SUN Hockey Pool

Centre of attention

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Against the Anaheim Ducks, Patrick Thoresen played like a guy that didn't want to be sent back to the minors.

The Oilers forward won battles in the corner, races to the puck and came within a goal post of scoring the go-ahead goal in the third period - all while centring a line for the first time this year in Edmonton.

"I played a couple of games at centre last year towards the end of the season," Thoresen said. "I also played centre down in the minors this year before I got called up. So it's not that unfamiliar a position for me.

However, when I had shifts over 35 seconds I started getting a little tired because I had the flu the other day.

"But I know I can take the puck up the ice and make the plays out to the wingers, so I felt comfortable out there."

ODD MAN OUT

With Ethan Moreau back in the lineup and Ales Hemsky's imminent return, there will soon be an abundance of bodies up front necessitating the need to send someone back to Springfield of the American Hockey League.

Odds are Thoresen will be that player.

But the Oslo, Norway, native is doing his best to make that a difficult decision for the Oilers.

"He's a battler and a real, good utility guy," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "I don't know where it goes from here with him. Hopefully he can find a way to improve on that and be an everyday player rather than a guy we need in an injury situation.

"But he's got some game. It's going to be really up to him in the near future to establish himself here."

Last night against the Minnesota Wild, Thoresen was again in the middle, centring a line with Robert Nilsson and Zack Stortini.

Originally a left-winger, Thoresen was moved to centre due to Hemsky's knee injury.

"In the defensive zone you have a little more responsibility," Thoresen said. "There's a little more skating, too. You have to be up and down the ice, trying to be the first guy in the zone and then you have to try to be the first guy back in our zone."

A year ago Thoresen seemingly came out of nowhere (Swedish Elite League) and earned himself a spot on the Oilers roster out of training camp.

He finished the season with four goals and 12 assists in 68 games with a short stint in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

CALLED UP

This season, Thoresen was not able to earn a spot out of training camp, but was called up 26 games into the season.

In Springfield, he had 20 points in 23 games. He's still the team's third-leading scorer despite not having played a game there in a month.

"When I got sent down, Bucky (Falcons head coach Kelly Buchberger) came to me and asked me if I was comfortable at centre," Thoresen said.

"It gave me a chance to make plays a little more too. I was also out there for big faceoffs. But there is a big difference between guys in the minors and here. Just the few faceoffs I've taken here, the guys are stronger, smarter, faster.

"Down in the minors I was always taking big faceoffs at the end of the game and on the penalty-kill. I learned a lot down there ... the responsibility of taking faceoffs and how much it means."

Prior to lining up at centre against Anaheim, Thoresen was used predominately on the wing by the Oilers this season.

Regardless of where he lines up, Thoresen is hoping his play is good enough to keep him in Edmonton.

"I don't know how long I'm going to stay in this position, because I've been switched all over the place," he said."I just have to focus when I'm playing centre to be strong on faceoffs. To me it doesn't really matter, as long as I play I'm happy, I'll play wherever they need me."


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