Stortini, the sequel

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

He burst onto the Edmonton Oilers last season like the Tasmanian Devil bursts onto a Bugs Bunny skit.

At full speed, slamming into everything that moved, ruffling feathers, flaring tempers and carrying on with little regard for his own well-being, and absolutely none for guys he crashed into.

It worked. It took all of about three shifts before Zack Stortini carved out his niche as a pretty effective agitator/energy player/light heavyweight.

But that was last year. Now, with head coach Craig MacTavish picking from the most bountiful harvest of Oilers youth in two decades, and warning all incumbents that their positions aren't guaranteed, Stortini knows he can't get too comfortable.

"It was a great experience for me to be able to play last year, to be a part of the team was incredible," said the 22-year-old troublemaker, who says he isn't taking this year for granted.

"I have to do the same thing this year, work hard to get a job up here again. I'm looking forward to working as hard as I can and doing whatever I can to contribute and earn a spot on the team."

Stortini was mostly silent last night against Toronto - although he did contribute an assist - in part because the game deteriorated into a special teams exhibition, but Craig MacTavish knows what he can do when the bullets are flying for real.

"That guy's got savvy," said the coach.

"He reads the landscape very well, and we need the toughness. Based on what we saw last year, and how he put in the work this year, it's his spot right now. It's (a question of) what is he going to make of it?"

Stortini, who spent his off-season at the Oilers conditioning camp near L.A., hit it hard in the off-season, gaining size and speed and a lot of respect from the veterans.

"He came in here and did everything the team and the coaches asked of him," said Matt Greene. "It's not an easy job to do, going out every night and doing what he does, but he's pretty good at it. He's a guy who'll go out there and prove himself every night."

And he'll have to again this season. Players in Stortini's role don't have the luxury of resting on their laurels, which seems to be fine by him.

"It's something I enjoy, a big part of my game, playing on the edge and battling every night," said the six-foot-three, 228-pounder (up from 216 last year).

"Nobody who's going to get his job is going to get it without a bruise," said MacTavish.

"That's for sure."


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