Ferreira got a look at Lilley during the Lillehammer Games, and although the U.S. finished a dismal eighth, liked Lilley's game.

So did Sweeney.

"I thought he played great," Sweeney said. "He had some nice hits. He showed he's not afraid to get physical. He's a spunky player out there. He gave us a lift.

"Plus, he's from Massachusetts."

Sweeney played at Boston College; Lilley at Boston University.

"The guys really welcomed me," Lilley said. "Bob Corkum, my linemate, was helpful, telling me where to be on the offense and the coaches ran through the system with me."

He had two games with the San Diego of the International Hockey League as warm up, then jumped right into the mix, looking as if he belonged.

Hard to figure when you look at Wednesday's game, but Lilley had few takers during the Olympics. He spent the week after the Games at home, waiting for the phone to ring.

It did and Lilley quickly decided he liked the idea of joining the Ducks.

"I was hoping to sign with any NHL team," he said. "I was just waiting (at home). Anaheim seemed like the best opportunity."

He gave the Ducks just push they needed in order to beat the Kings for the first time.

And so the wait for Kariya continues, made easier by the Olympians already dressed in purple and teal.

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