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OILERS HIRE COACH: Kevin Lowe, the Edmonton Oilers' first-ever draft pick and the first player to score a goal for the franchise, was hired Friday as coach of the Oilers.Lowe, a defense man in the Oilers' glory years of the 1980s, was hired to replace Ron Low, who rejected a one-year contract extension.

"Kevin Lowe was the first draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers many years ago and today I am proud to name him our coach," Oilers general manager Glenn Sather said.

Lowe, 40, is the seventh coach in the team's 20-year NHL history.

Lowe, an assistant to Low last season, has never played or coached in the minors.

"I played for five great coaches, starting with Glenn, John Muckler, Ted Green, Ronnie Lowe and Mike Keenan," Lowe said. "Particularly Glenn and Mike Keenan, one of their main emphasis was you're going to play if you show me early in the game and I think that's what I'd like to see in our hockey club.

"I'd like to see the guys jumping, ready to go from the outset and accountable for their actions."

DEVILS MOVES: Embarrassed by two straight playoff failures, the New Jersey Devils began a face lift by saying goodbye to veterans Bobby Carpenter and Dave Andreychuk and signing an American defense man who played in Finland.

General manager Lou Lamoriello said Friday that the Devils would not offer either of the 35-year-old free agents a contract for next season, a decision that had been expected.

Carpenter, who spent six of his 18 seasons in New Jersey and was a member of the Devils' Stanley Cup championship team in 1995, would be considered for a coaching job in the organization if he was ready to retire, Lamoriello said.

Other than to say it was multi-year, Lamoriello wouldn't disclose terms of a contract given defenseman Brian Rafalski, a former University of Wisconsin player from Allen Park, Mich.


RAIDERS CUT WILLIAMS: Tailback Harvey Williams, who rushed for 1,114 yards for the Raiders four seasons ago but was shuttled between tight end and fullback the past two years, was cut by Oakland as the team opened minicamp Friday.

Williams, one of the few remaining players from the Raiders team that moved back to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995, lost his starting job to Napoleon Kaufman three years ago.

Williams was a first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1991 and was signed by the Raiders as a free agent in April 1994.

Kaufman became the starter in 1996, limiting Williams to 431 yards on 121 carries, and Williams rushed for just 70 yards in 1997 while spending most of his time at tight end. Last season, he had 496 yards on 128 carries and also caught 26 passes for 173 yards.

CARDS RELEASE CENTERS: The Arizona Cardinals on Friday released fullback Larry Centers, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the first NFL running back to catch 100 passes in a season.

Centers' release was intended to give the Cardinals more flexibility under the NFL salary cap. The Cardinals have yet to sign their first-round draft picks, receiver David Boston and offensive tackle L.J. Shelton, among others.

General manager Bob Ferguson said the move was prompted by a need to commit to younger players.

Centers, 31, a fifth-round selection in 1990, set a team receiving record with 101 and holds the career reception mark with 535. He also rushed for 1,736 yards and 10 touchdowns.

RAVENS SIGN DAVIS: The Baltimore Ravens bolstered their pass-catching corps Friday, signing free-agent wide receiver Billy Davis.

The 6-foot-1 Davis brings size and speed to the Ravens' shallow roster of receivers. He had 39 receptions for 691 yards and three touchdowns with the Dallas Cowboys last season.