Quick on the draw

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:56 PM ET

ANAHEIM -- It's a fixture at the end of practice and a routine Jarret Stoll of the Edmonton Oilers seldom deviates from.

First, a bucket of pucks on the forehand. Snap! Snick! Snap! The blink of an eye after each puck leaves the hand of coach Bill Moores, Stoll yanks it off the faceoff dot. Then, a bucket on the backhand. Same thing.

To say it's tedious is to understate, but that's fine with Stoll, who'll take the monotony of working with Moores at practice over embarrassment on the dot at game time any day.

After all, it's not the luck of the draw that gets it done for Stoll, but the art of the draw when it comes to holding his own against centres like Joe Sakic or Brendan Morrison.

He's certainly doing that.

"I want to get really good at it," Stoll said. "I want to be one of those guys you can put out there to win a draw in any situation. Putting in that little extra bit of work, it's not tough. It's just a matter of if you want to do it."

Stoll is 18-10 in draws through his first two games as he prepares to tangle with Sergei Fedorov, Rob Niedermayer and Joffrey Lupul of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim tonight.

Stoll was 10-6 in a 4-3 win over Colorado to open the season, then followed up with an 8-4 night in Saturday's 4-3 shootout win over Vancouver. Overall, Oilers centres are 81-52, for 61 per cent. Stoll and Michael Peca, 22-11 on the dot, are leading the way.

"It's a big part of the game," said coach Craig MacTavish.

"If you get dominated up the middle, you don't have much chance to win, and that includes face-offs.

"They don't get a lot of attention by people outside the game, but people inside the game, coaches, know how important they are. To start with the puck is a huge advantage in any situation."

Stoll finished 2003-04, his first full NHL season, at 54 per cent in draws. That's not bad, but it's not good enough.

"I take a lot of pride in it," said Stoll. "I don't want to lose a draw all game. When I lose one, I get mad about it.

"Starting with the puck, it's such an important part of the game. Whether it's the start of the game, the power play or the penalty kill, every situation."


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