SUN Hockey Pool

Lonely Road to the NHL

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Toby Petersen is the kind of guy who can easily fly under the radar.

And with this edition of the Edmonton Oilers' training camp focused so intently on the possibility of several high-grade prospects making the team, Petersen is going somewhat unnoticed in a bid to claim one of the few available forward spots.

At a generously listed five-foot-10, Petersen would need a stool just to set the radar alarms off.

Steady rearguard Dan Smith, who captained the Edmonton Road Runners in their one and only campaign, has a similar problem when it comes to getting noticed.

He's not flashy, he's not a big hitter and not all that productive offensively. Smith is just there, a good guy who plays far from the spotlight while up-and-comers like Danny Syvret and Matt Greene garner much of the attention in their quest at cracking the big team's lineup.

Jumping up and down frantically waving like a lone survivor on a deserted island won't help their cause. The forgotten men can't get discouraged by their plight. "A lot of time if you don't see me out there, then I've done my job," said Smith after yesterday's skate at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.

UNBELIEVABLE PASSES

"That's just the way I play and it's the way my career has gone. I'm not going to score or make unbelievable passes or kill guys in a fight. If I try to impress guys like that doing things that really aren't me, that's not how I play and not how I'll play in this league.

"Hopefully the coaching staff will see what I can do within my game and that will be enough."

Smith is entering his 10th year in the pros and has 15 games of NHL experience under his belt - all coming in 1999 and 2000 with the Colorado Avalanche. He could be a valuable asset as a seventh defenceman with the Oil, a guy who would fill in for spot duty here and there and not look out of place. Trouble is, Smith is behind the two youngsters and vets like Cory Cross and Igor Ulanov on the depth chart.

Still Smith is keeping his head above water. "Overall I think things are all right but I can't complain about anything because I'm still here," said Smith.

DIFFERENT THINGS

"I'm trying to do a few different things when I'm up against a Ryan Smyth or Shawn Horcoff in practice. You've got to play different when it's NHL guys coming down on you and not AHL guys and I'm kind of getting used to that now.

"My goal is to stay here and I thought coming into camp that the way I play would be good enough if I played up to my potential. If it's not then I might have to change, but right now I'm going to go with what I've got."

Petersen, too, is in tough as he's up against the likes of Brad Winchester, Zack Stortini and the cast of young-gun centres for the slim pickings of opportunities left up front. The diminutive American, who has 91 games' worth of NHL credit with the Pittsburgh Penguins, came in with an eye on impressing and should get his first shot at that task tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.

"All I can do is go out there and work my tail off and hope that somebody takes notice," said Petersen, who had 29 points in 78 games with the Road Runners last season.

"I knew coming in that I didn't have a spot pencilled in for me and that I'd have to come in and make an impact right away. But I still came in with the mindset that I wanted to make the team."

OIL SPILLS: Defenceman Mathieu Roy took a blistering slapshot off his right ankle and left midway through practice. He left the building under his own steam but was sporting a good-sized icebag on the lump.


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