All eyes on Toby

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- Career minor leaguer or NHL player interrupted?

Toby Petersen likes to think it's the latter, even without an NHL regular-season game on his resume since the 2001-02 season. The trick for the Colorado College grad is convincing Oilers coach Craig MacTavish that's the case between now and Oct. 5.

Petersen made a persuasive argument for himself last night, picking up an assist as the Oilers opened their 2006 pre-season with a 5-0 waltz over the Phoenix Coyotes on two goals by Jarret Stoll, singles by Alexei Mikhnov, Brad Winchester and Stephane Goulet and 27 saves by rookie Devan Dubnyk at the MTS Centre.

So begins Petersen's road back.

"These games are obviously more important for me than for a kid or for a guy who has a roster spot, said Petersen, who played last night with Raffi Torres and Joffrey Lupul.

"My opportunity to catch their eye is going to be a little more limited than those guys. I'm putting some pressure on myself, but that goes with the territory."

With the Oilers deeper than they've been in years at forward and several high-profile youngsters bidding for the one or two spots that are open, the 27-year-old from Minneapolis wasn't on anybody's radar screen - save for MacTavish's - going into camp.

Petersen, who played 91 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons before going to the minors for four years - a total of 372 AHL games - would like to change that.

"I've had a taste of it," Petersen said.

"I'm hungry to get back. I played several years now in the AHL and I want to prove myself."

Signed as a free agent in July 2004, Petersen was recalled from Iowa of the AHL late last season and caught MacTavish's eye in the two games he played during the playoffs - a chance that came against Anaheim in the Western Conference final when a flu ravaged the Oilers.

"He's made some pretty significant inroads with the way he played last year," MacTavish said of Petersen.

"He's definitely going to get a long look. I give him a better than 50% chance of starting the season with us right now.

"He can improve on those odds by playing the same way that he did when we had him up here. Not in only in games, but practises, he was extremely impressive.

"He's going to get a good opportunity."

It's all Petersen, too old to be called a prospect and too talented to be called a suspect, wants.

"A reporter once asked me if I was afraid of being labelled a minor league player," Petersen said. "That scared me. Once you get that tag, it's hard to shake it.

"The best way to do it is just go out there and perform and do whatever it is you do best."

Stoll scored the only goal in a first period punctuated by eight minor penalties when he one-timed a feed from Petersen at the top of the circles past David LeNeveu 15 minutes in.

He got his second 12:21 into the second when he beat Philippe Sauve with a snapshot stick side.

When Mikhnov made it 3-0 and then set up goals by Stephane Goulet and Brad Winchester, Dubnyk, stuck behind Dwayne Roloson and Jussi Markkanen in the goaltending sweepstakes, had more than enough margin.

"With no farm team, I don't think that any of us who aren't slotted to be on the big club know where we're headed to," Dubnyk said.

"It's important to just take camp a day at a time and just show what you can do."

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WHO'S HOT?

JARRET STOLL: Pounded a one-timer past David LeNeveu on a power play in the first period for a 1-0 lead and fooled Philippe Sauve with a snapshot for the 2-0 goal.

DEVAN DUBNYK: The towering rookie got the start between the pipes for the Oilers and was flawless with 27 saves.

WHO'S NOT?

ALEXEI MIKHNOV: Started slow but scored the 3-0 goal and added helpers on goals by Stephane Goulet and Brad Winchester

JOFFREY LUPUL: The former Duck didn't make very much of a splash in his pre-season debut in Edmonton silks.

RIGHT: Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky watches the action from the bench during last night's game against the Oilers last night in Winnipeg.


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