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Selanne, Knutsen Star in 4-1 Loss

September 15, 1997|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EDMONTON, Canada — The Edmonton Oilers outskated, outhit and outscored the Mighty Ducks, 4-1, in their exhibition opener Sunday at the Edmonton Coliseum, which begged the question:

Could Paul Kariya have helped?

The answer: Probably not.

With Kariya unsigned at home in Vancouver and no closer to heading to Anaheim for training camp, Coach Pierre Page went with a lineup that featured Teemu Selanne and 10 youngsters.

Predictably, Selanne was the Ducks' best player, scoring their only goal at the 15:45 mark of the first period and setting up several near-misses later on. Joe Hulbig, Jason Arnott, Mats Lindgren and Todd Marchant scored for the Oilers, who also did not dress several key players.

"We gave a lot of guys a chance to prove themselves tonight," Page said. "I think we can put some guys who are quicker and grittier on the ice. [But] we'll try to have 10 kids in [upcoming exhibitions] as much as possible. It's what exhibition games are all about."

So instead of skating alongside his usual linemates, Kariya and Steve Rucchin, Selanne played with rookies Antti Aalto and Espen Knutsen.

The results were mixed. Aalto seemed nervous at times, but Knutsen appeared poised and, if one game is any indication, ready to step into a key role as the second- or third-line center.

Knutsen, a Norwegian Olympian acquired from Hartford last season, got an eyeful in his first NHL game.

He assisted on Selanne's short-handed goal, starting a two-on-one break with an excellent lead pass to tie the score, 1-1.

But Knutsen also was on the ice for the Oilers' second and third goals and misfired at the right post on a cross-ice pass from Selanne that could have cut the deficit to 3-2 early in the third period.

Playing sound defense, not the heavy hitting, seemed to trouble Knutsen most of all.

"You have to pick [opponents] up and hold on to them and don't chase after the puck," said Knutsen, 5 feet 11 and 180 pounds.

He'll get another crack at it when the Ducks host the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday at the Pond. Page said he would like to pair Knutsen with veteran Tomas Sandstrom.

"Knutsen skated with lots of life, lots of energy, lots of grit," Page said. "I wouldn't say he has a guaranteed spot, but we'll see where he fits in."

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