Pauper to prince

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

Kyle Brodziak couldn't ask for a better opportunity.

Summoned from the minors to the Edmonton Oilers for the first time this year, Brodziak is set to play on the top line tonight.

After a very disappointing training camp and nearly three years in the Oilers' farm system, the personable forward knows he has to impress.

"I have to make the best of it this time," said Brodziak, who had two short stints with the Oilers last year but was pointless in 10 games.

"I knew it was a great opportunity (last year) but now I know how great of an opportunity it is.

"It's tough when you don't make the best of your opportunity. It is kind of a regret you have all summer long.

"And I have had all year to think about it, too."

Injury bug bites hard

Badly hampered by injuries and Ryan Smyth's departure, Brodziak was suddenly thrown onto Edmonton's first line in his first practice yesterday after spending the year in the AHL. Playing the right side, the 22-year-old skated with centre Shawn Horcoff and Raffi Torres.

"It was pretty surprising," said Brodziak, who was a third/fourth line player in his previous trips to the NHL.

"I was nervous to start out with (yesterday) and then I see who I was playing with and that kind of made me quite a bit more nervous.

"I was just trying to go out there and have a good practice. And try not to screw up too much.

"I was just glad I got through the first day here."

If Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish detects a calm and cool presence on the ice tonight, he isn't ruling out placing Brodziak on the point on the power play against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It's quite a turnaround for the St. Paul, Alta., product - and it appears his poor showing at training camp was the kick in the pants he needed.

"When I got sent down I knew I had to have a good year this year," he said.

"You only get so many chances."

Fearing he might have fallen off the Oilers' radar screen completely, the former 7th round 2003 draft choice poured everything he had into life in the AHL.

And it has certainly worked.

Thriving in the AHL

Second on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster with a career-high 46 points (21-25), he produced rave reviews from plenty of important eyes.

"I have got high expectations for him coming into the game (tonight)," said MacTavish. "I think he is going to be way further ahead than what he has been in the past, from what I hear.

"The pace of his game has picked up. We knew he had good hands and a good head for the game.

"It was just a case of getting the strength and building some speed into his game. We will see if he is part of the picture for next year."


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