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Fill-In Does Just Fine for Mighty Ducks

Hockey: With Kariya out, Leclerc gets chance to play and scores twice in 4-1 victory over Rangers.


ANAHEIM — The Mighty Ducks are saving a spot on a line with Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri for Paul Kariya.

But Kariya isn't playing during the exhibition season because of an abdominal muscle injury, and Mike Leclerc was the lucky stand-in Wednesday night.

Coach Ron Wilson put Leclerc, 19, with Kurri and Selanne, and Leclerc scored two goals and assisted on a third during the Ducks' 4-1 exhibition victory over the New York Rangers in front of an announced crowd of 15,532 at the Pond.

Never mind that the Ranger lineup didn't include Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille or Mike Richter.

"Mike had a tremendous advantage," Wilson said. "He was playing with two great hockey players. He's got a knack for scoring. He had it in junior hockey and he was in the right place at the right time tonight and jumped on some rebounds. He was probably a little nervous, to look up and be playing with Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri."

Leclerc, a third-round pick in 1995, had 111 points with eight hat tricks in 71 games last season playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League. Though Wilson said the young prospect "still needs to work on his skating" he gave him the line assignment as a reward.

"I was pretty excited when they posted the lineup," Leclerc said. "I used to sit and watch Jari on TV. It was a great feeling."

Veteran Duck defenseman Fredrik Olausson also had two goals and an assist.

"Freddie worked very hard this summer," Wilson said. "He had quickness and extra jump."

Wilson was pleased with the play of several defensemen competing to make the team--Adrien Plavsic and rookies Nikolai Tsulygin and Ruslan Salei, who was the ninth pick overall at the draft in June. Though the Ducks would still do well to add a veteran defenseman, they have more depth at the bottom of their lineup than in the past.

"[Salei] played very well. He was solid on his feet and has very good acceleration," Wilson said. "You don't like to jump the gun, but certainly he's going to be a major league player. He's very impressive and skates very well."

Goalie Mikhail Shtalenkov, who is in shape after playing for Russia in the World Cup of Hockey but didn't see any game action in the tournament, played 60 minutes for the Ducks, and didn't allow a goal until Ulf Samuelsson scored with 35 seconds left in the game.

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