SUN Hockey Pool

Grip it and rip it

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Shoot first, ask questions later.

It's always been Sheldon Souray's first instinct and it's always served him very well.

Some players like to pass the puck, some like to dangle with it, some turn it over more often than they should and others don't have the foggiest idea of what to do with it.

Souray takes the John Daly approach: grip it and rip it.

"It just comes natural, and I mean that in the most modest way," laughed Edmonton's newest defenceman, adding he got his start like most kids, pounding tennis balls against the garage door.

"But I didn't do it that much after my dad made me wash the garage in minus-10 C a couple of times.

"Maybe I was a bit lazier than everyone. I just wanted to shoot it, I didn't want to skate as much.

"Since I've gotten to this level, when I've had a chance to play special teams, they don't ask me to make passes or skate the puck into the zone. They want me to shoot it."

And he doesn't ask questions.

The biggest acquisitions of the off-season in Edmonton, Souray and his cannon bring instant credibility to the Oilers and instant respect to their power play.

In his first two preseason games with the Oilers, Souray scored two patented Sheldon Souray goals - bombs from the right point that the goalie didn't see until they showed them in slow motion on the big screen.

"It feels like every time he winds up you expect it to go in," said Oilers teammate Marty Reasoner.

"When it doesn't, you're almost kind of surprised. Even in practice. I'm just waiting for it to go through the net one of these times."

Or through the goalie.

"There are guys who can shoot but they're reluctant to let it go," said head coach Craig MacTavish.

"He's not shy to let it go. And why would you be when it's that lethal?

"He's an intimidating force out there, and he's certainly not scaring me with his defence right now."

The question mark when Souray first signed here was that startling minus-28 that came along with his career-high 26 goals last season. But he hasn't looked anything like a defensive liability. And what he brings offensively is already dropping jaws.

"I'm just trying to hit the net, man, there's no secret," grinned the big blue-liner. "We have some big bodies in front of the net, it's just a matter of hitting it.

"Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. But if you don't hit the net you don't give yourself much of a chance."

Hitting it, and hitting it hard, is something Souray's worked on his entire career.

"I've been lucky; I've beeen coached by some great coaches," he said. "Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson, in particular, at the very start of my career, couldn't drive it home enough, the importance of hitting the net.

"Jacques would make me stay out there and hammer pucks, practice after practice.

"Then they'd put out that milk crate that you put pucks in and make me flip all the pucks in the crate to work on softening up my hands a little bit. Then, once he gave me that opportunity (on the power play) I knew what I was out there for."

And that minus-28? He plans on shooting holes in the theory he's dangerous at both ends of the ice.

"I've always felt a responsibility in my own end; I've always prided myself on being that kind of player," he said.

"When you have the type of offensive production I had last year, but you still see a minus-28, it does raise a few eyebrows, even for me. I know it has to be better.

" I'm focused on improving. I may never get the points or goals that I had last year, but I think I can be a much better player for the team. That's what I'm focused on."


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