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DEREK VAN DIEST, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

DALLAS -- There was a time this season where Edmonton Oilers defenceman Jason Smith had a plus-minus rating only a golfer would be proud of.

Yet through hard work, good play, and at times, fortunate bounces, his rating is almost back to even.

"I've only seen an epic battle like that when Horc (Shawn Horcoff) was battling it a couple of years ago," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "It's like following the markets.

"Horcoff was able to battle back to break even and then it took off the other way. He has some expertise in this situation.

"It was an ongoing battle for him, but I think he did ultimately battle back."

Heading into tonight's encounter against the Dallas Stars, Smith has a rating of minus-1. At the start of December, Smith bottomed out at minus-10.

"The pendulum swings pretty hard both ways at times," MacTavish said. "When you go a short period of time where you're minus-9, 10, or 11, it's normally a product of bad breaks, some bad play and not much going right for you offensively either.

"Vice versa when you come back, it's a product of being on the ice at the right time, making some good plays and getting some offence which is always good."

Smith has played very well for the Oilers of late.

On Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes, he was on the ice for both Ales Hemsky's and Petr Sykora's even-strength goals.

He finished the night at plus-two, the third consecutive game he has been plus.

"Obviously it was a stat I wasn't happy with, but I think I still did a lot of good things on the ice," Smith said.

"But things do turn around and now it's going the other way."

Smith, the team's captain and one of its true warriors, was never overly concerned with the stat. He figured eventually things work out.

"I've been around here long enough and I know sometimes you go through swings where maybe you're not playing well and things aren't going your way on the ice," he said.

"You work hard and grind through it and normally things turn around."

Along with his plus-2 rating, Smith also had three blocked shots against the Coyotes. He's fifth in the NHL with 96 on the year.

Smith also had to contend with Oleg Saprykin's stick, which got lodged between his legs. He had to go to the bench to get it removed.

"It got a good piece of me, I still have some slivers in my leg," Smith said.

"Other than that I'm OK. It was just a minor flesh wound.

"It was pretty funny. I've never had a stick go through my pants."


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