Big-ticket players payin' off

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Kevin Lowe's two big-ticket off-season acquisitions, Chris Pronger and Michael Peca, paid dividends in varying degrees for the Edmonton Oilers in the first half, and both are confident the best is yet to come.

While Pronger got up to speed quickly after a season off and looks very much like the dominant defenceman he's been for a decade, Peca has taken more time, and some criticism, while trying to regain his form in his first season draped in Oilers silks.

That said, the two-time Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's top defensive forward believes he'll be a bigger contributor at both ends of the rink in the second half.

"This is the time of season I like to step up and show I've been here before," said Peca, who missed four games in the first half with a mild concussion. "It's going to be an exciting part of the season."

The knock on Peca has been his offensive contribution.

His 5-9-14 totals in 37 games aren't what the Oilers expected - Craig MacTavish said in pre-season he thought Peca capable of 20-25 goals.

Peca's been coming on of late, however. He tallied 1-5-6 in the first 20 games he played. In his last 17, Peca's scored 4-4-8 and been a far more significant threat.

"I feel good about my game," he said. "I still think that I'm going to get 20 goals and be able to contribute offensively in the second half.

"As games go on I'm going to get the power play time. To build any sort of momentum offensively, you've got to get that time. I believe I'm going to get that. If I can take advantage of those opportunities and play strong 5-on-5, I think I'll be able to salvage a pretty good season."

Pronger, meanwhile, has made an impact far beyond what his offensive totals - 4-20-24 - indicate. He's playing 28 minutes a night and has shored up the blue-line in a pairing with Marc-Andre Bergeron. He, along with Jarret Stoll and Ales Hemsky, have sparked the power play to life.

Pronger made the playoffs in nine straight seasons with St. Louis before coming over from the Blues in August. He knows what it takes to get things done in the stretch drive.

"We have to continue to grow as a team," Pronger said. "I think guys are really starting to understand what it's going to take to be a contender in this league and be looked upon as a top team."

MORRISON SENT PACKING: Mike Morrison was assigned to Greenville of the ECHL yesterday on a conditioning assignment.

Morrison, who hasn't made an appearance since allowing three goals on 10 shots in a 5-4 win over Calgary Dec. 19, reports to the minors with a record of 5-1-0, a 2.35 goals-against average and a .904 saves-percentage in the 10 games he's played.


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