LOS ANGELES -- Matt Greene's development is the silver lining in the Edmonton Oilers' woeful stretch drive.
Forced to play major minutes on this California road trip with Steve Staios and Jan Hejda hurt, the 23-year-old defenceman is growing up rather quickly.
"It looks like he has really turned the corner here, which is real encouraging," said head coach Craig MacTavish.
Playing nearly 28 minutes Sunday night - the most of his NHL career - Greene took a regular shift against Joe Thornton in San Jose for the first time in his career.
Calling Thornton the toughest player he has ever faced, Greene took 32 shifts and finished with an even plus/minus rating.
It marked the second straight game he played more than 25 minutes and wasn't charged with giving up a goal.
It's a long way from a three-game stretch in mid-February when he averaged just 12 minutes and was minus three before not dressing for three straight tilts.
"Great for me," said Greene on the current experience he is receiving with Hejda and Staios unavailable.
"It is unfortunate (with the two guys at home). It is just too bad those guys are banged up.
"Hopefully we can get Steve back quick and he can step right back into that role."
Possibly the best sign in Greene's development is the fact he's no longer wearing out a path to the penalty box.
"He has the tough battles down low and they haven't ended up with him going to the penalty box," continued MacTavish.
"He is stripping them of the puck and turning that into a breakout rather than him getting caught a bit and starting to grapple and end up getting a penalty."
Greene admits he's still struggling with controlling his aggressiveness with chasing guys in the defensive zone, but captain Jason Smith is pleased with what he's seeing from his young disciple.
"He's gaining confidence as we speak," said Smith.
"It is a tough position to learn and to be consistent and a regular contributor to your team.
"He is developing and has brought a lot to our team."
Horcoff a busy man
In between vomiting from the flu and blocking painful shots in front of the net, Shawn Horcoff has been handling NHLPA matters on this trip. As the Oilers' players' association rep, Horcoff is being frank about executive director Ted Saskin's paid leave of absence.
"We've got to get someone who we have trust in," said Horcoff.
The veteran centre also doesn't believe the NHLPA looks bad for having to go through this latest measure.
Brodziak turning heads
Kyle Brodziak's stock is rising after moving off right wing on the top line to centre with J.F. Jacques and Fernando Pisani.
"I think he is a little more comfortable in the middle," said MacTavish.
"I like the way he thinks the game from a defensive standpoint.
"He is always recovering in good positions in the middle of the ice.
"And he looks like he can be a threat to score."
Smith said it best
Smith might have delivered the best line yesterday when he was asked by an Oilers staffer to wear a microphone for last night's pay-per-view broadcast: "You know that I swear a lot, right?
"It is pretty much mandatory."