Ryan's basic instincts

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth is the only player from his team going to the All-Star game in...

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth is the only player from his team going to the All-Star game in Dallas. (Edmonton Sun File/Jason Franson)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

To suggest Ryan Smyth's particular talents likely won't have him stealing the show during the skills competition at the NHL All-star game in Dallas Wednesday is to understate.

Unless, of course, they've added a puck-tipping contest where entrants are first backed over twice by the Zamboni or must spit out at least two teeth after taking a slapper in the kisser from Ed Jovanovski.

Or maybe a shooting accuracy test from four feet where contestants are pummelled by a gauntlet of defencemen and blockered upside the head by Martin Brodeur. Helmets, it goes without saying, must be worn sideways.

You get the picture.

PRETTY GOOD

Smyth, 30, the Edmonton Oilers' lone representative on the Western Conference roster in his first appearance as an NHL all-star - Ladislav Smid will play in the YoungStars game tomorrow - is what he is, and that's pretty good. If it's all the same, he'll leave the fancy stuff to somebody else.

He knows what got him there.

"I think Joe Sakic said it best," smiles Smyth, who is looking forward to a change of pace after the Oilers staggered into the break by getting spanked 4-0 by the Calgary Flames Saturday.

"The accuracy shooting, just put me inside the goal crease. I'd score them all, even if none of them would hit the back of the net."

For all his accomplishments - 532 points in 755 regular season games with the Oilers, appearances in seven straight World Championships and an Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake with Team Canada in 2002 - Smyth will be somewhat out of his element in Texas. A lot out of his element, actually.

Alexander Ovechkin or Joe Thornton or Sidney Crosby he is not. They're end-to-end guys. Crowd-pleasers capable of going 200 feet before putting the puck in the net. Smyth's 21 goals with the Oilers don't add up to that much.

KNOWS HIS BOUNDS

"The biggest thing is I recognize what I can do and what I can't do," said Smyth, who is as dogged around the net and adept at working the corners as any NHL player.

"I know my elements. I use my strengths as best I can. I try to work on the other areas to better myself, like carrying the puck in the offensive zone like Hemmer (Ales Hemsky) does. But I stick to my strengths.

"I stay pretty true to that. I'm not a guy who likes to dangle. I'm not afraid to carry it, but sometimes you have to try to step outside that element to help the team, step outside the box. But you do what you do."

Smyth, who usually takes the break to rest and heal and could likely use some of that now with a broken right thumb, takes exception to the 200-foot reference. He has, after all, uncorked a couple of slappers that caught goaltenders by surprise. OK, it's 220 feet. And the twine barely bulged.

"I'm really excited to see Ovechkin and Crosby," he said. "I know we played them one game, but I'm looking forward to seeing them.

LIKES WATCHING JOE

"Overall, though, I like watching Joe Sakic. The way he not only handles himself on the ice, but off it. The class guy that he is and he's got that shot. Everybody knows how accurate and hard his shot is."

With unrestricted free agency looming July 1 and GMs gathering at the American Airlines Center for the game, Smyth has a good opportunity to showcase himself - just in case he and agent Don Meehan can't pry the $5 million a season he'll demand this summer from Kevin Lowe.

Then again, any GM who has been around more than 15 minutes knows what Smyth is about. Forget the fastest skater. Smyth will do what he does and let it speak for itself. He'll be the guy with his backside in Brodeur's face.

"It's a shinny game," he said. "We can all play that way. You have to work off your linemates and try to be creative. You never know, you might see some creativity come out."

Right. Nothing fancy.

It works.


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