SUN Hockey Pool

Petr's pumped

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

SANTA MONICA, California -- So far so good for Petr Nedved.

With a goal and an assist in his first two games back with the Edmonton Oilers, the newly reacquired Czech is growing more comfortable by the minute.

Head coach Craig MacTavish had some concerns about Nedved's skating (as did Nedved), but production is production.

And he's producing.

"I felt better in Vancouver," said the 35-year-old centre. "It's nice to get the first goal right away in the first game, and I thought we created a lot of chances in Vancouver.

"Sykora had five or six really good shots. I'm happy with that. I'm getting an opportunity again to play and start producing."

After several weeks in the minors, he expected to be a stride or two behind.

"The style of hockey we play here is a lot more skating, probably the most skating in the National Hockey League, which I like. But I knew it was going to take me a couple of games to get back.

"Skating is my game; if I don't skate then I don't create a lot of offence. I felt much better in Vancouver. Hopefully I can build on that."

Happy with Hejda

With two defencemen injured and a few others who aren't playing well, the Oilers need big minutes from Jan Hejda.

And he's responding with the best hockey of his NHL career.

Granted, that career is only 13 games long, but he's really stepped it up when they've called on him.

"I thought he was our best defenceman and one of our best players,"said MacTavish, who gave him a team-high 23:28 of ice time in Vancouver, where Hejda had an assist, killed penalties and was plus-1.

"We kind of suspected he was going to develop into a good player, but we hadn't given him the ice time he needed to prove it. Now he's gotten the ice time, he looks like a guy, based on the way he played in Vancouver, who will be playing every night."

He was a healthy scratch most of the season as he adjusted to life and hockey in North America.

He just returned from a stint in the AHL, which he feels helped immensely.

"I had some points and, even more important for me, I was plus-6 in five games,'' said the 28-year-old Czech, admitting the NHL is still a handful.

"European hockey is a little softer. Here it's a faster game, faster players. I don't have as much time with the puck."

But the guy they picked up from Buffalo for a seventh round draft choice is making good strides.

"Good all-around defenceman,'' said MacTavish.

"He's strong, a good skater, moves the puck well, has a good shot, makes pretty good decisions.

"There are going to be mistakes, and the language has been a bit of an issue, but he gets lots of direction."

Point taken

Winger Toby Petersen was taking drills on defence yesterday as MacTavish toys with the idea of converting him to a blueliner ...

That's in certain situations.

"He moves really well, he may be a guy who can move the puck and step up," said MacTavish.

"We won't start him there, but we'll entertain thoughts of playing him in overtime on the back end with Stollie, and maybe some power play. We wanted to get an assessment of how comfortable he looked back there and he looked OK."

Petersen, who played some defence late in a lopsided game earlier this season, welcomes the change.

"I love doing it," he said. "It's a good challenge."


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