SUN Hockey Pool

The kid's got guts

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:19 PM ET

Rookie winger Zack Stortini earned high praise for his courage after challenging veteran Calgary tough guy Eric Godard to a bout on Thursday.

Stortini lost, but let it be known that he'd be more than willing to try and replace some of muscle Edmonton lost when Georges Laraque left town.

"It's a job that he wants, for sure, and he's certainly game,'' said head coach Craig MacTavish. "There's not many guys tougher than that Godard. There's Georges, obviously, the preeminent heavyweight, and (Chris) McGrattan in Ottawa, but Goddard is right there with the top two or three guys in the league. It was impressive that he went right after him.''

He didn't have to. MacTavish was reluctant to put the 21-year-old out there against an experienced slugger, but that's what he wanted.

"You tell him to survive a few before he starts worrying about winning, but he was totally game. I gave him every option not to engage that guy; it was his decision what he wanted to do. I wouldn't have thought any less of him if he didn't.''

JOB SHORTAGE: With the Oilers as deep up front as they've been in 20 years, it won't be easy finding work as a forward this season. Ten of 12 spots on the forward lines are carved in stone: Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Ales Hemsky, Raffi Torres, Petr Sykora, Ethan Moreau, Jarret Stoll, Joffrey Lupul and Marty Reasoner. Add Patrick Thoresen, who head coach Craig MacTavish already has pencilled in, and that's 11 of 12 jobs already taken.

That leaves one spot on the fourth line and two seats in the press box for Toby Petersen, Brad Winchester, J.F. Jacques, Stortini, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Alex Mikhnov, Kyle Brodziak, and Rob Schremp to fight over.

"The difference between this camp and previous camps is I used to be playing players who I knew were a long way off, trying to develop them,'' said MacTavish. "Now I'm playing these players because they're bona fide NHL players. There's a big difference. I haven't seen a crop of young players like this since ... well, since I've been in coaching.''


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