SUN Hockey Pool

Fiddler gets first goal of season

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Vernon Fiddler picked the right place to score his first goal of the season.

The Nashville Predators centre grew up cheering for the Edmonton Oilers. Yesterday he helped the Predators snap the Oilers' perfect record at Rexall Place.

"It's nice. It's always a dream to come back to your hometown and play well," Fiddler said last night after the Predators 5-3 win over the Oilers.

"I've been thinking about it about for the last week or so, I guess I was destined to get one here."

It's the second time Fiddler has played with the Predators at Rexall Place.

Last year he had to shell out a lot of money in order to accommodate all the friends and family who wanted to come see him play.

This time around it wasn't as bad.

"Last year it was a little nerve-wracking. It was the first time playing the Oilers, a team I grew up watching and I got caught up doing a little more watching then I did playing," Fiddler said.

"This time it was nice to come in with that little bit of experience under my belt."

Fiddler's goal came in the first period as he re-directed a point shot from defenceman Kimmo Timonen.

He came close to scoring a second, but couldn't get his stick on the puck on a centering pass.

This season Fiddler has a goal and two assists in nine games for the Predators.

He was signed by the team as a free agent in 2002 and is playing his second full season in the NHL.

"Being a part of the team right from the beginning of the year makes a huge difference," he said. "When you come up halfway through the year, you have to earn your stripes and you really don't know where you fit in."

Last year the 26-year-old had eight goals and four assists in 40 games.

"He's a great story, he's what I'd say a Nashville Predator is," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "He's an undrafted player, who played in the minors with an other organization. He's a guy that's worked his way up. He was given a chance and he's taken advantage of it.

"Vernon's a real useful player for us. I can play him on the fourth line if I need, I can play him on the third line, I can play him on the second line and he played on the first line last year for us."

With the Predators so deep up front this season, Fiddler knows he has to continue working hard in order to keep a place in the lineup.

It's a good thing working hard is his best attribute.

"He's a guy that once you put him into the lineup, he's going to force you to keep him in," Trotz said. "That's what we want. I'm big on not having entitlement, and he forces people to up their game, because he's a guy that just finds a way to play."

QUICK HITS: With his three assists Paul Kariya hit the 800-point plateau for his career. "That means I'm getting old," Kariya said. "It's a nice accomplishment, but the main thing was to get the win. This is a tough place to come into and play. We're really pleased with the two points."


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