SUN Hockey Pool

Rookie reunion

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

CHICAGO -- The last time Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner were in the same town, the pair had dinner together.

Actually, Gagner, Kane, Andrew Cogliano and Jonathan Toews all gathered together in Edmonton as the two Oilers rookies took out the two Blackhawks rookies.

So heading to Chicago, will the favour be returned?

"I'll have family in town, so I think I'm going to have to decline the invitation if it even comes," Gagner said. "He hasn't invited me out yet, so I'm awaiting it I guess."

A year ago, Gagner and Kane were teammates with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

This year they're both having strong rookie seasons in the National Hockey League.

Kane - the first overall pick in last summer's NHL Entry Draft - is leading the Blackhawks in scoring. Heading into last night's game against the Ottawa Senators, the Buffalo, N.Y., native had eight goals and 24 assists in 33 games.

Gagner, meanwhile, is having a pretty good rookie season of his own with three goals and 13 assists in 35 games.

"I'm feeling fine, I enjoy playing a lot of games, so it's a lot of fun for me," Gagner said. "Obviously the NHL is a completely different level and it's something that I have to stay focused throughout the entire year, try to get better every day and produce."

Gagner was selected sixth overall by the Oilers in last summer's draft after scoring 35 goals and adding 83 assists with the Knights last season.

Prior to training camp, Gagner made a name for himself as MVP of the Canada-Russia series. Then he turned heads at training camp, after which the Oilers elected to keep him on the roster instead of sending him back to junior.

"I'm starting to get more and more comfortable, I think that's only natural," he said. "I'm starting to have a little more fun and the team's playing a lot better too which makes things easier."

A win against the Blackhawks would give the Oilers a .500 record heading into the Christmas break.

In the teams' first meeting of the season, Gagner scored the shootout winner in a 3-2 victory.

"They're a young team with a lot of skill, they're a lot like us in that regard," Gagner said. "We're just going to have to get off to a good start, that's important, try and get the first goal and from then on, try and eliminate our mistakes.

"In the last couple of games, we've had some collapses and they've cost us the game. That's something we want to focus on and try and come out with the two points."


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