Sticking around

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

"Kid, you're going to the minors. You'll be back in no time."

For a hockey player, those words rate right up there with, "The cheque is in the mail" or "It's not you, it's me." Right. Thanks for coming.

In the case of Toby Petersen, though, they ring true. The odd digit in a numbers game during the pre-season, Petersen wasn't even able to land a spot on the Edmonton Oilers' 23-man roster to start this campaign and was dispatched to the minors never to be seen again, or so we thought.

AHL NETWORK

Here it is 21 games later, and Petersen hasn't only been recalled from the Oilers vast AHL network, Iowa to be precise, he'll be lining up alongside Ales Hemsky and Petr Sykora when the puck drops against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.

Talk about a turnaround.

"It just goes to show how quickly things can change in this league," Petersen said. "When camp broke, the situation wasn't right for me to be here. Now, I find myself in a great position playing with two incredibly gifted players."

Petersen, 28, deserved a place on the roster to start the season based on his performance, but the Oilers wanted to keep rookies Alexei Mikhnov and J.F. Jacques around for a look-see. With unheralded Patrick Thoresen making it impossible not to keep him around, Petersen drew the short straw.

So Petersen packed his disappointment off to Iowa and didn't miss a beat.

He'd scored 2-6-8 and was a plus-6 in seven AHL games when the Oilers called him back. That was 11 games ago. After spot duty that produced two assists, coach Craig MacTavish put him with Czech-mates Hemsky and Sykora.

"I just think Toby can make plays and he's real dependable," MacTavish said. "When Toby has the puck, I know he's going to make a play with it.

"We've seen an element with Toby's game that we haven't seen in the past. He's paid a price physically. He's going to be the first guy to the puck. He'll finish his check."

It's no surprise Petersen, who was originally drafted 244th overall by Pittsburgh in 1998 and signed by the Oilers as a free agent in July 2004, didn't let the demotion to the minors get him down.

This is a young man, after all, who has overcome diabetes - he has to wear an insulin pump on the ice - to play 102 NHL games with the Penguins and Oilers, a tenuous tenure in which he's tallied 10-18-28.

He's played another 379 games in the AHL while waiting his turn.

"He thinks the game," MacTavish said. "Things change quickly in this game if you perform well."

CENTRE BY TRADE

Petersen, a centre by trade, might not be a long-term fit with Hemsky and Sykora, but his versatility and willingness to play wherever he's put gives MacTavish lots of options. Think Rem Murray, without the telltale guffaw.

"He (MacTavish) told me he knew I was the kind of player who could fit in any where," Petersen said, recalling his demotion to the minors in pre-season during a trip to Vancouver.

"He just said, 'Be ready.' I knew there was a chance, but I never expected to be playing with Sykora and Hemsky right now."

As gifted as Sykora and Hemsky are, fitting in with them is no easy gig.

They're on their own page, and whoever plays left wing has to adapt. On the plus side, that's right in Petersen's wheelhouse.

"Going down, my motivation wasn't to be playing with those guys, it was just to get back here," he said. 'That's what drove me."


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