SUN Hockey Pool

Opportunity knocks

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

DALLAS -- At some point, assuming nobody dislocates their spine slipping in the shower, they'll end up back in the press box or back in the minors from whence they came.

Right now, though, a string of injuries has put Kyle Brodziak, Danny Syvret and Jani Rita in the mix with the Edmonton Oilers as they put a five-game winning streak on the line against the Dallas Stars tonight.

It's a case of "ready or not here they come" for the trio, who've held their own as the Oilers have put together wins against Dallas, Nashville, Columbus, Detroit and St. Louis.

On-the-job training, NHL style.

"The guys who have most benefited are Jani, Kyle Brodziak, Dan Smith, Dan Syvret and Alexei Semenov," says coach Craig MacTavish. "They have been the benefactors of the injury bug.

"I liked all their games the other night in St. Louis. It looks like Dallas is right on top of their game, so it's going to be a tough game in here. The pace will be up a notch."

Rita, 24, jumped back into the fray in Friday's 7-2 slap down in St. Louis after three games in the press box.

Brodziak, 21, flew in from Iowa of the AHL for his second stint this season and helped beat Detroit 4-3 to open this road trip Thursday after Michael Peca got caught counting the house against Columbus.

Syvret, 20, and Smith joined the fun in the Show Me State when they were summoned from Hamilton after Cory Cross and Marc-Andre Bergeron went down in Motown.

Two of the three - Brodziak and Syvret - are in a little bit over their heads right now out of necessity. Then again, there's something to be said for being thrown into things headfirst. This stretch qualifies as that.

"It's an opportunity for me and I've got to make the best of every one I get," said Brodziak, who played 16:45 against the Blues after getting just over four minutes in Detroit.

"It's not the easiest position, but I'm glad to be put in it. Every time I go out, I have to make the best of every opportunity I have because I know my chances might be limited. It is a tough position, but I'll take it any day."

Just two years removed from the WHL, Brodziak has five NHL games on his resume. That's five more than many people bet the native of St. Paul, a seventh-round pick of the Oilers in 2003, might ever play.

"It has been a transition," admits Brodziak, who played with Moose Jaw of the WHL two years ago and spent 2004-05 in the AHL toiling with the Road Runners.

"At the start of last year, I couldn't even have started to think about being up in the NHL today. You just have to keep on working and, hopefully, things will work out."

After feeling his way into this season, Rita, running out of chances to stick after being drafted in 1999, has been coming on. He scored the final goal in St. Louis and was a plus-1.

"The last few games, everybody has had to step up," said Rita, who played just over 12 minutes in St. Louis, a season high. "We're getting big efforts from everybody. Injuries mean there's a great opportunity for somebody else. You get out of the press box and get a chance to play. It makes a big difference. I feel like I'm getting better all the time."

No disagreement from the coach.

"Jani is a prime example of a guy who's starting to adapt to a role he's going to have to play for our team," MacTavish said. "That's the main thing getting into the league. You fill a role, then try to expand it. He's doing that."


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