Oilers have a No. 1 line

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

The secret is out. The Edmonton Oilers have a No. 1 line.

Word hasn't quite reached the far outposts of the NHL just yet, but if other teams are listening, they'll soon hear a buzz about the SHH Line.

Of course, you might think head coach Craig MacTavish would want to keep his productive trio under wraps for as long as possible.

But in reality, MacTavish is tickled pink to open up about the triumvirate of Ryan Smyth, Shawn Hor-coff and Ales Hemsky that combined for 11 points Thursday night against Detroit.

"You really need to establish a dominant No. 1 line to have the type of success that we all crave here," said MacTavish, who hasn't had that type of unit since Smyth was teamed with Doug Weight and Bill Guerin or with Mike Comrie and Anson Carter.

Outside of Edmonton, few have probably taken notice, but around here it's been hard not to see how they've performed of late.

Prior to their roasting of the Red Wings, they clicked for a combined five points against Columbus and another four against Colorado to become one of the hottest trios in the league - a trend that MacTavish would love to see continue tonight with the Chicago Blackhawks in town.

"It's been a pretty well-kept secret till you guys came in here," MacTavish said with a smirk.

Horcoff, who equalled Wayne Gretzky's record for assists in one period with four in the comeback overtime win over Detroit, likes the feel emanating from the line.

"We found some chemistry and we're pretty confident with the puck right now," he said. "We try to create as much as we can every night and right now the pucks are falling for us.

"We have a good feel for each other on the ice, we know what each other's roles are and we're all confident that at any time one of us can make a play and try to make things happen."

They're still a far cry from being the No. 1 trio in the league - a title that hands-down belongs to Ottawa's unit of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, who sit Nos. 1, 3 and 7 on the NHL scoring leaders list.

But the SHH combination is beginning to make some noise - Horcoff sits 30th in the league (4-17-21) followed by Hemsky in 31st spot (4-17-21) and Smyth in 32nd (11-9-20).

"We just want to go and play our game," said Hemsky, not showing the least amount of worry about potentially starting to face the opposition's checking unit.

"Ryan is great around the boards and Shawn moves the puck well."

It's not the first time they've lined up alongside each other, but there's a good chance they'll remain intact for the foreseeable future.

"We tried that line a few years ago and it worked for a while. We really didn't entertain it much through training camp and we just put it together and for whatever reason they jelled," offered MacTavish.

"The chemistry was there and it has been pretty much throughout. They're all on top of their games right now and that's a big help."

Smyth and Horcoff had their games in gear right from the start of the season until injuries slowed their progress down. Hemsky had sunk into a funk until his breakout game against Nashville.

"You can see the confidence in Hemmer," said Horcoff. "I've always felt comfortable playing with Smytty and it's been no different since Hemmer's come on.

"His creativity is starting to show. He had a rough start and took some unwarranted criticism but he got that monkey off his back when he scored his first one and he's just taken off from there.

"He's probably the most talented player we have."


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