SUN Hockey Pool

Sam he is

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

DENVER -- Will Sammy stay?

Sergei Samsonov is living in a hotel, adjusting to a gruelling travel schedule, misses his wife and two-year-old daughter and is still making introductions in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room.

Juxtapose that with the impact the speedy little winger has had since arriving from Boston at the trade deadline - he faced Colorado last night with 2-6-8 in eight games in Edmonton silks - and it's obvious Samsonov is special.

Keeping Samsonov beyond this season - the talented and somewhat-fragile forward becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 - will fall to Oilers GM Kevin Lowe this summer.

For now, the 27-year-old from Moscow is trying to get his bearings, settle in, do his thing and help the Oilers into a playoff spot. He's doing a pretty fine job on all counts.

He's a keeper.

"Every game is going to be big now," said Samsonov.

"This is how it's going to be. It's fun when you win, obviously. The games are intense. You can feel the energy, so it is fun."

Bleary-eyed yesterday after a night in which the Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 and didn't get into their beds until 4 a.m., Samsonov admits travel in the Western Conference will take getting used to after eight seasons in Beantown.

People sometimes forget how difficult a transition it is for players acquired at the deadline. New teammates. New city. Often, family men like Samsonov leave wives and children behind.

Sure, it goes with the deal, but it's not easy. To this point, though, Samsonov's made the move almost seamlessly.

"It's a life change, definitely," admits Samsonov. "You don't have a lot of time to think about it or get things straight.

"It happens so fast that you don't have time to think about it. It's definitely a big change. Everybody goes through it when they get traded. It's an experience and you learn from it."

Playing left wing on a line with Jarret Stoll and Raffi Torres, Samsonov has provided Craig MacTavish with an important ingredient - a dynamic offensive player to complement Ales Hemsky.

MacTavish hasn't had that luxury since Petr Nedved's stint after the deadline in 2004.

Samsonov, like Hemsky, is the kind of threat who sends opponents into spasms of fear. Checkers chase him. Teams cheat to make sure he doesn't get loose in open ice. When that happens, somebody else gets open.

"We don't have too many natural scorers," MacTavish said.

"He's as close to being one as we have. He can create plays and manufacture offence almost single-handedly. That's a huge benefit."

All of which makes fans wonder how good Samsonov would look as an Oiler next season with a stretch drive, a couple of rounds in the playoffs and a full training camp under his belt.

That's something Lowe and agent Neil Abbott will discuss this summer. Lowe isn't of the mind to clutter the stretch with the business end of things, but he's liked what he's seen.

"A lot depends on the success of the team," Lowe said. "The more success we have, the more we'll attempt to keep all our free agents.

"We've decided to wait until the end of the season until we start talking. It's too much of a distraction and we've got too many guys."

Of course, there'll be a lot of teams bidding for Samsonov's services, so it won't be easy to ink him. Then again, the new CBA being what it is, the money won't be nearly as goofy to make a workable pitch.

"What I've seen so far, from a performance and personality perspective, I like," Lowe said.

In the end, fit - as much as money - will dictate where Samsonov ends up. He's definitely a fit for the Oilers. Time and family considerations will go a long way in determining if Sammy feels the same way.

"It's a good group of guys and they've made me feel comfortable here," said Samsonov. "It's actually been a pretty easy transition."

That's a start.


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