That's Swede!

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Tommy Salo was pretty much finished when the Edmonton Oilers traded him to the Colorado Avalanche in March of 2004.

Here it is 30 months later, and Tom Gilbert, the youngster GM Kevin Lowe obtained for the faded Swedish stopper, is only now getting started as a member of the Oilers.

The former Wisconsin Badger captain is making a solid bid for a roster spot on Edmonton's blueline - a bid that included a goal in his first pre-season game in Monday's 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

"The way I look at it, I was far from perfect (Monday)," said Gilbert, who was back in the lineup against the Phoenix Coyotes last night. "I was a little nervous from the start. My passing could've been a lot better.

STARTED WELL

"But I feel comfortable out there. I'm definitely adjusting quickly to the speed and tempo of the game.

"For me, the more games I get in and the more experience I get, my ability to play at this level will continue to increase."

Gilbert, 23, a six-foot-three, 206-pounder from Bloomington, Minnesota, drafted 129th overall by Colorado in 2002, began camp well down Craig MacTavish's depth chart behind Jason Smith, Steve Staios, Matt Greene, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Ladislav Smid. Gilbert's foot in the door is that he has something the Oilers can use on the back end - a flair for offence.

Gilbert, who scored the winning goal for the Badgers in the 2006 NCAA championship game, again showed that when he blew a slapshot past Alex Auld Monday.

"Our scouts liked him," MacTavish said. "I remember sitting with Brad Smith, a scout from Colorado, and he told me at that time Gilbert would definitely play in the NHL. It looks like he's going to."

Outside of Bergeron, the Oilers don't have a proven point-producer on the blue-line. Gilbert, who tallied 33-56-89 in 162 games with Wisconsin, looks like he might be able to address that need. The question is, when?

"He's been impressive," MacTavish said. "Again, you really have to be cautious because, as the level of competition goes up, a lot of guys fall by the wayside who look good at this time.

TALL ORDER

"He's moving the puck well. It's obvious he really thinks the game well, especially for a young player with very little experience."

Stepping into the NHL right out of U.S. college hockey is a tall order, but Greene did it last season.

After leaving the University of North Dakota, Greene started 2005-06 in the minors, then joined the Oilers and stuck around through the playoffs. It can be done.

Gilbert, who played with Brad Winchester at Wisconsin during the 2002-03 season, would like nothing more than to replicate Greene's feat.

"The way I look at it, I control what I can control," he said. "I go day-by-day and do the things I do well. It's got me this far.

"I'm looking to make the team. Whether it's now or down the road, that's my goal. I'm not going to shy away from doing the things I do well."


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