Power of the press box

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Sam Gagner admits a game in the press box probably did him some good.

"I think you never want to do that (be a healthy scratch)," Gagner said.

"But it's something almost everybody has to go through in their career.

"Sitting up there gives you another angle that you normally don't see and it slows the game down for you.

"It makes you realize that you might have more time than you think and it may help in certain situations."

Gagner missed the last two games of the Oilers latest road trip - one as a healthy scratch and the other as a very unhealthy victim of a virus seemingly making its way through the team.

His omission from the lineup renewed faint hopes in London, Ont., that the Oilers would send the rookie back to junior to play with the Knights.

However, that was never going to happen.

"He's proved he belongs here and we feel that he's going to develop and he doesn't need to go back to junior," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"We've felt that way since Game 1 actually. The decision was made for us after he played his 10th game."

Gagner, whose father Dave is an assistant coach with the Knights, still keeps track of his former team, but never worried about heading back to London. Especially since he was not made available for Canada's World Junior team.

"Obviously they want to have me back, maybe it would have bettered their chances, I'm not sure," Gagner said. "But that's something that I haven't heard really too much about, so it's tough to comment on."

In 41 games for the Oilers this season, Gagner has three goals and 13 assists. But it's in the shootout where the rookie has excelled with four winning goals on the year.

"He's played more games for us than I initially anticipated," MacTavish said.

"I didn't anticipate him playing 41 out of 44 games (so far) this season.

"There are times where young players need, not only to develop mentally, but physically as well.

"You want to give them time to get in the gym, give them a couple of games off and let them train a little bit. That's a big part of his development as well.

"It's not just a case of having him here playing him in every game and the minute you sit him out, wanting to send him back because his development is stunted."

Gagner returned to the lineup and scored the shootout winner against the New York Rangers on Saturday. He was in the lineup again Monday in a 4-0 victory against the New York Islanders, and will be in the lineup tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Sitting in the press box gives you sort of a new perspective," Gagner said.

"This year it's the first time I've really done it. Seeing from a different angle you see different things happening. It slows the game down and maybe allows you to play at a pace where you can dictate the play."

Prior to the two games on the road Gagner missed, he was also sat out in a contest against the Minnesota Wild early in the year.

This season he's averaging 14 minutes of ice time per game, has played on the first line and is on the second power-play unit.

"I'm feeling good," Gagner said.

"I wanted to prove that I did belong in the lineup when I came back. I think I played better the last couple of games and hopefully I can keep it going here."


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