Torres counts his blessings

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- When Raffi Torres injured his knee last Dec. 13 in Detroit, he had no idea it would be the last game he ever played for the Edmonton Oilers.

Sports are funny like that, full of unexpected twists and surprises - full of reasons why no athlete should ever take anything for granted.

Not his time in Edmonton, nor even his fresh start in Columbus.

Because after missing the final 49 games in Edmonton after his knee surgery, Torres was dealt to the Blue Jackets in the off-season, and injured his shoulder a few shifts into his new beginning.

A player who didn't always seem to have his head in the game, Torres has been given plenty of time to reflect on what hockey means to him.

"It was almost a year (between regular-season games)," said the former Oilers winger, who returned to the lineup three games ago, just in time for his former team's visit last night.

"I definitely found a renewed love for the game. You don't know how lucky you are to play hockey."

You couldn't always tell that from watching Torres play. Long bouts of lukewarm and unproductive hockey are the reasons Edmonton traded him in the first place. It remains to be seen if the time away, and the second trade of his relatively young career, have lit a fire under him.

"I'm trying to find my game again," he said. "I'm just trying to get back to the level I know I can be at. I'm definitely trying to bring a more consistent game to the table, that's been my problem, being inconsistent and not meeting my expectations."

He wasn't meeting them in Edmonton, so now he'll have to try and do it in Columbus. The preseason fight that injured his shoulder was a means to that end.

"I wanted to do everything in that first preseason game," he said. "If anything, I probably should have held back a little bit."

But he's back and healthy again, ready for Fresh Start II.

"I thought it was going to be difficult coming here and adjusting, but everybody's been great," he said. "It's a really easy going team, a close-knit group for all the fresh new faces.

"I'm happy where I am. Obviously it was tough to leave Edmonton, but it's a new start and a new team and a chance to prove yourself again."

He's trying hard. Torres was credited with 10 hits in his first game back, despite playing only 10 minutes.

"That's the type of game I need to play in order to be effective, I know that," he said, adding nobody gets away with cutting corners on a Ken Hitchcock team.

"You always have to prove yourself, you have to gain the respect of your teammates. Whether it's finishing a hit, getting in a fight, scoring a goal or just staying out after practice and doing a little extra work - anything you can do to let these guys know you're going to go to battle for them every night."


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