Souray unleashes fury

Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray skates during the team's training camp on Wednesday. (Sun...

Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray skates during the team's training camp on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Darryl Dyck)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:30 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- It took a few days longer than expected before Craig MacTavish could unwrap one of his biggest off-season gifts from Kevin Lowe, but it was worth the wait.

The head coach finally got his first look at Sheldon Souray in an Oilers game jersey yesterday and the big defenceman with the scary slapshot didn't take long to impress.

Exactly 5:22. One shot. One goal. A bullet from the right point that Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider never saw - even though he wasn't screened.

"You see him bomb that one?" said head coach Craig MacTavish. "Wow!I knew he had a shot, but that thing was in and out of the net before the goalie even thought he was shooting it."

And that's what the Oilers are looking for - potency on what used to be an offensively-impotent blue-line. You might not want to be the forward charged with creating traffic in front of the net when Souray is unloading his cannon, but Edmonton's power play coach is about to look a lot smarter.

"We've been anxious to get him in," said MacTavish, licking his chops after what he saw. "Just on special teams alone. When you have a weapon like that there are so many more opportunities."

It was one of the few positives on a night the Oilers were outshot 29-11 and outscored 5-4. Tom Gilbert, Ales Hemsky and Andrew Cogliano, in his best performance of camp, also scored for Edmonton, while Mathieu Garon went the distance in goal.

Souray isn't fully up to speed yet as he tries to play catch-up - adjusting to a new team and a new city after missing the first few days of camp and two pre-season games with a sore back - but you can already see what he'll bring to Edmonton's table.

"He's probably a career 35- or 45-point guy," said MacTavish, who wants to bring the big guy along carefully in the preseason. "Sixty-four points (this year) is a little unrealistic, but you never know."

One thing everyone does know is that Souray and Dustin Penner, Edmonton's two most prized off-season acquisitions, with $9.625 million a year and the hopes of a city invested in them, will be under enormous pressure to deliver this winter.

Souray, coming off a career year in games played (81), goals (26), assists (38), points (64) and penalty minutes (135), as well as a career-worst plus-minus(-28), wouldn't expect anything less.

"It comes with the territory," said the former Fort Saskatchewan Trader, who learned all about thick skin during his six years with the Montreal Canadiens. " There are other guys who are just as important as the next. I'm not a saviour coming in here to do anything extraordinary. It's going to be me coming in to complement the guys, to provide a little it of experience in some situations, a little bit of leadership in others.

"As far as thinking about pressure, or leading the team anywhere, I don't put any of that on myself. I learned a long time ago in Montreal that there's going to be enough from fans and media. "

Nevertheless, going on the road for a couple of games to knock some of the rust off is fine by him.

"It's maybe a good thing," he said. "I'll have a chance to get used to the speed of the game. I'm for sure not going to be as sharp as I'm going to be next game or the game after or the start of the season.

"I'm going to take the time we have to really make sure that when the season does start, everything - my fitness, thinking and confidence level - is where it should be."

FIRST LINE DUTY FOR ROOK

Craig MacTavish had Sam Gagner skating between Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner again yesterday and didn't rule out playing him there in the regular season.

"They've been productive, so why not continue to see what they can do,"said the coach. "Playing with Hemmer is really going to push the pace of his game and that's something that's really a question mark we have - whether the pace of his game is going to be able to come quickly enough for him to be effective for us.

"You want to put him with some speed to really help that along."

The first-line centre spot went to Shawn Horcoff the last couple of years, and may still this year, but if Gagner's ready for prime time, he could give the club another option.

"It's too early to tell right now," said MacTavish, admitting it's probably unrealistic to expect Gagner to fill the role on a full-time basis.

"We always have the luxury, if he starts there, or if Horc starts there, whoever starts in that position (to change) based on the game and what the need is within that game.

"We have lots of flexibility there to be able to accommodate a young player who's getting his feet wet in the NHL."


Videos

Photos