Waiting for Tony

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Tony Salmelainen never could lock up a place on the Edmonton Oilers roster.

Now he's trying to solidify a spot with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"He's had a slow start, but we're still hoping he finds some of that scoring ability," said Blackhawks head coach Trent Yawney.

"I didn't know much about him coming into camp. I heard a lot about his speed and all that.

''Right now he's frustrated a little bit. Naturally he wants to be better, but I think he's putting a little too much pressure on himself."

At one time the Oilers had big hopes for the native of Espoo, Finland.

Salmelainen, 25, was the Oilers second pick, 41st overall, in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.

After five years in the organization, Salmelainen never did crack the lineup on a full-time basis and the Oilers traded him to the Blackhawks last season for defenceman Jaroslav Spacek.

Tonight, Salmelainen gets his first opportunity to play his former team when the Blackhawks take on the Oilers (7 p.m.) at Rexall Place.

''Things haven't been great so far this year," Salmelainen said.

''I've had a slow start, not only in scoring, but I don't think I have been playing the way I can. I have a lot to improve on and I think I can play a lot better."

Salmelainen spent the entire season in Finland last year scoring 27 goals and adding 28 assists in 52 games for HIFK.

During the lockout, he played with the Edmonton Roadrunners netting 22 goals and 24 assists in 72 games.

''He's got to go to the tougher areas harder if he wants to score," said Yawney. ''He needs to get to the front of the net more and use his speed to his advantage by driving the net.

''Part of that has to come within."

Salmelainen is still looking for his first NHL goal.

This season, he has one assist in 13 games for the Blackhawks. In 13 games with the Oilers back in 2004, Salmelainen also registered one assist.

''Back then I thought things were starting to get better for me, I was playing well and was starting to get some more ice time," Salmelainen said.''But then they traded for Adam Oates and I got sent back down.

''Then I think the lockout year hurt me. I thought that was the year I was going to make it."

With injuries to Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus, the Blackhawks need players like Salmelainen to pick up the slack. However, the more Salmelainen struggles, the less ice time he gets.

He was a healthy scratch in Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames and has only played in 13 of the Blackhawks first 20 games.

''He is blessed with dynamic, explosive speed," Yawney said. ''But that is only as good if you're using it efficiently in areas that require you to get the puck to the net."


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