SUN Hockey Pool

Greene a long shot

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Craig MacTavish is eager to get a look at Matt Greene, but he'll take care not to throw the big defenceman from the University of North Dakota in over his head when the Edmonton Oilers open training camp.

Greene, who gave up his final year of eligibility at UND by signing a two-year contract on Monday, is as big and strong as a kid can be at six-foot-three and 225 pounds, but the 22-year-old won't have any frightened freshmen or overmatched future accountants to push around in the NHL.

Up here, the other guys push back.

"He's going to get a good, long look, but it's a tough position to play for guys without any pro experience," MacTavish said. "We've got seven defencemen on the roster now, but we'll see what Matt has."

A kid with a reputation as a nasty player like Greene - he racked up 347 penalty minutes in 122 games at UND - won't have any trouble finding takers willing to see exactly what he's got when the puck drops.

That'll be especially true this campaign, when the Oilers tangle with the Calgary Flames four times in pre-season.

The same can be said for Dion Phaneuf of the Flames, who'll be looking for a spot on Darryl Sutter's 23-man roster with much the same credentials as Greene.

"You have to be careful as a young player coming in here," cautioned MacTavish. "The last thing you want to do is go up against a real tough guy and get your lights punched out.

"You have to develop and you have to be smart. He's got to show us what he does best. But he's plenty tough."

Doug Lynch, traded to St. Louis with Eric Brewer and Jeff Woywitka in the deal that landed Chris Pronger, got a first-hand taste of what MacTavish is talking about during the 2003-04 pre-season.

Lynch, a willing kid who dropped the gloves often in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels, bit off more than he could chew when he went at it with former Oiler Josh Green in Cowtown. The big redhead got knocked silly in that scrap and it stayed with him awhile.

Greene comes into camp a long shot to earn a roster spot on a blue line corps that already features Pronger, captain Jason Smith, Steve Staios, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Cory Cross, Alexei Semenov and Igor Ulanov.

"If he has an element to his game that's going to help us, he'll stay here," MacTavish said.

"Having not seen him play much, I'd say that's unlikely, but, hopefully, he'll be close."


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