SUN Hockey Pool

Time isn't on Laraque's side

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Georges Laraque has averaged 3:22 of ice time in the last three games he's played, or about as long as it takes to sing the U.S. and Canadian anthems, give or take a patriotic bar or two.

That's a fact, but if the Edmonton Oilers tough guy is frustrated with his lot in life and upset with his lack of playing time, he isn't singing an unhappy tune -- at least not yet.

"With three minutes a game, obviously it's hard, but you still have to be positive," said Laraque, one of many fourth-liners in the NHL who has had his backside stapled to the pine by a glut of special teams play. "Hopefully, the more the year goes along and players adjust to it, there won't be as many penalties."

Laraque, 28, is averaging 5:48 per game after 12 contests as the Columbus Blue Jackets come calling tonight. That's down considerably from the 9:21 he averaged in 2003-04.

An emphasis on special teams -- Laraque seldom plays on the power play and he doesn't kill penalties -- and the team's recent seven-game losing streak have been the main factors in that statistic.

Laraque played 3:06 in Saturday's 5-1 win over Nashville after being a healthy scratch for Friday's 5-3 win in Dallas. He played just 2:56 in a 5-3 loss in Colorado to open a three-game road trip Oct. 25, and 4:05 in a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Avalanche at Rexall Place Oct. 21.

"He hasn't been able to find his game because I haven't been able to play him," coach Craig MacTavish said. "Every game for us in the last stretch, you want your most reliable players out there at all times.

"Eventually, when the team gets better, we'll be able to get him back playing a role he's more familiar with."

Relatively speaking, Laraque's ice time isn't out of line when compared to other NHL tough guys.

Jody Shelley of Columbus is averaging 5:43. Darcy Hordichuk of Nashville is at 6:14, Krzysztof Oliwa of New Jersey sits at 6:18 and Andre Roy of Pittsburgh is at a slim 3:16.

"I don't worry because I know I can contribute more than just fighting," says Laraque about the perception the new rules are pushing enforcers out of the NHL game. "I've shown it in the past, in the playoffs.

"I know that fighting is going down ... it's tougher when you're losing and you're just sitting. At least when you're winning you can be happy that you won and it's not as frustrating."


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