SUN Hockey Pool

Joni on the spot

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

The Oilers had been searching for a puck-moving defenceman almost from the moment Chris Pronger left town.

They found one in Joni Pitkanen, but skeptics saw his glaring minus-25 last season in Philly and wondered if he'd be moving the puck out of his own net as often as he moved it out of the zone.

He says don't worry - like Matt Greene's minus-22 and Shawn Horcoff's minus-22 last year - minus totals are often just a byproduct of logging a lot of minutes on a bad team.

"We lost a lot of games last year," said Pitkanen. "The year before I was plus-25 (22, actually, and plus-15 the season before that). It's almost like if you win a lot of games, absolutely you get a lot of pluses. When you lose a lot of games you get minuses.

"I played last year the most ice time on the team ... they're (minuses) coming if you lose.

"It's a new season, I know what I can do."

He's confident he'll be on the good side of even here in Edmonton, and says he's already adjusting nicely to the new surroundings.

"So far very good," he said. "I've been here 10 days and I love it. Nice city, very good guys on the team, everything looks good."

Head coach Craig MacTavish can already see the difference a fleet-footed defenceman with a good eye for the ice is making.

"He's a threat into open ice, and that opens something else up ... he can hit the primary and secondary outlets," said the coach. "And your forwards are getting the puck with some space."

DAY TWO NOTES: SHELDON SOURAY MISSED ANOTHER DAY OF CAMP WITH A SORE BACK, WHILE DEFENCEMAN ALEX PLANTE, ONE OF EDMONTON'S THREE FIRST-ROUND PICKS, HAS BEEN ON THE LIMP SINCE ROOKIE CAMP IN YELLOWKNIFE ... ETHAN MOREAU WAS THE TOP-CONDITIONED OILER IN THEIR PRE-CAMP FITNESS TESTING, WITH ROOKIE DEFENCEMAN TOM GILBERT SECOND ... SIX-FOOT-THREE, 230-POUND DEFENCEMAN T.J. REYNOLDS RUFFLED SOME FEATHERS YESTERDAY, DRAWING VETERAN STEVE STAIOS INTO A SCRAP AFTER REYNOLDS HIT ALES HEMSKY. REYNOLDS ALSO WENT WITH TYLER SPURGEON AFTER SPURGEON REACTED TO A HARD HIT.

CALLING ALL KINGS: THE OILERS ARE LOOKING FOR ALL FORMER EDMONTON OIL KINGS LIVING IN THE AREA. THEY'D LIKE TO GET AS MANY FORMER KINGS AS POSSIBLE TOGETHER FOR A REUNION WHEN THE NEW EDITION OF THE HOCKEY CLUB KICKS OFF THE REGULAR SEASON. CALL LESLIE AT THE OILERS OFFICE AT 409-5889.


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