SUN Hockey Pool

Big expectations

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

While at the Saddledome this week, Edmonton Oilers forward Fernando Pisani was checking out the latest stick technology lined up in the hallway.

It's hard to believe the 2006 NHL playoff goal leader is thinking about a change.

"You know what, you're always looking for something that's gonna make your shot faster or harder or a little bit more deceptive, so you never know," said the 29-year-old winger with a grin.

After helping his team reach the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final only to come out on the losing end -- a pain many Flames still remember all too well -- Pisani was rewarded with a long-term contract worth $2.5 million a season.

To Pisani, it was the knowledge he'd remain in his hometown four more years that made the Edmontonian smile.

"It was probably one of the best off-seasons I've had," said Pisani, who was due to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 before re-signing.

"It was a bit of a short summer but, you know what, it was well worth it in the end."

With big money -- the first million-dollar-a-year deal of his career -- comes big expectations. From the team, from his fans, from himself.

"I think people are expecting big things from me this year. I'm expecting big things for myself this year as well," he said.

"You want to carry on where you left off."

Pisani will be given every opportunity to write a regular-season story as exciting as his 14-goal playoff fairytale, spending much of training camp alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth.

"We've had him pretty much exclusively playing with Horc and Ryan. We'll see how that all evolves," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "He's certainly a guy who's going to get some opportunity. More opportunity and better offensive minutes than what he's had in the past."

The pride of Edmonton's Little Italy -- who also made it into the storied franchise's record book, matching a high with five post-season game-winners -- hasn't made any lavish purchases since signing his deal but can probably walk into any Italian restaurant in the city and get a free meal.

"I wouldn't go that far," Pisani reasoned.

But he did feel like part of an extended family.

"I grew up with a lot of friends that are Italian and their families are very supportive. Everybody's been so happy and excited for me personally."

Count Horcoff among those thrilled over his new linemate's success.

"He's the kind of guy you're happy to see that happen to," said Horcoff. "Because he's gone through a lot to get himself in position to play in a top line and deserves it."

---

CALGARY FLAMES' REPORT CARD

GOALTENDING

# 29 Jamie McLennan -- Took a painful-looking shot in the chest early but recovered to play a stellar game.

DEFENCE

#4 Roman Hamrlik -- No glaring errors. No obvious improvement in his game, yet, either.

#7 Andrei Zyuzin -- Makes a nice first pass and can play physically as well.

#8 Brad Ference -- Hitting someone from behind, even an Oiler, and taking penalties isn't the way to convince coaches you belong in the top seven.

#28 Robyn Regehr -- An injury scare in the first but came back before time expired in the opening frame.

#21 Andrew Ference -- Logged a lot of minutes and had a solid defensive game.

#46 Mark Giordano -- Another dependable performance and scored his first goal in Flames silks.

FORWARDS

#10 Tony Amonte -- Part of a nice tic-tac-toe passing play that resulted in the Flames' second goal.

#11 Stephane Yelle -- Welcomed into the lineup with a penalty-plagued first period. We all know Yelle thrives in that shorthanded role.

#16 Jeff Friesen -- Probably his best game so far but there was little chemistry evident with Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow.

#17 Eric Godard -- A less-than-memorable fight with Mathieu Roy. But maybe we were spoiled by the tilt he had with Zack Stortini in Calgary.

#18 Matthew Lombardi -- Not nearly as strong a game as his two-goal performance Thursday.

#20 Kristian Huselius -- A quiet night from one of the team's best playmakers last season.

#22 Daymond Langkow -- Gritty board work early on but didn't have many offensive opportunities.

#24 Jamie Lundmark -- Outmatched in the corners and not very noticeable anywhere else.

#26 Marcus Nilson -- Looked good alongside Stephene Yelle, especially while the Oilers tried to set up with the man-advantage.

#27 Andrei Taratukhin -- His best game of the pre-season. He's loaded with potential.

#37 Brandon Prust -- Left the game for repairs after taking on 6-ft. 4-in. J-F Jacques in the first. Prust is favourably listed at 5-ft. 11-in. He's got guts.

#40 Alex Tanguay -- Shook off the hangover from his self-professed disappointing debut wirth the Flames and netted a powerplay goal to open the scoring.


Photos