Big skates to fill

Jean-Francois Jacques is a lot more confident after being sent down and recalled from the minors....

Jean-Francois Jacques is a lot more confident after being sent down and recalled from the minors. He knows he must be a physical force if he is to help the injury-riddled Oilers. (Sun Media File/Olivier Jean)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- J.F. Jacques isn't even going to try to fill the offensive void created by injuries to Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth, but that doesn't mean he can't be part of a turnaround the Edmonton Oilers desperately need.

Summoned from the AHL Thursday and in the lineup for Saturday's 4-0 loss to Columbus, Jacques is going to get a chance to show what he can bring to the table with Hemsky and Smyth out, starting tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.

He knows what his calling card has to be.

"I was hesitating too much at first because I didn't want to make too many mistakes," said Jacques of a four-game stint with the Oilers before his first demotion to the minors. "By going down to the minors and getting my confidence back, I know I can play here and bring something to the team.

"I have to be a physical factor and be a force down low in the offensive zone."

Jacques, 21, has been up and down between Edmonton and Wilkes-Barre a couple of times this season. The big banger from Montreal didn't look out of place against the Blue Jackets.

With Smyth breaking his right thumb in the first period Saturday, Jacques played 11:20, well above the 6:22 he averaged in the previous four games he got into. That'll continue tonight against the Canucks.

With whom Jacques will play still isn't clear as coach Craig MacTavish weighs his options, but it shouldn't matter. Don't think Smyth or Hemsky when it comes to what Jacques can contribute, think in terms of Ethan Moreau, out until March after shoulder surgery. If Jacques can pick up that slack, he'll play and play a lot.

"It's a good opportunity," understates Jacques, who started against the Blue Jackets on a line with Toby Petersen and Marc-Antoine Pouliot. "I worked hard on my game in Wilkes-Barre the last two weeks.

"I'm happy to have been there. It helped my confidence and I got my game back. I tried to be a leader and give 100 per cent. I wasn't even looking at the points, but the points came (2-4-6 in five games)."


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