It's picture perfect ...

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:57 PM ET

LONG ISLAND -- Despite the many renovations that have been done at Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum lately, three prominent pictures of Michael Peca still hang in the old rink.

One shows him smiling. Another shows Peca celebrating a goal. Both are something Peca hasn't done as often as he'd like in his first season with the Edmonton Oilers.

Be that as it may, Peca returns to the rink where he spent three seasons tonight, his first look-see around since the New York Islanders traded him to the Oilers for Mike York Aug. 3.

He's got some good memories here.

"It was weird to see pictures in the concourse of me scoring goals," smiled Peca. "That was kind of nice to see. Hands up celebrating ... There's no shortage of me smiling. There's a shortage, but it's not of smiles.

"The one thing the Islanders have always been is an organization that has stuck to its roots, whether somebody has been here two years or 10 years."

Peca and Raffi Torres both wore Islanders silks. Torres got his homecoming out of the way in January of 2004 before the NHL lockout. Torres played just 31 games with the Isles.

For Peca, who spent 222 games with the Islanders, the old rink is more familiar, although he resisted the urge to get misty eyed when teammates serenaded him with Simply The Best as reporters circled his stall.

"It's really something special when you play against somebody you played with before," he said. "All that nervous tension you get playing a team you've been with, there isn't as much of it, I think, with the lockout last year.

"It's a year separated from the game, from guys on the team. There's been some of that separation already."

Peca has scored just 2-5-7 and is minus-3 in his first 25 games with the Oilers. His offensive numbers have been disappointing, to say the least, but he's looked more comfortable since being put back in the defensive role he is more familiar with.

"More important than that, is how big a role he's going to play in the future," coach Craig MacTavish said. "When the games get tighter and the races get tighter, that's where you see the value of having a guy like Peca. He's going to play big minutes for us in crucial situations."

York, meanwhile, has overcome a slow start and has tallied 7-12-19 and is a minus-7 in 28 games with the Isles.

"I was as upset with the lack of production as he was," MacTavish said of Peca's inability to generate offence with minutes on the first and second lines. "He was really adding a lot of pressure to his game when he was put in that position. Now, he's settled in."

GM Mike Milbury, who did the Peca-York deal with counterpart Kevin Lowe, strolled down the hall outside the dressing room yesterday after practice, although he didn't stop to chat.

"More than anything, it's just great to see friends and family and people who you've made acquaintances with over the years," Peca said.

AROUND THE RINK: former Oiler Janne Niinimaa, part of the trade that landed Torres in March of 2003, stopped by the team hotel for a visit with Jussi Markkanen and Jani Rita ... MacTavish isn't naming his starter for tonight, but indications are it will be Markkanen getting his first-ever start against the Isles.


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