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Edmonton Oilers trying to veteran Sam Gagner to assist enhance bottom-6

“He has a skillset about him, I feel he is an elite thinker,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft mentioned

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When the Edmonton Oilers introduced him into coaching camp a month in the past on knowledgeable tryout, Sam Gagner was a 16-year NHL veteran.

When he steps onto the ice to make his season debut Thursday at Rogers Place, it’s going to formally mark a seventeenth season for the 34-year-old, who was initially drafted sixth total by the Oilers in 2007.

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He’s now again for a 3rd stint with the staff after sitting out the pre-season in an effort to proceed working his means again from double hip surgical procedure.

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“Actually good,” he mentioned of his rehabilitation progress that concerned happening to the American Hockey League farm in Bakersfield, Calif. “I performed three video games, two of them on a again to again and performed a great quantity of minutes and so they held up rather well. I’m actually pleased with the way it’s come alongside.

“It was extra simply form of getting my timing again and getting the texture of enjoying in video games, however the hips really feel nice and I’m excited to go.”

Gagner had a purpose and 4 assists in these three video games with the Condors earlier than signing a one-year, two-way contract Tuesday with the Oilers at $775,000.

“That is the place you wish to be and I’m feeling good. It’s good to play some video games and get again to simply enjoying hockey,” Gagner mentioned following Wednesday’s observe at Rogers Place. “And I’m excited to get going right here.”

His first post-surgery NHL take a look at will come Thursday towards the visiting Dallas Stars.

“I’m positively extra cell not having to take care of ache, it’s one thing that’s actually useful,” he mentioned. “I feel if you undergo your summer time coaching and even simply with the ability to keep on the ice late to work on issues and work in your pace, it simply turns into increasingly troublesome.

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“So, I’m actually pleased with how they really feel and now it’s only a matter of going on the market and enjoying as arduous as I can and serving to this staff win some video games.”

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He’s finished it earlier than, from time to time. Virtually single-handedly, in actual fact. Who can overlook the night time he had some extent on all eight Oilers targets in an 8-4 doubling of the Chicago Blackhawks on the previous Rexall Place on Feb. 2, 2012?

He and Mario Lemieux are the one gamers who can say they’ve finished that.

Positive, it was a dozen years in the past and lately Gagner is nicely on to the bottom of his profession. However the Oilers don’t want him to be Lemieux, or perhaps a youthful model of himself. They’re searching for his veteran expertise to assist ignite a backside six that has change into stagnant.

“That grouping of 5 – 6 gamers within the backside a part of our ahead group, we’re searching for extra,” mentioned Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. “We’re searching for extra.

“And might Sam are available in and make a play? That’s what our hope is. We’re about to search out out.”

‘He’s an elite thinker’

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Woodcroft isn’t merely taking a flier on a veteran who has been well-established within the league, both.

“I received to know Sam a bit by coaching camp a couple of years in the past after which he ended up in Bakersfield for a bit bit,” Woodcroft mentioned. “I feel Sam’s knowledgeable. Sam has good expertise on this league, he’s been all the pieces from a first-round decide to a first-line participant to discovering a option to keep within the league for so long as he has.

“He has a skillset about him, I feel he’s an elite thinker.”

Sam Gagner
Edmonton Oilers froward Sam Gagner. Picture by Kevin King /Postmedia Community

One with 1,015 NHL video games over 16 prior seasons, recording 192 targets and 327 assists for 519 factors whereas averaging 15:46 of ice time per recreation.

“For him to come back in, he’s an accepted member of that locker room, folks respect his expertise degree and his talent degree and we’re excited he’s right here,” Woodcroft mentioned.

Defenceman Mattias Ekholm can be in his seventeenth season {of professional} hockey and has confirmed a stable addition to the Oilers roster after being picked up eventually yr’s commerce deadline.

“He’s only a good man, total simply very nice to have round and he’s only a optimistic affect,” Ekholm mentioned of Gagner. “He’s received a ton of expertise, clearly, enjoying over 1,000 video games and I feel he nonetheless has rather a lot left within the tank — particularly in his head.

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“He’s so energetic, simply needs to be on the market and work arduous and is aware of that it’s coming towards the tip of his profession, however he’s nonetheless embracing it. So, it’s nice to see him up right here and I’m excited to play with him.”

Whereas it’s not all on Gagner to make the distinction offensively, he’s definitely trying to present a spark.

“It’s at all times been part of my recreation making an attempt to create offensive probabilities, having some poise with the puck and making performs,” Gagner mentioned. “Finally, I feel you need to play arduous at each ends of the rink, do your finest to be stable defensively and never surrender something.

“After which, when you could have the chance you’ve received to attempt to create some probabilities. Whether or not it goes in or not, it’s simply a chance on your staff to achieve momentum and assist the opposite traces approaching the ice by enjoying within the O-zone.”

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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