Scruffy minutes

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Upon first glance, with his shaggy hair and goatee, Daniel Tjarnqvist looks like he should be helping Scooby Doo out of a jam. Instead, he's doing so for the Oilers, logging more ice time per night than anyone else on the team.

This comes as a pleasant surprise to the club, and a complete shock to anyone who watched the former Minnesota defenceman stumble through training camp.

Oilers fans weren't sure who would take on all the minutes Chris Pronger and Jaroslav Spacek left behind, but, after watching Tjarnqvist in the pre-season, they were sure of this: It wouldn't be him.

An admittedly slow starter, Tjarnqvist knew it would take some time to adjust.

"I usually get better the longer the season goes," said the 30-year-old Swede, who came out of the starting gate playing 25 minutes a night, and had a high of 27:36 on his birthday win over Colorado.

For a guy who averaged 19 minutes in Minny, it's a nice vote of confidence from the coaches.

"It's a really good feeling. Now it's up to you as a player to improve and get the confidence whenever you're out there," said Tjarnqvist.

He always believed he could contribute more than he was as a player, and saw an opportunity to prove it in Edmonton.

"I didn't expect (an expanded role),I expected hard work," he said. "I just try to play as good as possible and the ice time is a bonus."

He's more tired after games now, but it's a good tired.

"You recover as fast as possible and go from there. It's good."

FOURTH BE WITH YOU: With special teams dominating the early season, it's difficult for the fourth line to get a shift in edgewise. And since Brad Winchester isn't on the power play or penalty kill, his ice time took some major hits: just 32 seconds in the season opener and 1:58 in Colorado.

"Sometimes it's tough to roll the four lines with all the special teams," he said. "But you have to stay up on the bench, keep yourself in the game any way you can, and perform when you do have the shifts."

He picked up the intensity and earned over six minutes in each of the games with Vancouver, a trend he and the Oilers would like to see continue.

"You try to build every game," said Winchester.

"We want to bring a lot of energy, get in on the forecheck and create opportunities. The chemistry (with Marty Reasoner and Patrick Thoresen) is getting better. It starts in practice, working on things and talking things out."

VANTASTIC: Raffi Torres was practically a part owner of the Canucks last season, scoring seven goals in eight games against the divisional rivals - a rampage that represented more than 25 per cent of his entire goal production for the year.

No surprise, then, that his first goal of this season came against the Canucks.

"I don't know what it is," he said. "But I have to start spreading it around a bit."


Videos

Photos